Keep Good Company in the Last Ten Nights of Ramadan – Imam Khalid Latif

*Originally Published on 25/06/2016

In these last nights of Ramadan, gatherings unlike any other time of the year are taking place. We should make sure we are a part of them, writes Imam Khalif Latif.

Gatherings are taking place in which no individual is turned away. The rich, the poor, the strong, the weak, young and old, male and female, skins of all color, complexions of every shade — gatherings that server as reminders of and truly encompass the presence of the Divine. No one is left out, and everyone is welcomed in.
Men and women from all walks of life remove from themselves the shackles of the material and for a moment seek to feed only their spirits. The pursuit of the world becomes a fleeting thought and in its place is the pursuit of a tranquility and contentment that could never be satisfied by the possession of anything worldly.
Titles and ranks and social class are left at the door. You simply stand as yourself. The worth of your standing is not assessed by anything other than the heart that you bring and how willing you are to let its presence define the moment instead of the tyrannical ego you have battled with for almost a month’s time prior to this moment.
Hearts will tremble. Tears will be shed. Bodies will feel a sense of strength unlike any other as they are relenting towards a soul that they no longer control yields them not weakness, but a power unlike anything experienced before.
Indeed, in His remembrance do hearts find rest.

Our Lord, ya Allah, bless our gatherings and all those who are in them. We stand for your sake, do not turn us away.
Answer our prayers and grant us the courage, wisdom, sincerity and compassion to be the answer to the prayers of others — You Are One Who Responds, Al-Mujeeb, The All-Hearing, As-Sami’.
Free our hearts of any anxiety, anguish, or unwarranted anger, from any bitterness, jealousy, or envy. Detach them from loving anything that causes us harm or gives us simple complacency and fill them instead with a lightness strengthened through gratitude, understanding, tranquility and contentment — You are The Source of Peace, As-Salaam, The One Who Enriches, Al-Mughni.
Envelop us in your Divine Love and help us to build a love for ourselves. We are weak and imperfect, but the perfection of Your Love stems from its embracing of us despite our being imperfect — You Are The Loving One, Al-Wadud, The Compassionate, Ar-Rahman.
Free from us oppression, including oppression by our own selves, and keep us from being oppressive, including oppression against our own selves. Grant justice and ease to all those who are held down, peace and stability to those in conflict. Make us satisfied with all that You have given to us, and make us not amongst those us who unjustly take from others — You Are the Most Just, Al-‘Adl, The All-Seeing, Al-Baseer.
Make us amongst the honest, the truthful, the kind, and the conscious. Help us to honor the rights of all those around us, our families, our neighbors, and the societies in which we live. Free us from arrogance, hatred, and racism and endow us with a sense of respect for the diversity of Your creation — You Are the Creator, Al-Khaliq, the Most Generous, Al-Karim.
Give us leaders who are actually leaders, and make us followers who are deserving of great leaders. Grant us knowledge, wisdom, patience, and sensibility as well as good intention and a strong sense of passion. For organized evil will always triumph over disorganized righteousness, and it is time for us to stand better for those who need to be stood up for. Let our serving be not for our own selves but simply because it is the right thing to do. And forgive us, oh Lord, for not doing everything that we are able to — You Are The Most-Wise, Al-Hakim, the Patron and Helper, Al-Wali.
Shower upon us Your Divine Mercy and make us amongst the merciful ones who are merciful to all people, all creation, and to the earth we walk upon — You Are the Most Merciful, Ya Raheem.
Help us to be gentle with each other. Forgive us for our harshness and the mistakes we have made, and let kindness be found in all of our deeds and decisions. Give us a character that is beautiful in its nature and make us amongst who remind the world that hope, mercy, and compassion do exist. You Are Ever-Gentle, Ya Latif.
Make not the pursuit of this world our goal, but let our goals be for the best in the next world. Help us to sustain the lessons learned in this blessed month and let us not turn back to being those who we were prior to its advent.
Give us confidence that helps us to see our strength as well our weaknesses and protect us from arrogance which lets us only see weakness in the world around us.
Give us the courage to reach our potential and protect us from the fear that keeps us from doing so. Let our growth be gradual and consistent and help us to strive every day, even if it is very little and enrich our lives with a richness of our souls.
Grant us companionship that helps us to reach our best and keep us from companions who hold us back. Grant us friends who encourage us towards all that is good, and keep us from friends who take us towards that which is not. Arrange our hearts with those hearts that are gentle and tender, and make us amongst those whose presence brings benefit and relief.
Accept from us our prayers and our fasting, our bowing, our kneeling, our standing, our prostrating. Grant us and our loved ones only the best in this world and the best in the next.
Forgive all those who love us and those whom we love, all those who have wronged us and all those whom we have wronged.
Protect us from hearts that are not humble, tongues that are not wise, and eyes that have forgotten how to cry.
Make the best of our deeds the last of our deeds and let us not leave this world other than in a state that is most pleasing to You.

