First, I think we all agree that a phrase ‘Islamic Christmas’ sounds weird. If Muslims were ordered (from their books) that they should celebrate the birth of Jesus then the phrase would somehow make sense. Unfortunately, as far as I know, Muslims are not allowed to do that, not because they hate Jesus (May Peace of God be Upon Him) but because nowhere in the Islamic texts does it show that Muslims are supposed to celebrate birthdays of any prophets of God.
OK, for a moment, let’s forget that we were talking about the ‘Islamic Christmas’ because frankly, I don’t think it’s a big deal for Muslims. Rather, let’s talk about another mass event for Muslims. The event apparently aimed at celebrating the birthday of Prophet Muhammad—let it be Muhammadmas.
This event, Muhammadmas (it sounds awkward, doesn’t it?), is normally carried out by some Muslims on 12th of Rabīʿ al-Awwal and is popularly known as Mawlid. The most interesting thing is that no one really knows the real birth date of Prophet Muhammad (May Peace of God be Upon Him). And actually, let me rephrase this last statement; instead of saying the most interesting thing, I think I should say like; the greatest draw-back about this birthday thing being held on the 12th of Rabi al- Awwal is that scholars differ greatly on the birth date of Prophet Muhammad.
What is really known from the Islamic authentic sources is that Prophet Muhammad was born on Monday in the ‘Year of the Elephant’. So to choose the 12th of Rabīʿ al-Awwal as the birthday of Prophet Muhammad is intellectually feeble and embarrassing.
Secondly, it is unanimously agreed upon, by historians, legal specialists and theologians of all groups, that the Prophet himself never commanded his followers to celebrate his birthday, nor was this practice known in the first few centuries of Islam. By first few centuries I mean like 345 to 500 years after the death of Prophet Muhammad. According to most early sources (e.g in a book Mawā’īẓ al-i’tibār fī khiṭaṭ Miṣr wa-l-amṣār-Khitat written by al-Maqrīzi) this celebration was started and initiated by Fatimid dynasty (a Shiite dynasty).
As you can see, this celebration was not necessarily endorsed by Islamic scholars but by the dynasty rulers who personally, I think, they mostly acted and used religion for their political gains. If you don’t agree with me then ask yourself; what gain could those dynasty rulers get from ordering or initiating a so-called ‘Islamic event’ , that the Prophet himself never commanded nor was his practice except some political gains?
And yet another troubling question that continuously pops in my mind is; what benefit will this birthday concept or ideology, which was cooked by some imperial or dynasty rulers some 1000 years ago, be to Muslims in Malawi or worldwide Muslims if Muslims are to force the government to include this as a national event?
Personally, I think the Malawi government should consult the relevant Islamic scholars with tangible scholastic credentials before handling this ‘Christmas-like thing’ for Muslims.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect malawimuslims’ editorial policy.