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Mawlid al-Nabi that the Qura’n tells is bounty, mercy, favour, and grace of God and legitimate to be celebrated for its deserving reward



By Ghulam Ghaus, New Age Islam

14 Jan 2014

The term “Milad al-Nabi” or “Mawlid al-Nabi” has Arabic roots and means “the birthday of the prophet”. The legitimacy of Mawlid celebrations has been majorly endorsed by the most fundamental sources of Islamic law: the Qura’n and the Hadith. The history of Mawlid celebrations of any one of the prophets goes back to the time immemorial. A particularly strong endorsement was expressed when God, Almighty sent peace on the birthday and death-day of the prophet Yahya (pbuh). God Almighty says:

"The peace is on Him (the prophet, Yahya) the day when he was born and the day when he will die and the day when he will be raised alive." (Sura Al-Maryam, Verse 15)

Here God Almighty gave the way to the Mawlid of Yahya (pbuh) by sending peace on him. It is the same way as today mainstream Muslims have adopted to practice the Mawlid celebrations. Just the same way, the Quran tells us, the prophet Jesus (pbuh) celebrated his own birthday:

"And the same peace on me the day I was born and the day I will die and the day I would be raised alive." (Sura Al Maryam, Verse 33)

Though the practice celebrated by God Almighty and the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) has been an apple of discord among Muslims in the last few decades, the mainstream Muslim intellectuals, Jurists (Fuqaha) and scholars over time have come to celebrate it as part of the mental and emotional furniture of Muslim community. The birthday commemoration of the prophet, particularly among the Sufi orders worldwide, is not a departure from the mainstream but a living testimony that the contemporary Muslims are still faithful to the Qur'anic injunction:

“Indeed, Allah confers blessing upon the Prophet, and His angels [ask Him to do so]. O you who have believed, ask [Allah to confer] blessing upon him and ask [Allah to grant him] peace”. [33: 56] 

The Milad al-Nabi or Malwid is celebrated in different ways in different parts of the world. For example, sweets are distributed, stages are put up, Youth come out dressed in their best and take out rallies on foot and on two-wheelers, carrying flags, raising slogans, reciting songs of peace and blessing upon the prophet (pbuh). The festival is observed with all fanfare. There is an atmosphere of bonhomie and people can be seen exchanging gifts and distributing food to the needy and poor. The day is celebrated with the offering of prayers by thousands in mosques being decorated with lights. Though different in ways of celebration in different parts of the globe, the overall intention is to reflect on the meaning of the prophet’s life, message and what he calls on us to do. In other words we Muslims celebrate “the days of Allah” as guided in the holy Quran: 

“And We certainly sent Moses with Our signs, [saying], "Bring out your people from darkness into the light and remind them of the days of Allah."Indeed in that are signs for everyone patient and grateful” (14:5)

In this verse God Almighty orders his prophet Moses (pbuh) to remind his nation of the days of Allah Almighty. "The days of Allah" are the days when Allah Almighty bestowed his great rewards upon his creatures or some great event took place. As the Holy Quran testifies this explanation:

“And [recall, O Children of Israel], when Moses said to His people, "Remember the favour of Allah upon you when He saved you from the people of Pharaoh, who were afflicting you with the worst torment and were slaughtering your [newborn] sons and keeping your females alive. And in that was a great trial from your Lord”. (14:6)

Hence it means that emancipation of the people of Moses (pbuh) from Pharaoh is the day of independence and the favour of Allah, the 10th of Muharram. The Jews of Madinah celebrated it as a special day on which they fasted in gratitude for salvation. Similarly the birth day of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is also the day of Allah, the day of independence because he emancipated the whole world from the darkness of ignorance, oppression and brought them to the light of guidance. There is no longer any way of doubt now that for Muslims the advent of the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is the favour and ‘the day of Allah’ that deserves to be celebrated.

The mention of the prophet’s birthday in the Qur'an is more exalted, closer to the angelic realm where God Almighty said:

"Indeed, there has come to you Light and a clear Book from Allah." [5: 15]

The widely approved Qura’nic exegetes have concluded that the "Light" as mentioned here is the beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his birth is believed to be the turning point of a new cycle in the history of mankind and the source of the Divine message of Islam and the Noble Qur'an.

The legal status of the Mawlid –al Nabi can also be ensured by the words of the Quran where the Prophet Jesus (pbuh), during his supplication on behalf of his disciples, said;

‘Isa, the son of Maryam (Jesus, the son of Mary) said: ‘O Allah, our Lord, send down to us from heaven the table spread (with bounties) so that (the day of its descent) becomes (‘Id) a festival day for us, and for our predecessors (as well as) successors, and that (spread table) comes as a sign from You, and provide us with sustenance, and You are the Best Sustainer.’ (surah Maidah: 114)

Here the day that the heavenly table descended causes a festival (Eid) for those living in the contemporary era of the prophet Jesus (pbuh), his predecessors and successors. The Quran exegetes have elaborated it saying that here the Eid for his successors include all mankind who would come till the last day. For a heavenly table of food, an Eid was held. What then for the coming to mankind of one who would be a mercy to the whole world. Can we not celebrate at least his annual commemoration?

