by Imam Ibn Kathir
This book, which is a lesser known work of Imam Ibn Kathir, seeks to present the circumstances surrounding Quraysh and ‘Abd al-Muttalib, the grandfather of the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), some of the premonitory dreams and oracular announcements of his coming, and the birth itself and early years of the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), some of his outstanding merits and noble qualities of character, and traditions relating to his high position as the Chosen One (Mustafa) and Beloved (habib) of Allah and Seal of the Messengers of Allah. The author’s careful choice of traditions and his sifting the original material from the earliest sources is here reinforced by the modern editors of the text and their judicious checking and assessment of the traditions cited.
Imam Ibn Kathir says regarding Shah Malik al-Muzzafar (rah) the brother in law of Salah-ud-din Ayyubi (rah) the great warrior of Islam
Ibn Kathir (rah) said this:
أحد الاجواد والسادات الكبراء والملوك الامجاد له آثار حسنة وقد عمر الجامع المظفري بسفح قاسيون وكانقدهم بسياقه الماء إليه من ماء بذيرة فمنعه المعظم من ذلك واعتل بأنه قد يمر على مقابر المسلمين بالسفوحوكان يعمل المولد الشريف في ربيع الاول ويحتفل به احتفالا هائلا وكان مع ذلك شهما شجاعا فاتكا بطلا عاقلاعالما عادلا رحمه الله وأكرم مثواه وقد صنف الشيخ أبو الخطاب ابن دحية له مجلدا في المولد النبوي سماهالتنوير في مولد البشير النذير فأجازه على ذلك بألف دينار وقد طالت مدته في الملك في زمان الدولة الصلاحيةوقد كان محاصر عكا وإلى هذه السنة محمودالسيرة والسريرة قال السبط حكى بعض من حضر سماط المظفرفي بعض الموالد كان يمد في ذلك السماط خمسة آلاف راس مشوى وعشرة آلاف دجاجة ومائة ألف زبديةوثلاثين ألف صحن حلوى
Translation: He was a generous, mighty master, and glorious ruler, whose works were very good. He built Jamiya al Muzaffari near Qasiyun…DuringRabi ul Awwal he used to celebrate Mawlid ash Shareef (يعمل المولد الشريف فيربيع الاول) with great celebration, Moreover, he was benevolent, brave, wise, a scholar, and just person – Sheikh Abul Khattab (rah) wrote a book on Mawlid an Nabwi for him and named it At-Tanwir fi Mawlid al Bashir al Nazeer, for which he gave him 1000 dinars. His rule stayed till the Rule of Salahiya and he captured Aka and he remained a man worthy of respect.
Al-Sabt mentions that a person attending the gathering of Mawlid held by Muzzafar said: He used to fill the table with 5000 well cooked goats, 10,000 chickens, 100-thousand bowls (of milk) and 30,000 trays of sweets. [Tarikh Ibn Kathir, Al Bidayah Wan Nihaya Volume 13, Page No. 174]
Imam Ibn Jawzi the most strict scholar in al-Jarh wa’t Tadeel, even he wrote a complete book on Mawlid where he said:
In Haramayn (i.e. Makkah and Madina), in Egypt, Yemen ratherall people of Arab world have been celebrating Mawlid for long. Upon sight of the moon in Rabi ul Awwal their happiness touches the limits and hence they make specific gatherings for Dhikr of Mawlid due to which they earn immense Ajr and Success. [Biyan al Milaad an Nabwi, Page No. 58]
Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari:
The Shaykh of our Shaykhs, the Imam and erudite polymath, Shams al-Din Muhammad al-Sakhawi (may Allah grant him a lofty station) said:
I was among those honored to witness the Mawlid celebration inMecca for years, and I came to know of the many blessings it contains. . . .During my time there, I had the chance to visit many times the effulgent birthplace [of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace)] and witness the grand displays of celebration. The basis for the noble Mawlid celebration was not transmitted from any of the righteous forebears of the first three virtuous generations; rather, it was inaugurated after their time with pious motives and good and sincere intentions.
The people of Islam throughout the lands and major metropolises continue to celebrate it during the month of the Prophet’s birth—may Allah send salutations and prayers upon him and grant him honor and exaltation—by arranging elaborate meals and gatherings. During its nights, they engage in various forms of charitable giving and display happiness and increase in good acts. Indeed, they take advantage of the closeness of the Prophet’s birthplace (Allah bless him and give him peace) and every great bounty manifests upon them due to its blessings—and that is tried and true, as Imam Shams al-Din al-Jazari the reciter said: “It is a source of security for the entire year and an early glad tiding for every good thing that is sought after.”
