Mawlid al-Nabi

“I will raise them a prophet from among their brethern, like unto thee, and I will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him,” – Deuteronomy 18:18

The Prophet Muhammad is mentioned by name in the Song of Solomon 5:16. The Hebrew word used there is “Mahammudim”. The end letters “im” is a plural of respect, majesty and graneur. Minus “im” – the name would be “Mahammud” translated as “altogether lovely” as in the Bible as “The Praised One”.

More than 1.7 billion Muslims around the Globe will be celebrating the birthday of the prophesized final prophet of the Creator (Allah, God, Eshwar, etc.) on 12th day of Islamic month of Rabi al-Awwal (March 9, 2009) – according to their local, national or ethnic customs.

Before I go further, I like to point-out that there is no concept of celebrating of birthday of someone no matter how important he/she maybe. It’s something Muslims borrowed from their non-Muslims subjects. Personally, I don’t see any harm in it – if the day is used in conducting seminars and conferences and learn about the Seerah (biography) of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – in every field including the politics and state governance. However, the day should not be turned into the Christian Christmas or Jewish Purim or Hindu Diwali.

The Mawlid al-Nabi celebration as we know it today – was an invention of the Fatimids, the Shia Ismaili dynasty that ruled over North Africa in the 10th century. During this era, first in their North African capital of Mahdiyya and later in Cairo (the city of Cairo and the al-Azhar Universty were both established by Fatimid rulers), the Mawlid was part of a celebration of the “Five Impeccable Ones” (The Prophet, Imam Ali, Iman Hassan, Imam Hussain, and the Prophet’s daughter Fatima).

The Sunni majority accepted this tradition through Abbas Ahmad al-Azafi’s, Qazi of Ceuta (Morocco) – “al-Durr al-Munazzam fi Mawlid al-Nabi al-Mu’azzam (The Strung Pearls of the Birth Celebration of the Glorious Prophet)”. He took the idea from the non-Muslim religious holidays of Christmas, Passover, Nawruz and Mehrejan, which were celebrated among Fatimid subjects. The purpose of his work was to make Islam more attractive to Dhimmies.

In 1250 CE – Mawlid was declared an official holiday in city of Ceuta – followed by Marrakesh in 1263 CE. Under Marinid dynasty – the Mawlid became national holiday throughout the Muslim west – from al-Andalus (Spain) to Tunisia , by 1350 CE. Though scholars of most of Muslim sects approve of Mawlid celebration – the Wahhabi and Salaafi sects consider it unwarranted innovation.

Ibn ‘Abbad of Ronda (d. 1390), as Imam of Oarawiyyin mosque in Fez, gave the following fatwa:

“Verily this day is a festival for the Muslims, for the purpose of making apparent the divine illumination of the Best of Creation and the Leader of all Messengers. One must adorn himself on this day with the best of clothes. He must prepare food and show his love for the Prophet (pbuh) by riding the finest animals, by making numerous prayers upon him, by composing odes about his attributes, and by adorning children and the Qur’anic schools with what is allowed by law. There is no doubt about the permissibility of all of this, so long as poetry remains free of forbidden and heretical content that Allah doesn’t allow.”

The best way to celebrate Mawlid al-Nabi would be to read a few pages from his Seerah every day and try to make his actions part of our daily lives.

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