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Rabi Ul Awwal

There are no specific days that are held as ‘virtuous’ for special acts of worship in this month. However, this month is historically associated with key events in the Prophet’s life. It is historically proven that the Prophet (SAW) was born on a Monday and he died on a Monday in Rabi‘ al-Awwal. Most historians such as Ibn Ishaq hold the view that he was born on 12th Rabi‘ al-Awwal [1] , but some research scholars such as Ibn Al-Qayyim and Shibli Nu‘mani are in favour of 9th Rabi‘ al-Awwal [2] . The majority of historians have also preferred 12th Rabi‘ al-Awwal 11 AH/ 632 CE as the date of the Prophet’s death [3] . Other historical events of this month include:

Monday 9th Rabi‘ al-Awwal 610 CE: According to one view, Muhammad (SAW) was initially commissioned as a Prophet at the age of 40 on this date and 6 months later, the Qur’an was first revealed to him in the Cave of Hira during Ramadan [4] .
Monday 8th Rabi‘ al-Awwal 622 CE: The Prophet’s Arrival at Quba, on the outskirts of Madinah, where the first mosque was built (9:108)
Friday 12th Rabi‘ al-Awwal 622 CE: After leaving Quba, the Prophet (SAW) led the first Jumu‘ah Prayer with 100 people at the valley of Bani Salim [5].
Expressing Joy at the Prophet’s Birth

According to Taqi Usmani, “The birth of the Holy Prophet was the most significant and the most remarkable event in human history. Had there been room in Islamic teachings for the celebration of birthdays and anniversaries, the birthday of the Holy Prophet would have undoubtedly deserved it more than the birthday of any other person” [6] . This is because the advent of the Prophet to the world brought about a new chapter in history, gave a new hope to humanity and it was through him that Allah Ta‘ala completed His religion. If the Prophet (SAW) had not been born, then there would be no Qur’an, no Laylatul Qadr, no Shari‘ah and no Muslim Ummah.

It was Allah’s great favour upon us that He sent His last and greatest Prophet amongst us and enabled us to be among his Ummah, as the Qur’an says: “Surely Allah has bestowed a great favour on the believers by sending amongst them a Messenger who recites to them His verses and who purifies them and teaches them the Book and Wisdom, even though before that they were in clear misguidance” (3:164). The Qur’an also says: “By the Grace of Allah and His Mercy let them rejoice” (10:58). The birth of the Prophet (SAW) is a great blessing to us and we should express our joy by showering praises on him (33:56), loving him (9:25) and following his lifestyle (33:21 & 59:7).

There is no place for birthday or death anniversaries in Islam- otherwise the Prophet would have celebrated the anniversary of his beloved wife Khadijah and dear uncle Hamzah, whose deaths grieved him very much. If the Prophet’s birth was to be celebrated in a special way on a specific day, then surely the Prophet would have ordered us to do so. The Companions, who had the greatest love for the Prophet, would have celebrated it after his death with great pride. But we see no instances of this in the first three generations of ‘Pious Predecessors’ (Salaf al-Salih) nor in the first 600 years of Islamic history.

Origin of Celebrating the Prophet’s Birthday (Mawlid Al-Nabi)

About 150 years after the Prophet’s death, the house in which he was born was transformed into a place of prayer and pilgrimage by Al-Khaizuran, the mother of the Abbasid Caliph Harun Al-Rashid [7] . From 500 AH/ 1106 CE special anniversaries were held in the Prophet’s house. Around the same time, a low profile celebration of Mawlid Al-Nabi was started in Egypt by the Fatimids but it was confined to the ruling elite. The act of publicly celebrating the Prophet’s Birthday in a grand way was introduced in 604 AH/ 1207 CE by King Muzaffar Al-Kawkari, the ruler of Irbil, in imitation of the Christians [8] . In 996 AH/ 1587 CE Sultan Murad III introduced it into the Ottoman Empire incorporating religious elements into the celebration. As a result of this and the growing influence of Sufis, celebrating Mawlid Al-Nabi became widespread and popular in the Muslim world.

