Saturday, November 16, 2019

Azzawia Mawlud : feeling happy for the Prophet is faith

IT is strange that the late Mufti Bin Baz’s fatwa forbidding the celebration of the mawlud is seen by some as the only edict on the matter. This is strange because there are literally hundreds of legal opinions that differ with him on the permissibility of remembering the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday.

Yet, bizarrely, Bin Baz’s solitary view is often seen as Islam itself.

These were the words of Shaykh Ahmad Hendricks, an imam at the Azzawia mosque in Cape Town, where mawlud was first observed on its premises in 1920 by his grand-father, Shaykh Muhammad Salih Hendricks. Shaykh Muhammad Salih, who passed on in 1945, introduced the Barzanji mawlud, which he brought from Zanzibar, where he spent a year as its chief Qadi, or judge, in 1903. 

To feel happiness at the birth of the Prophet, said Shaykh Ahmad, was a part of Shari’ah, or Sacred Law. It was endorsed by Ibn Taymiyya, who affirmed that people celebrated the mawlud out of joy for the Prophet. Joy at the birth of Muhammad (pbuh) was, therefore, permissible.

He added that this was borne out by the experience of one of the Prophet’s uncles, Abu Lahab. In a validated tradition, it is recorded that Abu Lahab – who became one of the Prophet’s worst enemies – is granted temporary respite from the flames of hell due to his celebrating his nephew’s birth, which he did by freeing a slave girl, Thuwaybah.

We are not given to insulting people, stated Shaykh Ahmad, but based on this single Hadith alone, one would have to doubt the faith of anyone who was not happy about the birth of the blessed Prophet (pbuh).

This was further corroborated by the Messenger of God informing his Companions he fasted every Monday. Why? Because Monday was the day he was born. This is clear proof that the Prophet (pbuh) celebrated his own birthday.

That was the underlying principle: the Prophet (pbuh) celebrated his birthday. How could there be any other interpretation? This could not mean that remembering birthdays was forbidden.

Leading from this, continued the Shaykh, was an accepted notion that the Prophet’s voluntary fasting commemorating his birthday could be replaced by other praiseworthy devotion – such as sadaqah (voluntary charity), salawat (citation of blessings on the Prophet) and dhikr (remembering God) – without contravening the Shari’ah.

Furthermore, due to the Prophet fasting throughout the year, there was the explicit social benefit that mawlud could be commemorated at any time, from the month of  Muharram right through to Dhul Hijjah, and not just be confined to Rabi ul-Awwal, the month of his noble birth.

Quoting the famous scholar, Imam Hajr al-Asqalani, Shaykh Ahmad said that the Prophet (pbuh) also commemorated historical events. For example, the fast of the Jews on Ashura, in remembrance of their liberation from the Pharaoh, inspired the Prophet to recommend that Muslims fast during the first ten days of Muharram, which marks the beginning of lunar New Year.

As for those who patronisingly accuse us of mimicking Jewish or Christian customs: we fully respect their festivities, but the truth is that we act on our own principles and beliefs, he said.

Shaykh Ahmad continued that the Holy Qur’an has ordered us to be happy with Allah’s Mercies, with the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – the first light of His Creation being the first one created by God and the last one sent by God.

As the Qur’an states, “(O Muhammad)…have we not sent you except as a Mercy to the all the Worlds”. Surely this was proof enough to celebrate his existence?

In another instance, Allah calls the Prophet a prophet of “deep caring and mercy” in the most praiseworthy language possible, in terms not used for any other prophet, at the end of Surat ul-Tawbah (the Chapter of Repentance and Return).

Therefore, it is highly recommended to show happiness at the life of the Prophet.

Shaykh Ahmad stated that Surat ul-Hujjarat, an excellent chapter on outlining noble human conduct, also ordered us to honour the Prophet (pbuh). For instance, we are told: “Do not raise your voices above the voice of the Prophet…”

Then there was the verse exhorting us to perform salawat, the constant citation of peace and blessings upon the Prophet, as practiced by the Angels.

