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The Occasion of Celebrating His ﷺ Birth

[The below was delivered at a Mawlid celebration in 1422, and is the preface to the forthcoming book on Salat al-Nariyya by Ustadh Idris Kamal, Allah bless him.]

We know that the Prophet ﷺ would fast every Monday, marking his birth, in a Prophetic report/hadith narrated in Sahih al-Muslim: “I was born on this day, and on this day, revelation came to me”.[1]

We know that the historian of Makka in the 3rd century of the Hijra, Muhammad b. Abdallah al-Azraqi, author of Kitab Akhbar Makka (The Book of Reports of Makka), mentions that salat (canonical prayer) in the house where the Prophet ﷺ was born, was declared by the ‘ulama as mustahabb (desirable), in order to seek baraka thereby.[2]

We know that Mufassir al-Naqqash (also in the 3rd century of the Hijra), said that the birthplace of the Prophet ﷺ is a place where du’a (supplications) is answered on Mondays.[3]

We know that Ibn Jubayr, a historian of the 6th century of the Hijra, narrates in his Kitab al-Rihal that there was a public commemoration of the birth of the Prophet ﷺ that took place in Makka in the house of his birth, “Every Monday of the Month of Rabi’ al-Awwal”.[4]

Suffice it to say that the great scholar and authority of the Shafi’i madhhab (school of law), Al-Hafiz Shihab al-Din b. Hajar al-Asqalani, was asked about mawlid celebrations, and he replied: “The original practice of the mawlid is a bid’a (innovation). It (i.e., its current form) has not been reported from the pious predecessors. Despite this, it contains various elements of good and bad. Whoever is trying to attain the good and avoid the bad, it will be regarded as a good bid’a.” He then said: “I was able to deduce this from an established premise.”[5]

We will come back to the ‘established premise’ that Ibn Hajar mentions shortly.

There will be those that will be caught up in the word  ‘bid’a’—but they will not be those of the fuqaha/the jurists, for the fuqaha teach that not all bid’a is the same. Rather, they distinguish between a bid’a that is good [hasana] and a bid’a that is bad [sayyi’a]—and in this, they are following the example of the Prophet ﷺ himself, who said, “Whoever starts a good thing [sunna khayr] and is followed by others, will have his own reward and a reward equal to that of those who follow him, without it detracting from their reward in any way. Whoever starts a bad thing [sunna sharr] and is followed by others, will bear the burden of his own sin and a burden equal to that of those who follow him, without it detracting from their burden in any way.”[6] Sayyiduna ‘Umar al-Khattab, for example, described the performance of the Tarawih prayer in congregation as a ‘bid’a hasana’.[7]

Hence the incredible polymath scholar, al-Izz b. Abdal Salam, described bid’a as falling under the five headings of the sacred law: fard (obligatory), haram (unlawful), mandub (recommended), makruh (offensive), and mubah (neutral/permissible).[8] His classification was established on a firm basis, and as such, it was confirmed by the likes of Imam al-Nawawi, the aforementioned Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani, Imam Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti, and the vast majority of the ‘ulama of this religion. Indeed, the permissibility of the mawlid confirmed by the likes of contemporary Athari-Hanbali (often called ‘Salafi’) scholars, such as Sharif Hatim al-Awni, one of the most famous Saudi traditionalistsof today, is clear—when certain conditions are met, the mawlid is neither a bid’a, nor is there any reason to condemn it.[9]

Gratitude and Joy at the Birth of the Mercy to the Worlds

When Ibn Hajar mentions ‘an established premise’, what he is referring to is the fasting that takes place on the Day of ‘Ashura, which is done out of gratitude to Allah for the bounty received on that day in the saving of the Prophet Musa. What greater bounty, indeed, is there than the appearance of the Mercy to all the worlds, our master and liege lord, Muhammad ﷺ?

Remember: no one insists that the mawlid is a special, specific act of worship particularly legislated for this particular day. Rather, it is simply a reflection of our joy at the Mercy that was manifested in the birth of the Prophet ﷺ, and there is no objection to showing that joy. It is clear that reflections are examples of unspecified means of benefit—what the jurists term as maslaha mursala—and as Sharif Hatim al-Awni notes, such means do not require there to be evidence that it was specifically legislated for that day. Indeed, he notes: “In reality, the one who requires that such unspecified means of benefit (maslaha mursala) be reported from the Salaf to be valid, he has innovated in the religion, opposed scholarly consensus, and fallen into contradiction.”[10]

Indeed, we are instructed by Allah to be joyful at His Mercy. In Surat Yunus, 58, He says: “Say! Be happy with the Bounty and Mercy of your Lord.” In Surat Anbiya, 107, He says, “And We have not sent you, except as a mercy unto the worlds.” Ibn Abbas is narrated as saying that the ‘bounty’ referred to in Surat Yunus is ‘knowledge’—and that the mercy referred to is Muhammad ﷺ.

That is a requirement that is due upon us all the time—but it is a greater requirement on Mondays, in reflection of what the Prophet ﷺ did himself—and it is a greater requirement in the month of Rabi’ al-Awwal, the month of the Prophet’s ﷺ birth. Yes, there are differences of opinion as to when precisely the Prophet ﷺ was born—Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali narrates opinions (which he rejects) about Ramadan and Rajab, for example—and he also notes that even within Rabi’ al-Awwal, there are differences of opinion. But he notes that the popular and majority opinion is that the Prophet ﷺ was born on a Monday which fell on the 12th of Rabi’ al-Awwal, and Allah knows best.

There were even ‘ulama who saw this night as preferable in superiority over Laylat al-Qadr (the night of Power)! Imam Muhammad b. Marzuq al-Tilmisani al-Maliki, of the 8th century of the Hijra, wrote an entire book called Janna al-Janatayn fi Fadl al-Laylatayn making almost two dozen arguments in support of his position. One thing that jumps out in it: the night of Qadr is honoured by the descent of the Angels, while the night of the Mawlid is honoured by the appearance of the Prophet ﷺ. The teacher of our shaykhs, Sayyid Muhammad b. Alawi al-Maliki r is narrated with this opinion as well, his additional reasoning being that while the Night of Power was a favour upon the umma of Muhammad ﷺ, the Night of the Mawlid was a favour upon all of creation!

The Uniqueness of The Prophet’s Birth is in His Uniqueness

In our modern age, there will be those who will imagine that the birth of the Prophet ﷺ is simply another event; another birth of another prophet or messenger; and they will insist on ‘leveling’ our noting of such an event, so that it is ‘equal’ to other events. What a poor and deficient understanding this is.

Abdal Rahman b. Ahmad Rajab al-Hanbali was a Hanbali muhaddith—Hanbali in fiqh as well as in ‘aqida—of incredible renown; a student of Ibn Qayyim al-Jawzi, the foremost disciple of Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn Rajab’s commentary on the forty hadith of Imam al-Nawawi (Jami’ al-Ulum wa al-Hikam) is considered to be one of the largest and most excellent commentaries in history. Ibn Rajab had many other books, including his commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari, Fath al-Bari, which he never completed before he died, but which went to seven volumes on simply the first sixth of Sahih al-Bukhari. Imam b. Muflih al-Hanbali said of him, “He was the shaykh of the Hanbali madhhab”, and he is universally renowned as an incredible expert in hadith.

Ibn Rajab writes in Lata’if al-Ma’arif that it is narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said, “I was decreed by God in the original Book as the seal of the Prophets while Adam was still on the ground in his clay. I will give you an explanation of this. I am a production of the supplication of my forefather, Ibrahim, the glad tiding which Isa gave to his people, and the dream of my mother in which she saw a light emanated from her and shone on the palaces of Syria. Other mothers of the Prophets were also made to see (such signs).” Ibn Rajab says that the purpose of this hadith is to show that the prophethood of Muhammad ﷺ was known before Allah sent him as a living being into the world, and that this was recorded in the ‘original book’ (i.e., al-Lawh al-Mahfuz), the knowledge of God with regard to whatever He is going to create and whatever His creation is going to do. There is that narration which reminds us of this – that it is said that the Prophet ﷺ said, “I was the first of the Prophets to be created, and the last of them to be commissioned (as a Prophet).”

Indeed, Ibn Rajab mentions a great deal in Lata’if that we should recall. He reminds us that the Prophet ﷺ was asked, “O Messenger of God: when were you a Prophet?” and the Prophet ﷺ replied, “When Adam was still between a spirit and a body. It was at the time when the covenant was taken from me.” That ‘covenant’ that is spoken of here is the covenant which we all took—when in the time before time, all the children of Adam were asked, “Am I not your Lord?” and they responded, “Verily, we bear witness.”

Ibn Rajab describes our master and liege lord Muhammad ﷺ as the purpose itself behind creating the human race—that he is the core and essence of the human race; that he was the means for the creation of the human race. Ibn Rajab relates that the Prophet Adam saw the name of Muhammad written on the Throne of God, and God said to him: “Were it not for Muhammad, I would not have created you.”

Verily, we know that according to Ibn Ishaq, Amina bt. Wahb, the Prophet’s ﷺ mother, used to relate that when she was pregnant with the Messenger of God a, an angel came to her and said, “You are bearing the leader of this nation. When he is born, you must say, ‘I place in the refuge of the One from the evil of every jealous person.’ A sign of this is that when he is born, a light will come out with him. This light will illuminate the palaces of Busra in Syria. When he is born, name him Muhammad. His name in the Torah is Ahmad. The inhabitants of the heavens and earth praise him. His name in the Gospel is Ahmad. The inhabitants of the heavens and the earth praise him. His name in the Qur’an is Muhammad.”

My own teachers used to say that we must recognise that as we speak about the Prophet ﷺ, we are speaking about him in two different dimensions. The first is a very worldly dimension, of him being a blessed being who was born, lived, fulfilled his mission, and passed on. And it is that dimension that we usually dwell on the most, because it is the most familiar to us, as people bound to this world.

But Muhammad ﷺ is not just that worldly being—he is also, simultaneously, much more than that. And in this world, where Muslims—whose hearts should always be transfixed on the akhira, on the malakut, on the jabarut—are, alas, constantly in blissful unawareness of their true natures, we fail to remind ourselves about who the Prophet ﷺ actually is. Because to do so would be to remind ourselves about who we truly are—and to jolt ourselves out of this stupor of mundaneness we find ourselves in. 

Sultan al-Awliya’, Shaykh Abdal Qadir al-Jilani, says in his book Sirr al-Asrar:

Know that since Allah first created the soul of Muhammad ﷺ from the light of His beauty, as He said: I created Muhammad from the light of My Face, and as the Prophet said: The first thing Allah created is my soul, and the first thing Allah created is the Pen, and the first thing Allah created is the intellect — what is meant by all this is one and the same thing, and that is the haqiqa muhammadiyya (the Muhammadan reality). However, it was named a light because it is completely purified from darkness, as Allah said: There has come to you from Allah a Light and a manifest Book. It was also named an intellect because it is the cause for the transmission of knowledge, and the pen is its medium in the world of letters. The Muhammadan soul (al-ruh al-muhammadiyya) is therefore the quintessence of all created things and the first of them and their origin, as the Prophet said: I am from Allah and the believers are from me, and Allah created all souls from me in the spiritual world and He did so in the best form. It is the name of the totality of mankind in that primordial world, and after its creation by four thousand years, Allah created the Throne from the light of Muhammad himself ﷺ, and from it the rest of creation.

Yes, the Prophet ﷺ is a human being. But as Imam al-Busayri says in his Burda:

Muhammad is a human being, but not like humankind—he is a ruby, while people are like stones.

As the ayah notes: “There has come to you a Light from Allah, and a Manifest Book” (Qur’an 5:15). And here, ‘light’ refers to Muhammad ﷺ—just as was confirmed by commentators like al-Suyuti, al-Tabari, al-Baghawi, and many others. It is not an isolated position to say so—it is why the likes of Fakhruddin al-Razi mentions that position, as do the great imams al-Qurtubi and al-Mawardi.

Some feel uncomfortable with that kind of language—to say that the Prophet ﷺ is the Light of Allah, as though we are engaging somehow in shirk. This is a bizarre, ridiculous assertion—and those who do note as such are either ignorant of Arabic, or have a really low opinion of Muslims, to think that they would so easily fall into shirk. Do we not say, for example, that the Ka’aba is ‘Baytullah’—the House of Allah? By saying so, are we assuming God lives inside it, or engaging in polytheism? Of course not! We are talking here about the reality and honouring of Muhammad ﷺ, who may indeed be ‘light’—but is still a created light, not uncreated.

Sending Blessings Upon Him ﷺ

Now that we know of the immensely powerful importance of such an occasion, we will be unsurprised to learn of the rewards that are sent upon the one who has been blessed to send prayers upon the Prophet ﷺ. The Prophet ﷺ is narrated as having said: “Whosoever sends blessings upon me once, Allah sends ten blessings upon him.”[11] ‘Abd al-Rahman b. ‘Awf said: “I saw the Prophet perform prostration (sajda), which he prolonged for a considerable period. When he raised his head I asked him about it. He a said: ‘Jibril met me and said: “The one who sends blessings on you, Allah sends blessings on him, and he who sends salutations on you, Allah sends salutations upon him [and the reporter said: ‘and I think he said: Ten’]”’. He a said: ‘So I prostrated to Allah, Mighty and Majestic is He, out of thanks.’”[12]

That is not the maximum—it is simply the minimum. Abul Mawahib al-Shadhuli once saw the Messenger a in his dream, and asked: “O Messenger of Allah, the blessing of Allah is ten times upon the one who conveys blessings to you once. Is this just for the one who utters it with presence of heart?” He a replied: “No, this is for every person who sends blessings upon me. If they are heedless then Allah the Exalted sends them angels—as many as the size of a mountain—that pray for that person and seek forgiveness for them. And if they have presence of heart then the knowledge of their reward is with Allah.”

It is reported that a man came to the Prophet ﷺ, and said, “O Messenger of Allah, shall I dedicate a third of my supplications on sending blessings upon you?” He a said: “Yes, if you wish.” So, the man said: “Two-thirds?” He a said: “Yes.” The man then said: “All of my supplications?” He a said: “If you do so, Allah will suffice you of all of your worries from the affairs of this world and the next.”[13]

In addition to being a source of immense blessing in and of itself, it is also a key to other blessings. Sayyiduna ‘Ali b. Abi Talib relayed that the Prophet ﷺ said: “There is no supplication (du’a) except that between it and the sky is a veil, until blessings are sent upon the Prophet. So, when blessings are sent upon the Prophet, the veil is pierced and the supplication is answered. And when blessings are not sent upon the Prophet, Allah does not answer the supplication.”[14]

It is a key to qurb (nearness) to the Prophet ﷺ himself. As the narration says: “The closest of people to me on the Day of Judgement will be those who were most abundant in sending blessings upon me.”[15]

And in the sending of peace, there are so many blessings. We need only repeat this hadith, wherein the Messenger of Allah a is recorded as having said: “There are no two Muslims who meet, one of them shakes hands with his companion and then they send blessings upon the Prophet, except that they will not depart until their past and future sins will be forgiven.”[16]

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This book in the hands of the reader creates an incredible gift for that reader. The author, Mohamed Idris Jalali—may Allah erase his faults, and raise him in this world and the next—has completed a work of incredible benefit, in a succinct and direct fashion. Salat al-Nariyya (the ‘fiery prayer’) which is known also as Salat al-Tafrijiyya (the ‘relief prayer’), Salat al-Qurtubiyya (the ‘Qurtubi prayer’), Salat al-Kamila (the ‘complete’ prayer) and Salat al-Taziyya (the ‘Tazi prayer’), has been a tool of the Muslims for centuries now, as they seek to fulfil that duty of sending blessings upon the Prophet ﷺ. The multiplicity of names points to the multiplicity of means and indications of importance that we ought to consider. It is called the ‘fiery’ prayer, because it is a means of attaining one’s aims as efficiently as fire burns; it is called the ‘relief’ prayer, because it is a means of attaining relief; and it is called the ‘complete’ prayer, because it is all-encompassing in how it beseeches the sending of blessings. The names ‘Tazi’ and ‘Qurtubi’ refer to those who are known for transmitting it; the latter being the great Qur’anic commentator and jurist.

But it is the former, Sayyidi Abul Mawahib Abdul Wahhab al-Tazi al-Fasi, the Ghawth of his time, that I dwell on. Sayyid al-Tazi was one of the greatest students of, and successor to, Sayyid Abdul Aziz al-Dabbagh, whose teachings are recorded in al-Dhahab al-Ibriz (the Pure Gold), a renowned text in Sufism. Al-Dabbagh and al-Tazi’s Sufism can be traced back to the tariqa (Sufi order) of Imam Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhuli, a noble lineage of tasawwuf, teaching its adepts how to put into practice that part of the Prophetic hadith, known as Hadith Jibril: “to worship God as though you saw Him”.

It is a particular Shadhuli line that al-Tazi inherited and transmitted—one that is deeply consequential in multiple realms. From al-Tazi, we have the likes of Sayyidi Ahmad b. Idris, who founded the Ahmadiyya Idrisiyya tariqa—a beautiful and awesome line, which is at the heart of the tariqa of the shaykh of our shaykhs, al-Sayyid Muhammad b. Alawi al-Maliki, the approach of which we wrote about with our shaykhs in A Sublime Way: the Sufi Path of the Sages of Makka. Sayyid Muhammad once said in a hal (an overwhelming spiritual state): “I am Idrisi, Shadhuli, Alawi—until the Messenger of Allah permits me by other than that.”

The Idrisiyya gave rise to the Sanusiyya, named as such after its eponymous founder, Sayyid Muhammad b. Ali al-Sanusi, the great mujahid and student of Ibn Idris, whose tariqa withstood the Italian fascist occupation of Libya, counting among its ranks the shahid (martyr) Umar al-Mukhtar, who fought under the banner of his shaykh, Sayyid Ahmad al-Sharif al-Sanusi. We were blessed to take the litanies of that tariqa from al-Sharif’s grandson, Dr Nafa’ al-Sanusi, may Allah reward him and the awliya’ of his family—a constant reminder that the work of the Sufis is distant from the dunya in so far as it puts the dunya in its right place. That right place is not in one’s heart, which is reserved for loftier things—but it is in one’s hands. This is justice, and as our teacher, Professor S. M. Naquib al-Attas has noted, “Adab, concisely defined, is the spectacle of justice [‘adl] as it is reflected by wisdom [hikma].”

It is wisdom indeed that we hold fast to salawat such as these; and we do justice to ourselves by doing so, for it is just that we show adab to the mercy sent to all the worlds, in the best of fashions, always. May Allah bless all of those who connect us to Salat al-Nariyya, thereby connecting us to the Prophet ﷺ, bringing us closer and closer to him a, in loving service.

Rabi’ al-Thani 1444 | November 2022 

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[1] Muslim 1162e.

[2] Kitab Akhbar Makka 2/160.

[3] Shifa’ al-Gharam 1/199.

[4] Kitab al-Rihal (p. 114-115).

[5] Husn al-Maqsad fi ‘Amal al-Mawlid (p. 63)

[6] Tirmidhi 2675.

[7] Bukhari 2010.

[8] al-Qawaid al-kubra.


[10] Ibid.

[11] Muslim 408.

[12] Ahmad #.

[13] Tirmidhi 2457.

[14] al-Mu’jam al-Awsat 3477.

[15] Tirmidhi 484.

[16] Shu’ab al-Imam 8381.

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