Every year Muslims from all over the world celebrate the birth anniversary of Prophet Mohammad—may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him. However, the debate of whether this celebration is legitimate and complies with the basic principles of Islam is on-going for centuries. The debate extends to reach the identification of the exact date he was born! While the date does not make much difference, it is indeed very important to acknowledge that merely having a day off work to relax at home or go for entertainment is not, and should not, be how we celebrate the birth of Mohammad PBUH. In this article, we shall present some lessons of the birth and life of the greatest man who has ever lived on earth.
As requested by Propjet Mohammad PBUH himself in the authentic narrations, Muslims are not supposed to go on a spree in glorifying him which may result in them deviating from the true divine path. Looking at the life of Prophet Mohammad PBUH, he was an ordinary man who went through normal progressive development without extraordinary miracles in his physical or intellectual attributes. It was just the way he was raised that distinguished him from others. There is no doubt that Allah (swt) had decided that special way and He harnessed unique people to surround his chosen final messenger.
One of the most important lessons which we can learn from the life of Prophet Mohammad PBUH is that fact that his father died before his birth. He was an orphan! Today people underestimate the capabilities of orphans and categorise them in a special social group that is characterised with weakness, helplessness and dependency on others, and therefore not much is expected from them to be achieved. The opposite should be the case. The amount and level of motivation given to those children must be high and consistent. One important reflection from the birth of Prophet Mohammad, though, is that he was raised by his grandfather, Abdul Muttalib, until the age of eight and then by his uncle, Abu Talib, until he received the revelation. Both of them were the leaders of the tribe and they supported him ultimately.
“There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allah an excellent pattern for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and [who] remembers Allah often.” (Holy Quran, 33:21)
What is probably worse than not seeing his father was losing his mother at the age of six while travelling back to Mecca after visiting her family in Yathrib (currently known as Madinah). Both orphaned children and parents must reflect on this stage of the Prophet’s life. Orphans must not despair after one of or both their parents. Rather they should follow the example of the best orphan as advised by Allah in the Holy Quran (33:21). Parents, on the other hand, must follow the example of both Abdul Muttalib and Abu Talib in the way they raised Prophet Mohammad and how they supported him at all times.
Historically, no one before the final messenger was named Mohammad. The meaning of this name is someone who is the most praised by others. He is also known by other names like Ahmad, which comes from the same roots and carry similar meaning. It has been widely reported that his grandfather gave the Prophet his name Mohammad and when he was asked about the reason, he said: “I want him to be praised on earth and in heaven.” The name Ahmad, according to the narrations was chosen by the Prophet’s mother even before his birth. It is also the name mentioned in the scriptures of the previous nations as mentioned in the Holy Quran (61:6). Today the name Mohammad is the most common name in the world.
“And [mention] when Jesus, the son of Mary, said, ‘O children of Israel, indeed I am the messenger of Allah to you confirming what came before me of the Torah and bringing good tidings of a messenger to come after me, whose name is Ahmad.’ But when he came to them with clear evidences, they said, ‘This is obvious magic.’” (Holy Quran, 61:6)
The birth of Prophet Mohammad according to most of the authentic narrations was in the year 570 when the world was ruled by two conflicting empires, the Persian and Roman. Arabs were the least fortunate that time living in the Arabian Peninsula. In all three regions only a few people enjoyed a decent life on the account of other people’s suffering. The birth of our beloved Prophet has been the starting point of transformational change in that situation, bringing justice and equal rights and responsibilities. This is mentioned in the Holy Quran (21:107) and it is perhaps the reason why the vast majority of average people accepted the message of Islam once they came to know about it.
“And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds.” (Holy Quran, 21:107)
An amazing sign of the universal message which brings mercy to the worlds was the extinguishment of the fire that was lit for over a thousand years and was worshiped by people in the Persian Empire. That night, no one was able to burn the fire for worship. This may have been the first sign of the message of Prophet Mohammad to spread peace and mercy on earth. Salient signs in the same meaning followed and they were witnessed by the Prophet’s companions. One of them happened when Madinah was surrounded by troops from all directions and Muslims were digging a trench to protect the city. Helping the work at that time, the Prophet PBUH gave the news that soon the conquest of both the Persian and Roman Empires would take place. His prophecy came true in less than ten years.
As predicted by his grandfather, Prophet Mohammad was praised by everyone before and after he received the divine revelation. He was known as the most truthful and honest person in Mecca. Even those who rejected his message had nothing negative to say about his behavioural qualities and personal characteristics. He was entrusted by the disbelievers to keep their valuables; the only reason for them not to believe in his message was pride and arrogance. Those traits were acknowledged by his enemies as well, especially the Jews and Christians who recognised based on the description they had in their books. They were also reflected in the behaviour of his companions who followed him as a role model.
“And indeed, you are of a great moral character.” (Holy Quran, 68:4)
Historians and philosophers who did not live in that era but analysed whatever information was found about ancient civilisations reportedly placed Prophet Mohammad as the greatest leader of all times. For example, in his book The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History, Michael H. Hart, American astrophysicist and author, placed Prophet Mohammad PBUH as number one on the list. He defended his choice by saying: “… he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels.” Also, among those who reviewed the life of Prophet Mohammad was George Bernard Shaw who wrote: “I believe if a man like him were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring much needed peace and happiness.”
“My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world’s most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels.”
Prophet Mohammad PBUH first received the revelation at the age of 40 which is believed to be the age most messengers were sent, and this deserves a moment of reflection. Other prophets lived in most cases for over 100 years so they had enough time to deliver the divine message. However, Prophet Mohammad PBUH stayed only 23 years after the first revelation. The first lesson we can learn from this is that his message was merely the completion of the previous messages. He did not invent something new; rather he called for the same message, bringing the final ever-lasting instructions represented in the Holy Quran. Secondly, it shows that great things can be done in a short period of time only with hard work, persistence and determination that is driven by strong belief in the purpose and impact of what is being done.
“Say, “Indeed, my prayer, my rites of sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah, Lord of the worlds.” (Holy Quran, 6:162)
These are a few lessons which we can ponder upon while celebrating this blessed occasion. We must adhere to incorporate his character in our daily life with one main wish which is to please Allah (swt) and be in His mercy. This was the ultimate goal of Prophet Mohammad PBUH. Even though he was guided by Allah and granted the best place and forgave his entire shortcoming, he continued to do his utmost best to show his thanks and gratitude to Allah. We send the best praise and salutation upon the best of all creation and we ask Allah to make us among those who follow His guidance as showed and explained by His final messenger.