(First of two parts)
COTABATO CITY—Unlike Christians on Christmas, many Muslims are still divided on whether to celebrate the birth of Prophet Muhammad.
But like Christians, Muslims’ commemoration of Muhammad’s birth 1,400 years ago corresponds this year to December, according to Mayor Zamzamin Ampatuan of Rajah Buayan, Maguindanao, an advocate of old Muslim tradition.
Ampatuan said “Mawlidin Nabi”—literally “Birth of the Prophet”—is usually commemorated one whole week from the 12th day of Rabbi-ul Awal of the Hijrah Calendar. The period corresponded this year to Dec. 9 to 16.
He said Mawlidin Nabi is “commemorated rather than celebrated, by sharing the true teachings of the Prophet Muhammad Sallahi Alayhi Wassalam (Peace be with him) with the children and even with non-Muslims as special guests.”
Ampatuan said local Muslims would fondly commemorate the prophet’s birth, especially in the past, when they would even invite Christian neighbors to listen to narrations about the life of Muhammad from birth to his last breath.
One such story is that Muhammad became an orphan at infancy when his mother died weeks after his birth. His father died before his birth. In his time, lactating mothers nursed newborns, and the one who took care of him designated her right breast to the baby Muhammad and the left breast to her own child.
By the womaan’s account, the infant Muhammad would not suck of the milk from the left breast when her right breast ran out of milk.
The Mawlidin Nabi of the not-so-distant past was also the season for circumcision of young boys; “a time of transformation to manhood,” Ampatuan said.
Ampatuan said stories about Muhammad’s values were the essence of commemorating the Prophet’s life for young generations, in times when all that they hear were twisted stories about jihad he led in his time.
Ampatuan explained that many modern-day Muslims, who have embraced the teachings of 19th century Arab teacher Mohamad ibn Abdulwahab, consider festive mood on Mawlidin Nabi as being like holiday celebrations in the western world.
Abdulfatah Tanog, a Muslim preacher delving on comparative sects, said Muslims peoples are so divided in many ways, adding that the “widest of such divide” is evident in the Sunni-Shiite issue which often stirs debate among their lay followers.
Today, most narrations about Muhammad’s life are limited to his spiritual and political life as a person and as leader. But Ampatuan said forums where such stories were told were even made exclusive to Muslims, unlike the Mawlidin Nabi gathering where even non-Muslims were invited.
“What happens when Muslims do not spread the teachings, the lessons, the values exemplified by the Prophet, through some festive mood that children usually enjoy? On the other hand, some people tend to corrupt Islam in some sources of learning like the internet which the young love most. And what do we do then? Do we tell those people that it is bid’a [innovative] or even shirk [mortal sin] to alter the meaning of the Qur’an? No! Most do not do so,” Ampatuan said.