Saturday 21 March 2020 (27th night of Rajab 1441)
by Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
It is the night of 27th Rajab, one of the most auspicious and crucial nights in the Islamic calendar. This night is probably the most auspicious, after Lailatul Qadr. This night reminds us of two very, very important events, seen as the turning points in the history of mankind.
Firstly, Mab’ath ie. the first revelation and commencement of the Prophetic mission of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). Secondly, as we all know, this is also the night of Me’raj (ascension) of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) from Mecca to Masjidul Aqsa, and from there to the heavens.
Of course, the first aspect of tonight, namely Mab’ath, is in simple terms, the birthday of Islam, because Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) was commanded to start his divine mission of conveying the final message of Almighty Allah (SWT) to humanity, known as Islam. That is why it is the birthday of Islam.
The second aspect of this auspicious night is the Me’raj, the great honour of the heavenly ascent of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). This is one of the concrete proofs and evidence of his prophethood and authenticity of his divine message from Almighty Allah (SWT) unto the whole of humanity until the day of judgement.
PROPHETHOOD OF NABI MUHAMMAD (SAWA) STARTED BEFORE NABI ADAM (A.S)
Regarding Mab’ath, which I want to primarily focus on in this discussion, it should be clearly noted that it is the day of the commencement of Prophethood and the prophetic mission. It is the public announcement that the final messenger of Almighty Allah (SWT) and the best of creation is conveying His message to the world.
That being said, it does not mean that Rasulullah (SAWA) became a prophet on this day. Especially in the school of Ahlul Bait (a.s), we understand that the commencement of his role as a divine Prophet (a.s) is the last of the 124,000 divinely appointed Prophets (a.s). However, the actual prophethood of Nabi Muhammad (SAWA) is the first ie. before Nabi Adam (a.s)! In this regard, it is recorded in Hadith from Rasulullah (SAWA) where he says that he was a divine Prophet (a.s) before Nabi Adam (a.s) was even created!
The beautiful dua which the Ahlul Bait (a.s) have recommended for us to recite on this auspicious night explains that this is the night of the greatest manifestation. The physical manifestation may have been delayed to the end of the prophetic chain of 124,000 but the truth and reality of this prophethood existed before everybody. This is very important for us to understand on the subject of Mab’ath and Prophethood of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).
THIS AUSPICIOUS NIGHT IS FOR US TO TAKE STOCK OF OURSELVES
The Holy Quran, being the final message and revelation of Almighty Allah (SWT) towards humanity, through and via Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) speaks on various occasions, explaining the purpose of this revelation. Why was Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) sent down to this world? This is one aspect of discussion on an auspicious night like this.
Another aspect to discuss, which I want to draw your attention to on this night, is regarding the divine message which Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) brought, by the name of Islam. He conveyed it throughout his life via the Holy Quran and his Sunnah ie. his words and his practical lifestyle.
Today, Islam is present in every continent, in every country and in almost every city. This religion has more than a billion followers. Alhamdu Lillah, vast natural resources are at the disposal of Muslims too. It also carries a rich history despite the many challenges. The great civilization and achievements of Islam is there across the ages.
The message which our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) brought to this world on the day of 27th Rajab starts with the revelation of the first verse of the Surah Alaq (chapter 96 of the Holy Quran):
اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ
“Read in the name of your Lord Who created.”
We are followers of this religion in huge numbers across the world, and we cannot appreciate Almighty Allah (SWT) sufficiently for this greatest favour from Him unto humanity, in the form of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). However, the question is do we as Muslims really understand the message? Have we followed and practiced this message? Are the outstanding qualities and characteristics of this religion reflected in our character, approach and interaction with the rest of the world? These are the serious questions which requires introspection.
I would like to draw your attention to a few very basic fibres of this religion of Islam, highlighting some of the very important and striking attributes of this message of Islam, as follows:
- The universal message of Islam is for all humanity;
- The revelation of Islam was a message of rationality and reasoning;
- The message of Rasulullah (SAWA) is to perfect the standards of moral character
UNIVERSAL MESSAGE OF ISLAM – FOR ALL HUMANITY!
