BismillaH Al RaHMaN Al RaHeeM
THE REAL MEANING OF MAWLID AL NABI (Sallahu alaihi wa salam)
by Hala Agha
Every year, everywhere in the Muslim world, Muslims celebrate “Mawlid Al Nabi”. Literally translated, Mawlid Al Nabi means “the Birth of The Prophet”. And the Prophet, of course, is Prophet MuHaMMaD (saws), the Messenger God (AllaH) sent to teach Islam to Humanity.
Prophet MuHaMMaD (saws) was born fourteen centuries ago, in the year 570, on a Monday, the 12th of Rabi’ Al Awwal, in the Arabian city of Mecca. He (saws) died in Madina, at the age of 63, also on a Monday, also on the 12th of Rabi’ Al Awwal. The exact same date for both His birth and death might first sounds a bit baffling….until its hidden meaning becomes apparent…
Some Muslims oppose the celebration of Mawlid Al Nabi, arguing that the Prophet’s Birthday was never celebrated during His life, neither during the life of any of His four Caliphs, and that thus it is a “Bid’a”, or innovation, and should not be allowed. This is mostly the attitude of Wahhabis, and related groups, for whom Pure Islam is mostly adherence to the external laws of Sharia, without necessarily the purpose and meaning of these laws having been unveiled by Tariqa. Incidentally, these people are also those who view Prophet MuHaMMaD (saws) as just one of the prophets, albeit the last one. Could it be that lack of understanding of the Absolute Reality of The Prophet (saws) is what causes their argument against celebrating Mawlid Al Nabi? And Who, really, is MuHaMMaD (saws)?
Before Creation, before Life and Time even existed, AllaH was all Alone, existing in His Ahadiyya, as AllaH, in AllaH, for AllaH, a state that is known as “Ghayb Al Ghayb”, the Mystery of Mysteries, because no one can ever comprehend this state of Total Unseen of The Essence. A hadith Qudsi tells us that AllaH “Loved to be known, and thus made creation to be known”. When AllaH Loved to be known, AllaH (SWT) manifested this “Love” in Him in the form of Divine Light, so that He could be seen and known. The Attributes of AllaH manifested in the form of Light do not represent the totality of AllaH’s Attributes, rather, they represent those Attributes of the Divine Essence that can be known by man, for man’s constitution does not allow him to witness AllaH’s Attributes in their totality. According to Shaykh Ibn Arabi, (ra), those Attributes of the Divine Essence Manifested as Light collectively make the Wahdat MuHaMMaDiyya in the Essence. The Wahdat MuHaMMaDiya are thus Intrinsic Attributes of the Essence, existing from “before before”, that is to say before the creation of souls and the advent of Life, and continuing to exist “after after”, that is to say in the Eternity of the Hereafter, after the phenomenal Universe fades back into the effusions of Light it was originally made of.
From the Wahdat MuHaMMaDiyya in His Essence, AllaH manifested a Divine Light that could be witnessed and intercepted by man’s frail and limited constitution. This Light is thus primarily an Unveiling, a Tajalli, it is the Primary Tajalli of AllaH from His State of Invisible Ahadiyya into a State in which He became Visible, and hence could be “known”. This Light is Nur MuHaMMaD (saws). Nur MuHaMMaD (saws) is thus a Manifestation of the Divine Essence in the form of Light, and not a “creation”. In being so, it is the very Proof of the Reality of AllaH, (Al Haqq: The Real). Yet, Nur MuHaMMaD itself is such an effulgent Light, that It veils the Divine Presence at Its origin, and, while being the “Proof” of Majesty, it also is the “Great Veil of Majesty”.
