Mawlid Misconceptions – How Unfound Propaganda Can be Divisive!
As the melodious tone of the Qur’ānic recitation from the Qārī (reciter) echoes to its close, the scores of attendees are filled with an indescribable feeling of tranquil elation, matched only by the subsequent goose bumps across their arms. Still beaming from the beauty of the rendition of the Qur’ān, the audience is further treated with couplets of praise in the forms of Hamd (hymns in praise of Allāh Y) followed by renditions Nā’t / Nashīds (praises of the Prophet k).
They are then reminded by the master of ceremonies that soon, they will be engaged by a scholar of Islām who will enlighten them from the Qur’ān and Sunnah about the life and times of the Noble Messenger k and the innumerable life-lessons to be applied in current times from those amazing incidents.
Essentially, this is the basis and intention upon which attendees and organizers of gatherings in honour of the Prophet k premise their attendance upon. Whilst some may prefer to identify it as ‘Sīrah’ gatherings; others may refer to it as ‘Mawlid’ gatherings. Regardless of the semantics, the objective is the same. Thus Muslims should not be warring with one another over issues of this nature when the intent is to bring about positivity into the Muslim quarter from the Qur’ān and Sunnah.
Misconception One – The Companions did not ‘gather’ to remember the Prophet , therefore it is impermissible!
It must be stated at the onset that whilst there is a picayune amount of people who make this objection, retrospectively, the vast majority of the Sunnī world are delighted to gather in the honour and remembrance of the Messenger k.
Astoundingly though, there seems to be a double-standard display in the approach of the subject of late. If a gathering is titled as a ‘Mawlid’ then the anti-Mawlid lobbies commences their annual attack on the gathering with slogans of ‘Bid’ah’ etc. If however, the very same objectors offer a ‘Sīrah’ alternative with a pre-arranged date and time, then suddenly the approach is to be hailed as a great effort in ‘Da’wah’ to safeguard the future of the youth.
The following incident from the prophetic era ought to vanquish the aforesaid misconception. The narration is as follows,
عَنْ أَبِي سَعِيدٍ الْخُدْرِيِّ، قَالَ قَالَ مُعَاوِيَةُ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ إِنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم خَرَجَ عَلَى حَلْقَةٍ – يَعْنِي مِنْ أَصْحَابِهِ – فَقَالَ ” مَا أَجْلَسَكُمْ ” . قَالُوا جَلَسْنَا نَدْعُو اللَّهَ وَنَحْمَدُهُ عَلَى مَا هَدَانَا لِدِينِهِ وَمَنَّ عَلَيْنَا بِكَ . قَالَ ” آللَّهِ مَا أَجْلَسَكُمْ إِلاَّ ذَلِكَ ” . قَالُوا آللَّهِ مَا أَجْلَسَنَا إِلاَّ ذَلِكَ . قَالَ ” أَمَا إِنِّي لَمْ أَسْتَحْلِفْكُمْ تُهَمَةً لَكُمْ وَإِنَّمَا أَتَانِي جِبْرِيلُ عَلَيْهِ السَّلاَمُ فَأَخْبَرَنِي أَنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ يُبَاهِي بِكُمُ الْمَلاَئِكَةَ
“It was narrated that Sayyidunā Abū Sa’īd Al-KhudrīE said,
“Mu’āwiyah Esaid: ‘The Messengerk of Allāh Y went out to a Halaqah (circle) – meaning, (gathering) of his Companions – and said: ‘What are you doing?’ They said: (1)’We gathered together to pray to Allāh (2) and praise Him for guiding us to His religion, (3) and (for) blessing us with you.‘ He said: ‘I ask you, by Allāh, is that the only reason?’ They said: ‘By Allāh, we have not come together for any other reason.’ He said: ‘I am not asking you to swear to an oath because of any suspicion; rather Jibrīl came to me and told me that Allāh, the Mighty and Sublime, is boasting of you to the angels.”
(Sunan An-Nasaī ,Book pertaining to the Etiquette of the Judges, Hadīth 5426)
Prior to their gathering, there was no injunction to advocate such an assembly, otherwise the Prophet k would not have questioned such a gathering in the first place. Suffice to say that if there was indeed someone who understood the laws of Islām best, it was undoubtedly the Messenger k, yet he did not jump to conclusions and follow to judge them by stating that their gathering was unsanctioned by him and the Qur’ān, therefore impermissible. Instead, the Messenger k followed to firstly inquire if the gathering had indeed any ‘basis’ to it at all. The companions responded by stating 3 reasons.They gathered,
- in supplication to Allāh Y,
- in remembering the (gift of) guidance to Islām,
- in acknowledgment of Allāh’s Y blessing upon them by the sending of the Messenger k.
We are aware that other variants of the above narration exist in other books, but this particular narration is one which explicitly states that the companions gathered without any sanction for such a gathering in the Qur’ān or Sunnah, and one of the reasons stated was, in their understanding, an acknowledgment of the great gift of Allāh Y in the form of His sending the Messenger k. This is supported by a verse of the Qur’ān which will be presented further in the article to confirm this point.
