By Rashid Samnakay, New Age Islam
29 December 2017
I wish I was invited by a Muslim friend to join in an Eid Milad un Nabi celebration which occurred towards the end of the year 2016. I would have loved to ask “which Nabi’s Birthday are you celebrating”, so as to have enjoyed the perplexed looks and bewilderment of the friend inviting me, but it did not happen, alas!
The Birthday of the Nabi Muhammad that fell mid-December that year, 2016 would have only been a week prior to the Birthday of Nabi Isa ibnu Maryam, also referred generally as the Christmas, birthday of the messenger Jesus Christ; hence the question would have been reasonably appropriate to ask of a Muslim. How so? This is how I guess:
An important part of the Belief/Iman of a Muslim, a Believer is defined in one of the two verses 2-3 and 2-4 of Quran, the Book the Muslim proclaim as their Code Book.
2-4… وَالّذِنَ یُومِنُونَ بِمَا اُنزِلَ اِلیْک وَمَا اُنْزِلَ مِنْ قَبْلِکَ --And those who have Iman in revelation sent to you (Oh, Muhammad) and sent to those before your time….
This part of the Belief/Iman occurs in the very beginning of the main text of that Book of Codes.
There are only about twenty seven or so good people including the Biblical Messengers referred in the Book by their names. But it also says that these are the ones that God has named but there are other Messengers who came prior to your time and have NOT been named. There is no number given as to how many the unnamed Messengers were there.
It therefore leaves to one’s imagination as to how many were there altogether. Unless reference is made to the Bible which states one hundred forty thousand and the Muslim Apocrypha- Hadis, five and a half centuries later, give a reduced figure of one hundred and twenty four thousand or so! No explanation is given as to how these numbers were arrived at.
However, it must be emphasized that Nabi Isa ibn Maryam/ Jesus Christ is named twenty eight times in Quran and whose birthday is in many cases celebrated religiously all over the Christian world, with slight variations of the date among its denominations; not different to the Muslims where the Sunnis differ by a week or so from the Shias, celebrating Eid Milad un Nabi Muhammad in the month of Rabi ul Awwal, the lunar month. There is no reference in the Quran to any of the Anmbia’s Birthdays.
It must be remembered too that there is a huge controversy in the religious celebration of Eid Milad un Nabi of Muhammad, as some Muslim scholars brand the celebration as a Bid’ah/innovation and therefore against the Code Book. Whereas some factions have no qualms in celebrating the occasion with jolly good sing song and distribution of food and sweets and yet some celebrating it with religious fervor and in-depth worship to boot.
The above controversy aside, what transpires from Quran is an important issue of Islam – the Code as propagated by the Quran and as indicated by the verse given above. It is that Muslims are not to stand aloof as an exclusive and insular community among humanity but are supposed to inculcate a spirit of inclusiveness of the human race as a whole even on Faith basis.
The fact that other Messengers of God, basically reformers all, named and NOT named belong to a community of Messengers by the definition of Quran are to be Believed, makes Islam as pluralistic Code to be adopted for the unity of mankind, for example verse 10,19 endorses thus:
10, 19 – Mankind was created but one nation, but differed later.
The differences that arose as it progressed over the ages, unfortunately has not only taken the turn to ‘compartmentalise’ communities of mankind but acrimonious religious, unbridgeable inter and intra schisms have developed amongst them.
The separateness of communities is not decried in Quran as it serves the purpose of “recognition” of natural differences of one from the other, but the acrimonious schism is; breaking the unity of mankind is condemned, for example:
6,159 – As for those who differentiate in the Code and break up into schisms, you (Oh, Muhammad) are NOT to maintain any relations with them.
The non-maintenance of relationship can in no way be interpreted as a license to develop aggressive and confronting attitude, quite the contrary! The corollary therefore is to maintain harmony among the communities of mankind and not to create acrimonious schisms.
The verse 2-4 given above, when considered in the broadest sense, a picture emerges that mankind progressed up the intellectual ladder where the rungs on the ladder were composed of Messengers/Reformers from all four corners of earth, ”some named and some not named” to facilitate that progress. Hence all those were Nabis for their times, and worthy therefore of respect and celebrating their contribution to human progress. To single out a particular Nabi is therefore practicing in polytheism of ‘personality cult’, negating 2- 4.
The problem arises in the practicality of that celebration. With so many of them around; whichever number one adopts, it is impossible to be equitably fair to them all. Otherwise excluding the others negates the above.
Common sense would dictate therefore that in order to live harmoniously in mixed community, whichever community celebrates joyously its particular Nabi and invites others to join in, join in and enjoy the merry making occasion, eat drink “and give thanks to Almighty for the gifts He has bestowed”. Reciprocate the invitation when and if similar occasion arise.
The sermons from the Muslim pulpits are often heard forbidding Muslim from associating with Christmas celebrations and offering greetings of the season, on the grounds that Christians worship Jesus. So what does that matters to the others?
It would be denying the fact that in some Muslim communities personality cultism of the Nabi Muhammad is rife and Eid Milad un Nabi is a good example of that cultism in some gatherings. The wording of the sing songs – Na’ts and Qawwalis invoking the Nabi to help and assist are as close as one can get to placing him next to God and hence polytheism -shirk. No wonder that many scholars declare such “birthday celebration” as Bid’ah.
In the general community of mankind interaction with other communities celebrating socially their festivities should be participating in the true spirit of 2-4 sans religiosity. Christmas celebration and indeed of many others, today in Western countries is generally just a holidays and occasion to socialize, foster friendship, harmony and most of all understanding.
So, join in celebration of Christmas festivities and Eid Milad un Nabi, which ever and whenever they come round next. But for now celebrate the New Year festivities even if it is not a Lunar New Year.
A regular contributor to NewAgeIslam.com , Rashid Samnakay is a (Retd.) Engineer
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