MAWLID AL-NABI:THE BIRTH OF THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD

Exploring the Significance and Celebration of Mawlid al-Nabi: Commemorating the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad

Introduction

The celebration of Mawlid al-Nabi al-Sharif, also known as the Birth of the Prophet, holds immense importance in the Islamic faith. It is a time when Muslims across the world gather to commemorate the birth of their beloved Prophet Muhammad. This article will delve into the significance of Mawlid al-Nabi, the celebrations associated with it, and the question of its permissibility within the Islamic community.

Mawlid al-Nabi: Commemorating the Prophet’s Birth

Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), the founder of Islam, was born on the 22nd of April, 571 CE, in Mecca, located in the Arabian Peninsula. As the final prophet of God in Islam, his birth is celebrated with great reverence and joy every year in the month of Rabi’ al-awwal, the third month of the Islamic calendar.

Opinions vary concerning the origin of the celebration of the Prophet’s birth. Some historians suggest that it began in the fourth century of the Islamic calendar, around 912 AD, during the Fatimid Caliphate. The rulers of that time, seeking to gain the religious sentiments of their people, instituted various religious holidays, including the celebration of the Prophet’s birth. Others argue that it began in Egypt during the fifth century of the Islamic calendar (1009 AD) and later spread to Iraq in the sixth or early seventh century, with the primary objective of these celebrations being a political one—to consolidate the rule of Bani Obaid, the ruling tribe at that time.

The Year of the Elephant

One significant event in the life of the Prophet Muhammad, which occurred eight years before his death, is known as the Year of the Elephant. At the time, he was the patriarch of his tribe.

The Defiance of Abraha and the Defending Tribes

Abraha al-Ashram, the Ethiopian governor of Yemen, envied the reverence with which the Ka’bah, the sacred house of worship in Mecca, was regarded by the Arabs. Being a staunch Christian, he constructed a grand cathedral in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, and ordered the Arabs to pilgrimage there instead. However, the Arabs ignored his command, and someone even defiled the cathedral. Enraged, Abraha decided to demolish and desecrate the Ka’bah itself, leading a formidable army toward Mecca.

Abraha’s army included numerous elephants, one of which he rode upon. The Arabs had never encountered such animals before, and thus the year became known as ‘Amul-Fil, or the Year of the Elephant, and it marked the beginning of an era for reckoning years in Arabia. This era remained in use until the time of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, who, upon the advice of Hazrat ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, replaced it with the Hijra era.

Upon hearing news of Abraha’s advancing army, the Arabian tribes of Quraish, Kinanah, Khuza’ah, and Hudhayl united to defend the Ka’bah. Abraha dispatched a small contingent to capture camels and young individuals from Mecca. The contingent succeeded in capturing numerous animals, including two hundred camels belonging to ‘Abdul-Muttalib.

Meanwhile, Abraha sent a man from the tribe of Himyar to deliver a message to the Quraish, stating that his intention was not to fight them but to demolish the Ka’bah. However, if the Quraish resisted, they would face utter destruction. The messenger provided a terrifying description of Abraha’s vast and well-equipped army, which clearly outnumbered all the tribes combined.

Abdul-Muttalib’s Faith and Divine Intervention

In response to this ultimatum, ‘Abdul-Muttalib replied with firm conviction: “By Allah, we do not want to fight him. As for this House (the Ka’bah), it belongs to Allah. If Allah wishes to protect His House, no one can harm it. And if He chooses to abandon it, no one can save it.”

‘Abdul-Muttalib, accompanied by ‘Amr ibn Lu’aba and other prominent leaders, then went to meet Abraha. Abraha had been informed in advance about ‘Abdul-Muttalib’s prestige and position. As ‘Abdul-Muttalib entered Abraha’s tent, the latter rose from his throne, warmly welcoming him and seating him beside him on a carpet. During their conversation, ‘Abdul-Muttalib requested the release of his camels. Abraha was astonished and questioned this seemingly trivial request, given the situation. ‘Abdul-Muttalib responded, “I am the owner of the camels; I sought their release. As for this House, it has its Owner, Who will surely protect it.” Abraha was taken aback by this response andapologizes and granted ‘Abdul-Muttalib’s request.

The Miracle of the Abyssinian Army

As Abraha’s army advanced towards Mecca, a miracle occurred that would forever be remembered in the history of the Arabian Peninsula. As the army approached, the elephants refused to move forward, despite their usual obedience to their trainers. The elephants knelt down and refused to budge, causing chaos among Abraha’s troops. Birds, called Ababil, descended upon the army, carrying small stones in their beaks and claws. They pelted Abraha’s soldiers with these stones, causing widespread panic and confusion. In a matter of hours, the entire army was decimated, and Abraha himself was struck by a stone and died a painful death.

This miraculous event, known as the “Miracle of the Abyssinian Army,” is often associated with the protection of the Ka’bah and the sanctity of Mecca. It further solidified the belief among the Arabs that the Ka’bah was under the divine protection of Allah.

Celebrations of Mawlid al-Nabi

The celebrations of Mawlid al-Nabi vary across different regions and cultures. In many countries, the festivities begin with the recitation of religious poetry called “Naat” or “Madih” in praise of the Prophet Muhammad. These poetic verses glorify the Prophet’s character, teachings, and the significance of his birth.

Mosques and homes are often adorned with lights, banners, and colorful decorations. People gather for communal prayers, where sermons and speeches highlight the life and teachings of the Prophet. Scholars and religious leaders frequently give lectures on the Prophet’s character, compassion, mercy, and his role as a human guide.

Charitable acts and giving are fundamental to Mawlid al-Nabi celebrations, urging Muslims to show kindness, and donate.

Feeding the poor, organizing communal meals, and distributing sweets and food are common practices during this time.

Moreover, numerous Muslims use this auspicious occasion for personal reflection, aiming to strengthen their connection with Prophet Muhammad. They may spend time reading the biography of the Prophet (Seerah), studying his teachings, and reciting prayers and supplications.

Permissibility and Controversies

The celebration of Mawlid al-Nabi is a topic of debate among Islamic scholars. Some scholars argue that it is an innovation (bid’ah) and not a practice endorsed by the Prophet or his companions. They contend that the Prophet himself did not celebrate his birthday, nor did he instruct his followers to do so. Therefore, they discourage any form of celebration associated with Mawlid al-Nabi.

However, advocates of Mawlid contend that it serves as a way to express love and gratitude towards Prophet Muhammad. They argue that celebrating his birth honors his life, teachings, and the profound impact he made on humanity. Their emphasis lies in remembering and learning from the Prophet’s example rather than elevating his status excessively.

The permissibility of Mawlid al-Nabi varies among different schools of Islamic jurisprudence and cultural contexts. Some countries and communities observe Mawlid as a public holiday, with official government-sponsored events and processions. Others choose to celebrate it privately within their homes or mosques.

Conclusion

Mawlid al-Nabi is a significant occasion for Muslims worldwide, marking the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. It is a time of joy, reflection, and reverence for his life and teachings. Mawlid al-Nabi’s celebration sparks debate, yet remains a vital tradition for numerous Muslims in the Islamic community. Approaching the matter of celebrating Mawlid al-Nabi with respect, understanding, and unity is crucial within the Muslim world’s diversity.

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