The 12th of Rabi al-Awwal, marks the birth anniversary of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, Khatam an-Nabiyin (Seal of the Prophets), sallalahu ‘alayhi wa aalehi wa sallam (pbuh). It is celebrated as a joyful occasion, known as Milad un-Nabi or Mawlid al-Nabi, which literally means ‘the birth of the Prophet.’ It is a day of happiness, when we as Ismaili Muslims, along with many Muslims from around the world, reflect on the Prophet’s life, tell stories of the Prophet to the young, and join together in celebrations to express our gratitude and reverence for the Prophet. Milad an-Nabi offers an opportunity for us to draw inspirations from the life of the Prophet for our spiritual and material lives.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) not only brought the Divine message which we have in the Holy Quran, but also his own example as a model for Muslims to live by. His personal attributes and character traits contributed to the success of his mission. His integrity and conviction became a source of inspiration for those who followed him.
Most of the writings that praise the Prophet refer to the Holy Quran, where Allah (swt) commends the character of the Prophet to Muslims. In Surah al-Azhab, Allah says: “Indeed in the Messenger of Allah you have an excellent example for one who has hope in Allah, and the Last Day, and remembers Allah often.” 33.21
In other parts of the Quran, the Prophet is referred to with designations such as al-Nadhir, the warner, al Bashir, the giver of glad tidings, and Sirajam Munira, a lamp spreading light. These attributes have inspired many Muslim thinkers and poets, who portrayed the Prophet as an intercessor with God and as the one for whose sake the universe was created.
Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, the celebrated thirteenth century Persian poet, stated in one of his works: “It is obvious that Muhammad was the origin, for God said to him: ‘Were it not for you, I would have not created the heavens.”
Another example of expression of devotion to the Prophet is the blessings we seek for the Prophet and his family by reciting the Salawat, which is inspired from Surah al Azhab, where Allah says: “Allah and His angels showers blessing on the Prophet: O believers! Ask blessing on him and salute him with a worthy salutation.” 33:56
In a famous hadith it is related that Jabir ibn ‘Abd Allah asked the Prophet, “O Messenger of God, … tell me of the first thing God created before all things.” The Prophet replied: “O Jabir, the first thing God created was the light of your Prophet from His [own] light.”
This light of Muhammad or Nur-e Muhammadi is understood by many Muslims as a primordial light embodied in every prophet from Hazrat Adam (a.s), to Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) himself. Such teachings have often been used to describe Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as the perfect mirror through which divine qualities were reflected on all that God has created.
The notion of the Light of Muhammad is present in the teachings of many Sufi and Shi’a communities, including the Ismaili Muslim tradition. Through the notion of Nur-e Muhammadi, we can understand the notion of Nur-e Imamat, as the Imam provides the ta’wil and ta’lim of the message of Allah which was revealed to the Holy Prophet (pbuh). In a poetry, attributed to Pir Hassan Kabirdin (1341-1449), son of Pir Sadruddin (1300-1416 A.D), it says: “If you know Nabi Muhammad, you will attain the Imam”
This conveys a similar idea that one may gain true knowledge of the Imam through the teachings of the Prophet.
As we celebrate Milad an-Nabi, let us reflect upon the life of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as he was also known as Amin (trustworthy), Sadiq (honest/sincere) and try to follow his teachings in our daily life. Mawlana Hazar Imam (Aga Khan lV) described the Prophet’s noble values in his speech at the Seerat Conference in Karachi, Pakistan, on March 12, 1976 where he said:
“His example of integrity, loyalty, honesty, generosity, both of means and of time, his solicitude for the poor, the weak and the sick, his steadfastness in friendship, his humility in success, his magnanimity in victory, his simplicity, his wisdom in conceiving new solutions for problems which could not be solved by traditional methods without affecting the fundamental concepts of Islam; surely all these are foundations, which, correctly understood and sincerely interpreted, must enable us to conceive what should be a truly modern and dynamic Islamic Society in the years ahead.” Source: https://www.iis.ac.uk/content/presidential-address-international-seerat-conference
On this auspicious occasion of Eid-e-Milad un-Nabi, let us reaffirm our commitment to the Oneness of God, the values of diversity, pluralism and tolerance, as exemplified by the Holy Prophet himself, and also express our thanksgiving for the blessing of the continuation of divine guidance through the Imam-of-the-Time.