By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi
07 January 2015
LAST week, my column was about the birth anniversary of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, founder of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. He was one of the greatest Muslim leaders in modern history. Several readers commented on the article; some of them praised the article while others drew my attention to an article about the birthday (Mawlid) of the Prophet (peace be upon him) on Rabi ul Awwal 12, which this year fell on Jan. 3.
There are differences of opinion among Islamic scholars as to whether the celebration of the Prophet’s birthday is permissible or not. Some of them are of the view that it is a Bida’h (sinful religious innovation) because the birthday was celebrated neither during the time of the Prophet (pbuh) nor in the period of the rightly-guided Caliphs of Islam. There were no calls for celebration of the birthday in those glorious days of Islam.
All Muslims in those days were fully aware of the fact that the important thing was following closely on the path of the Prophet (pbuh) and living in accordance with the Prophet’s Tradition (Hadith), in addition to learning lessons from his struggle and suffering in the propagation of the divine religion. They were also eager to follow in the footsteps of the Prophet (pbuh) in his conduct and manners at the time of war and peace, as well as his tolerant approach toward those who fought against him and those who drove him out of Makkah, the beloved home city of the Prophet (pbuh).
In the hour of triumph the Prophet (pbuh) was most forgiving. During the conquest of Makkah, he asked the people of Makkah: "What treatment do you think that I should accord to you?" They said with one voice that they expected nothing but good from their gentle brother, and to this the Prophet (pbuh) replied: “This day there is no reproof against you. Go your way, for you are free”. It is obligatory for Muslims to obey the following directive of the Prophet (pbuh): “I have left among you two matters by holding fast to which you shall never be misguided: the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Prophet.”
Another section of Muslims say that assigning one day to celebrate the birthday is not enough to show our love and respect for the Prophet (pbuh). All Muslims must invoke blessings on the Prophet (pbuh) during their obligatory prayers five times a day. They are also ordained to do so in Adhan and Iqama (calls for prayer) as well as in Tashahhud (sitting part in prayer). The obligatory prayer will not be completed without invoking the following blessings upon the Prophet (pbuh): “O Allah let Your mercy come upon Muhammad and the family of Muhammad as You let it come upon Ibrahim and the family of Ibrahim. O Allah, bless Muhammad and the family of Muhammad as You blessed Ibrahim and the family of Ibrahim. Truly You are Praiseworthy and Glorious.”
Invoking blessings on the Prophet (pbuh) is repeatedly done after every prayer. In most Muslim societies, there is a practice of sending blessings on the Prophet (pbuh) in the event of disputes among two parties. On such occasions, one of the parties asks the other to invoke blessings upon the Prophet (pbuh) so as to remove the misunderstanding. Almighty Allah ordered the believers to invoke blessings upon the Prophet (pbuh) in the following Qur’anic verse: “Allah and His angels send blessings on the Prophet: O ye who believe! Send ye blessings on him, and salute him with all respect.”
The Prophet (pbuh) highlighted the significance of sending blessings on him: “The miser is the one in whose presence I am mentioned, then he does not send salutations on me.” “If anyone invokes blessings upon me once, Allah will bestow blessings upon him ten times over.”
Despite divergent views of scholars about celebrations of the Prophet’s birthday, my personal opinion is in favour of those who celebrate it. Those who oppose celebration of the birthday say that it is a Bida’h but I consider it as a good Bida’h. While serving as a diplomat in several countries, I witnessed such celebrations that are restricted mainly to the recitation of the Holy Qur’an, quoting the Traditions of the Prophet (pbuh), and invoking blessings upon him individually or collectively. The famous song sung by children of Madinah while welcoming the Prophet (pbuh) at the time of the historic migration (Hijrah) was repeated at most of these functions. Both elders and youngsters participated in singing this famous song starting with Tala-al Badru Alaina, of which the meaning is the following: “The full moon is shining on us from the area of gardens. We must offer thanks (to Allah) so long as anyone prays before Allah. O’ the one sent to us, you have come with commands which we shall obey. You came and graced Madinah; we salute and welcome you, 'O' the best caller (toward Allah).”
In the meantime, I would like to say that I am against those rituals and practices - which are against the principles of the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah - that are being observed in the name of Mawlid. I have never agreed with them and will not support them. I was never invited to such functions nor have I ever attended them.
Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs.