History of Celebrating the Blessed Mawlid

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The person who started this practice was the ruler of Arbil,[1] King Mužaffar[2] Abū Saýīd Kawkabūrī ibn Zaynuddīn Álī ibn Buktikkīn –  a glorious king and a magnanimous leader. He is remembered for beautiful monuments and it was he who build the Muzaffari Mosque[3] on the slopes of Mount Qāsiyūn. Ibn Kathir[4] has mentioned in his historical work[5] that he would celebrate Mawlid in the month of Rabiý al-Awwal – and the celebrations would be elaborate. He was chivalrous, brave, fearless, intelligent and also a scholar; may Allāh táālā have mercy upon him and honour his resting place. Shaykh Abu’l Khaţţāb ibn Diĥyah[6] wrote a book on the Mawlid of the Prophet named Al-Tanwīr fī Mawlidi’l Bashīr an-Nadhīr upon which he was given a present of a thousand gold coins.[7] His reign was lengthy until his demise in Akka, where he was blockaded by the Franks in the year 630. He was a man of praiseworthy character and a noble soul.

Ibn al-Jawzi’s grandson[8] says in Mir’āt al-Zamān narrating from a person who attended a banquet held during Mawlid celebrations that he mentioned the following in the feast: 5000 sheep and their grilled heads, 10,000 chickens, 100 horses,[9] 100,000 [earthern] bowls and 30,000 plates of sweets. Prominent scholars and sufis attended the Mawlid; the king he would seek them and retire with them and the sufis would recite poems,[10] starting the afternoon [continuing in the night and] until dawn. The king would also whirl[11] in ecstasy with them. He would spend 300,000 dīnār[12] on Mawlid celebrations every year. He had built a guest house for those who came from afar regardless of where they came from, or their bearing – he would spend 100,000 dīnār every year for the maintenance of this guest house.

He would pay 100,000 dīnār to the Franks as ransom for Muslim prisoners; he would pay 30,000 dīnār for the noble sanctuaries, and water supply systems on the road to Hijaz. All this was apart from what he gave as charity in private. His wife, Rabīáh Khātūn bint Ayyūb [the sister of the victorious king Şalāĥuddīn][13] says that he would wear a shirt made of kirbas, a rough material worth no more than five silver coins.[14] She says that she criticised him for this and he replied: “That I should wear clothes worth five dirhams and give away the rest is better than wearing expensive clothes and abandoning the poor and the destitute”.

Ibn Khallikān[15] in his biographical notice on Abi’l Khaţţāb ibn Diĥyah says:

He was a prominent scholar, and well-known among the elite; he came from Morocco and travelled to the Levant and Iraq and passed through Arbil in the year 604 where he encountered the king Muzaffaruddīn ibn Zaynuddīn celebrating the birthday of the Prophet . So, he wrote the book, The Illumination: On the Birthday of the Bearer of Glad Tidings, the Warner,[16] and recited it in front of the king, who rewarded him with a thousand gold coins.

He also said:

We have heard  him [recite the mawlid] in six gatherings in the Sultan’s presence in the year 625.

[1] Erbil, Irbil, Arbil; in today’s Iraq. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erbil

[2] Mużaffaruddīn Abū Saýīd [549-630 AH] Kūkūburī or Kawkabūrī

[3] Also known as the Hanabila Mosque or the Darwish Pasha Mosque. “The mosque is situated in the Salihiyya area of Damascus, on a side street off Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulsi Lane, outside the fortifications of the old city. It is the first Ayyubid monument built in Damascus and the oldest surviving mosque after the Umayyad Mosque (b. 709-715).” See archnet.org.

[4] Ĥāfiż Ímāduddīn Abu’l Fidā’a Ismāýīl ibn Úmar ibn Kathīr al-Dimashqī [701-774] famous for his historical work Bidāyah wa’n Nihāyah and his Qur’ān commentary; author of many other works which were well received in his lifetime: Sharĥ al-Bukhārī (incomplete,) Ţabaqāt al-Fuqahā Shāfaýiyyīn, Qaşaşu’l Anbiyā’a and his magnum opus Jāmiý al-Masānīd wa’s Sunan which according to the plan of the author was a collection of 100,000 ĥadīth, ordered by alphabetical list of companions in those narrations. [Ibn Kathīr had compiled only 80,000 when he passed away and his grandson completed it].

