In the Name of God: the Infinitely Merciful, Compassionate, and Beloved Lord
I must admit: sometimes, I feel left out. As a Muslim living in a majority Christian country – where most everyone is celebrating Christmas while I am not – it can sometimes feel lonely at this time of year. Thus, it is natural that we Muslims would look forward to the Mawlid un-Nabi, which is Arabic for “The Prophet’s Birthday.”
Most Muslims believe the Prophet was born on the 12th day of the Islamic month of Rabi’ Al Awwal, which this year falls on January 13. And it is likely that most Muslims will be celebrating that day across the world. Although in many ways quite different, the Mawlid can be thought of the Muslim equivalent of Christmas, and it is a very festive and happy day for Muslims the world over.
Of course, celebrating it is not without controversy. There are those in the Muslim community that denounce the Mawlid as an “innovation” in the faith. But my feeling is: Chill. Out. What’s wrong with celebrating the day that literally changed the course of world history, the birth of the Prophet Muhammad?
I cannot say that it is a religious obligation to celebrate his birthday; our tradition does not recount any such obligation. But it is obligatory to love the Prophet more than we love ourselves, and celebrating his birthday is one way we can manifest this love.
I cannot say that there is a specific religious reward for commemorating the Mawlid; our tradition does not recount such a reward. But, again, as it is part of our faith to love and honor the Prophet, I cannot see how God would punish us for celebrating the day He sent us our guide for how to live a holy and honorable life. If anything, I would expect the Lord our God to reward us for honoring the Prophet by celebrating his birth.
Some of the Mawlid’s detractors may point to instances where Muslims may commit evil acts during a Mawlid celebration here or there. That doesn’t mean, then, that the whole concept of celebrating the Mawlid is wrong. Again, it is part of our faith to love the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) dearly, and thus, it is natural that we will celebrate the day the Lord sent him into this world.
The Prophet Muhammad, as we Muslims believe, was the best human to ever walk this earth. The sweetness of his character, the beauty of his appearance, the warmth of his smile, the softness of his touch, and the nobility of his being was nothing short of extraordinary. He showed us how to live a life of moral purity and closeness to God. Without his ever coming into being, we would have no knowledge of how God wanted us to live our lives.
But, he did come into being, and for that fact, we are all extremely happy and glad. Thus, we celebrate the anniversary of his birth. Moreover, as a father of four children who did not get to open presents under a Christmas tree on December 25, it is nice to be able to bring them joy on a holiday all our own.
Indeed, Jesus Christ is special to us as Muslims. But, as Muslims, we follow the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. And if I can take the opportunity to bring joy to my children over the birth of the Prophet, it cannot be but a good thing.
In my book, Noble Brother, in which I tell his story entirely in poetry, I write about his coming:
Hope was at hand, a new dawn was near
And all was not lost to terror and fear
For due to the prayer of the Patriarch clear
The Noble Brother will soon appear
Because of that day, I have been saved, and thus I cannot help but be happy when it comes around each year. And at the Mawlids I have been to, it was a truly powerful experience. Poems, and lectures, and songs were sung about the Prophet and his life, and it filled my heart, and soul, and spirit with a warmth that was truly indescribable. It increased my love for the Prophet ever more, and it made me long to, one day, see and be with him in the company of the Righteous. Lord my God, please let that come to pass.
Because the Islamic calendar is a lunar one, in a couple of years, the Mawlid will fall right around Christmas. I predict it will be a great time. For once, both Muslims and Christians may be putting up lights on their homes to celebrate a very special day in their respective traditions. And perhaps, when that day comes, this Muslim can feel a little less left out and lonely at Christmas.