The Significance of Rabi’ul-Awwal
The month of Rabiul Awwal is for many Muslims a time of celebration. Although the exact date of the last and final Prophet’s ﷺ birth is debated among the ulema, Ibn Kathir mentions that the most common opinion on the matter is 12th Rabi’ul-Awwal. Regardless of the exact date, Muslims cannot help to notice discussions about the qualities of the Prophet ﷺ increase, as well as much mention of aspects of his ﷺ life.
The love and affection that Muslims have for our Prophet ﷺ is only natural, as Allah says in Surah al-Ahzab,
النَّبِيُّ أَوْلَى بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ مِنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ
“The Prophet is closer to the believers than their own selves” [al-Ahzab 33: 6]
Az-Zajjaaj said: “Man’s love for Allah and His Messenger is to obey them and to accept what Allah سبحانه وتعالى has commanded and the Messenger of Allah ﷺ has brought.”
This love in the above meaning is obligatory. Since love is an inclination (mayl) which shapes the behavioural disposition (nafsiyyah) of man. These inclinations can either be instinctive (ghareezi) having no relationship to a concept, such as man’s inclination towards ownership, love for survival, justice, family and children etc. They might also be motives linked to concepts, which then define the type of inclination. The love of Allah and His Messenger is the type Allah سبحانه وتعالى has linked to a shariah concept thereby making it obligatory. The evidence for this is the Book of Allah:
He سبحانه وتعالى said:
قُلْ إِنْ كَانَ آبَاؤُكُمْ وَأَبْنَاؤُكُمْ وَإِخْوَانُكُمْ وَأَزْوَاجُكُمْ وَعَشِيرَتُكُمْ وَأَمْوَالٌ اقْتَرَفْتُمُوهَا وَتِجَارَةٌ تَخْشَوْنَ كَسَادَهَا وَمَسَاكِنُ تَرْضَوْنَهَا أَحَبَّ إِلَيْكُمْ مِنَ اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَجِهَادٍ فِي سَبِيلِهِ فَتَرَبَّصُوا حَتَّىٰ يَأْتِيَ اللَّهُ بِأَمْرِهِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الْفَاسِقِينَ
“Say: If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your kindred, the wealth that you have gained, the commerce in which you fear a decline, and the dwellings in which you have delight in are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger, and striving hard and fighting in His Cause, then wait until Allah brings about His Decision (torment). And Allah guides not the people who are Al-Fasiqun (the rebellious, disobedient to Allah).” [At-Tawbah 9:24]
Anas رضي الله عنه narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said:
ثلاث من كن فيه، وجد حلاوة الإيمان: من كان الله ورسوله أحب إليه مما سواهما، وأن يحب المرء لا يحبه إلا لله، وأن يكره أن يعود في الكفر كما يكره أن يقذف في النار
“There are three things whoever obtains them he will experience the sweetness of belief – that Allah and His Messenger are more beloved to him than anything else; that he loves a man only for the sake of Allah; and that he dislikes the thought of reverting to disbelief as much as he would dislike being cast into the Fire.”
Anas رضي الله عنه narrated that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:
لا يؤمن عبد حتى أكون أحب إليه من أهله وماله والناس أجمعين
“None of you would be considered a believer until I become more beloved to him than his family, wealth and all the people.”
The companions of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ were very much concerned about the application of this duty. They used to compete in attaining this honour hoping that they would be the ones that Allah and His Messenger love. Anas رضي الله عنه narrated that on the day of the battle of Uhud:
That the people ran away, leaving the Prophet ﷺ, but Abu- Talha was shielding the Prophet with his shield in front of him. Abu Talha was a strong, experienced archer who used to keep his arrow bow strong and well stretched. On that day he broke two or three arrow bows. If any man passed by carrying a quiver full of arrows, the Prophet would say to him, “Empty it in front of Abu Talha.” When the Prophet started looking at the enemy by raising his head, Abu Talha said, “O Allah’s Prophet! Let my parents be sacrificed for your sake! Please don’t raise your head and make it visible, lest an arrow of the enemy should hit you. Let my neck and chest be wounded instead of yours.”
Ibn Hibban reported in his Sahih: “…When Urwah went back to the Quraysh, he said, I have been to the courts of the kings and have seen the splendour of the Caesar, Chosroes and the Negus. But never have I seen any king being so revered as Muhammad ﷺ by his companions. By Allah, had he spat out mucus and it just fell on the hands of one of his companions he would have rubbed it on his face and skin. When he ordered them with something they rushed to carry it out and if he made ablution they would fight for the used water. When he spoke they lowered their voices and they did not look sharp at him, as sign of reverence to him …”
‘Abdullah b. Hisham said: We were with the Prophet ﷺ when he took the hand of ‘Umar. Umar said: “I love you more than anything except my soul which is between my two sides.” The Prophet replied,
لا، والذي نفسي بيده، حتى أكون أحب إليك من نفسك
“None of you will believe until I am dearer to him than his own soul.” ‘Umar said, “By the One who sent down the Book on you, I love you now more than my soul which is between my two sides.” The Prophet said,
الآن يا عمر
“‘Umar, now you have it!”