Shaykh Ahmad went on to say that naysayers would often evoke the idea that because the Prophet did not practice something in his lifetime, it would not be permissible after his lifetime. This was a fallacious argument, and not one accepted by any credible faqih, or legal scholar.

Besides, if this principle were to be applied, on one level we would still be riding donkeys and praying in mosques without loudspeakers. On another, we would not be able to practice the tarawih prayers during Ramadan, for instance, regarded by Sayyidina ‘Umar, as a “bida’h hasanah”, an acceptable innovation in Islam.

Nor for that matter, would we be reading the current version of the Qur’an, its sections gathered together after the Prophet’s earthly demise.

Furthermore, the notion that if the Prophet left off something it became forbidden, was as equally fallacious as the idea that if he didn’t practice something in his life it became unlawful. Shaykh Ahmad recalled the incident when the Prophet refused to eat roasted lizard. When quizzed by his Companions, he replied that he didn’t eat it because it wasn’t to his taste, not because it was haram.

Shaykh Ahmad said that the practice of the mawlud was regarded as a bida’h, yes, but a bida’h hasanah. It was a permissible practice for whom the innovator of a “new Sunnah” would get a due reward from the Divine for its benefits to others.

So what do we do on the mawlud?  We make salawat, the citation of peace and blessings upon the Prophet, said Shaykh Ahmad, adding that salawat was an integral to forgiveness and invocation, and that the Prophet himself had said that a person who did not make salawat was a spiritual miser.

All the mawlud kitabs reminded us of the Prophet; they reminded us in soaring verses about his life and his qualities. So how could they be haram?

We should imbue the values of the Prophet (pbuh) by getting as close to him as possible by remembering his qualities, his life, his miracles and his mercies. This should inspire us to strive to do our best for mankind; to do this without anger, arrogance or aggression, but by being humble and compassionate.

For this reason, every component of the mawlud is Deen, the practice of our faith. What protects us from the fitnah, the great mischief, of our times is our love and link to the Prophet (pbuh). We should make the salawat repeatedly until the very essence of the most merciful of mankind takes root in our souls, said Shaykh Ahmad.

Preparing for the mawlud.

Perfuming the Zawiyya with buhur.

King Protea for the best of mankind.

Shaykh Ahmad Hendricks addresses the occasion.

Listening attentively.
Reciting verses on the Prophet (pbuh).

Photos copyright Shafiq Morton

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Prophet's Birthday Centred on Mercy

God has Mercy on the Merciful

THE Dai'rat us-Salihiyyah Dhikr Circle, led by Hajjah Naeema Manie, celebrated its 16th annual Mawlud un-Nabi (the birth of the Prophet Muhammad) at Grassy Park mosque this month.

Attended by nearly 500 women exquisitely dressed in white, riwayats (accounts of the Prophet’s life) were recited as well as verses from the Qur’an  together with dhikr (the melodious remembrance of Allah).

Keynote speaker was Shaykh Seraj Hendricks, imam at the Azzawia mosque and a well-known local scholar, who framed his informative talk around the concept of mercy and the famous Prophetic axiom: “The merciful will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful. Be merciful to those on the earth, and Allah will have Mercy upon you.”

According to Hendricks, who quoted from Imam al-Ghazali to reinforce his point, the whole ethos of humankind had to be supported by mercy; mercy combined with a wise use of our God-given intellect that things such extremism, hate and marginalisation were not part of  being Muslim.

The Dairat us-Salihiyyah Dhikr Circle meets on a weekly basis and is involved in various outreach programmes throughout the year.

Sh Seraj addresses the gathering.

© Shafiq Morton & Dai'rat us-Salihiyyah 2019

Yes, we are Uyinene

A tribute to Women’s Month

ATTACKS by men on women – an endemic problem in our society condemned by all but still in practice – has shot to prominence due to the particularly tragic homicide of University of Cape Town student, Uyinene Mrwetyana.

Mrwetyana, a bubbly 19-year-old first year film and media studies student, went to the Clareinch post office to inquire about a parcel, but was told by the accused – a 42 year old clerk Luyando Botha –  to come back later because the electricity was off.

