The Mawlid in Mecca According to Muslim Historians-Celebration of the Birthplace of the Prophet

Mecca, the Mother of cities, may Allah bless and honor her, is the leader of other Islamic cities in the celebration of Mawlid as in other things. In his book Akhbar Makka, Vol. 2, p. 160, the 3rd-century historian of Mecca, al-Azraqi, mentions as one of the many places in Mecca in which the performance of sala is desirable (mustahabb), the house where the Prophet was born (Mawlid al-Nabi). According to him, the house had previously been turned into a mosque by the mother of the caliphs Musa al-Hadi and Harun ar-Rashid.

The Qur'anic scholar al-Naqqash (266-351) mentions the birthplace of the Prophet as a place where du`a by noon on Mondays is answered. He is quoted in al-Fasi's Shifa' al-gharam Vol. 1, p. 199, and others.

Earliest Mentions of the Public Mawlid

The oldest source that mentions a public commemoration of the Mawlid is in Ibn Jubayr's (540-614) Rihal ("Travels"), p. 114-115:

"This blessed place [the house of the Prophet] is opened, and all men enter it to derive blessing from it (mutabarrikin bihi), on every Monday of the month of Rabi` al-Awwal; for on that day and in that month was born the Prophet."

The 7th-century historians Abul `Abbas al-`Azafi and his son Abul Qasim al-`Azafi wrote in their unpublished Kitab ad-durr al-munazzam:

"Pious pilgrims and prominent travellers testified that, on the day of the mawlid in Mecca, no activities are undertaken, and nothing is sold or bought, except by the people who are busy visiting his noble birthplace, and rush to it. On this day the Ka`ba is opened and visited."

Ibn Battuta's Account of the Mawlid

The famous 8th-century historian Ibn Battuta relates in his Rihla, Vol. 1, p. 309 and 347, that on every Friday, after the salah, and on the birthday of the Prophet, the door of Ka`ba is opened by the head of the Banu Shayba, the doorkeepers of the Ka`ba, and that on the Mawlid, the Shafi`i qadi (head judge) of Mecca, Najmuddin Muhammad Ibn al-Imam Muhyiddin al-Tabari, distributes food to the shurafa' (descendants of the Prophet and to all the other people of Mecca.

Three Tenth-Century Accounts of the Mawlid

The following description consolidates eyewitness accounts by three 10th-century authorities: the historian Ibn huhayra from his al-Jami` al-latif fi fasl Makka wa ahliha, p. 326; the hafiz Ibn Hajar al-Haytami from his Kitab al-Mawlid ash-Sharif al-Mu`azzam, and the historian al-Nahrawali from al-I`lam bi-a`lam Bayt Allah al-haram, p. 205.

Each year on the 12th of Rabi` al-Awwal, after the salat al-Maghrib, the four qadis of Mecca (representing the Four Schools) and large groups of people including the fuqaha' (scholars) and fudala' (notables) of Mecca, shaykhs, zawiya teachers and their students, ru'asa' (magistrates), and muta`ammamin (scholars) leave the mosque and set out collectively for a visit to the birthplace of the Prophet, shouting out dhikr and tahlil (LA ILAHA ILLALLAH). The houses on the route are illuminated with numerous lanterns and large candles, and a great many people are out and about. They all wear special clothes and they take their children with them. Having reachethe birthplace, inside a special sermon for the occasion of the birthday of the Prophet is delivered, mentioning the miracles (karamat) that took place on that occasion. Hereafter the du`a' for the Sultan (i.e. the Caliph), the Emir of Mecca, and the Shafi`i qadi is performed and all pray humbly. Shortly before the salat al-`Isha', the whole party returns from the birthplace of the Prophet to the Great Mosque, which is almost overcrowded, and all sit down in rows at the foot of the Maqam Ibrahim. In the mosque, a preacher first mentions the tahmid (AL HAMDULILLAH) and the tahlil, and once again the du`a' for the Sultan, the Emir, and the Shafi`i qadi is performed. After this the call for the Salat al-`Isha' is made. After the salat, the crowd breaks up. A similar description is given by al-Diyarbakri (d. 960) in his Ta'rikh al-Khamis.

The Celebration of Mawlid in Islamic Countries Today

In every Muslim country today, we find people celebrating the Prophet's birthday. This is true of the following: Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq, Kuwait, the Emirates, Saudi Arabia (not officially, but in the majority of homes), Sudan, Yemen, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, Djibouti, Somalia, Turkey, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaidjan, Uzbekistan, Turkestan, Bosnia (former Yougoslavia), Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, and most other Islamic countries. In most Arab countries it is a national holiday. All these countries, O Nation of Islam, are celebrating that event. How is it that today a minority is coming and making up a ruling that it is haram? And who are these scholars who spoke against Mawlid, in comparison to the huffaz (hadith masters) and scholars of the Community such as Abu Shama, `Asqalani, Suyuti, Sakhawi, Haytami, Shawkani, and al-Qari, all of whom declared Mawlid praiseworthy? How can any of the "Salafis" declare haram something that even the strictest of their scholars, Ibn Taymiyya, allowed under certain conditions, and which Ibn al-Jawzi and Ibn Kathir encouraged, each of them by writing a booklet entitled Mawlid and consisting of poems and passages from the sira?