The Islamic month of Rabi Al Awwal has arrived. In the Muslim world this month is considered auspicious because many scholars believe it to be the month of Prophet Muhammad’s birthday (blessings and peace of Allah be with him). Without going into the merits of whether birthdays are an Islamic tradition or in line with the Islamic beliefs, let us review our association with the Prophet Muhammad.
Looking at the world scenario prior to the birth of the Holy Prophet we find there was suffering all around. Humanity was choking in the abyss of darkness. Social and moral values were at its lowest. Europe was plunged into what the historians call the dark ages. Arabia was torn apart by mutual rivalry and cruel customs and traditions. Rulers had donned the mantle of God. The landlords, chieftains and priests were hand in glove with each other in fleecing the poor.
They used to impose heavy taxes, bribes, and fines on the hapless peasants while working them slog like animals, without taking any interest in their problems. Slavery in all its obnoxious forms was flourishing everywhere; women, children and other weaker sections were suppressed. Human rights were flouted openly and men in position took great pride in doing so.
Idol worship and polytheism was rampant. Everything evil was done in god’s name. Inhuman customs were the hallmark of religion.
In this society Muhammad (peace to him) was given Prophethood. Taking his guidance from Allah the Prophet set off to mould a race of people who were torn apart by mutual enmity, inter clan rivalry and jealousy, cruel and meaningless customs and traditions and most of all, an ego which was larger than any other of their defects. This was an uphill task but it was accomplished marvellously by the Prophet in merely 23 years.
Selfishness gave way to selfless sacrifice in which Allah’s command and the Prophet’s wish were of prime importance. People worried more about honouring the rights of others than exercising their own. Help was at hand for anyone struck by misfortune. Women breathed easy in a society which gave them honour and respect. This was the miracle of the Prophet (peace to him). His message changed the society from within. Piety and fear of God was not only restricted to the mosques but were prevalent in the market place, homes, judiciary and battlefields. There was a change in man’s thinking, his customs and habits, his perception of good and evil, his values and standards, his rights and duties, his idea of war and peace and his business codes and family values.
All this and much more were achieved due to mankind’s association with the last Prophet of Allah. Today when the society is once again plagued with ills and we Muslims are on a downhill path leading nowhere, the message of the prophet offers us the same relief as it did 1450 years ago, provided we implement the message in our lives. Unfortunately we fail to be guided and moulded by the greatest of all the teachers. Instead we engage ourselves is meaningless activities by displaying our love and regard for our mentor in a most superficial manner. Our affections are of a strange kind. We are ready to lay down our lives for our Prophet (peace to him) but not prepared to give up a single evil which has crept in our lives.
During this month of Rabi Al Awwal there would be Meelad celebrations everywhere, many a time with the belief that the Prophet’s spirit will be present at the gatherings. Bowls of sweetmeats, trays of flowers and garlands, melodious Naats and Qawwalies, fragrance and the bright light of chandeliers will take up all our attention. We will not even for a moment consider how many traditions and Hadith of the Prophet (peace to him) are being trampled upon, in our self-styled celebrations.
The narrations in these gatherings present to us the superhuman hero whose ethereal existence seems to have nothing in common with us. His life and achievements are shown to be governed by miracles and he is above the physical laws of the nature, aided and abetted in all matters by the angels.
None of us can deny that that the Prophet’s spiritual and moral existence is far superior as compared to that of ordinary men and women. We definitely find miracles and supernatural elements in his life. The angels too descended upon him but first and foremost we must remember that his pious life is that of a human being. But, the greatness of his Seerah lies in a man’s existence at this elevated level of spirituality, which is what the Ummah must try to emulate.
The Prophet’s sacrifices, his courage and fortitude, his determination and steadfastness, his adherence to principles and beliefs, his deep consciousness of his duties, his love and service to humanity are all exemplary traits which need to be highlighted in the narrations of Seerah. Highlighted not only to be marvelled at, but to be diligently followed in our day-to-day lives.
If the Seerah of the Prophet (peace to him) is presented as a miracle and the life of a superhuman being then there remains no model for men, who are made of flesh and blood. We are awed and wonderstruck by the ethereal being, but fail to absorb the teachings in our lives. We can be devoted to him, but fail to follow his footsteps. The more we engage ourselves in these meaningless activities, the more detached our lives get from the teachings of the Prophet.
Our enthusiasm in celebrating the Prophet’s birthday is outweighed by our failure to follow the examples set by him. Can even a single individual claim to have reformed his lifestyle after Rabi Al Awwal festivities? Or have we ceased to believe in the Qur’anic verse ‘Obey Allah and Obey the Prophet’.
Let us for a moment sit and ponder on our association with our Prophet. The four basic tenets of our relationship with Muhammad are Faith, Reverence, Obedience, and Love. In order to succeed in this world and the hereafter we need to fulfil all the four elements of our allegiance. By demonstrating excessive love but lack of obedience we cannot be the rightful member of the Prophet’s Ummah. Love and reverence without faith and obedience too will not be enough in the hereafter. Therefore it is of prime importance that we be guided by the Qur’anic verse “Indeed in the messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day and who engages much in the praise of Allah” (Ahzab-verse 21) and look upon the Prophet as a role model and follow his teachings in our lives. Unless we do this, the love and respect we have for the Prophet will not be of much use to us. All our Meelad celebrations should henceforth focus on reforming our lives to bring it in line with the Sunnah of the Prophet. For anyone receiving the Prophet’s Sunnah, the Ajr of a hundred martyrs has been promised (as comes in a hadith).
Let us thus work towards the revival of the Sunnah. May Allah give us the strength to take up this noble mission (Ameen)