Our Lord, ya Allah, accept from us, forgive us, and guide and bless us all. Ameen.

Being with Allah and His Messenger ﷺ – Habib Umar

* Courtesy of Muwasala

Sayyidi al-Habib `Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him) reflects upon the meaning of being with Allah and His Messenger ﷺ.

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “A person is with the one they love.” Thus you can gauge your love for Allah and His Messenger by gauging how much you are with them.

The Prophet was in the highest state of being with his Lord. For that reason he said: “I am nothing but a slave. I eat as a slave eats and I sit as a slave sits.” Sayyiduna Ibrahim says in the Qur’an that it is his Lord: “Who created me and it is He who guides me; Who gives me food and drink.” He was constantly with Allah, even when he ate and drank. One of the knowers of Allah said: “For twenty years people think I have been speaking to them, when in reality I have been speaking to Allah.” If you speak for His sake, in accordance with His Sacred Law and your heart is present with Him, then in reality you are speaking to Him.

The Companions and the pious people of this Ummah were constantly with the Messenger of Allah ﷺ in all their states. One of the Companions repeated three times, addressing the Prophet  ﷺ: “I love Allah and His Messenger!” He replied ﷺ on each occasion: “You are with the one you love.”

Sayyiduna Abu’l-`Abbas al-Mursi said: “If the Prophet ﷺ was absent from me for an instant I would not consider myself a Muslim.”

Habib `Umar bin `Abd al-Rahman al-`Attas asked: “How can he be absent from us when he is the source of our existence?”

In other words, without him, we do not exist.

Imam al-Haddad said:

و لي من رسولِ اللهِ جَدِّي عِنَايَةٌ    و وَجْهٌ و إِمْدَادٌ و إِرْثٌ و إِيثَارُ


‘I receive from my grandfather, the Messenger of Allah, care, status, assistance, inheritance and preferential treatment.’

These people reached the highest stations of being with the Beloved ﷺ .

So do not claim to love him and then depart from him. Are you with him in emulating his character? If you truly loved him you would be with him. Do you think being with him is only in the next life? That which will be manifest in the next life is only that which is stored up in this life. If you want to be with him there, be certain that you have to be with him here.

How long have you been with your lower self (nafs)? It calls you to base things while Allah and His Messenger call you to lofty things. Your lower self calls you to the Fire, while they call you to Paradise. Being with Allah and His Messenger is better than being with your lower self. Your lower self is the thing which cuts you off most from being with Allah and His Messenger and it is the biggest veil between you and your Lord.

Some people reach high stations in closeness to the Beloved ﷺ before the month of Rabi al Awwal is over. If you are not going to attain it in this month, then when?

The History of Mawlid in Kenya – Sharrif Assad Ahmed al Hussaini

* Courtesy of Al-Huda TV Kenya

In this video interview, Sharrif Assad Ahmed al Hussaini discusses the history and development of Mawlid in Kenya. The Mawlid celebration was initiated in Kenya through the Ba Alawi family and spiritual order. Sharrif Assad shares how the Ba Alawi families in Kenya ensured that Mawlid recitations and celebrations spread to the various cities in Kenya. These celebrations have being occurring in Kenya for more than 100 years. This year marked the 100th year of Mawlid being celebrated in the city of Malindi. Additionally, Sharrif Assad also discusses how the Mawlid celebrations have evolved into social welfare events where thousands of people have access to health, education and welfare services at the Mawlid events.

Appreciation of Beauty – Shaykh Sadullah Khan


In this Pre Khutba talk, Shaykh Sadullah Khan reminds the congregation about the value of appreciating beauty. By cultivating beautiful character traits we are able to replicate the most beautiful and complete person, the Prophet (peace be upon him). In a time where only the outer is accepted and lauded, it would do us well to remember the importance of the inner dimensions of human existence. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was the epitome of inner and outer excellence. As Muslims, we should try our upmost to beautify our inner states so that we may be able to manifest beauty to others in our actions.

