by Imām Zaid Shākir

One of the most blessed events in the history of humanity was the birth of the beloved Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ on the 12th of Rabī’ 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 ﷺ. As related by ‘Irbād b. al-Sāriyah al-Sulāmī, the Prophet ﷺ 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 tidings that Jesus 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 the prophets witnessed a similar vision.1

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”;2 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 Prophet’s birth occurred on a Monday, according to the soundest narrations. Abū Qatādah al-Anṣārī (d. 40 AH/660 CE) relates that the Prophet ﷺ was asked about fasting voluntarily on Mondays; he responded, “That is the day I was born. It is also the day that prophecy descended upon me.”3 In other words, fasting on Mondays is a way of commemorating the birthday of the Prophet ﷺ.

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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, et cetera. The scholars who deemed such commemorative gatherings permissible include Imām al-Ṣuyūṭī (d. 911/1505), Imām Ibn Kathīr (d. 774/1373), Imām Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728/1328), Imām al-Munāwī (d. 1030/1621), Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī (d. 852/1449), and many others.4 May God bless 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 ﷺ.

Call to the Prophetic Office

Imām al-Bukhārī (d. 256/870) relates from ‘A’ishah (d. 59/679), “The divine revelation to the Messenger of God ﷺ began with an infallible dream which became as true as the ascending morning light…”5 Based on this ḥadīth, many scholars date the beginning of the revelation from the night vision mentioned therein. Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī comments on this tradition:

Imām al-Bayhaqī [d.458/1066] mentions that the period between this dream and the beginning of the revelation of the Qur’ān in Ramaḍān was six months. Therefore, the beginning of the revelatory period with this night vision coincides with the month of his birth ﷺ, Rabī’ al-Awwal, after he had reached the age of forty. The beginning of the revelation in his wakeful state began in Ramaḍān.6

According to this sound opinion, one may also celebrate the beginning of the final revelation in the month of Rabī’ al-Awwal.

His Death

Imām al-Bukhārī relates from Abū Sa’īd al-Khudrī (d. 79/693) in his compilation of ḥadīth, the following narration:

The Prophet ﷺ sat on the mimbar and said, “A servant has been given a choice by God between being given all of his worldly desires and between [receiving] that which is with [his Lord]. He has chosen that which is with [his Lord].7

All of the prophets were given a choice to remain in the world so that they could avoid the intensity and severity of the pains of death.8 Having made the choice to meet his Lord, the pain of what would prove to be his fatal illness descended upon the Prophet ﷺ. Beginning with his head, his entire body was eventually gripped with excruciating pain and a burning fever. This illness began during the last days of the month of Ṣafar or the first days of Rabī’ al-Awwal, depending on the opinions concerning its length. On the twelfth day of Rabī’ al-Awwal, shortly after sunrise, the Messenger of God ﷺ passed from this world.

His death closed a chapter in the long, spiritual evolution of humanity. The favor of God to humanity was completed, and the religion of submission would be mankind’s acceptable faith. However, more than a chapter of history was closed. God describes His Prophet ﷺ in the following way:

O Prophet! Surely We have sent you as a witness; as a bringer of glad tidings; and as a warner; as one who calls to the way of God, by His command; and as a luminous light.9

With the passing of the Prophet ﷺ, a great light was lost to the world. Anas (d. 91/709) relates, “On the day the Messenger of God ﷺ entered Medina, he illuminated everything. On the day he was buried, darkness engulfed all and sundry.”10

May God guide us to revive the remembrance of our blessed Prophet ﷺ during the blessed month of Rabī’ al-Awwal. And may He bless us to reaffirm our commitment to his illuminating and life-giving mission.


NOTES

  1. al-Ḥāfiẓ al-Nīsabūrī, al-Mustadrak (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1411/1990), 2:453, 3566.
  2. Qur’ān 21:107.
  3. Related by Imām Muslim 197, 1162. Quoted in Ibn Rajab al-Ḥanbalī, Laṭā’if al-ma’ārif (Damascus: Dār Ibn Kathīr, 1416/1996), 181.
  4. See for example, Jamāl al-Dīn al-Suyūṭī, Ḥusn al-maqsid fī ‘amal al-mawlid (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1405/1985).
  5. Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī, Fatḥ al-bārī: sharḥ ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī (Damascus: Dār al-Fayḥa’, 1418/1997), 1:29, 3.
  6.  Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī, 1:37. For a discussion of this issue, see also Ṣafī al-Raḥmān al-Mubārakfūrī, al-Raḥīq al-makhtūm (Damascus: Dār al-Khayr, 1417/1997), 63-65.
  7. Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī, 7:283, 3904.
  8. Ibn Rajab al-Ḥanbalī, 197.
  9. Qur’ān 33:45-46.
  10. Ibn Rajab al-Ḥanbalī, 216.

imamzaidbioImām Zaid Shakir has taught courses in Arabic, Islamic spirituality, contemporary Muslim thought, and Shāfi’ī jurisprudence at Zaytuna College. He presently teaches Islamic history and politics. He speaks and writes on a wide range of topics and has become a voice of conscience for American Muslims as well as people of other faiths. He is regularly included as one of the Western world’s most influential Muslim scholars in The Muslim 500, an annual ranking edited by John Esposito and Ibrahim Kalin.

[Originally published: Shākir, Z. (2007). The Blessed Mawlid. Seasons: The Journal of Zaytuna InstituteVolume 3 (2), pp. 2-4.]

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