This religion addressed humanity as a whole. The message of this religion has a universal nature. We know this from when Rasulullah (SAWA) declared that he is a divine Prophet (a.s) to everyone. This is the cornerstone of the Muhammadean mission. It is a universal message, which does not restrict itself to a particular religious group.
Of course, this message came for all of humanity. Those who have accepted and embraced this message, Alhamdu Lillah. They became part of the Ummah of Islam (Muslim nation). However, the universality of the human foundation of this message of Islam is all-inclusive. This is highly emphasized in the Holy Quran and in the teachings of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).
Unfortunately, the reality before us today indicates that we have ignored this fibre of the Islamic message. We think that this message only belongs to those who embraced it, and on that basis, we arrogantly sideline everyone else and declare them as outsiders, not having a care or concern for them since they are not part of “us”.
Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) very clearly established a principle point, when he declared that he has been commanded to come along with the people. We find this position to be congruent with the Quranic position expressed in verse 107 of Surah Anbiyaa (chapter 21):
وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا رَحْمَةً لِلْعَالَمِينَ
“And We have not sent you but as a mercy to the worlds.”
Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) brought the message of salvation for the whole world, and therefore he is the mercy to all the worlds. This is the primary level of his universal mercy. However, he is also the mercy to those who do not accept his message of salvation!
In fact, the very nature of Islam carries this universal declaration of mercy, where we find that every chapter of the Holy Quran (except Surah Tauba – chapter 9) starts with “Bismilla hirahmanir rahim”. This is an important reminder to us about “Rahman” and “Rahim”. “Rahman” refers to the inclusive mercy of Almighty Allah (SWT), meaning His mercy extends to all those who do not believe in Him. “Rahim” refers to His mercy granted to those who believe and have faith in Him.
Unfortunately, this humane reading of Islam has been ignored, when in fact, it is very strong. Hence, this night requires us to highlight the universality of this human and inclusive message of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). Our attitude should reflect this human nature in society.
REVELATION OF ISLAM – A MESSAGE OF RATIONALITY AND REASONING
This is the second crucial quality to emphasize in the message of Islam on the occasion of Mab’ath ie. the start of the divine revelation to Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). All other faith traditions tend to have some form of conflict with rationality, while this message of Islam is one based upon rationality and coherent reasoning. It is in complete cohesion with rationality and reasoning. There is nothing unreasonable or irrational by the name of Islam. This is one of the most outstanding qualities of Islam.
Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) insisted on the approach of rationality, interacting with all sectors of society on the level of their intellectual capacity. He said that we should not be deceived by people who engross themselves in extensive transactions of fasting and salaah, until we see their levels of rationality and sound reasoning.
Many religions before the advent of Islam carried superstitions. The superstitious approach strengthened them. However, Rasulullah (SAWA) fought with this mentality. One very well-known example narrated in history is when his son passed away.
It was naturally a very sad day for him, and he was quite upset about it. Coincidentally, there was also a sun eclipse on the same day. People told Rasulullah (SAWA) as a means of trying to console him that the sun eclipse is as a result of this sad day of passing of his son.
After the burial of his son, Rasulullah (SAWA) immediately gathered everybody in the mosque to clear up confusion to those who tried to create this superstition. He explained that the sun and moon are the creation of Almighty Allah (SWT) and the eclipse is one of His signs, so much so that we are ordered to pray when it appears, to praise the great powers He possesses.
He explained that the sun eclipse is a natural phenomenon, created by Almighty Allah (SWT), and has nothing to do with the death of his son. He refused to exploit the emotions of the masses to strengthen his position. He does not want people to be enthralled with Islam through superstitions and imagination. We need to evaluate where are we in relation to this!
We saw how reckless our people were in reaction to the coronavirus outbreak in China a couple of months ago, trying to convince that it is the punishment of Almighty Allah (SWT) on the Chinese, due to their deplorable treatment of Muslims. Even now, we see how people react in an irrational manner due to this terrible global pandemic having brought the world to its knees. And then they attach the stamp of Islam to their illogical conclusions, which defies basic intellectual standards.
