THE date 12th of Rabiulawal holds a special place for Muslims as it marks the date of birth of Prophet Muhammad (May Peace Be Upon Him) in Mekah in 571 CE.
Muslims celebrate the auspicious date by performing various religious activities and functions such as joint prayers and recitations at mosques and homes as well as holding discussions and seminars. As reminded during last Friday’s sermon, the younger generation are encouraged to follow the Prophet’s teachings.
During his lifetime, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) himself never celebrated his birthday. Yet the Maulidur Rasul celebration can be traced back some 300 years after the death of the Prophet. Some say it was held for the first time by Sultan Ma’mun of the Abbasid Dynasty, while others say that it was initiated by Sultan Saladin (Salahuddin al-Ayyubi) of the Ayyubid Dynasty to unite Muslims and to revitalise their fighting spirits during the wars of the Crusade in the 12th century.
Some experts say that it was not Salahuddin that initiated the Maulidur Rasul. The idea came from Muzaffaruddin Gekburi, an Atabeg (regent) in Irbil, North Syria. After getting the approval from Caliph An-Nashir in Baghdad, Salahuddin announced a writing competition during the Haj of 1183 CE, inviting budding writers to write on the Prophet’s biography .Books that were then used were the Barzanji, Diba’i, Simtud Durar, Burdah, Syaraful Anam, and Maulid Azab. The books have also become very popular among Muslims, including those who live in the Southeast Asian countries (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Philippines, and South Thailand).
But, do readers know who are the authors of these books?
Kitab Al-Barzanji is the most popular of the books. The book is also read during functions like berkhatan (circumcision), marriage and aqiqah ceremonies. Many al-Quran teachers in kampungs around the archipelago include the book in their teaching syllabus. “My teacher once said that if you cannot read Al-Quran, Barzanji and Marhaban, you are not fit to marry,” Al-Fanshuri, a Malay blogger said jokingly in his blog, adding that Al-Barzanji reading competitions were organised in 1970s.
Many Muslim scholars in the 19th century such as Syaikh Nawawi al-Bantani, Syaikh Abdul Hamid bin Syaikh Muhammad bin Ali Kudus (a teacher and imam in Masjid al-Haram, Mekah, who hailed from the town of Kudus in Central Java, Indonesia) and Syaikh Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Ahmad Ilyisi wrote some commentaries (syarah) about the book.
Al-Barzanji was was written by Ja’far bin Hasan bin Abdul Karim bin Muhammad bin Rasul al-Barzanji, whose family hailed from the family of Sa’adah al-Barzanji of Iraq. He was born in 1126 H (1690 CE) and died in 1184 H (1766 CE) in Madinah. He was a mufti of Madinah, khatib and teacher in the Masjid al-Nabawi.
In the early of 1970s, a renowned Indonesian literary man and actor WS Rendra adapted the book as a stage musical entitled Kasidah Barzanji. He reperformed his work in 2009, several months before he died.
Maulid Diba’i was written by Abdurrahman bin Muhammad bin Umar bin Ali bin Yusuf bin Ahmad bin Umar al-Diba’i al-Syaibani al-Yamani. He was born on Muharram 4, 844 H, and died on Rajab 12, 944 H. Known as muhaddith (expert of the hadith), he memorised more than 100,000 hadith completed with its sanad (link of narrators). He studied the hadiths from Imam as-Syakawi, Imam Ibnu Ziyad and Imam Jamaluddin Muhammad bin Ismail. He was also known as a historian. Among of his works were Taisirul Wusul ila Jaami’il Usul min Hadithil Rasul, Tamyizut Thoyib min al-Khabith mimma Yadurru Alsinatin Naasi minal Hadith (on hadith), Qurratul ‘Uyun fi Akhbaril Yaman al-Maimun, Al-Bughyatul Mustafid fi Akhbar Madinat Zabit and Fadhail ahlul Yaman (history).
The Burdah was written by Syarafuddin Abu Abdillah Muhammad bin Said bin Hamad as-Shonhaji al-Bushiri who was also known as Imam al-Bushiri, an adherent of the Syafi’ite mazhab. He was born in Dalos, Morocco, in 608 H (1212 CE) from a Berber family, but grew up and died in Bushir, Alexandria, Egypt, in 696 H (1296 CE). His tomb is located in the vicinity of the Masjid Abu Abbas al-Mursyi, side by side with his teacher’s tomb, Abu Abbas al-Mursyi.
At least 20 ulamas made commentaries on Burdah. Among of them were Imam Jalaluddin al-Mahalli (d. 864 H), Imam Zakaria al-Anshari (d. 926 H), Imam al-Qasthalani (d. 923 H), Syaikh Mulla Ali Qarri al-Hanafi (d. 101 4H), and Syaikh Ibrahim al-Bajuri (d. 1276 H). Meanwhile, Muslim scholars of the archipelago who commented on the book were Malaysian Muslim scholars Tok Wan Ali Kutan (d. 1913 CE) and Tok Kenali (d. 1933 CE).
Al-Bushiri wrote Burdah when he was suffering long illness of stroke. After writing his book, he fell slept and dream that Prophet Muhammad visited him, wiped his hand to body and covered him with a burdah (shawl). When he woke up, he found his illness had gone. Another account said, he also found the burdah was laid on his body. In his Burdah, al-Bushiri said: “Verily, the glory of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is unlimited so that there is no any lisan (oral) which is able to express the glory.”
Meanwhile, Simthud Durar fi Akhbar Mawlid Khairil Basyar min Akhlaqi wa Awshafi wa Siyar or Simthud Durar is also popularly known as Maulid Habsyi because it was composed by Habib Ali bin Muhammad bin Husein Al-Habsyi (1259-1333 H/1839-1913 CE).
In Indonesia, a month-long festival is held annually in the city of Yogyakarta, which is known as “Sekaten Festival”, derived from Syahadatain (‘two testimonies’), the Islamic credo.
Although there are some controversies about the date of the Prophet’s birthday and its legal status, the function of Prophet’s birthday (Maulidul Rasul) celebration apparently is still useful at least for bringing close Muslims to their prophet that they love for guiding them to ‘the right path’.
The Brunei Times
February 15, 2011