Muslims’ culturally rooted love for Prophet manifests in his birthday commemorations

Muslims’ culturally rooted love for Prophet manifests in his birthday commemorations
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The faithful pay their respects at the tomb of Prophet Muhammad at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. The culture of love toward the symbol of Islam is found in almost all aspects of its followers’ lives. (SPA)
Muslims’ culturally rooted love for Prophet manifests in his birthday commemorations
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Updated 08 November 2020

Muslims’ culturally rooted love for Prophet manifests in his birthday commemorations

Muslims’ culturally rooted love for Prophet manifests in his birthday commemorations
  • Mawlid — special occasion adopted two and a half centuries after his death — is celebrated in a spiritual atmosphere

JEDDAH: More than 2 billion Muslims in the world, regardless of sect or group, believe that loving the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is a fundamental Islamic tenet, an innate feeling of closeness celebrated annually in his birth month.

With Saudi Arabia recently lifting the ban on visiting the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, coinciding with the Prophet’s birth month, a sense of calm has been restored to the millions who want to come to pray in one of Islam’s holiest mosques.
For Muslims everywhere, the prophet is the most influential man in the world, a man possessing the highest moral excellence even before he became prophet. Different sources show that he was well-respected even by those who rejected his message.
The most obvious manifestations of Muslims’ love for the Prophet are the Mawlid celebrations, where Muslims commemorate the Prophet’s birth in a spiritual atmosphere. It is the expression of their love for the Prophet, a very special occasion that was adopted by Muslims two-and-a-half centuries after his death.
The Prophet’s birthday is fixed by tradition as the 12th day of the month of Rabi Al-Awwal—the third month of the Islamic calendar. It is said that he was born in 570 in Makkah and died in 632 in Madinah, where he had been forced go with his adherents in 622.
In the Hijaz region of western Saudi Arabia, many people consider Rabi Al-Awwal a month of celebration, so they take part in various charitable activities throughout the month, distributing food to the poor and donating money to local organizations. However, special attention is dedicated to the 12th night, the Mawlid.

It is a simple celebration where we gather to hear of his Sira (Life) and listen to Madh (Praise) that has been written for him, which has many sources in poetry and prose.

Usama Al-Kubaisi

It is written in Ibn Kathir: “The Night of the Prophet’s birth is a magnificent, noble, blessed and holy night, a night of bliss for the believers, pure, radiant with lights and of immeasurable price.”
“It is a simple celebration where we gather to hear of his Sira (Life) and listen to Madh (Praise) that has been written for him, which has many sources in poetry and prose,” Usama Al-Kubaisi told Arab News. “Since it is boring to read a prose text in a group of people, we collectively read poetry, recite prayers to the Prophet and remember his moral characteristics and the blessing of his message.”
There is no one way or one text used in these celebrations. Mawlid authorship is diverse and gathers different schools of thoughts, including Sufi, Shaf’i, Hanafi and even Hanbali. Texts usually tell his story of his life in detail, from his birth through all events in his life until his death, mentioning his looks, morals and noble deeds to remember him and follow his example.
Some of the best known texts read during Mawlids in Saudi Arabia are those by Al-Sakhawi, Al-Barzanji, and Al-Qawuqji, which describe the Prophet’s characteristics and features.

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Some well-known families in Hijaz celebrate it and hold annual gatherings such as in the house of the scholar Muhammad Alawi Al-Maliki, in Makkah.

“In Islam, we have the philosophy of dhikr or remembrance, it is a remedy to human’s deep-rooted forgetfulness. Therefore, we always need something to make us remember, draw attention back to ourselves, wonder about our truth, and look at what actually occupies our hearts and minds, our hopes and our goals. Occasions such as Mawlid play a similar role in a Muslim’s life,” Al-Kubaisi said.
Dhikr is at the heart of Islam and is practiced to build divine connection at different levels. Al-Kubaisi compares the Mawlid’s value for a Muslim’s life to the obligatory five daily prayers. However, the Mawlid is an annual reminder.
Although some people question the religious validity of such celebrations, Ibn Taymiyya, one of the most well-respected Islamic scholars, said the celebration of Mawlid “is good and in it there is a great reward,” as it motivates people to follow the Prophet’s perfect example.
“In Saudi Arabia, Mawlid is celebrated mostly by Sufis or admirers of the Sufi practice in the Kingdom but is not limited to them. However, it is not accepted by the Salafis.” Fadhel, from Jeddah, said.
“Some well-known families in Hijaz celebrate it and hold annual gatherings such as in the house of the scholar Muhammad Alawi Al-Maliki, in Makkah.”

The Night of the Prophet’s birth is a magnificent, noble, blessed and holy night.