One must note here that Nur MuHaMMaD can be translated as both “The Light of MuHaMMaD” (saws) and the “Praised Light”. Yet the Opening Sura of the Quran, the Fatiha, often called “The Mother of The Book”, and considered as a summary of the whole Quran, starts with: “All Praise belongs to AllaH The Lord of the worlds” (Al”hamdu”lillaHi Rabbi Al Alameen: it is a specific “hamd” that is referred to here, the “Hamd” in MuHaMMaD). If all Praise belongs to AllaH, who indeed does the “Praised Light”, or Nur MuHaMMaD, belong to? The Quran itself tells us, in its opening verse, that Nur MuHaMMaD belongs to AllaH, that is to say it is the Light/Tajalli of AllaH SWT.
Indeed, the Quran also tells us that “Al RaHMaN, Khalaqa Al Insan”: “ Al RaHMan is the Creator of man”. The word RaHMaN in Arabic spells Ra, Ha, Mim, and Nun, and perfectly illustrates, by its Divine Letters and their specific sequence, the entire process of Creation, revealing the true nature of Nur MuHaMMaD: The Rabb (Ra), in His state of AHaDiyya (Ha), from the Mim in His Essence (Mim), Manifested as Nur (Nun). Nun, the last letter of RaHMaN, is the first letter of Nur MuHaMMaD, indicating the continuity of the two. And Who did Al RaHMaN, (The Most Merciful) send to the worlds? He (SWT) sent the “RaHMaTaN lil Alameen”, The Mercy to the Worlds, all worlds who came to life through Nur MuHaMMaD (saws).
From Nur MuHaMMaD (saws), everything that is alive came into existence. From the Singular Light Manifested by AllaH, unlimited phenomenal multiplicity was created. Nur MuHaMMaD is The Pure, Raw, Absolute, Undifferentiated Divine Light that bestows Life to everything it touches; it is Bahr Al Qudra; it is the Atom of Being, or Wahdat Al Wujud; “I was a Prophet when Adam was still between water and clay” tells the hadith. We know man is made out of clay, but what “water” is it question of here? It is the Water of Life, made from The Light of Al Haqq: “Khalaqa alssamawati waal-arda bi al-Haqqi “ Quran 16:3. “He Created the Heavens and the Earth from The Real”.
One must grasp the subtle difference between “Nur MuHaMMaD” (saws) and Prophet MuHaMMaD (saws). Nur MuHaMMaD (saws) is Divine Light, shining in different degrees in everything and everyone in Existence, it is the very Breath of Life, it makes the substance of the Soul and the transparent background of Life; it exists with and without shape. It is an Ocean without shore, without limits, The Ocean of Power, The Source of the Four Springs of Kawthar. Its Attributes are those of The Essence, it has all powers, and, at all times, it is under the control of Prophet MuHaMMaD (saws). The Prophet “flows” it as He wishes, (Al Fayd Al Muqadas), a Flow of Love and Divine Mercy, whose every vibration tells of the depth and infinity of Divine Love. One wave of it and one knows forever that AllaH is Love, and that Light is but the very shape of Love.
Prophet MuHaMMaD (saws), on the other hand, is The Historical Incarnation of Nur MuHaMMaD (saws), the Embodiment of Nur MuHaMMaD in human form. Prophet MuHaMMaD (saws) is Divine Love and Divine Light embodied in a human shape, sent to teach men how to reach the Divine in them, how to “perfect” themselves into Insan Kamel. Prophet MuHaMMaD (saws) is the Living Quran, the Quran that existed before creation, since we are told that, in sequence, Al RaHMaN, Allama Al Quran, Khalaqa Al Insan, (surat Al RaHMaN), and indeed for His Companions He was The Tajalli of AllaH. Prophet MuHaMMaD (saws) is Pure Light, both His Soul and body are Pure Light, and the Light He irradiates was enough to lit the streets of Madina at night and walk His Companions to their respective homes. He (saws) is the Only One Whose Mi’raj took place in both soul and body. When The Prophet (saws) “died”, when His body became again “Invisible”, Madina was filled with physical darkness. “A Lamp appeared from the Invisible, and returned to the Invisible”, said Hallaj. Its “appearance” was called Birth, and Its “disappearance” was called Death. In truth there was no birth or death, but appearances of Birth and Death: hence date of birth and date of death were just one and the same.