An-Nawawi reported in his commentary of Sahih Muslim the meaning of loving the Messenger ﷺ on the authority of Sulayman al-Khattabi which states: “You will not be true in your love for me until you exhaust yourself in my obedience, until you prefer my pleasure over your whims even if it may lead to your death.”
Believers have no better way of expressing their love for our Prophet ﷺ than to love all that He ﷺ loved and to dislike all that he disliked. Believers know that what was most beloved to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ is also what is most beloved to Allah سبحانه وتعالى, so they strive to make that the most beloved to themselves.
The Prophet ﷺ as truly honoured among the Prophets عليهم السلام, as he was singled out to be the last and final messenger to all of mankind. Ahmad recorded that `Ali bin Abi Talib رضي الله عنه said that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said,
أُعْطِيتُ مَا لَمْ يُعْطَ أَحَدٌ مِنَ الْأَنْبِيَاءِ
“I was given what no other Prophet before me was given.” We said, “O Messenger of Allah! What is it” He said,
نُصِرْتُ بِالرُّعْبِ ، وَأُعْطِيتُ مَفَاتِيحَ الْأَرْضِ ، وَسُمِّيتُ أَحْمَدَ ، وَجُعِلَ التُّرَابُ لِي طَهُورًا ، وَجُعِلَتْ أُمَّتِي خَيْرَ الْأُمَمِ
“I was given victory by fear, I was given the keys of the earth, I was called Ahmad, the earth was made a clean place for me (to pray and perform tayammum with it) and my Ummah was made the best Ummah.” The reason we were made the best ummah is stated in the ayah:
كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللّهِ
“You are the best ummah singled out for mankind: you enjoin what is right (ma’roof), forbid what is wrong (munkar), and believe in Allah.” [aal-Imraan 3:110]
When believers hear of an aspect of the Messenger’s ﷺ sunnah is not being upheld, they are quick to encourage it, as therein lies the proof of their love – to love what he loved. Qatadah said, “We were told that Umar bin Al-Khattab recited this Ayah during a Hajj that he performed, when he saw that the people were rushing. He then said, ‘Whoever likes to be among this [praised] Ummah, let him fulfil the condition that Allah set in this Ayah.’”
If a believer finds any aspect of the sunnah of the Messenger of Allah is not beloved to them, they are quick to change that within themselves. Abu Hurayrah رضي الله عنه narrated that Thumamah b. Uthal said: “O Muhammad. By Allah There was not a face more hated to me than your face but your face has become the most beloved. By Allah! There was no Deen more hated to me than your Deen but your Deen has become the most beloved to me. By Allah! There was no country more hated to me than your country but your country has become the most beloved to me…”
Discussion around the excellent qualities of the Prophet ﷺ should be encouraged among young and old, as they will only increase love for this noble Messenger that Allah sent to us, but in that we must not be selective only focusing on some parts of His ﷺ sunnah, whilst neglecting the rest. We must not forget what it was that the Prophet sent for? What was his mission? What did he bring to us? These are questions which sometimes are lost in the discussion.
It should not be forgotten that Rabi’ul-Awwal is also the month of the hijrah of the Prophet ﷺ. From the very first day he ﷺ established the authority for Islam. The Establishment of Islam in Madina was the first day of joy for the Muslims. Often when the hijrah is discussed, we can limit ourselves to the details describing how the Prophet ﷺ hid in a cave or who slept in his ﷺ bed. This inevitably diverts us from discussing the true significance of the event.
Umar رضي الله عنه is reported to have said: “The Hijrah has separated truth from falsehood, so calculate dates from it.”
The hijrah to Madinah did not take place because the Muslims in Mecca wanted to avoid the persecution there, or because they wanted to find a safe haven for themselves, or to run away from the hardships they faced in that city. Rather, it was an event that took history in a new direction. Prior to the hijrah the people of Madinah accepted Muhammad ﷺ only as a Prophet. However, when he ﷺ arrived in Madinah, they were receiving him ﷺ as a ruler and a Prophet. Before the hijrah, he ﷺ was a Prophet criticising the values of Quraysh. After the Hijrah, he ﷺ was the one who implemented the values and laws of Islam. Islam had gone from addressing and pointing out the problems, to tackling them and providing solutions for them. It was at this point that the Prophet ﷺ was able to apply the rules and systems of Islam into real life.
