In Honor of Our Beloved Prophet (s)

Is it Islamic justice to reject the 12th Rabi` al-Awwal as commemoration of the birth of our Prophet (s) but to assign Christmas Day—and other Christian and secular holidays such as Labor Day— for a “35th Annual Convention” or Independence Day for the “15th Annual ‘Ijtima`a”? Do we want our youth to consider these unIslamic holidays as standard events for Muslims? The sponsoring organizations are proud of the numbers of conference attendees on that holiday, although that day was nowhere emphasized in Qur’an or Sunna, nor in the practice of the Salaf.

If we give credence to the claim, “In Islam there is no compromise”, then why compromise on these dates? The same excuse—of allowing annual Islamic events on secular U.S. or Christian holidays —must be given for the Mawlid.

Therefore, Muslims can proudly say that this year, 1.2 billion Muslims will be attending the 1472

nd Annual Global Conference for Commemorating the Birth of the Prophet (s) (i.e. 1419 years since the Hijrah, plus 13 years in Makkah added to the 40 years before the Prophet (s) received revelation).

We are in support of the practices of commemorating Mawlid and sponsoring Islamic conferences. We only present these facts here to provide a clear analogy (qiyas) of the fact that what is done every year by all Islamic organizations is no different than what is done to commemorate the Prophet’s (s) birth; thus, we must put an end to criticism of topics of whose scholarly roots the average reader may be unfamiliar.

Early Commemoration of Mawlid in Makkah

Let us review some of the early sources mentioning public commemoration of the Mawlid in Makkah al-Mukarrama. One is Ibn Jubayr’s (540-614) Rihal (“Travels”), wherein he describes his observation of Mawlid:

“This blessed place [the house of the Prophet (s)] is opened, and all enter to derive blessing from it (mutabarrikeen bihi), on every Monday of the month of Rabi` al-Awwal; for on that day and in that month was born the Prophet (s).”

The 7th-century historians Abul `Abbas al-`Azafi and his son Abul Qasim al-`Azafi wrote in their Kitab ad-durr al-munazzam: “Pious pilgrims and prominent travelers testified that, on the day of the Mawlid in Makkah, no activities are undertaken, and nothing is sold or bought, except by the people who are busy visiting his noble birthplace, and rush to it. On this day the Ka`ba is opened and visited.”

The famous 8th-century historian Ibn Battuta relates in his Rihla: “On every Friday, after the Jum`uah prayers and on the birthday of the Prophet (s), the door of the Ka`ba is opened by the head of the Banu Shayba, the doorkeepers of the Ka`ba, and that on the Mawlid, the Shafi`i qadi (head judge) of Makkah, Najmuddin Muhammad Ibn al-Imam Muhyiddin al-Tabari, distributes food to the shurafa’ (descendants) of the Prophet (s) and to all the other people of Makkah.”

Three 10th-Century Accounts of Mawlid

The following description consolidates eyewitness accounts by three 10th-century authorities: the historian Ibn Huhayra from his Al-Jami` al-latif fi fasl makka wa ahliha; al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-Haytami from his Kitab al-mawlid ash-sharif al-mu`azzam, the historian al-Nahrawali from Al-i`lam bi-a`lam bayt Allah al-haram. A fourth account by al-Diyarbakri (d. 960) in his Tarikh al-khamis correlates exactly with the following:

“Each year on the 12th of Rabi` al-Awwal, after the evening prayer, the four qadis of Makkah (representing the four Sunni Schools) and large groups of people including the scholars (fuqaha’) and notables (fudala’) of Makkah, shaykhs, zawiya teachers and their students, magistrates (ru’asa’), and scholars (muta`ammameen) leave the mosque and set out collectively for a visit to the birthplace of the Prophet (s), shouting out dhikr and tahlil (la ilaha illa Allah).

“The houses on the route are illuminated with numerous lanterns and large candles, and a great many people are out and about. They all wear special clothes and they take their children with them. Having reached the birthplace, inside a special sermon for the occasion of the birthday of the Prophet (s) is delivered, mentioning the miracles (karamat) that took place on that occasion. Hereafter, the invocation for the Sultan (i.e. the Caliph), the Amir of Makkah, and the Shafi`i qadi is performed and all pray humbly.

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