The Celebration of the Mawlid among the Inhabitants of Egypt and the Levant
The inhabitants of Egypt and the Levant are the keenest of people [when it comes to the celebration of the Mawlid]. The Sultan of Egypt convenes on that night one of the greatest of gatherings. I once attended the Mawlid celebration there in the year 785 ah in the fortress of al-Jabal al-‘Aliya in the company of al-Malik al-Muzaffar Barquq (may Allah have mercy upon him). In that celebration, I saw what gladdened me and what saddened me, too. I calculated what he [al-Malik al-Muzaffar] spent that night upon the reciters and those in attendance among the orators, singers, young children and servants, etc., and I estimated it at ten thousand mithqals [450 kg] of gold spent on things like royal garments, food, drink, scent, candles, and other forms of sustenance. On that night I also counted twenty-five melodious reciters—and it is hoped that they will stay that way. Not a single reciter among them departed until he received around twenty royal garments from the Sultan and other leaders. The rulers of Egypt and the servants of the two Sacred Precincts have continued to enjoy the help of Allah in abolishing many evils and iniquities. They have looked after the citizenry like a father looks after his child, and they are renowned for their justice. Allah has aided them with his hosts and succor, such as the felicitous king and martyr al-Zahir Abu Sa’id Jaqmaq. They are dutiful toward him and follow the path of his Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), and during his time the assemblies of reciters have increased to thirty in number, and they are lauded for their good qualities and sufficed from every need.
How did the Rulers of Andalusia Celebrate the Mawlid?
[al-Sakhawi continued:]The rulers of Andalusia and the Maghreb have a night in which the leading scholars and others assemble in mass from every locale; and even the non-believers attend. I believe that the Europeans are also not wont to miss that gathering, since they want to emulate the other kings in their region.
The Celebrations in India
[al-Sakhawi continued:]Some of the verifying scholars have informed me that the celebrations in India surpass those of other lands.
The Celebrations of the Non-Arabs
[al-Sakhawi continued:]When this esteemed and honored month begins, the non-Arabs [‘ajam] convene huge gatherings with varieties of food that are given to the noble reciters and the poor among the commoners and elite. During these celebrations they complete many recitals of the Quran and engage in continual reading and singing. These celebrations are full of delight and goodness, and even the elderly women among them come together and sing. In their gatherings these elderly women entertain the leaders and elite and they host them at that time to the best of their ability. Their shaykhs and scholars are so keen to celebrate this honored Mawlid and noble gathering that no one fails to attend it, in hopes of receiving its light and felicity.
[al-Sakhawi continued:]The Shaykh of our Shaykhs, Mawlana Zayn al-Din Mahmud al-Hamadani al-Naqshabandi (may Allah sanctify his lofty secret) mentioned that once, the ruler of his time, Khaqan al-Dawran Hamabun Badshah (may Allah grant him a goodly abode) wanted the Shaykh to visit him so he could obtain spiritual succor, but the Shaykh, sufficing himself with the All-Merciful, turned down the ruler’s invitation and refused to let him visit as well. The ruler pleaded with his minister, Bayram Khan, to devise a ruse by which the two could gather in the same place, even if only for a short amount of time. The minister heard that the Shaykh never attended gatherings of happiness or sadness, unless the gathering was a celebration of the Prophet’s birth (Allah bless him and give him peace), and that was due to the Shaykhs reverence for the Prophet’s station. When the news of this reached the Sultan, he ordered that the necessary preparations to be made and arranged various types of food and drink and other items needed for gatherings of sacred knowledge. Then he invited the elite and their families. The Shaykh came with some of his freed bondsmen, whereupon the Sultan, hoping to gain the Shaykhs gentleness and gaze, humbly took the water-pitcher with his own hands and his minister took the bowl, and they proceeded to wash the Shaykh’s noble hands. Due to the blessing of their humbleness for the sake of Allah and His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace), the Sultan and his minister gained a tremendous station and noble rank.
The Celebration of the Mawlid among the Inhabitants of Mecca
[al-Sakhawi continued:]During the Mawlid celebration, the inhabitants of Mecca, that treasure-store of goodness and blessings, proceed in mass to Suq al-Layl, which is the site most consider to be the location of the Prophet’s birth (Allah bless him and give him peace). They head to this site in hopes of obtaining their objectives. Their celebrations on this day exceed their celebrations on the day of Eid, and few are wont to miss it, whether they are righteous or corrupt, mindful or negligent. This is especially true for the Sharif of the Hejaz; however, these days he visits the site at other times.