Rabi’ul-Awwal has further significance for Muslims, as on twelfth day, ten years after hijrah He ﷺ passed away. The news of the Prophet’s death was so hard upon close companions and Muslims that some of them refused to believe that he had passed away. Upon hearing this, Abu Bakr رضي الله عنه went to the mosque and delivered one of the noblest speeches: “O People! If it was Muhammad whom you worshipped, then know that he is dead. But if it is Allah whom you worshiped, then know that He does not die.”
He then recited the following verse, which was revealed after the Battle of Uhud:
وَمَا مُحَمَّدٌ إِلَّا رَسُولٌ قَدْ خَلَتْ مِنْ قَبْلِهِ الرُّسُلُ أَفَإِنْ مَاتَ أَوْ قُتِلَ انْقَلَبْتُمْ عَلَى أَعْقَابِكُمْ وَمَنْ يَنْقَلِبْ عَلَى عَقِبَيْهِ فَلَنْ يَضُرَّ اللَّهَ شَيْئًا وَسَيَجْزِي اللَّهُ الشَّاكِرِينَ
“Muhammad is no more than an Apostle: many were the Apostles that passed away before him. If he died or were slain, will you then turn back on your heels? If any did turn back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to Allah; but Allah (on the other hand) will swiftly reward those who (serve Him) with gratitude.” [aal-Imran 3:144]
If a Muslim dies, it is obligatory for Muslims to bury him as soon as possible. But the Sahabah did not bury the Prophet ﷺ immediately; rather they involved themselves seriously in selecting the Khalifah for Muslims, who is the one to take care of the affairs of the Muslims.
Al-Haythami said, “It is known that the Sahabah رضي الله عنهم consented that selecting the Imam after the end of the era of Prophethood was an obligation. Indeed they made it (more) important than the (other) obligations whilst they were busy with it over the burial of the Prophet ﷺ.”
The Prophet was buried two days after his death at the same place where he died. The place of his burial was decided by his saying as related by Abu Bakr رضي الله عنه: “Allah does not cause a prophet to die but in the place where he is to be buried.”
We must honour the struggle and sacrifice of the Prophet ﷺ and his Sahabah رضي الله عنهم, whom were people that the He ﷺ loved. We must do this by narrating their stories and following in their footsteps, behaving as they would when faced with what we face.
There is oppression around the whole world which is being left un-challenged, at home and overseas. The Prophet ﷺ did not rest while Islam was criticised by the Quraysh, and we should not rest while it is criticised today. He ﷺ was accused of being too extreme and changing the Arab way of life, and Muslims who practice Islam today are accused of the same thing.
What is the Prophet’s ﷺ status for us, we must ask? What is our relationship to him ﷺ today? What is his message? What was the Prophet ﷺ sent for? What is his Sunnah?
We must find the answers for these questions. We need to learn about the Holy Prophet ﷺ’s Life, educate ourselves with the rules of Islam that the Prophet ﷺ bought us and we must work for that change which The Holy Prophet ﷺ sacrificed and Struggled for in his life.
Rabi’ul-Awwal should not be treated like a holy month, wherein commemorated solely by dhikr being made and durood and Salam is sent to the Prophet in abundance. This needs to be the month where we do all of that alongside and together with our commitment to connect to the mission of the Prophet ﷺ to establish Islam.
The Prophet ﷺ is reported to have said:
والذى نفسي بيده لا تقوم الساعة حتي يبعث الله أمراء كذبة ووزراء فجرة وأعوانا خونة وعرفاء ظلمة وقراء فسقة سيماهم سيما الرهبان وقلوبهم أنتن من الجيف أهواؤهم مختلفة فيتيح الله لهم فتنة غبراء مظلمة فيتهاوكون فيها والذى نفس محمد بيده لينقضن الاسلام عروة عروة حتي لا يقال الله الله لتأمرن بالمعروف ولتنهون عن المنكر أو ليسلطن الله عليكم أشراركم فيسومونكم سوء العذاب ثم يدعو خياركم فلا يستجاب لهم لتأمرن بالمعروف ولتنهون عن المنكر أو ليبعثن الله عليكم من لا يرحم صغيركم ولا يوقر كبيركم
“By the One who my soul is in His Hand, the Hour will not be established until Allah sends rulers who are liars, and ministers who are immoral, and supporters who are traitors, and knowledgeable people who are oppressors, and readers (of Quran) who are sinful, their appearance is like the appearance of holy people, and their hearts are more rotten than dead meat, their desires are different and so Allah will send upon them fitna which will cover them in darkness and so they will be destroyed therein. By the One who the soul of Mohammad is in His hands, Islam will be taken away part by part, until it is not even said Allah Allah. You must enjoin the good, and you must forbid the evil, or Allah will make sovereign over you the worst of you, who will afflict you with the worst of punishment, then the best of you will make Du’a and it will not be answered. You must enjoin the good, and you must forbid the evil, or Allah will send against you those who will have no mercy to your young and no respect for your elderly.”