* Courtesy of Masjid al – Furqaan (Cape Town)

Welcome to Rabiʿ al-Awwal & the Virtues of Praising the Prophet ﷺ – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

* Originally published on the 11th of November 2018

Shaykh Faraz provides a welcome and introduction to Rabiʿ al-Awwal, the month of the birth of Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), who is the means to our having every good. To introduce the series on the Great Praises of the Prophet from around the world, Shaykh Faraz explains why we praise the Prophet. He highlights praise of the Prophet and sending blessings on him as an expression of gratitude for the Prophet’s struggles on our behalf and his concern for us. Shaykh Faraz gives advice on how to renew one’s relationship with Allah’s Messenger in the month he was brought into this world. He closes by shedding light on some of the history behind praise of the Prophet, starting with the poetry composed by his own companions and family—while acknowledging that no poetry can fully capture the amazing reality of the Prophet.

When Rabi al-Awwal Comes – Habib Umar

* Courtesy of Muwasala

Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him) tells us how to receive the month of Rabi al-Awwal.

When Rabi al-Awwal comes open your heart to receive the divine outpouring and to attain closeness to Allah and His Beloved. Do not place anything above him. We have not been permitted to love anyone or anything, however great, as much as him. May Allah not deprive any of us of the goodness that You have because of the evil which we have.

This is the month of ennoblement – the month in which the Beloved ﷺ emerged into the world – the blessing was completed, the earth was illuminated. Make us amongst those who receive this month in the best way.

Seek spiritual gifts through purifying your heart. Establish gatherings in every room in your house in which Allah is remembered, in which the Mawlid and Sirah are read. Do you not long for this light, for this purity, for this beauty? Are you content to turn away from it? Why exchange jewels for filth? Who tricked us into removing the speech of Allah and the Messenger and the righteous and remembrance of Allah from our houses? He informed us that the house in which the Qur’an is recited appears to those in the heavens just as the stars appear to those on the earth. This is the speech of a tongue to whose truthfulness Allah Himself testified: He does not speak from caprice; it is no less than revelation sent down to him. Allah said of him: If you obey him you will find guidance. If you want guidance in all its meanings in this life and the next then follow My Beloved, My Chosen One.

The greatest fear is being turned away to a different direction on the day when his followers will be under his banner. On that day it will be clear to all that the Sovereign is One, the judge is One. Those who had been deluded in this life will be asked: “To whom belongs the Dominion today?” If you do not know Muhammad now, on that day everyone will know him. Everyone will lower their heads to him because he is the one that Allah has chosen.

Give us sincere intentions, purify our hearts and increase our certainty. Save the people of la ilaha illallah.

Turn to Him – present your state to Him:


No created thing has any portion of this affair neither here,

Nor there, so rely on the statement of the Truthful

He is the Lord, none other, and all

Are slaves under His governance without exception.

 So ask your Lord for enabling grace, forgiveness and His pleasure

And to be with the people of guidance, on the path

People that travelled to the All-Compassionate with high ambition

With truthfulness, sincerity, unobstructed

They obtained that which is beyond all other requests

By Allah what a noble and perfect life! 

– Imam al-Haddad

Welcoming Rabi al-Awwal by Seeking the Pleasure of Allah and His Messenger – Habib Umar

* Courtesy of Muwasala

Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafīz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him) teaches us how to welcome the month Rabi al-Awwal by. The following is an extracts from a talk in the mawlid in Dar al-Mustafa, 3rd Rabi` al-Awwal 1433 (26th January 2012)

The new moon of Rabi al-Awwal has appeared, the month in which Allah brought forth His best and most perfect slave, His Chosen One, His Beloved, the Most Noble of the First and the Last in the sight of the Lord of the Worlds. His uncle al-`Abbas addressed him at the end of his life, on their return from Tabuk, his last expedition, with the following verse:

وأَنْتَ لَمَّا وُلِدْتَ أشْرَقَتْ الأَرْضُ وضَاءَتْ بِنُورِكَ الأُفُق

ُفَنَحْنُ في ذلك الضِّياءِ وفي النُّورِ وسُبْلِ الرَّشَادِ نَخْتَرِق

When you were born the earth and the horizons were illuminated by your light

We remain bathed in that glow and it continues to light the path as we travel it

Every mawlid composed later is merely echoing what the Companions said to the Chosen One. They were the first people to celebrate the mawlid.

