From Wayfarer's Rest
With a whisper of the wind appears the first new leaf
And the trees tremble as life returns anew
Like a gentle breeze that grows to a tempest
A new song enters in my heart,
And lifts me on its wings.
Spring is here again.
The birds have begun to sing again. Looking out, I see tiny buds beginning to poke their way through the soil; branches bare all winter have dared to send forth their first green shoots. The wind blows warmer, the rain feels somehow fresher. It is unmistakeable – spring is here again.
How fitting that, as we approach the month of lights, the blessed month of mawlid, we should find ourselves entering the season of spring. For what more fitting time could there have been for the one whose birth signified the dawning of new hope for mankind, a new spring of tauhid after the dark and cold winter of disbelief; for the one who loved all things green and who revived dead hearts to life, than the month of Rabi’ al-Awwal (lit: the first spring)?
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf mentioned that the Prophet (s) was born in spring and loved green. He continued that green was the first colour that the eye could perceive, and the last that it could make out; the middle of the spectrum of light. Green is also the colour of chlorophyll, which mediates photosynthesis in plants – the conversion of pure light into energy and nourishment that ultimately allows our continued existence. The parallels are manifest but beautiful nonetheless: he (s) is from the light of Allah, the first Prophet and the last, the moderate and median way, neither too harsh nor too lenient; he is the source of all nourishment and the means of continuation for all spiritual life. He (s) is, as the commentaries of the Quran mention, the solitary flowering tree in the midst of a barren desert – from whose fruits all men feast, and beneath whose boughs all find shade and rest.
The advent of spring fills one with gladness – a joy that the believer cannot but feel when he or she contemplates the arrival of the best and most beloved of all creation (s). Allah says in the Holy Quran: ‘In the blessings of Allah and in His mercy – in that let them rejoice,’ and, ‘make remembrance of the Days of Allah.’ al-Bayhaqi relates that the Prophet (s) said, ‘the Days of Allah are Allah’s Blessings and Signs, and the Prophet’s birth is a great bliss.’ For almost a millennium, Muslims have joyfully commemorated the arrival of our spiritual Spring with the celebration of mawlid.
Mawlid has three meanings: the time of the Beloved’s (s) birth, the place of his birth and the fact of his birth. However, for hundreds of years, the word mawlid has been used to signify the celebration of the Prophet’s (s) birth. Mawalid have been – and still are – held wherever there are Muslims; from the Islamic heartlands of Arabia, Egypt and Syro-Palestine to the very borders of the traditional Islamic lands such as Indonesia, the Caucasus and Western Africa. In the 20th century, the globalization of the Ummah and mass migration has seen mawlid celebrated in the most unlikely of places – from the rain-swept streets of the UK to the snowy mountains of Canada to the tip of Southern Africa.
It is beloved of the common folk of the community and cherished by the elect. Kings and rulers have used mawlid to connect to their followers; scholars have used it to educate the people. Such has been its popularity among the learned and the unlearned – so deeply has it touched the hearts of Muslims from every walk of life – that one would struggle to find a place that has not been graced by the celebration of the Beloved of Allah (s).
Rabi` al-Awwal Mubarak, dear friends. May Allah enlighten all our hearts with the love of his Beloved (s), ennoble our eyes with his (s) vision in this world and the next, and fill our limbs with the strength to follow his blessed way.
Oh Cherishing Lord! Through the honour of Sayyidina Muhammad in Your eyes, purify our hearts from every evil quality that distances us from Your witnessing, Your love and Your mercy, let us die as members of his (s) community and under his banner of praise, yearning for the encounter with You, Oh Lord of Majesty and Grace! Then peace and blessings upon the elect of creation, the Master of the children of Adam, the Beloved of the Lord of the Worlds, Sayyidina wa Habibina Muhammad, his family, companions, and all who light their hearts from his blessed lamp.