It is accepted Muslim tradition that the Prophet Muhammad (s) was born in the month of Rabi al-Awwal, the third month of the Hijri or Islamic calendar. What is not accepted Muslim tradition is whether or not Muslims should commemorate the Prophet’s(s) birth. For some African Americans, specifically those who are converts or the children and grandchildren of converts, “Mawlid” or commemorating the birth of Prophet Muhammad (s) can seem like a “foreign” practice, as in something they do “overseas.” Alternatively, Mawlid can also be regarded as something that is way too close to home—as a practice akin to Christmas that can lead to problematic behaviors and/or beliefs. Yet for other African Americans, of a range of ethnic and religious backgrounds, Mawlid is celebrated because it is understood as part of a long accepted tradition of honoring the Prophet Muhammad (s).
As the month of Rabi al-Awwal comes to a close, we curated a few perspectives from African American Muslims on the practice of the Mawlid: a brief commentary by the late Imam WD Mohammed, excerpts from an article by Imam Zaid Shakir (you can read the full text here), and a message on Mawlid as a time for Muslim unity by Shaykh Jafar Muhibullah. We end with two musical selections: a rendition of the Burda by Noorul Isqh in Islamville, South Carolina and a song by the California-based artist, Tyson Amir.* We conclude with these songs because they represent what is agreed upon, the honor and esteem upon which all Muslims regard the final messenger sent from God as a mercy to all the worlds, the Prophet Muhammad, salla allahu alaihi wa alihi wa salaam.
Celebrating The Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday
By Imam W Deen Mohammed.
September 10, 1995
“Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus so some Muslims started celebrating the birth of Prophet Muhammad. We were doing it in innocence (but) our Prophet didn’t ask us to love him in that kind of way. He wants us to love him by obeying the Word of G-d, in obedience to G-d. You can love someone in the wrong way and hurt yourself and hurt them. Was there a promotion of Prophet Mohammad’s birthday in his lifetime? Was it immediately after his death? No. When G-d says his [Prophet Muhammad] uswa is He saying follow his [Prophet Muhammad] birthday, his personality? His uswa, his model means his human excellence in the proper balance that G-d wanted it in. His life was proportioned and balanced as G-d created it to be. It has nothing to do with the color of his skin, texture of his hair, (etc.) It is derived from the same word we get balance from; sewa. Uswa means the model, form, condition, state in the Prophet.”
The Blessed Mawlid
By Imam Zaid Shakir
Rabi al-Awwal 12, 1428/March 31, 2007
“One of the most blessed events in the history of humanity was the birth of the beloved Prophet Muhammad (s) on the 12th of Rabi al-Awwal. The gravity of this day is associated with the magnitude of the one born during it. The following narration should suffice in conveying the magnitude of the Prophet (s). As related by ‘Irbad b. al-Sariyah al-Sulami (ra), the Prophet (s) said,
‘I was ordained by God, in the Preserved Tablet, to be the seal of the prophets, at a time when Adam was still lifeless clay. I am the answer to the prayer of Abraham. I am the glad tiding that Jesus (as) gave to his people. I am the fulfillment of the vision of my mother when she witnessed a light emerging from her [at the time of my birth], which illuminated the palaces of Syria. The mothers of all of the prophets witnessed a similar vision. Hence, this day marks the entrance into the world of the one who was honored by God to conclude the prophetic mission; who led humanity from darkness to light; who is described by God as “a mercy to all the worlds”; and who is blessed to hold aloft the banner of praise on the Day of Resurrection. How great the favor God has bestowed upon his community…’
The scholars are divided concerning the lawfulness of formally commemorating his birthday in gatherings where his virtues are extolled and acts of righteousness are undertaken. Most of the scholars consider this a praiseworthy practice, as long as acts in conflict with the divine law are avoided, such as inappropriate mingling of the sexes, consuming alcoholic beverages, utilizing musical instruments whose lawfulness is debated, etc…
May God bless us all to pass this day in the best of ways and to be ever mindful of the import, stature, and status of our blessed Prophet Muhammad (s).”
Salafis, Sufis and The Mawlid
Shaykh Abdullah Ali
December 24, 2014
“Those who don’t believe that it’s permissible to celebrate the Prophet’s birthday, they have every right not to, and those who do celebrate it should not try to make other people feel uneasy because they don’t celebrate the birthday. And I don’t buy into this idea that those who celebrate the birthday, they do so because they love the Prophet more than those who don’t. I believe that many of those who choose not to celebrate the Mawlid they do so also out of love for the Prophet (saws). We love the Prophet (saws) in different ways, that’s it.”
Why and How Should the Muslim Umma Unite?
Shaykh Jafar Muhibullah
December 28, 2015
Qasida Burda Sharif
Shine Your Light
*We are painfully aware that there is no female author featured (although we encourage you to check out a related post by our Religion editor) and we are still looking for perspectives to add. If you have any suggestions please let us know in the comments here or on our Facebook page or on twitter via @sapelosquare