Ibn Kathir

Fadhel who grew up as a Salafi, went on a long journey studying the different Islamic schools before he finally believed in the permissibility of Mawlid celebrations as it promotes love, kindness, and compassion. He now invites his friends to join these meetings every year.
He said that Mawlid is a better experience in a large gathering. However, it is possible for a person to celebrate it on their own or with the family by practicing any form of worship or expression of joy on that day, such as reading the Prophet’s life, popular poems about him, saying prayers to him and making donations or distributing sweets.
“It is not limited to men — women also celebrate it doing the same activities,” said Fadhel, “Families can set up their own celebrations, where both men and women gather to read and recite together,” as a display of happiness and lawful merriment.  
Yaman Fattouh, from Madinah, belongs to a family with a Sufi heritage. He grew up with Mawlid gatherings from a young age, “I was lucky to have such a childhood growing up with the Prophet’s stories and serving people who gathered to remember his noble character, which has surely influenced my life beautifully.”
He explained that although the word Mawlid refers to the day when the Prophet was born, it also refers to the celebration which used to take place several times a year in Madinah, especially during Hajj and Umrah seasons, in which pilgrims also took part.
“There were various places and mosques that used to carry out such activities, and pilgrims from different Arab and Muslim countries would also join in — groups from Egypt, Morocco, and Syria would also share their Mawlid style and singing,” Fattouh said.
This rich heritage of genuine love for Prophet Muhammad takes the form of many types of celebration, whether they are religious events or even social occasions around Arab countries.
Some Muslims even developed an etiquette of gestures that has no religious foundation but is a sign of respect and love. For instance, some would stand when the name of the Prophet is mentioned, while others will place their hand on their hearts and lower their heads.
This culture of love toward the symbol of Islam is found in almost all aspects of its followers’ lives. It revolves around him, his names exists in all of their rituals, prayers, traditions and supplication, and the more they remember him and abide by his example the closer they will be to him in paradise.


Meet Shihana Alazzaz, the PIF executive making Saudi women proud

Meet Shihana Alazzaz, the PIF executive making Saudi women proud
Updated 21 min 47 sec ago

Meet Shihana Alazzaz, the PIF executive making Saudi women proud

Meet Shihana Alazzaz, the PIF executive making Saudi women proud
  • At 16 Shihana Alazzaz fought in the courts for her family's inheritance
  • She says she hopes her success can be seen by other women as motivation

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s stance on women and their place in society remains firmly under the spotlight – with many questioning if anything has changed - that’s despite the countless female engineers, managers and boardroom directors that the Kingdom so proudly boasts of.

Still not convinced?

Then consider Shihana Alazzaz, the general counsel and Secretary-General to the board at the Public Investment Fund PIF – you might recognize her.

She was the woman sitting across from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as he addressed a historic meeting on Sunday night.

Women’s status in Saudi society has been on the up since the launch of Vision 2030 in 2016, enabling them to pursue professions and positions of power they had only previously dreamt of – and Alazzaz’s story acts as a beacon of this achievement.

Impressed by her  credentials, many took to social media to voice their appreciation of her presence at the otherwise male-dominated table.

Twitter user @ibrahimaljallal described her as “An excellent model for Saudi women. Her competitiveness at work is the same as any man.”

Alazzaz first joined PIF as the head of transactions in the legal division in 2017.

She is now a member of the management committee at PIF, as well as other executive committees in the fund.

Alazzaz also chairs and serves on several boards and board committees of PIF portfolio companies. 

Her rise to success was not an easy one.

Her father’s death in 2002 saw her in the Saudi courts at just 16-years-old where - filled with grief – she fought for her family’s inheritance.

Armed with a handwritten note by her father, she fought long and hard to fulfill her father’s final wishes - that their guardian be her mother’s brother.

Despite her hardships, she refused to be a victim, instead choosing to chase her goals, pursue her education and make her life a success.

With her mother’s support she travelled to the UK, where she achieved her bachelor’s degree in law at Durham University.

Years later in 2019 the Kingdom’s guardianship laws saw a major overhaul as part of the ongoing Vision 2030.

The changes allowed Saudi women over 21 to be allowed to apply for passports and travel freely without the permission of a male guardian.

Other changes issued in the decrees permitted women to register a marriage, divorce, or child’s birth and to be issued official family documents – and most relevantly to Alazzaz – women were equally allowed to be their children’s guardian.

Alazzaz continued with her studies and achieved her license to practice law at the Supreme Court of New York and Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Justice.

This in itself was major achievement as women lawyers were only allowed to be granted a license to practice from 2013 by the Ministry of Justice.

Non-conformity seems to have run in her family.

Her father, Saleh Alazzaz, chose an equally unconventional career path for a Saudi, as a photographer and author – both fields previously deemed taboo in the Kingdom - having dropped out of college where he was studying engineering.

He was diagnosed with cancer when he was 40-years-old – previously seen as a healthy man - his illness shocked the family – his death 18 months later left them devastated.

Saleh was celebrated for originality, his keen eye and passion - some of his most acclaimed pieces were conceived when he was ill.

Prior to joining PIF, Alazzaz was a practicing lawyer for nine years at various international law firms where she gained exposure to legal advisory services, transactions, and litigation across multiple sectors.

She has received recognition for her work locally, regionally and internationally.

She made Forbes Middle East’s 100 Most Powerful Women of 2020, and received multiple awards including Finance Monthly Deal Maker Awards 2016, and the Women in Business Law award presented by the International Financial Law Review (IFLR).

In an interview with KRCL RadioActive in 2017 Shihana said, “My role is to ensure that I’m not the only one. And to ensure that I encourage a lot of other females to pursue this convoluted path.”

 “I think we’ve accomplished quite a lot in a very short period of time,” she added.