The Holy Birth – The Mawlid
The mawlid, or the birth of the blessed Prophet Muhammad (s) is considered by Muslims to be the single greatest event in humankind’s history. Indeed, it was a momentous cosmic event. Ibn Kathir, the accomplished muhaddith (hadith master), muffasir (Qur’anic exegete), historian and qadi (judge), noted in his multi-volume work, al-Bidaya wa al-niyaha, that it was an occasion in which “Paradise and the skies were decorated and the angels moved about in continuous processions. The palace of Chosroes was shaken and the fire of 1000 years ceased to burn.”
The Prophet himself often recounted to his companions the moment of his birth, describing how his blessed mother Amina marvelled at being able to see distant castles in Damascus by the light that emanated from her. The Prophet’s uncle, al-‘Abbas ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib, Allah be well pleased with him, described the moment of the Prophet’s birth in prose, exclaiming: “When you were born, a light rose over the earth until it illuminated the horizon with its radiance. We are in that illumination and that original light and those paths of guidance — and thanks to them we pierce through.”
His birth is a blessing for all those who rejoice and celebrate it. We know that Abu Lahab, the “father of the flame” rejoiced at his nephew’s birth and freed his slave with his fingers, only to gain reprieve from his punishment in the grave for this single act of happiness. We also know that a dead palm tree trunk moaned when the Prophet Muhammad (s) moved a slight distance away from it to deliver his Friday sermon in his mosque. The blessed Prophet walked over to it and consoled it. If a dead tree cries when distanced from the Prophet, what about us?
In addition to reciting poetry in praise of the Habib Allah (the Beloved of Allah), the Mawlid should move us to ponder and reflect upon the ethical nature and moral message of the Prophet Muhammad (s). Described by Allah as a “mercy for all of mankind,” the Mawlid reminds us of the qualities we should strive to implement on a daily basis. Summarising his readings of the traditions that describe the Prophet’s character, Thomas Cleary refers to him as someone who was “[B]rilliantly spiritual, stern in matters of right yet compassionate and clement, rich in dignity yet extremely modest and humble […] a manly and valorous warrior who was most kind and gentle with women and children.” In countless sayings, the Prophet reminded his followers to be gentle, compassionate, and above all, merciful. It was related that he said:
[Allah] is Compassionate and loves those who are compassionate. He is Gentle and loves those who are gentle to others. Whoever is merciful to creatures, to him is Allah merciful. Whoever does good for people, to him will Allah do good. Whoever is generous to them, to him will Allah be generous. Whoever benefits the people, Allah will benefit him.
Thus, the mawlid is an event whereby Muslims not only have an opportunity to come to know the Prophet, pause and reflect on their character and check themselves against the behaviour of the Prophet Muhammad (s), but it also gives us an opportunity to come to love him. After all, the Prophet told us: “None of you believes until he loves me more than he loves his children, his parents, and all people.” The blessed Prophet once told a Bedouin (who had said that he hadn’t prepared much for the Day of Judgement, but he loved the Prophet) that “You will be with those whom you love.”
Muslims, scholars and lay people alike have celebrated the Mawlid throughout the ages to instil this love in us and offer us the hope of intercession. In the words of Jalal al-din al-Suyuti, the polymath, mujtahid Imam and mujadid (renewer) of the tenth Islamic century, the person who celebrates the Mawlid is “rewarded because it involves venerating the status of the Prophet and expressing joy at his honourable birth.”