Rabi al-Awwal: The Month of the Holy Prophet or for Profit?
Maulana Khalid Dhorat
The people of Yathrib were anxiously waiting the arrival of the Holy Prophet (SAW) for many months now. “When is the Almighty going to grant him permission to leave his homeland where his own people have made life intolerable for him,” they mused. Their prayers were shortly answered. It was a sweltering Monday morning, 8
th Rabi al-Awwal, 1 AH (20
th Sep. 622), when the Holy Prophet (SAW) entered the narrow and dusty lanes of Yathrib, later renamed Madinah (The Prophet’s City), on his she-camel. Everyone was overcome with joy and shouted: “Please come and live with me, Oh Master, Please, with me!”
The Holy Master just smiled, and said: “Let go of my halter. My she-camel – Qaswah – is divinely guided and she will stop where the Almighty orders her to stop.” A while later, she stopped at a certain spot, but the Holy Master merely marked the place and proceeded. When the camel stopped for the second time, here the Holy Prophet dismounted. It was at the residence of a very privileged man – Sayyadina Abu Ayyub Al-Ansari.
Construction of a Masjid
The above journey of necessity, called the
Hijrah or the flight, was a turning point in Islamic history. The aspect that
turned history at the time in the direction of unparalleled expansion was the building of a Masjid, today fondly known as Al-Masjid an-Nabawi. The Almighty Himself had chosen the place for this blessed Masjid – it was the same place where Qaswah had first stopped!
Masjid Nabawi, with its distinctive Green Dome, is undoubtedly one of the most beloved Masjids to all Muslims today. Is it because of the 27 state-of-the-art sliding domes or the six 105 meter high minarets, each crowned with a 4-ton gold-plated crescent? Is it because of the 12 huge teflon umbrellas that provide shade in the courtyard? Definitely not. In fact, some of us live in houses that have better air-conditioning systems than Masjid al-Nabawi and the carpets in our houses are softer and more beautiful.
A humble roofless structure about 1050 m
2 was first erected on that very same spot, facing Jerusalem. In 7 AH, after the Battle of Khandaq (Trench), the Masjid was converted in to a square and made about 2500 m
2 in size, this time facing Makkah. In both instances, the Holy Master personally laid the foundation and assisted in the construction. Today, the same Masjid is about 450 000 m
2, about 120 times its original size and caters for about 700 000 worshippers, which can be increased to just over a million during the Hajj period.
One of the most breathtaking features of this grand Masjid is the Green Dome, first constructed in 678 AH by the Mamluk Sultan, Al-Mansur Qalawun. It was a crude colourless wooden edifice, sometimes painted white and sometimes blue whenever general maintenance took place. However, when Masjid Nabawi was destroyed by a fire in 1481, the dome was rebuilt by Sultan Qaitbay with bricks, and it’s wooden supports were coated with lead to prevent future collapse. In the 16
th century, the Ottoman Sultan, Sulaiman The Magnificent, had the dome completely plated with lead sheets and painted in the distinctive bright green colour. It has remained so ever since.
It is agreed that we all love Masjid al-Nabawi, but not only for the building. It is because of the lessons it teaches us and the location of a very blessed mausoleum situated under the Green Dome. I will just expand on two lessons in this article:
1. Function of Masjid Al-Nabawi
What is the connection between the
hijrah and the construction of Masjid al-Nabawi as mentioned above? Some will say: “It is sunnat to give our pets names just as the Holy Prophet named his camel Qaswah! So I’m going to name my cat Burfee, and my horse, Badaam”. Some will say: “The people of Laudium and Johannesburg must all learn from Abu Ayyub. He gave his entire house to the Holy Prophet, so whenever I visit, they must just leave their entire house to my family for the whole year!”
Sadly, these are not the lessons we are looking for. The first lesson of the above is that the Masjid is supposed to be the headquarters and powerhouse of the Muslims. The Holy Prophet (SAW) sent out his armies from the pulpit, he solemnized marriages there, he conducted classes on its bare floors, he received delegations and fed them on the verandah, he began and completed his journeys from the Masjid and he even played with his grand-children therein. In short, the Masjid was the FBI headquarters of the Muslims, it was the Sandton Convention Centre, it was the Royal Albert Hall, the Moses Mabhida Stadium, the Central Reserve Bank, my favorite- Bismillah Restaurant, the Appeal Court of Bloemfontein, the Hilton Hotel … and even the notorious Pollsmoor Prison!
Within seven years, Masjid Nabawi went from 1 050 m
2 to 2 500m
2, and today it is over 550 000 m
2, It was filled to capacity at every hour, not only for Jumu’ah or on Big Nights. The Masjid was never locked, even at nights,
every aspect of their lives revolved around the Masjid because the Almighty played a central part in their lives.
The Masjid was the pivot of their life. Everything revolved around it.
Function of our Masjids
Now let us examine how we as Muslims regard our Masjids. For many of us, the Masjid is a building which we pass daily whilst on our way to work. Only the old-fashion
baajies or the retired go there daily. Once in a while, especially on a Sunday, we will visit the Masjid if we receive some
topi-kurta-darhee visitors who will ask innocently: “What time is Zuhr salaat?” to which we will give the blunt reply: “Agh. I don’t know the time. I just listen to the adhaan, but I’m sure Zuhr is earlier on a Sunday because the Imam also needs to visit his in-laws once a week!”
As much as we dodge the Masjid, we actually look forward to Jumu’ah Salaat, not because it affords us the opportunity to worship, but because it’s a good excuse for shortening our work-day and arriving at the Masjid for our weekly nap during the
khutbah or a hearty chat in the
wudhu area. “Those boring Maulanas are speaking about the same things from the past 600 years.” These same worshippers will gladly take the two hours a week concession from their employers for 52 weeks per year, but will moan when they would ask him to work on Eid day only twice a year!
On big nights, however, is when we get serious about the Masjid. The kurtahs will mysteriously come out, many will be short of a few buttons here and there and some will be totally faded, but we will arrive at the Masjid 20 minutes before adhaan and listen to the lecture right up to the end. In Ramadaan, after the third night of taraweeh, the Masjid gets empty and all of a sudden everyone becomes a Mufti and says: “Since when is listening to the whole Qur’an Sunnat? I’ll just make eight rakaats sometimes and hang out at Nazeer’s place playing poker and eating falooda until 11:45 PM.”
The reality is that some of us are so uncomfortable in the Masjid, like a fish out of water. We are too ashamed to do a business deal in the Masjid because of our crooked transactions, but we will have a Yaaseen Khatam at home when the police catches up with us! We will refuse to have a court hearing in the Masjid because then we wouldn’t be able to bribe the judge. We will not dare have a sporting event there because we wouldn’t be able to dress indecently, and we will not have our wedding receptions in the Masjid verandah because after a Qira’at by Shaikh Sudais in the hall, we will not be able to play our usual classical music hits like “Put it on me” by Alicia Keys or “We Belong Together” by Beyoncé after that!
We have actually distanced the Masjid from our lives, whereas the Noble Prophet (SAW) brought it closer to him. Didn’t he say: “Of all the places on this earth, the Masjids are the most dear to the Almighty, and the markets are the most offensive to Him?”
2. The Main Mosque
Another sad fact in South Africa is that we have forgotten the concept of the Jami’ or Main Congregational Masjid. The Jami’ Masjid is a place where everybody in the locality gathers in their numbers and strength to portray the grandeur of Islam. We only see such numbers for the Eid salaat, but it is supposed to be every week for Jumu’ah.
Masjid al-Nabawi is a Jami Masjid. Every Friday in Madinah, the frail and old will only go to the local Masjid for Jumu’ah, the rest of the people will go to Masjid al-Nabawi.
But what have we done in South Africa? We have established a Jamaat Khana or
Musalla In every shopping complex and university, in every suburb and at every airport in the country. You will find a
Musalla in an attic, in someone’s garage or warehouse, in a high-rise building, at the Shell Ultra and even in a Zo-Zo! This is excellent for five times daily salaat, but for Jumu’ah, we need to go to the Jami’ or Main Masjid.
But in Laudium, as usual, we do everything zig-zag. On a Friday, we will fill up all the small
Musallahs in 20 different venues, but we will leave the big Masjid empty. Instead of leaving our work-places 20 minutes earlier and travel out, we will “import” a Maulana, even if he speaks Urdu and we cant understand a word – from one of the Islamic Centres, and even moan if he speaks one minute extra! So, as usual, we have twisted the whole concept of a Masjid to suit our convenience!
We are becoming so known for being zig-zag in Laudium that even one extension is named “Zig-Zag” here! The Apartheid government knew that the Indians do everything crooked, so they felt it fit to build crooked houses for us too!
Let us look at Masjid al-Nabawi and due to our intense love for it and for the august personality buried there, let us start reforming ourselves. If we claim to love the noble Master Muhammad (PBUH), let us start frequenting our local Masjids and develop a relationship and zeal for it, just as we look forward to visit Makkah and Madinah every six months.
Finally, let us also start looking at identifying a Jami’ Masjid in each town or city where we can all agree on a Chief Imam and a unified khutbah representing everybody. By now, everybody will be holding their heads in frustration because horses will start flying and chickens will start crying, but this will never happen!