Prophet MuHaMMaD (saws) has a Unique, Singular Maqam among all men: He (saws) is Al RuH Al A’zam; He is the Father of all souls, and the One Soul from Whom all others souls emanate. Prophet MuHaMMaD (saws) also holds a Singular Maqam among all prophets: not only is He (saws) the Seal of all Prophets, but He is also the one who led them all in prayer on the Night of Ascension, in other words He (saws) is the Imam of all prophets. No one can ever attain His Maqam, for He is the Only One to be both Divine and Human, Pure Light without dust. This is the meaning of Aya 33:40 (Surat Al Ahzab): “Muhammad is not the father of any of you men, but (He is) the Messenger of Allah, and the Seal of the Prophets: and Allah has full knowledge of things”. Indeed, AllaH (SWT) made obedience to Him (saws) equal to obedience to AllaH. AllaH honored Him as He honored no other prophet: He named Him Ahmad by adding a Mim to His Own name of Ahad, He named Him MuHaMMaD, “The Praised”, He associated His Name with His Own Name in both the Tawhid attestation and the call to prayer (Adhan); He lovingly ordained Him His Beloved, a tender title no other Prophet was granted; and He continuously, relentlessly, praises Him: “ Allah and His angels send blessings on the Prophet; O you who believe! Send your blessings on him and salute him ” (Quran: 33:56). Salawat AllaH Alayka Ya RasulAllaH. Unlike Prophet Moses (ra), Prophet MuHaMMaD (saws) was allowed to meet AllaH (SWT) without removing His shoes, and, unlike Jibril (ra), the great Angel made of Pure Light, He (saws) was able to advance past Sidrat Al Muntaha without being burnt by The Light. Indeed, there is no way to explain all these signs, whatsoever, except by recognizing the Divine in MuHaMMaD (saws).
Both Nur MuHaMMaD (saws) and Prophet MuHaMMaD (saws) are by Essence Eternal and never die. Thus does the Quran always address MuHaMMaD (saws) in the present tense.
A “prophet” is a person who speaks by divine inspiration or as the interpreter through whom the will of God is expressed, as opposed to a “messenger”, who is sent with a new Message. We will note here that we celebrate “Mawlid Al Nabi”, the birth of The Prophet, and not “Mawlid Al Rasul”, the birth of The Messenger. Why is this? Because MuHaMMaD (saws) is the last Messenger, there is no messenger after Him (saws). But indeed, deep in the Sirr of every heart, when Nur MuHaMMaD has dissolved all the clouds, when the Soul (the Dzat) shines bright and sees through the dust that the Real “I” is “We”, one becomes able to listen to the voice of the “prophet”, “The Praised” part in every heart through which The Divine communicates with us and unveils His Truth, in Tajallis of Light.
In celebrating Mawlid Al Nabi, we celebrate both the Blessed Birth of The Beloved of AllaH (saws), The Singular MuHaMMaD (saws), epitomized as Prophet MuHaMMaD (saws), The Prophet Who brought us Islam fourteen centuries ago, and the Manifestation of Nur MuHaMMaD (saws), AllaH’s Primary Tajalli and His Blessed Tajalli in every heart; we thank AllaH for His Decision to create, for life on earth, for His Breath in the Universe, for The Truth He unveils to us. We acknowledge and glorify His Divine Imprint in everything that is alive, and we recognize it is all done through Nur MuHaMMaD (saws), Nur Al Wujud and Wahdat Al Wujud, The Light That shapes everything in existence, Huwwiyat Al Alam.
Salawat wa Salam AllaH Alayka Ya RasulAllaH, Ya Wahid Al Maqam, Ya Tajalli Al RaHMaN, Ya Nur Al Anouar, Ya RaHMatan lil Alameen, Ya Habib, wa ala alika al tahireen ajmain . Ameen.