The Month of Rabi’ al-Awwal & the Sunna of the Noble Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)
A thought-provoking discourse of Hazrat Maulana Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani Saheb دامت برکاتہم delivered on Friday, 7th Rabia’ul Awwal 1437 AH/ 18 th December 2015, at Masjid Baitul Mukarram, Karachi; and rendered into English by Maulana Muhammad ibn Adam حفظہ اللہ تعالی of the UK.
الحمد لله نحمده ونستعينه ونستغفره ونؤمن به ونتوكل عليه، ونعوذ بالله من شرور أنفسنا ومن سيئات أعمالنا، من يهده الله فلا مضل له ومن يضلله فلا هادي له، وأشهد أن لا إله إلا الله وحده لا شريك له، وأشهد أن سيدنا ومولانا محمدا عبده ورسوله صلى الله تعالى عليه وعلى آله وأصحابه وبارك وسلم تسليما كثيرا، أما بعد
فأعوذ بالله من الشيطان الرجيم، بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم:
} [لَقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِي رَسُولِ اللَّهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ لِمَنْ كَانَ يَرْجُو اللَّهَ وَالْيَوْمَ الْآخِرَ وَذَكَرَ اللَّهَ كَثِيرًا} [الأحزاب: 21
“There is indeed a good model for you in the Messenger of Allah – for the one who has hope in Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah profusely.” (Qur’an 33:21)
آمنت بالله صدق الله مولانا العظيم وصدق رسوله النبي الكريم ونحن على ذلك من الشاهدين والشاكرين، والحمد لله رب العالمين.
My honorable elders and dear brothers,
السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته
Seeing that the month of Rabi’ al-Awwal has commenced, I would like to discuss a few matters in relation to it. May Allah Most High make it beneficial for us all, Ameen.
Rabi’ al-Awwal is an extremely blessed month in view of the fact that Rasulullah (Allah bless him & give him peace) was born in it, and that Allah ta’ālā chose this month to bestow upon the whole of humanity His great favour and sent His Messenger to the world in it. Given this, it would be correct to say that had there been a concept in Islam of celebrating birthdays, no other day would have been more worthy for this than the birthday of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace). The reason for this is that Allah ta’ālā, in this day, granted the whole of mankind a means of guidance in order to guide them till the end of time.
However, Allah ta’ālā has made this Dīn such that it does not promote mere ‘customary’ rituals, and thus there is no concept of celebrating birthdays or commemorating deaths in Islam. The Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) – whose generation lived up to 100 years after the Messenger of Allah’s (peace and blessings be upon him) departure from this world – never made a point of celebrating his birthday. These Companions were so enthusiastically devoted to Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) that they would not even let the blessed saliva which exited his mouth fall onto the ground; rather, they would wipe their bodies with it. Such was their devotion, yet they never celebrated his birthday. It is not reported from a single companion that he or she carried out a specific customary ritual to celebrate the birthday of Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) on the 12th of Rabi’ al-Awwal.
Their vision was set on the reality that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) has come with a very significant message for the whole of humanity, and that [true] love and respect for him necessitates acting upon his teachings. As such, the Companions never celebrated particular days with lights and decorations, but their hearts were illuminated with candles of love for Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him); there was a constant yearning in their hearts to act upon his ways and teachings, and mould their lives in accordance with it. Every moment of their life was spent in explaining, teaching and implementing the Sirah and Sunna of Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), and they wholeheartedly embraced his teachings. As a result, Allah ta’ālā granted them success, honour and respect the world over to the point that great superpowers like Qaysar and Kisra succumbed before their supremacy.
Today, we feel ashamed of acting upon the Sunna of Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him). We are happy to ‘celebrate’ the Mawlid/Milad with decorations, illumination, and symbols of the green dome, but when it comes to implementing the ways and teachings of Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) – in every aspect of life – we slack off.
In the month of Rabi’ al-Awwal, we organize gatherings, events and conferences to remember the blessed Sirah of Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), but I ask all of you and myself the following question: After attending any one of these events, do we begin acting upon a Sunna that we were not acting upon prior to attending the event? Do we see a change in our lives? How many sins and mistakes do we repent from and stop committing after the passing of Rabi’ al-Awwal and listening to the Sirah? How many neglected Farāidh and Wājibāt (obligatory acts) do we begin implementing?
When we ask these questions sincerely to ourselves, the likelihood is that the response will not be that positive. There is no real change of direction in our lives; the sins we were committing before Rabi’ al-Awwal, we continue to do them after it; if we were involved [for example] in bribery, we continue to remain involved in it; if we were usurping the rights of others, we continue doing so; if we were negligent in offering prayers with congregation, we remain negligent; if we were deprived from Sunna acts – whether they relate to worship, monetary transactions, social dealings, or character– we remain deprived.
Despite organizing such big events, conferences and celebrations [in Rabi’ al-Awwal], this attitude [outlined above] has resulted in us being degraded throughout the world. The attitude of the Companions (Allah be pleased with them) was such that they would leap at any given opportunity to act upon even the [apparently] minute Sunnas, and would not care if others disapproved.
On the occasion of the Al-Hudaybiyya treaty, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) sent Sayyiduna Uthman ibn Affan (may Allah be pleased with him) – whom the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) described as ‘complete in modesty and faith’ –for negotiations with the leaders of the polytheists (mushrikun) and disbelievers of Makka. When he went, he initially stayed with his cousin. As they were departing for the negotiations, his cousin saw that Sayyiduna Uthman’s (Allah be pleased with him) lower garment was very much above his ankles and halfway up his shin. Wearing one’s lower garment above the ankles was greatly despised and considered demeaning amongst the Arabs of that time; in fact, they would pride themselves in wearing their lower garment below their ankles and dragging it on the ground. An Arab poet says,
إذا ما اصطبحت أربعا خط مئزرى
“When I depart in the morning after having consumed four rounds of alcohol, my lower garment makes lines on the ground.”
Thus, Sayyiduna Uthman’s cousin suggested that he lower his garment just for nowday because these Arabs will look down upon him and not give importance to what he has to say.
Upon hearing this, Sayyiduna Uthman (Allah be pleased with him) responded in one short sentence, saying,
لا، هكذا إزرة صاحبنا صلى الله عليه وسلم
“Never; this is how our Master (peace and blessings be upon him) wears his lower garment.” In other words, whether they think good or bad of me, respect me or look down upon me, I am not prepared to leave his Sunna.
Thus, the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) earned respect throughout the world due to their love, admiration and veneration for the Sunna of Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him). Unfortunately, today, we are fearful and ashamed of adopting his Sunna – from non-Muslims, those in authority in a worldly sense, and others – and as a result we are humiliated, degraded and subjugated everywhere. In every part of the Muslim world, we are being oppressed. This is due to the fact that we have abandoned the Sunna of Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him).
A poet once said,
ہنسے جانے سے جب تک تم ڈروگے
زمانہ تم پر ہنستا ہی رہے گا
“As long as you fear being mocked, you will always be laughed at.”
Meaning, as long as you fear being ridiculed in acting upon the Sunna, you will constantly be ridiculed. However, if you create love and admiration for the Sunna in your hearts, implement it in your lives, and pay no heed to people’s ridicule, a time will come that you will laugh at them. The Qur’an says, “So, today those who believed will laugh at the disbelievers. While [sitting] on thrones, they will be seeing whether the disbelievers have been paid back for what they used to do.” (Qur’an 83: 34-36)
Therefore, if you have love and admiration for the Sunna, you will not be bothered by people’s ridicule and mockery. The day we create this attitude in ourselves, we will In sha Allah earn respect throughout the world.