She returned, and Botha now alone at the post office, assaulted and raped her. According to the police, her spirited resistance caused him to bludgeon her to death. He later burnt and dumped her body at Lingelethu West in Khayelitsha.

Uyinene’s horrifying demise had been preceded by the cold-blooded shooting of 25 year-old champion boxer, Leighandre Jegels, by an ex-boyfriend (who had a restraining order against him), and Meghan Cremer, an avid horse rider, killed by three men known to her who tied her up and took her car.

Uyinene’s brutal murder awoke the nation, reeling from gender violence, into an unprecedented outpouring of anger and grief. A march to parliament saw police minister, Bheki Cele, booed by an impassioned crowd when he tried to address it.

For South African women traumatised by violence, Uyinene’s killing has proved to be the final straw – and the gauntlet has been thrown to government to act with real purpose and genuine political will.

But the sad fact is that the killings will continue, because South Africa is a world leader in what is known as “femicide”, the murder of women by men. South African Police Service figures reveal that in 2017-18 one woman was killed every three hours. And if that statistic doesn’t jar enough, 15.2 women out of every 100 000 will be killed in South Africa this year.

The World Health Organisation has our murder rate of women at 4.8 times higher than the global average, and out of 183 countries, we are fourth on the league of shame – only after Honduras, Jamaica and Lesotho.

Tragically, much of our gender violence brews in deprived environments. Angry, hungry and unemployed males, emasculated by their lack of skills, a lack of education and crippled by economic despair, are very often perpetrators. Due to their low self-esteem, violence creates the only power dynamic they know.

Sadly, the latter is not just confined to the poor. Gender violence can be a middle-upper-class thing too, the recent convictions of sociopathic wife-killers Jason Rohde and Rob Packham in Western Cape courts, an established case in point.

Of course, whatever I say cannot lift the very real grief and calm the justifiable fury so many South Africans are feeling right now. But it is in such moments of darkness that I become grateful to know Islam – not in the patronising sense of thinking it makes me better than anyone else, no. That is not the case.

Rather, my consolation is in the sense that our history shows us how gender violence and gender apartheid were done away by the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). By changing perceptions on women through his wise actions, the Prophet (SAW) ensured that women did not have to be the victims.

He forbade the practice of female infanticide practiced by the Arab tribes, especially in times of drought. This cruel custom of burying baby girls alive, so that there could be more boys, came to an end in the 7th century. The Prophet (SAW) also prohibited the social isolation of women during their haid, or monthly courses.

Then the Prophet (SAW) broke the patriarchal mould, and all the stereotypes, by not only working for a business woman, Sayyidah Khadijah, but marrying her after she had proposed to him as an older woman. This would set the trend later on when women would play a central, and affirming, role in the development of Islam.

For instance, the ways of the Prophet (pbuh) would drive out the notion that women had to play specific roles in society when he did his own housework, mended his clothes and fixed his sandals. Wives are the truest witnesses to exactly whom their men are, and Sayyidah A’ishah once said in response to a question that at home, the Prophet (pbuh) embodied the mercy of the Qur’an.

The Prophet even used to comfort the slave women of Madinah and Makkah. And at a time of great stress – when the Companions were angry with him after he signed the Treaty of Hudaibiyya – it was his wife, Umm Salama, who consoled him, and gave him the advice that broke the impasse.

When it came to war, it was Nusaybah bint Ka’b, a nurse who took up a sword to defend the Prophet (pbuh) at Uhud, who became one of Islam’s fiercest battle commanders. In the field of knowledge it was Hafsah, another wife of the Prophet, who was entrusted with keeping the first compilation of the Qur’an.

There are just so many shining examples of how women were at the forefront during the establishment of Islam, contributing economically, socially, militarily and academically. This is what always gives me hope. Allah tells us in the Qur’an that women are the partners of men, and that men are the partners of women, and that men and women are equal before the Divine Court.

And as I conclude this, there is a consoling image in my mind. It is of a radiant Uyinene, freed from her earthly bonds and liberated from her injustice, being reassured by the noble Prophet that all is going to be fine.