Our Master `Isa will descend to the earth and you will see how he will be ennobled by following Muhammad. Any of you that are with him at that time will see how he mentions the Master of Creation. His heart and the hearts of those present will be filled with veneration when they mention his name. He knows our Master Muhammad better than us, for a Prophet knows a Prophet. No member of this nation knows him in the way that the Spirit of Allah knows him.

The Master of the Followers, Uways al-Qarani, said to the greatest of the Companions, our Masters `Umar and `Ali, who knew the Beloved better than anyone: “All that you knew of the Messenger of Allah was his shadow.”

They said: “True, all that we knew of the Messenger of Allah was his shadow.”

Direct your hearts to attain His pleasure and a portion of His gifts. In every day and night there are gifts, and in every month, and in this month in particular. You attain these gifts according to your connection to the one who taught us, the unique one. Take a portion of his vast, noble, priceless teachings, with sincere desire, to attain the reality of:

It is more fitting that they please Allah and His Messenger if they are truly believers.

Strive in this noble month to please the Chosen One, seeking to please Allah. Please him with your intentions, your ambitions, your words and deeds. Allah is pleased with those that praise his Prophet, those that venerate His Prophet, those that support His Prophet. He is pleased with that which pleases the Prophet.

You have spent so much of your time and thoughts seeking to please yourself, your family, your relatives and your friends. This may have caused you to travel from one country to another. Have you sought the pleasure of the Beloved? How much do you think about this? How much do you worry about this? How far have you travelled seeking his pleasure? How much hardship have you borne? How much have you sacrificed? There is nothing on the earth or in this life whose pleasure is more worthy of seeking than Muhammad.

According to your faith you strive to please Allah’s Beloved. Seek his pleasure! When the Companions saw that he was pleased, when his face shone with happiness, they said: “It was more beloved to us than red camels.” Nothing was harder for them to bear than seeing him angry, seeing the vein between his blessed eyes swell up.

Look for the true meaning of seeking his pleasure in this month. You will not find it on the satellite channels. Seek it from its source, connect to the light of his message. This will show you how to seek his pleasure, in which is the pleasure of the Most High. If you have in your heart an attribute which does not please him, then strive to rid your heart of it. He is not pleased with arrogance, so do not be content to show arrogance, even to inanimate objects, let alone animals or humans, for the Lord of all things dislikes you doing this.

Seek it by giving life to the sunnah in your house in Rabi al-Awwal! If your family are heedless of Allah between Maghrib and `Isha, joking or watching TV then bring to life the sunnah of venerating this time. Teach them at home at this time. If they are young, teach them the Arabic letters so that they are connected to the Qur’an. If they are older, go over with them the parts of the Qur’an that they have memorised.

If the sunnah of seeking forgiveness before Fajr is absent, bring it to life in Rabi al-Awwal. Let there be at least one person seeking forgiveness before Fajr in the house, one person saying to the Oft-Forgiving “forgive me!” at the time which Allah loves for people to seek His forgiveness, at the time when delegations came to the door of the Bestower.

If no-one in the house prays in congregation then teach your wife, your sister, your daughter to only pray in congregation. Bring life to these sunnahs. Remove anything that displeases your Lord from your house, anything that displeases your Prophet, audio or visual. Let the house be filled in Rabi with the remembrance of the Beloved, with the mention of his attributes, his life, his birth. You will be enlightened and so will your family.

Allah bless the people of good who are striving in the East and West, the people who are remembering and reciting the mawlid, for they are the keys to removing tribulation. People raising their voices with the remembrance of Allah and His Messenger in their houses, in the mosques and in the streets are a cause for hardships to be relieved. So many Muslim groups have lost the way. They do not know how to rectify themselves or those around them. They do not seek it from the door that Allah has opened:

Allah will not change what is in a people until they change what is in themselves.

Let us change what is in ourselves. Let us make our children feel that Rabi al-Awwal has entered, and that it is connected to the Beloved. Make them feel that their lives are founded upon loving him, venerating him and following him. This is the foundation of the whole religion. May Allah grant you strong ambition and high intentions! May the end of the month not come before some of the rays of the Beloved’s light bring some relief to the suffering of the Muslims.

O Lord, bless us in this month. Bless us in our remembrance of You and Your Messenger. Make us among those who are mentioned in Your presence, and among those who are mentioned in his presence. Bless our hearts with noble intentions that raise us to the ranks of those beloved to You, so that on the Day of Judgement we are with those that you mentioned:

The Day on which Allah will not humiliate the Prophet and those who believe with him.

Make us with him, and our families, our children, our friends, our neighbors, our students.

Their light will run before them and by their right hands, while they say: “O Lord, perfect our light for us, and forgive us, for You have power over all things.”

If anyone has anything in their heart that prevents them from seeking Your pleasure and Your Messenger’s pleasure then remove it so that they prefer You and Your Messenger over everyone else.  So that when we sleep tonight nothing is more beloved to us than You and Your Messenger. Increase us in love tomorrow and in the coming days until we meet You, O Most Generous.


The Pedagogical Power of the Mawlid, Pt II

In this second part of a two-part article, Ustadh Salman Younas discusses the mawlid and its role in strengthening identity and belonging, and as a source of knowledge acquisition and consolidation.

Discussions on the mawlid and its permissibility often occur in a context where the focus is primarily directed towards determining the strict legal merits of this practice. Commonly, the questions asked in this legal context relate to understanding the notion of sunna, defining innovation (bidʿa), identifying the textual sources supporting or repudiating this practice, and forwarding the opinions of classical jurists. It is seldom the case that people attempt to analyze the mawlid beyond strictly and narrowly defined legal considerations and recognize it as a rather complex social and cultural phenomenon.

This is despite the fact that non-legal considerations are often essential to the issuance of a sound legal judgment. Though debates surrounding the mawlid are often presented in rather simple terms today, several classical scholars sought to view this practice in a broader light when trying to determine its legal status and merits. One of the considerations they took into account was the pedagogical and cohesive power of the mawlid, and the concerns they expressed prove to be quite relevant to Muslims today.

The Modern Crisis of Identity and Belonging

The modern world has ushered in several monumental shifts. One does not have to look very hard to see that religion has increasingly found itself against the ropes where it is inflicted with repeated blows from the defining ideologies and myths of our times – secularism, liberalism, humanism, progressivism, nationalism, capitalism, consumerism, equality, freedom, evolution, science, etc. These have left their mark on virtually every level – from the way political institutions are defined to peoples’ basic social and cultural expressions.

This has had a profoundly negative effect on the believer, the way he identifies himself and understands his faith, and his ability to navigate life meaningfully according to the dictates of religion. In place of an overarching unity comes an incoherent multiplicity. The community (umma) is replaced with the nation-state. Humans are no longer the custodians of the world but exploiters of it. Rituals have been set aside for endless amusement and mindless play. Truth is drowned in a sea of irrelevance, and a culture rooted in the divine has been mutated into trivial culture. There is one word that describes this state of man: heedlessness, or ghafla. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf succinctly describes heedlessness in his commentary on Matharat al-Qulub (p.73):

The ultimate trauma of heedlessness, then, is not seeing things the way they truly are. It is choosing a way of living that allows divine signs to pass one up without notice. The Prophet supplicated that God the Exalted show him things in their reality, distinguished and clear: ‘Show me the truth as truth and give me the ability to follow it; and show me falsehood as falsehood and give me the ability to avoid it.’

Divine signs pass by man at every moment of his existence for as Aldous Huxley remarked, humans have “an infinite appetite for distractions.” (Brave New World) Though distractions are many, it is entertainment and pleasurable indulgences that are arguably at the top of the list. Certainly, the tools of distractions have multiplied in the modern era. Television is an obvious example. The internet is another. There is also the so-called “festival boom” identified with the 20th century that arose as a result of economic and social advancements: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Valentine’s Day, and Easter are but a few of the more popular ones. They often reflect the values of society and instill them in the hearts of people. Independence Day, for example, fosters patriotic fervor, national identity, and national unity, and it does so effectively because it is a communal event that elicits happiness and rejoicing. It is no surprise that society as a whole is drawn to these events and often take on-board the values and messages they convey. And such events and celebrations are now everywhere, recurring month after month, year after year.

While several of these cultural festivities seem fairly harmless, the questions a believer should ask himself are: What are these actions rooting me in? How are they meaningfully connecting me to God? Where are they turning my gaze towards? These are what define the Muslim. Indeed, the salient feature of the believer – as individual and community – is possessing a worldview rooted in God, cognizant of Him, guided by His instruction and wisdom. The worldly and mundane are not always perilous, but they often take one down a road of heedlessness and ignorance. The positive identity, purpose, and sense of belonging characterizing the individual as a member of a godly community of believers is lost, buried under increasing layers of distraction and confusion. It is only ameliorated through knowledge, which tethers one to God and His Prophet (blessings upon him).

