As you read these lines, 1.5 billion Muslims will be celebrating the birthday of their beloved prophet, a day known as Milad un-Nabi or Mawlid. Muslim love and admiration for the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) manifests itself beautifully through these various kinds of religious celebrations blended with local cultures and traditions.
The earliest account of the observance of Mawlid can be found in 8th century Mecca. Historically, this was a festival of the Shia ruling class and the first official public celebrations occurred in Egypt towards the end of the 11th century. Gradually it spread throughout the Muslim world, with the first Sunni Muslim celebration taking place in 12th century Syria.
Today, Mawlid is celebrated in the form of a carnival in many countries. Street processions are held and homes and mosques are decorated. Food is distributed widely. Stories about the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) are narrated and devotional poetry is recited. One of the most popular poems recited during Mawlid is Qasida al-Burda Sharif, a poem composed in the 13th century in praise of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
About 3,000 moulids are held in Egypt every year. Part pilgrimage, part carnival, part mystical Islamic ceremony, they are a mass phenomenon that is increasingly attracting the attention of the Egyptian authorities. Tanta, in the Nile Delta, is home to Egypt’s biggest moulid attracting up to three million people, some travelling from as far away as Sudan. A moulid is also about contemplation and the spiritual focus of the festival is the mosque where Ahmed el-Bedawi is believed to be buried. At night thousands of families sleep inside the mosque and outside it in brightly coloured tents in the surrounding alleyways.
Moulid in Egypt
During Pakistan’s Mawlid celebration, the national flag is hoisted on all public buildings, and a 31-gun salute in Islamabad and a 21-gun salute at the provincial headquarters are fired at dawn. Hundreds of thousands of people gather at Minar-e-Pakistan Lahore between the intervening night of 11th and 12th Rabi’ al-awwal for Mawlid celebrations, this is the worlds biggest gathering for Mawlid celebrations.
Eid Milad e Nabi in Pakistan
Among non-Muslim countries, India is noted for its Mawlid festivities. The relics of Muhammad (PBUH) are displayed after the morning prayers in the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir at the Hazratbal Shrine, on the outskirts of Srinagar. Shab-khawani night-long prayers held at the Hazratbal Shrine are attended by thousands.
Here’s a poem by Sa’adi Sherazi sung by Sabri Brothers.
These celebrations have often had a local flavor, even as they tap into universal (“umma-tic”) themes. One of the loveliest has been through a distinctly Turkish tradition called Mevlud (The Turkish pronunciation of Mawlid, also spelled as Mevlut). These poems, exceedingly popular historically, are of special interest today as they tell the story of the Prophet’s birth through female eyes, namely the eyes of his mother.
He that comes is King of Knowledge high,
Is the mine of gnosis and tawhid [monotheism].
For the love of him the sky revolves,
Men and jinn are longing for his face.
This night is the night that he, so pure
Will suffuse the worlds with radiant light!
This night, earth becomes a Paradise,
This night God shows mercy to the world.
This night those with heart are filled with joy,
This night gives the lovers a new life.
Mercy for the worlds is Mustafa,
Sinners’ intercessors: Mustafa!’”
Following the Qur’an all Muslims celebrate the connection among the various Prophets, particularly the close connection among Abraham, Noah, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. Here that same connection is reaffirmed through a female perspective, by talking about how the luminous women, through whom each of these channels of grace (baraka) were opened up onto this world, gather around Amina, greeting her as Muhammad (PBUH) is being born to her.
“They described him in this style to me,
Stirred my longing for that blessed light.”
Amina said: “When the time was ripe
That the Best of Mankind should appear,
I became so thirsty from that heat
That they gave me sherbet in a glass.
Drinking it, I was immersed in light
And could not discern myself from light.”
Compassionate celebrations of Muhammad (PBUH) around the world manifest the softer image of Islam inscribed in teachings of Prophet (PBUH) that were full of love for humanity, equality and rights. I have made it a habit to celebrate Prophet’s birthday by reading and reflecting upon his famous last sermon every year. This sermon, which was delivered by Prophet Muhammad at the end of his final pilgrimage to Mecca and shortly before his death to more than 100,000 early Muslims has been considered as the Prophet’s will to his companions and long lasting universal message and teaching to his Ummah.
In this sermon of Muhammad, Muslims find their deep commitment to the universal human values such as sacredness of life and property, equality, justice, peace and more. Upon these high universal values, the religion of Islam was built.
We still have so much to learn from this 1,400-plus-year-old cry and we are so much in need of this message of Muhammad in our broken time where we continue to struggle with almost identical issues in our global human community. We need to go back to these core teachings and examples of Islam and similarly strive for achieving an ethical and moral society, wherever we live, where no one inflicts nor suffers inequity, unfairness and in justice.
Peace and blessings be upon Prophet Muhammad and upon all prophets came before him. Here’re some excerpts from sermon:
Every right arising out of homicide and blood-killing in pre-Islamic days is henceforth waived and the first such right that I waive is that arising from the murder of Rabi`ah ibn al Harith ibn `Abd al Muttalib.
O People, it is true that you have certain rights over your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under God’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Treat your women well and be kind to them, for they are your partners and committed helpers. It is your right and they do not make friends with anyone of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste…
All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action…
Here’s a beautiful poem by Maulana Jami
تنم فرسودہ جاں پارہ
ز ہجراں، یا رسول اللہ ۖ
دلم پژمردہ آوارہ
ز عصیاں، یا رسول اللہ ۖ
My body is dissolving in your separation
And my soul is breaking into pieces. Ya Rasulullah!
Due to my sins, My heart is weak and becoming enticed. Ya Rasulullah!
چوں سوۓ من گذر آری،
من مسکین ز ناداری
فداۓ نقش نعلینت
کنم جاں، یا رسول اللہ ۖ
When you pass by me
Then even in my immense poverty, ecstatically,
I must sacrifice my soul on your blessed sandal. Ya Rasulullah !
زجام حب تو مستم ،
با زنجیر تو دل بستم
نمی گویم کی من بستم
سخنداں، یا رسول اللہ ۖ
I am drowned in the taste of your love
And the chain of your love binds my heart.
Yet I don’t say that I know this language (of love). Ya Rasulullah!
ز کردہ خیش حیرانم،
سیاہ شد روز عصیانم
پشیمانم، یا رسول اللہ ۖ
I am worried due to my misdeeds;
And I feel that my sins have blackened my heart. Ya Rasulullah!
I am in distress! I am in distress! I am in distress! Ya Rasulullah!
چوں بازوۓ شفاعت را
کشا بر گناہگاراں
مکن محروم جامی را
در آں، یا رسول اللہ
Ya Rasulullah! When you spread your hands to intercede for the sinners,
Then do not deprive Jaami of your exalted intercession.
Killings in the name of the Prophet (PBUH) may well be termed as ignorance of the real message Muhammad (PBUH) preached throughout his life. The self assigned protectors of the name of Prophet (PBUH) can learn the lesson from the following letter written by Muhammad (PBUH) to St Catherines Greek Orthodox Monastary in the Sinai desert.
Prophet Muhammad’s letter identifies several clauses covering all aspects of human rights. This includes the protection of Christians, allowing freedom of worship and movement; freedom to appoint their own judges; to own and maintain their property; exemption from military service, and the right to protection in war.
This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.
Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.
No compulsion is to be on them.
Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries.
No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses.
Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.
No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight.
The Muslims are to fight for them.
If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray.
Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.
No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).
Note: The post has been compiled from these sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.