2021 October 17 – JJ – female age 33 – The Day Before Mawlid
Today’s class was one day before Mawlid, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)’s birthday. This is a topic we discussed in addition to others such as the movie The Message, the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, depictions of Muslims in the news, biographies of the Prophet Muhammad, class acronyms, parts of the Quran, tajwid (Quranic recitation), Surat Masad, and prophets who ascended into heaven.
I am a convert to Islam. So I was surprised to learn that there is some controversy over Mawlid, the celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. Our teacher said that in Egypt they have a big celebration for Mawlid. The way he described it sounds like Christmas in the West, where there are ornaments and lights bedecking the town. However, outside of Egypt, there are other Muslim majority countries that do not celebrate the prophet’s birthday—such as Saudi Arabia. The practice is forbidden there as there is no record of the Prophet observing the day in the Hadith or Sunnah.
After this, our class discussed depictions of the Prophet Muhammad. Apparently, in the Shia sect of Islam, it is less controversial to depict the Prophet Muhammad than it is in the Sunni sect of Islam. Depictions of the Prophet in cartoons and movies are not allowed. Many people also believe that it is forbidden to depict members of the Prophet PBUH’s family (this is not something I was aware of). In the class, we watched a cartoon about a story from the Hadith. In this cartoon, the Prophet Muhammad was replaced by a white aura of light so that you could not see him.
The cartoon told a story of when the Prophet Muhammad was inspecting his troops. He wanted them all in straight orderly lines, just as in when people are lining up for prayer. One soldier in the formation was standing out of line, so the Prophet Muhammad reportedly poked this soldier in the stomach with an arrow, pushing him back in the line. Then the Prophet Muhammad told this young soldier that he could get retribution if he liked—he could poke him back with the arrow if he liked. Instead the soldier chose to kiss the Prophet Muhammad on the stomach, showing the reverence that Muhammad’s followers had for him. Then we discussed the reason why Muslims have such passionate feelings about the Prophet Muhammad. Since the Prophet Muhammad brought a message that revealed to people how to achieve salvation, he has done a greater mercy for the believers than their own parents. However, this doesn’t mean that anyone should kill a person for making a cartoon. It is unfortunate that we have news stories about people with Muslim names killing or attacking some person who drew a cartoon. Murder is a major sin in Islam.
Next, we watched part of the 1976 movie, The Message, starring Anthony Quin as Hamza. Ḥamzah ibn ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib was a foster brother, companion and paternal uncle of the Prophet Muhammad. The movie directed and produced by Moustapha Akkad chronicles the life and times of the Islamic prophet Muhammad through the perspective of his uncle Hamza ibn Abdul-Muttalib and adopted son Zayd ibn Harithah. It serves as a great introduction to early Islamic history, especially for young Muslims and converts who may still have much to learn. In the 1970s, the director of the film had to make the movie in Morocco because other Muslim majority countries, like Saudi Arabia, found the film too controversial—even though the director consulted Islamic clerics and took great care not to depict the Prophet Muhammad. When we were done with about 40 minutes of the movie, our teacher gave us some advice about what books to read if we wanted a simple explanation of the life of the Prophet Muhammad. Our teacher advised the work of Karen Armstrong and Martin Ling.
We did a recap of usual acronyms and concepts we learn in the class, in addition to some new ones I had not heard before. I will include them below:
• God = Good. If something is not good, it is not from God.
• CCA = Context, Common Sense, Accountability.
• BS = Belief and Sincerity. (I try my best every morning to be full of BS)
• LGA = Love God Always
• QHA = Quran, Hadith, Accountability (The order through which to make decisions)
• Charging Phone = A metaphor for sustaining our connection to God. The digits are the right prayers and rituals for maintaining that connection.
• UV = Universal Values.
• Green Card = God Consciousness.
• Amana = A trust from God.
• Soap = In prayer, a connection with God is as vital as washing the hands with soap.
Earlier in the class, I joined level 2 to discuss some concepts of tajwid (Quranic recitation) with Teacher O. He told us about qalqalah. There is apparently a big qalqalah and a little qalqalah. Big qalqalah is the easier one—if I remember correctly. The qalqalah are the echo rules. There are five letters in the Arabic language where if we emphasize our pronunciation of these letters at the end of a word, the tajwid will sound better. These letters are ق ط ب ج د.
Teacher O also told us about Surah Masad. It is the 111th chapter of the Quran. It discusses Abu Lahaib and his wife, who used to torment the Prophet Muhammad and dump garbage on him while he was praying. The surah states that Abu Lahaib (Father of the Flame) and his wife will be tormented in Hell because of their evil actions.
Teacher O also asked us to research another Prophet who ascended into heaven—similar to Isa (Jesus). I was not aware that there was any other Islamic Prophet who had done such a thing. But when I did the research, I found that this was the Prophet Idris. Idris is the second prophet mentioned in the Quran. Islamic tradition has identified Idris as the biblical prophet Enoch. Idris is described as trustworthy and patient. The Quran also says Idris was exalted to a high station (Quran 19:56).
In conclusion, much of today’s class focused on the Prophet Muhammad PBUH and how much or how little it is appropriate to celebrate and depict his life. My own point of view is that there is no harm in commemorating a person’s memory as long as the commemoration is not done in a way that is worshipping the person. Afterall, in America we have holidays like Martin Luther King’s Day. While the holiday is held in respect to a great man, no one is worshipping MLK like a deity by celebrating this day. I think we can use the same common sense when it comes to the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, or any other person’s birthday for that matter.