The Mawlid and Knowledge Acquisition

Just as knowledge has the power to generate emotion, emotion also motivates one in the acquisition of knowledge and plays an important role in its consolidation. Classical scholars recognized this in the context of the mawlid and the appeal of “foreign” festivals. Abu al-ʿAbbas al-ʿAzafi authored a text entitled al-Durr al-Munazzam fi Mawlid al-Nabi in which he directs his concern towards the interest ordinary Muslims display for Christian festivals on the occasion of the birth of Jesus and Yahya, peace be upon them. On these days, Muslims partake in lavish meals with their Christian neighbors, exchange gifts, markets are shuttered, and even Qur’an schools grant pupils a holiday. Consequently, Muslims become firm devotees of these festivals and express a keenness to inform themselves of the histories that surround them.

According to al-Azafi, the love and attachment Muslims exhibit for these festivals is rooted in childhood and, as expressed by Marion Katz, “rests on the pedagogical power of pleasurable indulgences.” There is a power in festivals and joyous events that is not always present in simple religious instruction. Indeed, al-Azafi describes how he visited various schools to teach children about the prophetic sunna and the concept of innovation. He quickly realized, however, that his approach and method was insufficient in establishing these points of knowledge in their hearts and minds. An alternative to Christian festivals had to be created, one rooted in Islamic traditions that produce happiness and rejoicing in a manner people find memorable and inspiring: “Festivals are an occasion of delight, joys, permissible play and licit amusement… and the things [people] rejoice in are established in their minds like engraving in stone.” (al-Durr al-Munazzam)

The mawlid in the eyes of a scholar like al-Azafi served a more fundamental purpose. It was a powerful pedagogical tool that sowed a pious love for the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, in the hearts of people, an interest in his life and teachings, and a deep connection to his person. It provided an opportunity for the community to come together not just as participants in a mundane festival, but a festival rooted in faith that centered around spiritual self-cultivation and spreading love of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, through both discursive means, such as reading of the sira and poems, and material delights. Indeed, these two means complimented each other with permissible pleasures creating a space and paving the way for knowledge acquisition. As the great jurist and imam of the Zaytuna Mosque, Muhammad ibn Qasim al-Rassa’ (d. 894/1489), advised while approving the mawlid:

Everyone who feels longing and love [for the Prophet] ought to manifest delight and gladness (al-surur wa-al-bishara) on that night and the following morning and treat his children and wife to whatever he can afford in order to receive its blessings. He should entertain them and teach them that he did so simply out of love for that night, delight in it, and concern for its merit. He should explain to them that it is the noblest of nights in the eyes of God, because on it the Messenger of God was born, and mention to them the description of the Messenger of God, his beauty and comeliness, his perfection, virtues and moral qualities, his speech and eloquence, his generosity and magnanimity, his character and clemency, his forgiveness and tolerance, his miracles and signs, everything that endears him to their hearts and exalts him. He should also teach them poems praising and extolling him. I and every other person who loves the Prophet consider this to be judicious and well-considered (min husn al-ra’y wa al-nazar), because teaching something [to a person] in his youth is like carving in stone – especially since youths are enamored of wonders, and [the Prophet’s] miracles are among the most wondrous things. (Tadhkirat al-Muhibbin, trans. M. Katz)

Al-Rassa’ continued by stating that the positive atmosphere surrounding this event should be extended beyond the domestic sphere. School children should be asked to dress in fine clothing, their classes should be decorated, and gifts presented to their teachers. All people should partake in the benefits of the mawlid. Charity should be given, and people instructed in the life of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him.

In a time where Muslim children and adults find themselves enticed by a never-ending barrage of mindless entertainment and idle-amusement, the mawlid serves as a spiritual and religiously-rooted alternative. By appealing to the very same emotions and proclivities humans possess towards pleasurable indulgences and rejoicing, the practice of the mawlid has for centuries directing the Muslim collectivity towards something more transcendent, pure, and eternal. Its role in creating a community confident in its identity, united in its outlook, and grounded in love for its Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, should not be underappreciated, nor go unrecognized.

While the mawlid is not a panacea to the problems Muslims face, which are many, it has the potential to serve a valuable purpose in our society today when correctly practiced. Just as the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, replaced the festivals of Jahiliya with those of Islam, and just as the religion in general recognized the value of joyful celebration in creating a godly community of believers, the mawlid functions to replace the prevalent idle-distractions and amusements of our time with something more conducive to peoples’ faith and practice.