[al-Sakhawi continued:]The munificence of Mecca’s judge and scholar, al-Burhani al-Shafi‘i, includes feeding the visitors, residents, and attendees with the most exquisite foods and sweets. On the morning of the Mawlid he distributes sweets to the people in hopes of having afflictions removed. Al-Burhani’s son, al-Jamali, dutifully followed in his father’s footsteps and gives to the residents and travelers. As for today, only the smoke from the cooking fire remains and none of what we mentioned is seen, except as a lingering fragrance of wild thyme. The situation is as some say:
Their tents are like their tents
But I see that the women are not their women
The Celebration of the Mawlid by the Inhabitants of Medina
[al-Sakhawi continued:]The inhabitants of Medina—may Allah Most High increase them—celebrate the Mawlid with great fervor. Al-Malik al-Muzaffar, may Allah have mercy upon him, used to go to great lengths in his celebration and preparations for it. The erudite Abu Shama, one of al-Nawawi’s teachers known for his rectitude, praised al-Muzaffar for this in his book al-Ba’ith ‘ala al-bida’ wa al-hawadith and said: “Actions like this are good and recommended and the one who performs them should be praised and lauded. Ibn al-Jazari added, ‘Even if it only enrages Satan and brings delight to the people of faith.’ Al-Jazari also said, ‘If the people of the cross [i.e., the Christians] took the birth night of their Prophet as a major celebration, the Muslims have even more right to honor [the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace)].’ One can, however, retort that we are commanded to be different from the People of the Book, although there does not appear to be an answer to this from the words of the Shaykh.”
[al-Sakhawi continued:]That is a rhetorical argument, for the Shaykh of the Shaykhs of Islam, the Seal of the noble Imams, Abu al-Fadl Ibn Hajar, the relied upon teacher (may Allah cover him in His mercy and settle him in His expansive gardens) stated that there occurred to him a legal text upon which the gallant scholars can rely upon. It is the report found in the collections of al-Bukhari and Muslim. It mentions that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) came to Medina and found the Jews fasting on the day of ‘Ashura’. When he asked them concerning this, they replied, “It is the day on which Allah drowned Fir’awn and saved Musa, so we fast this day out of gratitude to Allah Most High.” The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “I have more right to Musa than you all,” and he fasted on that day and ordered others to fast on it . . . His first fast coincided with theirs for the sake of drawing them near [to Islam] and then later he did it differently to show the differences between them. He [Ibn Hajar] said, “Giving thanks to Allah Most High can be shown by many acts of worship, such as prostration, fasting, charity, or reciting [the Quran]. And what bounty is greater than the blessing of the birth of this Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace)—the Prophet of mercy—on this day?”
I [Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari] say: The verse “Certainly, there has come to you a Messenger” alludes to this and indicates that the time of his appearance should be celebrated with reverence. Ibn Hajar continued:
As for what is done in the Mawlid, it should be confined to what expresses gratitude to Allah Most High, such as the aforementioned practices such as reciting the Quran, feeding others, giving charity, and singing something of the odes that praise the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and encourage renunciation [zuhd], and songs that move the heart and encourage it to do good deeds and work for the Hereafter. As for what is added to this, such as singing and amusement and the like, what should be said concerning it is that the permissible therein that displays joy over the day is of no harm if joined with it, while the unlawful, disliked, or offensive [khilaf al-awla] is forbidden [yumna’].
Now, this also applies to areas wherein there are differences of opinion [khilaf]. Indeed, we should be committed to doing deeds of excellence every day and night of the month, as was reported from the Ibn Jama’a, who hoped to do that. It has reached us that when the ascetic and devout exemplar, Abu Ishaq Ibrahim b. Abd al-Rahim b. Ibrahim b. Jama’a, was in the city of the Prophet—may prayers and pure salutations be upon its resident—he would prepare food for the Mawlid celebration and proclaim,“If only I was able, I would hold a Mawlid celebration day of the month.”
I say: So since I am unable to host people for the Mawlid celebration physically, I have written these pages in order that they may host people metaphorically and with light for all times to come—without restriction to a particular year or month. I have named this work al-Mawrid al-rawi fi Mawlid al-Nabi. . .