To remove every doubt I must quote God Almighty to demonstrate that the Mawlid celebration is permissible:

“But call to mind the blessing of Allah upon you when you were enemies (one to another). Then He created the bond of love amongst your hearts, and by His blessing you became brothers” (3:103)

 God Almighty said:

“O Children of Ya‘qub (Jacob)! Recall those favours that I bestowed upon you, and that I exalted you above all the people (of your age)”. (2:47)

God Almighty said:

“Say: ‘(All this) is due to the bounty and mercy of Allah (bestowed upon you through raising Muhammad [blessings and peace be upon him] as the exalted Messenger). So the Muslims should rejoice over it. This is far better than (all that affluence and wealth) that they amass.’ (Surah Yunus:58)

In the verses mentioned above God Almighty orders us to enjoy on his grace and mercy. By grace, bounty, mercy and favour, God means the prophet Muhammad (pbuh). We realize that each favour of Allah Almighty is great mercy for us. Even our existence is also a mercy of Allah Almighty. As for the advent of the prophet, it is the greatest mercy and favour of God Almighty to us and hence we ought to enjoy the Mawlid observance.

Let alone Muslims, even the non-Muslim who rejoices on the birth day of the Holy Prophet would not be severely punished.  Imam Bukhari (ra) narrates that the punishment of Abu Lahab would be made easy in the hell on Monday. This is because when the prophet was born, he rejoiced and freed his handmaid indicating by his finger.  So as a reward of happiness on Milad al-Nabi (pbuh) he would be given water by his finger. (Saheehul Bukhari Vol. 2, Page 764)

Islam perpetuated the significant memories by means of the stories mentioned in the holy Quran. For instance, it prescribed the laws of fasting and the pilgrimage. The fasting rituals during the month of ‘Ramadan’ commemorate the memory of revelation of the Quran in it. Just the same the pilgrimage (Hajj) rituals are performed to commemorate the actions of Hajrah, the prophets Ismai’l and Ibrahim (peace be upon them). The idea that the canonical Islamic rituals are the acts of commemoration is tabled into the debates over the legitimacy of the Mawlid al-Nabi.

The word Zikra’a (commemoration) emphasizes an informative model where the listeners learn about the didactic dimension of the prophet’s biography; his noble characters, generosity towards Muslims and non-Muslims together inspiring with his words, 'I have come to perfect noble character’. His noble character is the subject matter of the holy Quran. In the worldly affairs, the Prophet's character is an unprecedented example for us to adopt moderation in spirit, justice, generosity, dignity, moral excellence, humility, bravery moral excellence, sympathy for others and constant fear of the Lord. Such commemoration features in the modern discussions of the Mawlid celebrations.

The numerous proofs we have quoted justifies the birthday commemoration of the prophets. According to the classical, traditional and many of the highly regarded modern scholars, it is not only permissible but also praiseworthy and recommended and has its deserving reward. They believe it to be a moral and social bridge linking Muslim groups who may be light years away on account of doctrine but neck to neck in their race to honour and celebrate the birthday of the Prophet (pbuh).

To sum up I quote the Hadith "The Prophet (pbuh) said whoever innovates something good in Islam will have its reward and the reward of all those who act according to it and whoever innovates something evil will have its sin and the sin of those who act according to it." (Muslim Shareef)

A similar point is also encapsulated for the acceptability of Mawlid al-Nabi that Imam Abu-Shamah, the Sheikh of Al Hafiz Al Nawawi, said:

"The best of the innovations of our times is what is carried out on the day of corresponding to the birthday of our Beloved Prophet (Allah's Grace & Peace be upon Him), where people give out donations, practice what is right, express their joy and happiness, in doing so is surely a sign of love and admiration for the Prophet (Grace & Peace be upon him)".

A regular columnist for New Age Islam, Ghulam Ghaus is an Alim and Fazil (Classical Islamic scholar) with a Sufi background. He has completed the classical Islamic sciences from a Delhi-based Sufi Islamic seminary Jamia Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia Zakir Nagar, New Delhi with specialization in Tafseer, Hadith and Arabic. He completed his Alimiat and Fazilat respectively from Jamia Warsia Arabic College, Lucknow and Jamia Manzar- e- Islam, Bareilly, U.P. He has graduated in Arabic (Hons) and is pursuing his M.A in Arabic from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.