The Pedagogical Power of the Mawlid, Pt I

In this first part of a two-part article, Ustadh Salman Younas discusses the Festivals of Islam, and the mawlid in particular, as a joyous expression of the greatest blessing from Allah.

Discussions on the mawlid and its permissibility often occur in a context where the focus is primarily directed towards determining the strict legal merits of this practice. Commonly, the questions asked in this legal context relate to understanding the notion of sunna, defining innovation (bidʿa), identifying the textual sources supporting or repudiating this practice, and forwarding the opinions of classical jurists. It is seldom the case that people attempt to analyze the mawlid beyond strictly and narrowly defined legal considerations and recognize it as a rather complex social and cultural phenomenon.

This is despite the fact that non-legal considerations are often essential to the issuance of a sound legal judgment. Though debates surrounding the mawlid are often presented in rather simple terms today, several classical scholars sought to view this practice in a broader light when trying to determine its legal status and merits. One of the considerations they took into account was the pedagogical and cohesive power of the mawlid,and the concerns they expressed prove to be quite relevant to Muslims today.

Islam and Communal Identity–Cohesion

Muslims are often left confused when it comes to questions of identity. Islam is presented to many people through the filter of a particular ethno-cultural community. This is then taught as the way faith is meant to be understood and practiced, which some manage without issue and others with varying degrees of schizophrenia. Of course, Islam as a universal faith largely transcends any particular ethnicity or culture, and the Shariʿa has established guidelines demonstrative of its accommodating and flexible nature. Generally, though, Muslims agree that Islam does bring with it a distinct identity in so far as identity is rudimentarily defined as the qualities of a people or group that make them different from others. In its theology and rituals, Islam distinguishes itself from other faith-groups, and those who accept Islam become members of a distinct community of believers who stand apart from others.

This point about community is important to take note of. Islam is not simply a matter of personal or individual identity, but a collective one that finds its greatest expression in the community. The most fundamental practices and pillars of Islam reflect the communal character of the faith. Prayer is at once a personal act of devotion to God demanded of each individual who is deemed morally responsible (mukallaf), but it is also inextricably tied to congregation and the mosque. In this manner, prayer forms a connection between God and the individual, and between the individual and other believers who come together as servants of God. Similarly, zakat is a pillar that quite clearly serves a social function. Wealth is collected from specific members of the community and distributed to others. The fact that several jurists stipulated that zakat be distributed locally further attests to the social dimensions of this pillar.

The various rituals of Islam, therefore, aim to create and uphold a vibrant, healthy, and godly community of believers. Membership within such a community preserves the faith of individuals, provides them with a sense of identity, self-esteem, and belonging, and motivates them to do good: “Assist one another in righteousness and piety, but do not do so in sin and transgression.” (Sura al-Maida 5:2) Indeed, our self-concepts and self-definitions are not simply based on the unique traits and characteristics of our individual self, but also our relational and collective-selves. On account of the aforementioned, communal identity and cohesion were at the core of the Islamic faith so much so that the very pillars of the religion were legislated with a view to achieving and sustaining them.

The Festivals of Islam

This concern to nurture a distinct identity among Muslims and create a healthy and vibrant community of believers also underpinned the legislation of the major festivals of Islam, namely the two ʿId’s. In a tradition related by ‘Aʿisha, the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said, “Every nation has its day of celebration, and this is our day of celebration.” (Bukhari) The function of these festivals as distinct markers of the Muslim community that set them apart from others is evident in this tradition. Indeed, other traditions mention that the two ʿId’s had come to replace the celebratory days that people used to observe during the days of ignorance:

The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, arrived in Medina during two days in which people were celebrating (yalʿabun). The Prophet asked, “What are these two days?” They replied, “We would celebrate these two days in the time of ignorance.” The Prophet said, “God has replaced these two days with two that are better: the day of sacrifice (al-adha) and the day of breaking the fast (al-fitr).” (Abu Dawud)

In addition to its role in developing a religious and social identity, fostering communal cohesion, and developing a universal Islamic culture shared among an otherwise diverse array of Muslims, the ʿId festivals were also catering to a deep-rooted and ineradicable element of human nature, namely the need to express joy, pleasure, and to partake in leisurely activity and amusement. The tradition of Abu Dawud cited above did not repudiate peoples’ engagement in celebratory activity or “play” but shows the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, providing alternative forms of celebration that were imbued with a religious character – not just play and amusement as seen in the tradition of ʿA’isha and the Abyssinians or the singing girls, but prayer, charity, maintaining family ties, spreading good-will, and thanking God for His blessings. In this manner, Islam made use of powerful human emotions, namely joy, love, and happiness, to evoke and instill religious sentiment in people and draw them closer to God.

