Maulidur Rasul, Christmas and New Year

Saleh Mohammed | .

Celebrating the birth of two prophets (peace be upon them) and a new year within a week occurs once in a generation, roughly thirty over years.

Here in Malaysia, a multi-confessional country, we have the opportunity to celebrate all three special days. Not many countries enjoy this privilege.

Mawlid (Arabic: مَولِد النَّبِي‎ mawlidu n-nabiyyi, "Birth of the Prophet"), is the observance of the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) which is celebrated on the 12th day of Rabi' al-awwal, the third month in the Islamic calendar.

Islam was introduced by traders from Arabia, China and India around the 15th century. It is commonly held that Islam first arrived in the Malay peninsular since Sultan Mudzafar Shah I (12th century) of Kedah (Hindu name Phra Ong Mahawangsa). He is the first known ruler to be converted. On the other hand, Zheng He is credited to have settled Chinese Muslim communities in Palembang and along the shores of Java, the Malay Peninsula, and the Philippines.

Early Christian presence in the Malay archipelago may be traced to Arab Christian traders from as early as the 7th century or prior to the Portuguese conquest in 1511.

The angelic proclamation of 2,000 years ago: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14 - World English Bible). The central truth of the Christmas story is the Child of Christmas is God.

While the month and date of Jesus' (Prophet Isa a.s.) are unknowns, by the early-to-mid 4th century, the Western Christian Church had placed Christmas on December 25. The date of Christmas may have initially been chosen to correspond with the day exactly nine months after the day on which early Christians believed that Jesus was conceived.

The civil New Year of January 1st is not an Orthodox Christian religious holiday but it is probably the feast of the circumcision of Christ (8 days after his birth). The New Year of the Gregorian calendar, falls on 1st January, as was the case both in the old Roman calendar (at least after about 713 BCE) and in the Julian calendar that succeeded it. The Romans made the change. Initially, they celebrated New Year’s Day in March.

In a few days time, champagne will be flowing (for my non-Muslim friends), balloons flying, balls dropping and resolutions will be made as we plan to change.

We should all make a resolution to change, especially after the tumultuous year of 2015.

For the Rakyat, make an effort to be assertive and be heard.

But let us not be too sensitive and cause a political uproar when our MyKad divides us into various religious groups. We celebrate our religious celebrations separately didn’t we and we also demand holidays to celebrate?

For the wakil rakyat and leaders, we rarely see you since the last general election campaign period. You were supposed to be our ‘wakil’ but looking at what happened in 2015, some of your actions do not befit being our representative. We have been paying taxes and now we have to pay GST and it seems there is no control on spiraling cost of living.

During the campaign period, you did not need appointments to see us but after that, we need to fix appointments to see you and more often than not you are too busy.

For the authorities on religion, we respect you as the ‘heir to the Prophet (pbuh)’.

Islam is liberal when it comes to seeking knowledge and striving to improve society at all levels possible. I guess the problem is not orthodoxy but the real problem could be politicisation of religion. The world under the Islamic empire during its golden age had thousands of scholars working independently on finding ways to improve society.

Kindly bear in mind there were four schools of thought in Imam Abu Hanifa of Kufa, Imam Malik bin Anas of Madinah, Imam Muhammad al-Shafi’i of Madinah and Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal of Baghdad. They all acknowledge the authority of the Holy Quran and the Traditions as the ultimate source of the Islamic law. In instances where these two sources are silent, they use their independent reasoning and ‘dalil’ in which they sometimes differ with each other.

Islam encourages dialogues among those with different opinions and not to prosecute, unless of course, if it tantamount to treason or flagrantly unlawful.

Within Islam, certain interpretations and applications of Sharia have changed over time and continue to change today.

How then would our astronaut fulfill his five times obligatory prayer when he is in outer space?

In its most glorious period, from the 7th to the 13th centuries, Islam produced a system founded on scientific knowledge and nurtured by a faith that has endured the test of time. During that period it was ijtihad (progressive reasoning by analogy) which produced the most wide-ranging developments.

Imam Abu Hanifah is quoted to have said: “This is our opinion and we are ready to listen to him who brings a better opinion.” Imam Malik said: “Everyone’s opinion could be accepted or rejected except that of the one buried in this grave (pointing to the grave of the Prophet (pbuh). Al-Shafi`i also said: “If a Hadith proves to be authentic (regarding a certain issue), then accept it and reject whatever religious opinion I may utter (regarding the same issue)”.

Islam seeks not to cause any hardship to its followers or burden them beyond their capabilities. Easiness and facilitation are among the main characteristics of Islam.

1. “....Allah would not place a burden on you, but He would purify you and would perfect His grace upon you, that ye may give thanks” (Al-Ma’idah 5:6),

2. “ soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear” (Al-A’raf 7: 42)

Of course, there are limits as to what can be implemented for the betterment of society. In other words, anything conflicting (and in fact not encouraged by) the Holy Quran and authentic narrations may not be implemented in society.

On balance, after deciding on our resolutions, I trust we look forward to a future where we do not call ourselves moderates but sincere utterance coming from foreigners. We also do not want to jump into a lifeboat because we have this sinking feeling this year.

Let us together save this ship.

We need able leaders who listen and lead us to achieve true moderation and what comes to mind are the words of HRH Sultan Nazrin in his speech during the recent Maulidur Rasul celebration at the Amanjaya Convention Hall: “Mempertahankan dan menyuarakan kebenaran adalah satu tuntutan yang disifatkan sebagai satu jihad”. “These formed the main axis in ensuring that leaders were able to perform their responsibilities with honesty, sincerity, fairness and justice,” He also said Prophet Muhammad SAW was steadfast and not shaken by any form of threats on his life or inducement in the likes of promotions, positions and riches.

To all my Malaysian brothers and sisters, let me take this opportunity to wish you Salam Maulidur Rasul and Season’s Greetings.


Share on Myspace