Though Mawlid Al-Nabi (SAW) was invented six centuries after Islam, many scholars endorsed the practice of celebrating the Prophet’s birth (such as Al-Suyuti, Ibn Hajar, Ibn Al-Jauzi, Al-Sakhawi, Shah Waliullah and Qasim Nanutvi). In this respect, Abu Shama Al-Muqaddasi says: “One of the good innovations of our times is celebration of the Blessed Prophet’s birthday every year. There are celebrations, people give charity and decorate their homes and streets. This has many benefits; the poor and needy are generously treated and people express their love and respect for Al-Mustafa (SAW). Above all Allah has sent the Messenger as a Mercy for the entire universe and this is one of His greatest favors to mankind” [9] . However, many other great scholars such as Ibn Al-Hajj, Tajuddin Al-Fakahani, Ibn Taymiyyah, Abdurrahman Al-Mughzi, Nasiruddin Al-Shafi‘i, Mujaddid Alf Thani and Rashid Ahmad Gangohi have condemned the practice, despite the religious colouring, as an innovation in religion (bid‘ah) that should be shunned.

Real Way of Remembering the Prophet (SAW)

The popular annual celebration of the Prophet’s birthday is in imitation of Christians. But the Shari‘ah enjoins us to remember and love the Prophet (SAW), not on a fixed day in the year, but in every moment of our lives. It is a duty on Muslims to send Allah’s blessings upon the Prophet (SAW) as the Qur’an says: “Surely Allah and His angels send blessings upon the Prophet. O those who believe! Send blessings upon him and salute him with a worthy salutation” (33:56). We are also enjoined to mention the blessed name of the Prophet (SAW) specifically during the Adhan, Iqamah, Tashahhud, the Friday Khutbah and in other acts of worship.

Those who celebrate Mawlid Al-Nabi (SAW) do it out of love for him [10] . But we should not allow our emotions to go beyond the ambit of the acts permitted by Shari‘ah. The best way to love and respect the Prophet (SAW) is to imitate his Sunnah and not to contradict it, as the Qur’an says: “Say (O Muhammad): If you truly love Allah, then follow me, and Allah will love you and forgive you your sins” (3:31). The Prophet (SAW) is reported as saying: “Whoever revives my Sunnah loves me, and whoever loves me will be with me in Paradise” [11] . Hence there is a great need to revive the Prophet’s Sunnah in this age of decadence and there are great rewards promised for people who do so [12] .

By Hafiz Abdullah Muhammad

Extract taken from the authors’ first book entitled “The Best of Times: Virtues and Significance of important Days, Nights, Months and Festivals in Islam” available free on request from the publisher: IPCI, 434 Coventry Road, Small Heath, Birmingham B10 0UG.

[1] Ibn Hisham: Sirat Al-Nabawiyyah 1/158, Ibn Sa‘d: Tabaqat Al-Kubra 1/100 & Al-Tabari: Tarikh Al-Rusul 2/156

[2] See Shibli Nu‘mani: Sirat Al-Nabi (SAW) 1/171 & Muhammad Al-Khudry: Nur Al-Yaqin p.9

[3] Ibn Sa‘d: Tabaqat Al-Kubra 2/272, Al-Tabari: Tarikh Al-Rusul 2/200 & Ibn Kathir: Al-Bidayah 5/254-6

[4] Ibn Al-Qayyim: Zad Al-Ma‘ad 1/18 & Al-Suyuti: Al-Itqan 1/42

[5] Bukhari 1/555. The Prophet (SAW) also entered Madinah on the same day.

[6] Taqi Usmani: Islamic Months: Merits & Precepts (1996) pp.27-28

[7] Al-Azraqi: Akhbar Makkah 2/160

[8] Ibn Kathir: Al-Bidayah wa Al-Nihayah 13/144-6 & Al-Suyuti: Al-Hawi lil Fatawa 1/182

[9] Sirat Al-Halabiyyah 1/80. See Al-Suyuti’s defence of celebrating the Mawlid in Al-Hawi lil Fatawa 1/181-89.

[10] Ibn Taymiyyah: Mukhtasar Iqtida Al-Sirat Al-Mustaqim p.47

[11] Tirmidhi who classified it as ‘Hasan Gharib’. Although some scholars have identified weaknesses in the chain of narrators of this Hadith, nevertheless its meaning is correct as the Qur’an says: “Whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger, then they will be with those whom Allah has favoured among the Prophets, the Truthful, the Martyrs and the Righteous” (4:68).

[12] The Prophet (SAW) said: “Whoever revives any of my Sunnah which has disappeared after me will have the reward of all those who act by it without decreasing their reward in any way” [Tirmidhi & Ibn Majah who classified it as ‘hasan’- see Qadi ‘Iyad: Al-Shifa p.219].


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