The Prophet’s birthday has come and gone, but his benefit remains. There is no debate over whether Prophet Muhammad should be praised; it is clear in what he has said about himself and in what God says about him in the Qur’an, that we are obligated to praise him. The debates that surround the Mawlid, for instance, should focus on whether it is appropriate to isolate the date of his birth for a special observation of praise. Those in support of the Mawlid often site a number of arguments in favor of it. They argue, for instance, that when asked why he fasted on Mondays the Prophet responded that he was born on a Monday. From this many gathered that the Prophet himself isolated not just the date of his birth, but the day of his birth for special acknowledgment through a voluntary fast. It is important to note that he was not only fasting on his birthday, that is one day out of the year, but rather on every Monday harkening back to the Monday on which he was born. Thus, we find Muslims who celebrate the Mawlid every Sunday evening (which corresponds to Monday evening in Islamic time-keeping) like Ta’leef Collective in the Bay Area. Others will argue more generally that sending salawat (prayers for blessings) is obligatory and highly recommended for us; therefore, the Mawlid is just one organized way to ensure that this commandment, if you will, is fulfilled.
As Muslims, it is undeniable that our spiritual aspiration is directly related to how much space the Prophet occupies in our hearts and how much preference we give to his way in our actions and character. In this regard, it is related from Ibn Mas’ud that the Prophet said: “The foremost on the Day of Judgment are those who pray most for me to be blessed.” Conversely, the Prophet said: “The miser is the one who does not send blessings on me when I am mentioned in his presence.” This miserliness may go in at least two directions, the most obvious is that the Muslim denies the Prophet something that he is deserving of. Remember that God says of the Prophet that he has “only been sent as a mercy to all the worlds (21:107),” that “he grieves over [our] condition (12:6),” and that in him we have a “beautiful example (33:21)” for traveling along the path to God, and moreover when one considers the personal benefit the Muslim has received from the Prophet having conveyed the message which saves him from ignorance in this world and wretchedness in the next. Miserliness can also be understood in another way when one considers that the Prophet was pleased to know that any member of his community who invokes blessings on him once will be blessed by God ten times over (Study Quran, 1037). Thus, one can see that not invoking blessings on the Prophet would be to deny oneself an opportunity to be blessed by God, and thus the stinginess is turned inward and anyone who would willingly shunned this practice altogether would no doubt be thought to be acting against his own interests.
In a clear command from God to the believers to praise the Prophet, the Qur’an reads: “Truly God and His angels invoke blessings upon the Prophet. Oh you who believe! Invoke blessings upon him and greetings of peace!” (33:56) The Qur’anic exegete, Shihab Al-Din Al-Alusi observed that sending “greetings of peace” is both an injunction to a verbal action as well as an encouragement to be at peace with the Prophet and with what he has brought, preferring him and his way in one’s life (Study Quran, 1036, note 56). Abd Al-Rahman Al-Sulami likewise observed that “invoking blessings” is verbal and behavioral through following the example of the Prophet, which God has called “beautiful” (33:21), and by loving him.
We don’t pretend to have the ability to benefit the Prophet by invoking blessings upon him since it is clear that with God and His angels invoking such blessings upon the Prophet, our invocations are not needed. However, it is one way in which we show gratitude for the Prophet and align ourselves with his way. As knowers of this religion have commented, in this verse we are requested to participate in this ongoing Divine Act of praising the Prophet and to attune ourselves to this Divine Rhythm.
For more on salawat check out these videos:
Shaykh Tijani Recites Salawat
Salawat by all-black male singing group: