It was Rabi’ulawwal 2019.
Haykal had had it this time. Another Mawlid celebration. Another act of showing outwardly, and conspicuously, your love for the Prophet ﷺ so your parents, your elders, and your ustaz will approve of your Islam. He didn’t want to do the acts anymore – of joining the procession and singing the marhaban:
Haykal had memorised some of the marhaban lyrics since he was twelve:
Anta shamsun anta badrun (You are the sun, you are a full moon)
Anta nurun ‘ala nur (You are light upon light)
Anta misbahuth thurayya (You are the light of the sky)
Ya Habibi Ya Rasul (O my Beloved, O Messenger)
There’s so much he wanted to shout out to his goody parents, his elders, his ustaz, and his so-called Daie mates:
1. Of metaphorics and rational
“First, I know “You are the sun, you are a full moon” is metaphorical. You want to extol the Prophet ﷺ. Sun and moon are metaphors of greatness, highness, and brilliant shine. I get it. But is that all there is to make me love and adore the Prophet ﷺ? Do you know that the sun and the moon are no longer the greatest, the highest and the brightest objects in the Universe?
“By the same token, while my current astrophysics knowledge allows me to rationally understand the Prophet’s mi’raj, it, however, makes the must-believe story of the ‘literal cutting of the Prophet’s physical breast and the literal washing of his physical heart’ as a means of purifying him so unintelligible.”
2. Of enforced fake love
“Second, I honestly don’t believe that you can really make anyone love and adore anybody. Love is a private and voluntary thing that belongs to, and emanates from, the core of one’s inner being. It has to be deeply felt inside for it to be true.”
“So, I just have to say it like the others do? You mean I have to fake it so I can be approved by you?
3. Of cultural hang-up
“Third, I suspect that the ritualistic celebration of the Mawlid is mainly a cultural concoction. The pre-Islamic Arab and subsequently the non-Arab adherents of Islam had cultural festivals – of singing and dancing and poem-reciting and merry-making and all the aesthetic elements that come with festivals – as an enduring feature of their otherwise dreary collective life.”
“When they adopted Islam, instead of doing away with those cultural heritages they ‘Islamise’ them. Ostentatious Mawlid celebrations are an example of that cultural hang-up. And they named it ‘good innovation’ (بدعة حسنة).”
4. Of humanising the Prophet
“Finally, I believe that there’s another way – a better way – of honouring the Prophet ﷺ than the conventional, culturally convenient Mawlid celebrations.”
“For example – and this is vital for me – instead of shoving me year in year out, a fantastical, superhuman, or non-human extraordinary image of the Prophet ﷺ, can I also be enlightened about the ordinary human side of the Prophet ﷺ? Yes, what he was as an ordinary human being minus his prophethood. I mean other than the obvious facts that he ate, had wives and children, and died. I need this enlightenment so that I can identify internally with his common humanity.”
But Haykal kept them inside
Of course, Haykal did not shout out all those thoughts and feelings burning inside him. He was driven by fear that he will be misunderstood. Worse, he might be perceived as a heretic and halal to be physically harmed by some fanatical zealots who see ajr (divine rewards) in punishing him.
And he knew he was not getting any enlightenment about honouring the Prophet ﷺ that he was after from his parents, his elders, his ustaz, and the Daies anytime soon. He understood that rocking the status quo boat has its cost.
So, Haykal spent the whole Rabi’ulawwal month of 2019 researching the Naskhs that are to inform him about the ‘humanity’ traits of the Prophet that he, an ordinary man, can identify with:
قُلْ إِنَّمَا أَنَا بَشَرٌ مِّثْلُكُمْal-Quran 18:110
“Say (O Prophet): “I am but a mortal man like all of you…”
وَقَالُوا۟ مَالِ هَـٰذَا ٱلرَّسُولِ يَأْكُلُ ٱلطَّعَامَ وَيَمْشِى فِى ٱلْأَسْوَاقِ ۙ لَوْلَآ أُنزِلَ إِلَيْهِ مَلَكٌۭ فَيَكُونَ مَعَهُۥ نَذِيرًاal-Quran 25:7
“And they say (mockingly), “What kind of messenger is this who eats food and goes about in market-places (for a living)? If only an angel had been sent down with him to be his co-warner.”
Here’s what he found (continued in Part 2 here).