While the Qur’an describes the world and worldly-life pejoratively as one of “idle play and amusement” (Sura al-An‘am 6:32), this applied primarily to people who had been distracted from God in these activities. The festivals of Islam, on the other hand, emanated from the faith, were rooted in it, and cultivated a community of godly individuals. These festivals demonstrated that Islam was a faith that understood and accommodated the needs of people. As the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said when observing the Abyssinians dancing in his mosque on ʿId day, “This is for the Jews and Christians to know that our religion has vastness in it.” (Musnad Ahmad) From the vastness of Islam was to provide a space for the community to collectively express its joy and thankfulness in a manner that was universal to all cultures: through celebration and festival. Like any other community, this collective expression and coming together in festive moments were integral to the identity, cohesion, and religious-rootedness of its members.

The Mawlid

The themes of identity, social cohesion, recognizing the human condition, and the power of pleasurable indulgences were considerations that scholars took into account on when justifying the practice of the mawlid. At its heart, the mawlid was a collective expression of thankfulness and joy over the coming of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, the greatest of creation and a mercy to all the worlds. Of course, humans manifest their thankfulness and joy in myriad ways: individually or collectively through a range of outward activities, such as praying, feasting, donning festive clothing, singing poetry, giving gifts, and so forth. The rituals of Islam themselves variously legislate these activities to express love, thanks, joy, and happiness. Indeed, they were an integral part of normative Islamic piety.

Given the plurality of human cultures and expressions, it would seem inevitable that communities would express their love and joy for the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, in different manners – each unique but united by a common, underlying motivation. So long as the individual activities that constituted the mawlid were permitted, many scholars reasoned that there should be no harm in partaking in this practice especially in view of the fact that the primary texts did not stipulate a particular form by which love of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, and rejoicing in him had to be observed. In this approach, scholars recognized and presented Islam for the universal faith that it was, one that brought under its umbrella an array of peoples who in the diversity of their tongues, tribes, races, languages, etc., expressed the most fundamental human emotions in different ways.

The mawlid when expressed as a celebratory festivity served similar functions as other festivals. It was a unifying occasion that brought believers together as a lively community of piety. It rooted and expressed their identity as believers, followers, and lovers of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him. It fostered pride in the community and strengthened connections between individuals. It motivated individuals to do good and reconnect with the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, by taking inspiration and assistance from others. It made people reflect on their history and the blessings of God – His greatest blessing, in fact. The benefits of the mawlid are innumerable, and its role in nurturing a community imbued with love of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, cannot be understated.

Mawlid al-Dayba’i: Shaykh Muhammad Ba-Dhib

Shaykh Muhammad Ba-Dhib introduces the Mawlid al-Dayba’i, authored by Imam ʿAbd al-Rahman ibn ʿAli al-Dayba who lived from the 9th to 10th Islamic centuries.

The Mawlid al-Dayba’i was written by  the great scholar of hadith, Shaykh Abd al-Rahman ibn ʿAli al-Dayba, from Yemen. He was from the tribe of Shayban, and lived in the city of Zabid. He lived in the 9th century AH and passed halfway through the 10th century.

The name Dayba was given to his grandfather, when he went to Abyssinia to trade. He had an unusually light complexion for a Yemeni, so the people there called him Dayba’, which meant white in their language. The name stuck, and it became their family name.

Shaykh Abd al-Rahman was a great scholar of hadith, who wrote a book called “Easing the Way to Attaining the Hadith of the Messenger,” which was composed of five or six volumes. His other book was called “Differentiating That Which is Good From That Which is Vile,” clarifying sayings wrongfully attributed to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. It was an abbreviation of a text written by his teacher, Imam Sakhawi, who studied under the famous commentator of the Sahih al-Bukhari, Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani.

His Mawlid

The Mawlid al-Daybai, like other mawlids, is concise biography of the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, which serves to educate the layman about his life and encourage his praise.

Some critics argue that many mawlids reference weak hadith when speaking of the early life of the Prophet. While that may be true, it is important to remember that hadith were not recorded as meticulously as they were after the Prophet received revelation, when it became a responsibility to collect and preserve the religious tradition. Weak traditions may be used for purposes not related to deriving legal rulings. These great Imans who had such deep knowledge would not convey something incorrect.