Nevertheless, every year during the month of Rabi’ al-Awal, gatherings, events and conferences are organized, but we do not see any practical change in our day-to-day lives. This is an extremely tragic situation, and a cause of concern for us all. If – due to this month of Rabi’ al-Awwal and the Sirah events organized therein – with the Tawfiq of Allah we firstly create love and admiration for the Sunna and teachings of Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), and not merely express our love for Rasulullah صلى الله عليه وسلم through “lip service.” We indeed claim verbally to have love for him, but if we do not have love and admiration for his Sunna, his message and his teachings, then our claim would be false. If we are true in our claim of loving him, then we would also love and admire his Sunna and teachings, and as a result implement these teachings in our lives.
With genuine love and admiration, every trait of the beloved also becomes beloved, and one does not question it. Today, whenever a ruling of Shari’a or teaching of Allah’s Messenger is mentioned, we begin to question it, saying things like: “why is such-and-such unlawful?”and “why is such-and-such obligatory?” If one has genuine love for someone, then one does not question any trait or act associated with the beloved; rather, one adopts the attitude that if my beloved is doing it then I will also do it. As such, I fear that our claims of loving the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) – Allah forbid – may well be false, since if we are not adopting his teachings and Sunna, such claims would seem fake.
In the verse of the Qur’an I recited at the beginning, Allah ta’ālā says, “There is indeed a good model for you in the Messenger of Allah – for the one who has hope in Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah profusely.” (Qur’an 33:21)
Allah Most High is saying to us that I have sent this Messenger and marvel of my creation, as a model example, to you; hence, observe him and try and imitate him – in beliefs (aqa’id), in worship (ibadat), in financial dealings (mu’amalat), in social dealings (mu’asharat), and in internal character traits (akhlaq/tazkiya). He is an example for you in all walks of life; thus, if you are a father, be a father like him; if you are a spouse, be a spouse like him; if you are a ruler, be a ruler like him; if you are a teacher, be a teacher like him; and so on. He is a perfect exemplar for you in every aspect of life.
Therefore, in this month of Rabi’ al-Awwal – in which the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) came into this world – we should at least make a resolution to increase in following the Sunna, and an make earnest effort of bringing into our lives those Sunna acts that we had not been acting upon until now.
These Sunna practices are extremely pleasant and result in this life as well as the next life becoming joyful. Some of these are very easy to execute, and do not require any great effort, time or money. They are abandoned merely out of carelessness. For example, when entering the Mosque, there is no difficulty in entering with one’s right foot, and by doing so one will be acting upon one Sunna. Similarly, when exiting the Mosque, there is no hardship in departing with the left foot and reciting the du’a ‘Allahumma inni as’aluka min fadlik’. Likewise, there is no difficulty in eating with one’s right hand and uttering the name of Allah before commencement, and reciting the du’a after completing the food. However, we remain deprived of these Sunna acts due to carelessness and negligence. Likewise, it is a Sunna of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) to meet others with a pleasant face; so act upon this Sunna with the intention of acting upon the Sunna [and not merely a customary gesture].
It is imperative to first learn about all these Sunna practices. My Shaykh, Dr Abdul-Hayy Arifi (Allah have mercy on him) has authored a book titled ‘Uswa’ e Rasul Akram’ in which he has gathered Sunna practices from morning to evening, as well as those relating to different walks of life. For example, how to deal with one’s children, parents, and spouse, how to conduct one’s business. It is a relatively short work, comprising a few hundred pages. Acquire this book, study a portion of it every day and learn about the teachings and Sunna of Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), and then gradually try adopting these Sunna acts in to your life.
If we do that, then this month of Rabi’ al-Awwal will be a blessed month and highly beneficial for us. On the other hand, if we suffice with festive celebrations and events, then I feel there is no greater injustice perpetrated towards the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him). May Allah Most High – out of His favour and mercy – grant us all the ability to follow the Sunna in its entirety, and illuminate our lives with the light of Sunna, Ameen.
By Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani