Life – An Exalted Destiny – Aga Khan III
Prophet Muhammad Birthday Mevlut
Prophet Muhammad Birthday Milad un Nabi — Mevlût
By Annemarie Schimmel
In the Turkish tradition, the best-known early mevlût was written by Süleyman Chelebi of Bursa around 1400. But more than a century earlier, Yunus Emre had already promised heavenly reward to those who recite mevlût, which shows — provided the verses are genuine — that mevlûts were popular among the Turks at a rather early stage. Süleyman Chelebi’s poem is written in rhyming couplets, a literary from adopted from the Persian. Its rhythm is simple; the meter is the same as that used primarily in Persian mystical and didactic epics such as ‘Attar’s Mantiq ut-tair and Rumi’s Mathnawi. The language is plain, almost childlike, and therefore the poem has not lost anything of its charm even today. (But even this poem was considered an impious innovation by a stern Turkish theologian of the fifteenth century, Molla Fenari!) The mevlûd-i sherif, as it is called, is all being recited in Turkey, not only on the Prophet’s birthday but also on the fortieth day after a bereavement [Arbaeen], as a memorial service on a death anniversary, or in fulfillment of a vow, because it is credited with very special blessing power. Similarly, Indian Muslims, especially women, used to celebrate milad parties at every great family event.
The celebration of a mevlût in a Turkish family is a festive affair, and as in other parts of the Islamic world one puts on fine clothes for such an occasion and then seeks what an East African poet describes in the beginning of the maulid poem:
From the moment you set out toward the maulid,
You have gone out to experience the raptures of Paradise.
Sometimes incense is burnt, and at the end of the recitation, which is interspersed with numerous recitations from the Koran as well as prayers, sweets are distributed. In North Africa one usually prepares ‘asida, a kind of pudding made of hominy, butter, and honey, the same sweet that is given to the guests at a real childbirth. In other areas the participants are offered cool sherbet and candies; in Turkey everyone used to take home a little paper bag filled with sweets.
Süleyman Chelebi’s mevlût was often imitated, so that there are about a hundred different versions of mevlût poetry in Turkish; but no other Turkish religious poem can compete with it for the favor of all classes of society. Its first part tells the story of Muhammad’s birth as Amina experienced it. Full of amazement, she recounts (using the traditional imagery) what happened to her at the end of her pregnancy:
Amina Khatun, Muhammad’s mother dear:
From this oyster came that lustrous pearl.
After she conceived from ‘Abdallah
Came the time of birth with days and weeks.
As Muhammad’s birth was drawing near
Many signs appeared before he came!
In the month Rabi’ al-awwal then
On the twelfth, the night of Monday, look
When the best of humankind was born-
O what marvels did his mother see!
Spoke the mother of that friend: “I saw
A strange light; the sun was like its moth.
Suddenly it flashed up from my house,
Filled the world with light up to the sky.
Heavens opened, vanquished was the dark,
And I saw three angels with three flags.
One was in the East, one in the West,
One stood upright on the Ka’ba’s roof.
Rows of angels came from heaven, and
Circumambulated all my house;
Came the houris group on group; the light
From their faces made my house so bright!
And a cover was spread in mid-air,
Called ‘brocade’- an angel laid it out.
When I saw so clearly these events
I became bewildered and confused.
Suddenly the walls were split apart
And there houris entered in my room.
Some have said that of these charming three
One was Asiya of moonlike face,
One was Lady Mary without doubt,
And the third a houri beautiful.
Then these moonfaced three drew gently near
And they greeted me with kindness here;
Then they sat around me, and they gave
The good tidings of Muhammad’s birth;
Said to me: ‘A son like this your son
Has not come since God has made this world,
And the Mighty One did never grant
Such a lovely son as will be yours.
You have found great happiness, O dear,
For from you that virtuous one is born!
He that comes is King of Knowledge high,
Is the mine of gnosis and tauhid [monotheism].
For the love of him the sky revolves,
Men and djinn are longing for his face.
This night is the night that he, so pure
Will suffuse the worlds with radiant light!
This night, earth becomes a Paradise,
This night God shows mercy to the world.
This night those with heart are filled with joy,
This night gives the lovers a new life.
Mercy for the worlds is Mustafa,
Sinners’ intercessor: Mustafa!’
They described him in this style to me,
Stirred my longing for that blessed light.”
Amina said: “When the time was ripe
That the Best of Mankind should appear,
I became so thirsty from the heat
That they gave me sherbet in a glass.
Drinking it, I was immersed in light
And could not discern myself from light.
Then a white swan came with soft great wings
And he touched my back with gentle strength.
As this verse is recited, every participant ever so gently touches his or her neighbor’s back.
And the King of Faith was born that night:
Earth and heaven were submerged in light!”
Then begins the great Welcome, which all nature extended to the newborn Prophet, whose coming they had expected with such longing, a welcome to the Friend of God in whose intercession at Doomsday all can trust:
Welcome, O high prince, we welcome you!
Welcome, O mine of wisdom, we welcome you!
Welcome, O secret of the Book, we welcome you!
Welcome, O medicine for pain, we welcome you!
Welcome, O sunlight and moonlight of God!
Welcome, O you not separated from God!
Welcome, O nightingale of the Garden of Beauty!
Welcome, O friend of the Lord of Power!
Welcome, O refuge of your community!
Welcome, O helper of the poor and destitute!
Welcome, O eternal soul, we welcome you!
Welcome, O cupbearer of the lovers, we welcome you!
Welcome, O darling of the Beloved!
Welcome, O much beloved of the Lord!
Welcome, O Mercy for the worlds!
Welcome, O intercessor for the sinner!
Only for you were Time and Space created….
There follows an extended description of the Prophet’s miracles, among which the heavenly journey occupies a central place. Importantly, every section ends with the verse
If you want to be rescued from Hellfire,
Utter the blessings over Him with love and [longing] pain!
In Turkey, this mevlût (which, incidentally, has even been translated into Serbo-Croatian) is concluded with a special prayer in which God is entreated to send the recompense for the recitation to Muhammad’s Rauda in Medina; then follow prayers for the Prophet’s family, for saints and scholars, and requests for the participants’ happiness and long life, “so that they may enjoy participation in many, many more meetings of this kind”; then prayers for the caliph, for soldiers, traders, and pilgrims, and for a peaceful death, and future life in Paradise.
Read entire article from And Muhammad is His messenger By Annemarie Schimmel
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