Every year, when the month of Rabi al-Awwal comes around once again, bringing in its train the night of the twelfth, it seems to us as if the whole world is perfumed by the memory of the birth of the Final Messenger, may Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him. Countless millions of Muslims in every corner of the earth fix their thoughts on his birth, by re-reading his biography and learning from his unique values and qualities. For he was the Unlettered Prophet, in whose human essence were combined and perfected every noble and generous trait of character: the best of all role-models, of whom Allah Himself has said: “Truly, yours is a tremendous character.”
The love of the holy Prophet (SalAllahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wassallam), and the joy which his birth and career have brought to us, bring every imaginable kind of good thing to a true Muslim. Even an unbeliever can benefit from his birth. The idolator Abu Lahab, one of the greatest enemies of Islam, was pleased when one Monday he heard the news that Muhammad (SalAllahu Alaihi Wa Aalihi Wassallam) had been born: and he freed his slave-girl Thuwaiba who had brought him the news. We are told that because of this deed his punishment in the grave is reduced every Monday. This hadith, which is narrated by Imam Bukhari (rah), inspired Imam Shams al-Din al-Dimashqi (rah) to write:
If an unbeliever, condemned by the Quran to eternal pain,
Can be relieved every Monday through his joy at Ahmad,
Then what must a true servant of God hope to gain,
When with the truth of Tawhid he felt joy at Ahmad?
Without the slightest doubt, the best way of commemorating this most noble of all birthdays is in reciting the story of his life, to adults and to children, in order to accustom them to the love of Allah’s great Messenger (may Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him) and to recite as much salawat (durood) as possible on this blessed day .
My own mother, may Allah show her soul mercy, used to put us in the habit of sitting down and reading the sira books. Even though she herself could neither read nor write, she knew much of the sira by heart, and would constantly encourage her family and neighbours to become intimately familiar with the beautiful life-story of the Prophet (may Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him).
No-one could deny that gathering to listen to the career of the Master of the Messengers is one of the most desirable of all activities. It can yield a whole range of blessings and benefits, as long as it takes place in a proper Islamic atmosphere without any reprehensible innovations or distortions. Needless to say, the life of the Prophet, upon him be blessings and peace, can and should be commemorated at any time of the year. Nonetheless, when he is remembered in Rabi al-Awwal, people’s attachment to him grows even stronger, for the simple reason that it was in this month that he was born. At this special time, when the impulse to gather for this purpose is at its strongest, one feels an overwhelming sense of connection between our time and his, as the present reminds us of the past, and helps us to bring to mind and relate to events which took place many centuries ago.
The Prophet himself, may Allah bless him, used to commemorate his birthday, thanking his Lord for His great kindness to him. He would express this commemoration by fasting, as we are told in a hadith narrated by Imam Muslim. The methods by which his birthday may be celebrated vary widely, but the objective is the same: whether in fasting, giving food to the poor, gathering for the remembrance (dhikr) of Allah or calling down blessings upon His Messenger, and listening to the story of his virtues and mighty achievements.
Allah has commanded us Muslims to rejoice at the things by which His grace and mercy comes to us. In the Holy Quran we read: ‘Say, by Allah’s grace and mercy; and let them be made joyful by this!’ (Yunus, 58.) And we have never received any mercy greater than the Prophet himself: ‘We sent you only as a mercy to the worlds.’ (Anbiya, 107.)
Q: ‘Why was he born during that month, rather than during Ramadan, the month when the Quran was revealed, or in one of the Sacred Months, which Allah rendered sacred on the day He created the heavens and the earth? Or even in Sha’ban, the month which contains the blessed Night of Mid-Sha’ban?’
Firstly, in a hadith we read that Allah created the tree on Monday. This can be taken to mean that the creation of sustenance, fruits and all the good things of the earth upon which the children of Adam depend for their life, and which give them medicines to heal them, and whose very sight brings them rest and joy: all this was decreed to come into existence on this day.
The Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, also came into the world on this day, as a cause of rapture and joy. He is associated with it in other ways also: according to Ibn Abbas (radiAllahu anhu) , ‘Allah’s Messenger was born on a Monday, became a Prophet on a Monday, and raised up the Black Stone on a Monday.’
Secondly, we should recall that the Arabic name of the month of his birth signifies the season of spring: the time of rebirth and renewal. Now, the Birthday of the Prophet, may Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him , resembles this closely. His birth in the month of this name gives good tidings of the greatest forms of sustenance and protection for the believers. It proclaims Allah’s mercy, the greatest of which is His granting guidance, through His messenger, to the Straight Path.’
Thirdly, Shaykh Muhammad Yusuf al-Salihi writes: ‘Can you not see that the season of spring is both the most beautiful and moderate of seasons, free of both bitter cold or stifling heat, or exaggerated length in its days or nights? It is the time of year when people feel most refreshed and whole, so that they can enjoy the pleasure of prayer at night, and of fasting during the day. All of this symbolises and resembles the moderation and healthfulness of the Sunna and the Law which the Prophet brought.’
Fourthly, It would seem to be the case that the Wise God sometimes wishes to ennoble times through events, not events through times. A time otherwise left vacant can thereby be filled with a special quality from which people can derive benefit.
Obviously, if the Blessed Prophet, may Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him, had been born in Ramadan, or one of the Sacred Months, or in the holy month of Sha’ban, some people might think that it was he himself who was being ennobled by these times because of their great merit. But it was Allah’s wise decree that he be born in Rabi al-Awwal in order to ennoble that month, and to display Allah’s care and good providence for His Prophet, may Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him. As an Arab poet has written:
Allah gave good news of you to the heavens, and they were adorned,
The soil of the earth turned to musk when it heard of you.
A day whose dawn is part of history,
And whose evening is made luminous by Muhammad!
To sum up what I have been trying to say: celebrations of the Mawlid are nothing other than a revival of the memory of the Chosen One. When this is done in the context of an Islamically-learned circle of knowledge and remembrance, in which the manners of our Islamic religion are observed, it is something which the great scholars approve of strongly. It provides a superb opportunity to link us to the Sira, to his miracles and beautiful character, and to the magnification of the Prophet whom Allah has commanded us to follow and emulate in all things.
Only by knowing his virtues and good qualities can we have perfect faith in him.
Only by listening to his life-story will we acquire a true and deep love for him.
As Allah Himself has stated: ‘We tell you the stories of the Messengers, in order to make firm your heart.’
O Allah, make firm our hearts in Islam! Make our faith true and deep, and bestow upon us real love for Your Prophet!
May Allah’s blessings and peace be upon our beloved Prophet, his family, his companions and all his followers.
-by Dr. Muhammad Abduh Yamani