Hajji Abdullah Drury
The birthday of Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) is an opportunity for Muslims everywhere to reflect upon the biography of the Prophet within Islamic History.
The Prophet, whose full name was Abu Al Qasim Mohammed Ibn Abd Allah Ibn Abd Al Muttalib Ibn Hashim, was born in Mecca in Central Arabia around the year 570 of the Common Era.
The name “Mohammed” in Arabic literally means “one who is praised.”
His father Abdullah died before he was born and his mother Amina when he was six.
Thereafter the orphan came under the care, tutelage and protection of his uncle Abu Talib.
The young Mohammed worked as a shepherd and then later a merchant, and at the age of 25 married Khadijah, a moderately wealthy female merchant.
The Arab society then was pagan or animist although Jewish and Christian influences.
Mohammed developed a personal routine of withdrawal and meditation in a mountain cave where, aged about 40, he received his first revelation from the Archangel Gabriel who commanded him to recite (‘Iqra’ in Arabic) a message of staunch monotheism (‘Tawhid’).
Slowly he began to preach ‘La Ilaha Illa Llah’ (There is no God but Allah) and pronounced that he himself was the final Prophet and messenger of God, in the same manner as earlier prophets such as Ibrahim, Musa, Isa and others.
According to all accounts, Prophet Mohammed garnered a few followers to begin with and faced persecution from some Arabian tribes.
Early on a small group of his converts escaped to Christian Abyssinia (modern Ethiopia).
After this, Mohammed was invited to another Arabian city called ‘Yathrib,’ where local folk believed he could settle their internal disputes.
In 622, he fled Mecca following the quiet evacuation of his remaining supporters.
This emigration (the ‘Hijra’) marks the start of the Islamic calendar. Yathrib subsequently came to be known as Medina and this nascent community quickly came into conflict with Mecca and was attacked. Following eight years of fighting, Mecca was defeated and occupied, and for the first time in recorded history all Arabia was united under one ruler – the Prophet Mohammed. He died in 632.
The Last Prophet
Mohammed is universally believed by Muslims to be the last prophet of God, one who restored the original monotheistic religion of Adam and Eve in an undiluted form.
The revelations he received and transmitted were assembled into the modern book form after his death as the Holy Quran or Recitation.
The faith of Islam is built upon this Prophet and this compendium: Islamic law or ‘Sharia’ is based on the edicts and principles of the book, and on the customs or ‘Sunna’ of Mohammed himself.
The basic earliest accounts for the observance of Milad (or Mawlid) can be found in 8th century Mecca, when the house in which Mohammed was born was transformed into a place of prayer by Al Khayzuran Bint Atta (mother of the famous Abbasid Caliph Harun Al Rashid). It seems therefore that public celebrations of the birth of Mohammed did not occur until four centuries after his passing away.
The oldest Mawlid text is claimed to be from the 12th century and is most likely of Persian or Iranian origin.
The Fatimid dynasty in Egypt started celebrating the Milad in the 10th century, and the Ottoman Turkish regime made it an official holiday in 1588.
It has since become an exceptionally popular feature of the Islamic calendar.
In our era, the Milad affords us a chance to consider and medicate on how we are living Islam, protecting the poor and needy within our own society.
The Bosnian-born and America based Mullah Dr Camil Jusuf Avdic wrote of the Milad in the 1970s, “In a way, it is rejuvenation and a kind of rebirth for every one of us.”
The Milad can serve as both an opportunity for historical reflection and spiritual renewal.
All faiths incorporate an element of ritual and Islamic beliefs usually affect to bind individuals to each other in common practices such as sartorial and dietary codes that serve to galvanise and unite the entire Muslim population.
Any study of the past serves a similar purpose and genuine historical knowledge should not necessitate artificial or simulated protection.
Facts and interpretations of the past can only be established and braced by the contrast between fantasies and profound insight.
The birthday of Prophet Mohammed reminds us of his message and example, serving as a simple and graceful model for all Muslims to emulate.
Hajji Abdullah Drury is the author of ‘Islam in New Zealand.’ He lives in Hamilton. He had quoted ‘A Heritage of East and West; The Writings of Imam Camil Avdic (2006) as a source of reference for the above article.