In all 3 of the stated reasons, there is indeed basis. In the same light, those who gather today do so in acknowledgment of that very favour which Allāh Y has declared with clarity for the believers.
Misconception Two – Mawlid is the ‘Birthday’ of the Prophet
This is one of the most fallacious views held by many, which opines that the Mawlid is in fact the annual ‘Birthday’ celebration of the Prophet k. This could not be further from the truth and is ipso facto used as propaganda to smear the Mawlid as an ignobly-arranged gathering. The Mawlid as it is termed and understood by the laymen is merely a means of expression of joy upon the remembrance of the ‘Mercy unto the Universe’ (21:107).
The word ‘birthday’ according to the general understanding and usage of the word denotes one’s anniversary of birth and follows a specific addition of a year to the years which have passed since birth. The person celebrating their birthday receives gifts, and according to the international standard is to be a recipient of a birthday cake filled with candles and concluded with a customary singing and cake-cutting ceremony.
There exists no such practice in the Mawlid gatherings nor has such things been sanctioned by any of the scholars of Islām from the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamā’ah. Thus to insinuate that birthday celebrations are the practice of habit in Mawlid gatherings is a great injustice upon the people who honour the Messenger k and it is quite derogatory in the direction of the Messenger k himself!
Propaganda of this nature emerges when one group of people censure others attending the Mawlid gatherings in fear of the reality of the gatherings being exposed, hence they concoct many ‘great lies’ in order to keep others away from the gatherings in in remembrance of the Prophet k.
Misconception Three – The Prophet did not reminisce his birth, hence doing so is impermissible!
The above misconception is quite clear, yet when the evidence to refute it is produced, then the objectors immediately progress to further respond. This proves that whilst they were always aware that the Messenger k did indeed remember his own birth, the objectors attempt to conceal that fact until it is produced, to which a prêt-a-porter response is called upon with immediate effect.
It is famously transmitted that the Prophet k was asked regarding fasting on a Monday to which he k responded by saying that it was on a Monday upon which he was ‘born’ and it was the day he received revelation. (see Sahīih Muslim, Hadīth Number 1162).
From this it is clear that the Messenger k remembered his own birth and followed to exhibit his gratitude to His creator by engaging in Ibādah (worship). Thus, how can it be deemed radical, or sinful when his Ummah engage in acts of Ibādah in remembrance of his birth? Now, the Anti-Mawlid lobbies generally respond at this pointy by stating that the Prophet k ‘fasted’ only, and he k did not engage in a gathering etc. therefore doing so is ‘bid’ah’ (religious innovation) and is a form of misguidance.
There is no evidence whatsoever in the Qur’ān, nor in the hadīth which states that any action which was not carried out by the Prophet k is to be deemed an act of Bid’ah. This is a blatant lie which has been propagated by certain extremist groups in the Ummah today who wish divide us over subsidiary matters in order for us to forsake the larger problems at hand.
A prime example of this may be witnessed by the methodology of ‘ISIS’, which claimed to be a Khilāfah state, but upon closer inspection revealed to have closer ties to the enemies of Islām, and who focused their attack on the Muslim communities by slaughtering innocent Muslims who did not obey them. This all stems from the radical notions of self-righteousness as a result of the assumption that only their viewpoints on Islām is the correct version.
Nonetheless, the Messenger k remembered his birth every week, and by the grace of God Almighty, the Sunnī world sees not a single weekend of the year pass by in almost every region without a commemoration of the birth of the Messenger k taking place. Essentially, the argument against Sunnīs stipulating that they celebrate his ‘birthday’ no longer holds its ground as birthdays come only once in a year and not every week. Hence it is deceit!
Within these gatherings, Muslims are educated about various topical matters affecting the Ummah with view to revisiting his Sīrah for inspiration and guidance. Thus the Mawlid gatherings have been deemed meritorious by innumerable scholars over the ages, including many of those who are deemed to be the gurus of certain sectarian ideologies. In the end, if someone has personal reservations regarding the gatherings in honour of the Prophet k, then that is their position and we make no judgment upon them as we understand the nature of Ikhtilāf (ethical differing) and the statuesque in matters of relevance for debate. However, to criticize, condemn and censure the gathering of Muslims in which there is recitation and guidance from Al-Qur’ān, with a revisiting of the Sīrah followed by Duā and Salawāt is absolutely uncalled for and will necessitate the Ulamā rallying those ‘majorities’ to the reality of the situation once more.
Misconception Four – There is No Need to Rejoice Upon the Mawlid
Imagine the 1,8bn Muslims in the world wearing gloomy faces and when asked by people, “Why are you Muslims so sad?” to which the Muslim states, “I am sad because the month of Rabī-ul-Awwal marks the birth of the Messenger k of Islām”. What kind of Da’wah would that be? Nay! People who have accomplished even a modicum of what has been achieved by the Messenger k are ‘celebrated’ as often as possible. Fortunately, for those who gather in honour of the Prophet k, there is indeed basis for rejoicing. Allāh Y states in the Qur’ān,
قُلْ بِفَضْلِ اللَّـهِ وَبِرَحْمَتِهِ فَبِذَٰلِكَ فَلْيَفْرَحُوا هُوَ خَيْرٌ مِّمَّا يَجْمَعُونَ
Say, “In the bounty of Allah and in His mercy – in that let them rejoice; it is better than what they accumulate.”
(Sūrah Yūnus, 10:58)
No sane Muslim would ever question the fact that the Prophet k is indeed the greatest bounty of Allāh Y, and that he was sent as a mercy unto all the universe. A study of the Qur’ānic corpus further clarifies both these points.
- The Messenger k is a great favour upon the believers,
لَقَدْ مَنَّ اللَّـهُ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ إِذْ بَعَثَ فِيهِمْ رَسُولًا مِّنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِهِ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَإِن كَانُوا مِن قَبْلُ لَفِي ضَلَالٍ مُّبِينٍ
“Certainly did Allah confer [great] favour upon the believers when He sent among them a Messenger from themselves, reciting to them His verses and purifying them and teaching them the Book and wisdom, although they had been before in manifest error.”
(Sūrah Āl-Imrān, 3:164)
- It is evident from the aforesaid verse that the Messenger’s k arrival is heralded as a great favour, particularly to the believers.
- Furthermore, the verse clarifies that prior to the sending of the Messenger k, the people were in manifest error. Thus, if we are Muslims today (Alhamdu Lillāh), and on the side of guidance, it is by that great favour in the form of the Messenger k through whom we no longer in that state of manifest error.
- The Messenger k fulfils the second criteria of the verse in discussion.
وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا رَحْمَةً لِّلْعَالَمِينَ
“And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds.”
(Sūrah Al-Ambiyā, 21:107)
Therefore, the Qur’ānic injunction to ‘rejoice’ is fulfilled in the Messenger k. Alhamdu Lillāh, hundreds and millions of Muslims across the globe commemorate and acknowledge this most historic arrival of the Prophet k by arranging Qur’ānic recitations, couplets of poetry in his praises (in the similar light as it was done in the prophetic era), and discourses on his life which are based on the Qur’ān and Sunnah, etc. As scholars the likes of Al-Hāfizh Ibn Hajar Asqalānī 6 , discussing religious matters which were not done by the Messenger k, (meaning Bid’ah), he states,
“Bid’ah is that which is innovated without precedent, and in Sharī’iah it is used as a term in contradistinction to the Sunnah, and is thus blameworthy. If a new act is incorporated under something deemed good in Sharī’ah, then it is considered good too, and if a new act is incorporated under something deemed bad in Sharī’ah, then it is considered bad too, and if it (the new act) is neither good nor bad, then it falls under the category of Mubāh (permissible) or to the five categories of Sharī’ah.
(Fathul-Bārī Commentary of Sahīh Bukhārī, Kitābu Salātit Tarāwīh)
Astonishingly enough, some miscreants would rather ‘rejoice’ at the accomplishments of the Saudi Monarchy, and others with their ‘Dārul Ulūm’s in India which are visited by the Prime Ministers, but mention anything about rejoicing at the birth of the Messenger k, and people lose their minds! What a contradiction indeed!
Nonetheless, it is an established fact that without the Messenger k, we would not have known anything about the Dīn, let alone the evidences that are sighted against him by his supposed followers.
Misconception Five – A Chair is placed in the Mawlid Gatherings for the Prophet to sit on, as he presents himself therein! (shocked emoticon here)
Another blatant lie in the form of propaganda to deny others the opportunity to experience the reality of the true nature of the gatherings, is that Sunnī Muslims reserve a chair for the Prophet k in anticipation of his arrival. Hence they stand and recite Salawāt as well. This lie has been propagated to such a great effect that I have personally heard this misconception at different parts of the world. It is true, that if a lie is told enough times, it can be perceived as truth in time.
I speak on behalf of all adherents to the concept of expressing joy on the occasion of the Mawlid by clarifying that no such practice exists. It is deceit premised on the foundations of the enemies of Islām to divide and follow to conquer us based on our weakened state due to subsidiary quarrelling.
Furthermore, the reason that Muslims stand and recite Salawāt upon the Messenger k is not because of any creedal belief that he is sitting at the gathering on a chair. Nay! They stand and recite Salawāt because the text of the Qur’ān which commands Salawāt has not prohibited doing so. Seeing as though it is permissible, then there is no harm in doing so. After all, if reciting Durūd and Salawāt in a standing position was prohibited, then reciting it in Salātul Janāzah in a standing position would not have been legalized as a prayer for the deceased.
Conclusion – There are numerous misconceptions of this nature about many other facts pertaining to the beliefs and practices of others outside the circles of the critics. It is the onus of each of us to propagate the Dīn in the best way, and not in the best way that suits our agenda! Those who do not attend the Mawlid are not to be dealt with in the same extremist manner in which they treat those who attend Mawlid gatherings. However, to label those who wish to learn about the Messenger k as being astray or hell-bound is absurdity of the highest form. Nonetheless, we pray to Allāh Y to open their hearts in seeing the goodness of these gatherings and to also check their own gatherings with the same eye of objective scrutiny before labelling all others as dwellers of the fire.