[5] Al-Bidāyah wa’n Nihāyah, 17/205; Events of the Year 630. Also in Wafyāt al-Aáyān Ibn Khallikān, 4/115-121; Tārīkh al-Islām, Dhahabī 45/403-405; Al-Ibar, 3/208; Duwal al-Islām, Dhahabi, 2/142; Shadharāt al-Dhahab, 7/244. Siyar Aálām al-Nubalā, Dhahabi.

[6] Úmar ibn al-Ĥasan ibn Álī ibn Muĥammad, Abu’l Khaţţāb ibn Diĥyah al-Kalbī [544-633] literary figure, historian, ĥadīth master and judge. He travelled to Morocco, Levant, Iraq, Khorasan and finally settled in Egypt.  [Wafyāt al-Aáyān 1/381, Mīzān al-Iýtidāl 2/252, Lisānu’l Mīzān 4/292, Shadharātu’dh Dhahab 5/160, Siyar al-Aálām 5/44].

[7] Dīnar: gold coin weighing approximately 4.25g; thus 1000 coins would be 4.25 kilogram of gold, which in 2013 costs approximately $225,250 @ $53/gram.

[8] Yūsuf ibn Qizz/Guliy or Qizzguli ibn Ábdullāh Abu’l Mużaffar Shamsuddīn, the maternal grandson [Sibţ] of Imām Abu’l Faraj Ábd ar-Raĥmān ibn al-Jawzī is a prominent historian [581-654] and author of Mir’ātu’z Zamān fī Tārikhi’l A’áyān, Tadhkiratu Khawāşu’l Ayimmah, Kanz al-Mulūk, Muntahā as-Sūl fī Sīrati’r Rasūl. [Miftāĥu’s Sáādah 1/208, Jawāhiru’l Muđiyyah 2/230, Dhayl Mir’ātu’z Zamān 1/39]

[9] It is prohibitively disliked in the Ĥanafī madh’hab but permitted in other madh’habs; there are ĥadīth that mention permissibility of eating horse meat.

[10] Samāá: which is commonly translated as music; but this was without musical instruments and just vocals.

[11] Raqş: those listening to devotional poetry sometimes jump in a state of ecstasy and joy which is termed ĥajal. It is reported in Musnad al-Bazzār, Musnad Imām Aĥmed, Al-Ādāb and Sunan al-Kubrā of Bayhaqī, Mukhtārah of Điyā’a al-Maqdisi,  narrating from Sayyidunā Álī h that he said:

I came to RasūlAllāh with Jaáfar and Zayd and he told Zayd: “You are my bondsman” and he jumped with joy; [and Álī narrates] that he told Jaáfar: “You resemble me the most in appearance and character” and he began jumping with joy behind Zayd; [and Álī narrates] he told me: “You are from me, and I from you” and I began to jump behind Jaáfar. [Musnad Imām Aĥmed: Musnad Álī ibn Abi Ţālib]

Dancing mentioned here is involuntary and spontaneous jumping for joy, not the deliberate synchronous and breaking movements, sashaying like women or shaking the midriffs and hips; tapping toes rythmically, prancing and chassé etc. which are all forbidden forms of dancing. The dancing of Abyssinians mentioned in the ĥadīth is about irregular movements and play-acting a sword-fight with weapons, and jumping. Allāh táālā knows best.

[12] As mentioned earlier, dīnār was a gold coin weighing 4.25 grams; 300,000 coins are approximately 1275 kilograms of gold, which would cost 67.5 million US dollars in 2013.

[13] Famously known as Sultan Salaĥuddīn Ayyubī or Saladin in the west, he is the victorious king and the vanquisher of crusaders, Abu’l Mużaffar Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb [532-589] who won back Jerusalem for Muslims. [Bidayah wa’n Nihāyah, 16/651, Events of the Year 589]

[14] Dirham: silver coin; a thousand silvers equalled one gold coin, a dīnār.

[15] Aĥmed ibn Muĥammad ibn Ibrāhīm ibn Abū Bakr ibn Khallikān [602-672] al-Arbilī: authority on history and literature, author of Wafyāt al-Aáyān.

[16] Al-Tanwīr fī Mawlidi’l Bashīr al-Nadhīr.