They do not understand that Islam does not go against the natural formula of cause and effect. There is a hadith from Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s), where he says that Almighty Allah (SWT) avoids intervening in the system of cause and effect. Therefore, there is a reason for everything, and the world operates in accordance with this system of cause and effect.
Besides this system, there is of course the great institution of dua (supplication) together with dawaa (remediation). The faculty of dua is rational and follows the same natural system of cause and effect. We seek mercy from Almighty Allah (SWT), but we do not act irrationally against His system, making Islam a joke in front of the world. This is not the religion of Islam whose birthday it is on the auspicious day of 27 Rajab!
Indeed, there is no doubt that acts of worship are a remedy, but they move along with medical remedies. In fact, our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) referred to a doctor when he fell ill. Similarly, when Imam Ali (a.s) got injured in one of the battles, the doctor came forward to attend to his injury. We continue to see this trend in history with the Imams of Ahlul Bait (a.s) too. This is how the natural system works, while dua is an important remedy in conjunction with medical treatment.
This revelation of religion called humanity towards a message with rationality and reasoning!
MISSION OF RASULULLAH (SAWA) – PERFECT THE STANDARDS OF MORAL CHARACTER
This critical point is emphasized repeatedly in the teaching of the Holy Quran and Prophetic Sunnah, where he establishes this principle in his declaration of Prophethood. Morality (Akhlaq) – our attitude and behaviour towards other people, and the types of relationships we have with them. Hence, we have good akhlaq and bad akhlaq.
If one pays careful attention to the wording of this Hadith “Innama bu’ithtu li-u-tammima makarimul akhlaq” we understand clearly what Rasulullah (SAWA) is saying, that he has been appointed as a divine Prophet (a.s) to this world, to complete and perfect the highest traits of morality.
Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) has emphasized this pillar of the Islamic message excessively, to the point where he says that religion is nothing but Akhlaq! He was the manifestation of the greatest of morality and ethical standards, which nobody can reach, as referred to in verse 4 of Surah Qalam (chapter 68 of the Holy Quran):
وَإِنَّكَ لَعَلَىٰ خُلُقٍ عَظِيمٍ
“And most surely you conform (yourself) to sublime morality.”
One can imagine how lonely and strange it was in that era, especially in the early days where there were only a handful of devotees around Rasulullah (SAWA). There is absolutely no doubt about this fact of history, that the progress of Islam was achieved through the sublime moral character of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). This is how the religion of Islam captured the hearts of people and flourished, crossing the oceans and continents.
Verse 159 of Surah aal-Imraan (chapter 3 of the Holy Quran) is another relevant verse emphasizing the morality of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA):
فَبِمَا رَحْمَةٍ مِنَ اللَّهِ لِنْتَ لَهُمْ ۖ وَلَوْ كُنْتَ فَظًّا غَلِيظَ الْقَلْبِ لَانْفَضُّوا مِنْ حَوْلِكَ ۖ
“Thus it is due to mercy from Allah that you deal with them gently, and had you been rough, hard hearted, they would certainly have dispersed from around you.”
It is through his humility and every aspect of his sublime morality that people were magnetized to him. Islam is the manifestation of “Rahmaniyyah” (the all-inclusive mercy of Allah (SWT)) and “Rahimiyyah” (the mercy for the believers). The greatest manifestation of this mercy was indeed our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).
This sublime morality of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) is itself a very long discussion! We can look at his attitude towards his own household, his companions and fellow human beings and even his enemies. The mercy he displayed towards the worst enemies and how he melted their hearts! This is the very natural fibre of this religion of Islam.
In conclusion, let us remember these 3 very important qualities from the message of Islam and use it as the scorecard to review our condition in relation to these 3 striking attributes of Islam.
Me’raj is the journey of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) towards the heavens. Hadith narrations articulate the communication between him and his Lord (SWT) when he reached the heavens. This communication was saturated in love between the lover and the beloved. Again, this love is the core of the night of Me’raj and philosophy of this heavenly journey of love.
This love manifested in the message of Islam, in the form of its humanity, rationality and morality.