The fragrant aroma of desserts and delicacies in Souq al-Hamidiyah which is located in the old town of Damascus is a sign of the approach of the Maulidur Rasul day celebration. Sweets, desserts and nuts are showcased on the shelves of the rows of stalls and shops that lined the traditional business centre.
“Come, come, this dessert is specially made from nuts, sesame, coconut and pistachio. It’s a special dessert for Maulidurrasul!” A man of half a century old called towards the crowd, trying to attract them to visit his shop located at one of the corners of Souq al-Hamidiyah. Such is the usual sight in Damascus on the Maulidurrasul eve. The city of Damascus is merry with people and sellers as if there is a huge festivity.
In the mosques, the staff are busy installing colourful lights and decorations. Maulidurrasul in Syria is a huge festivity filled with religious activities, sermons by scholars and nasyeed shows that praise our beloved Rasullullah PBUH.
“Mi, it was so much fun when we were young. I can still remember the Maulidurrasul celebration we had. The cheerful performance of marhabah tewwah which starts after Zohor and stops at Asar, before the feast begins.” Zul said to Izhar Arif. Before Maghrib, the people in the surrounding areas have gathered in the main mosques in Syria to enliven the Maulidurrasul celebration. Zul and several of his friends went to the Manjak Mosque for they were informed that Syeikh Dr Muhammad Sa’id will also be there.
While waiting for the time for Maghrib, Zul reminisces back to the memories of Maulidurrasul that they celebrated in Terengganu. “Usually, the people at the mosque will prepare rice and chicken. Neighbours will exchange their cooked dishes. But if I think my dish is delicious, there’s no need to exchange it with others. Hehe…” Izhar Arif laughed along with Zul, hearing about Zul’s younger mischievous self.
They continued talking and their conversation then turn more serious as they discussed several current topics including the rulings in Islam. “What’s your opinion on the ruling of celebrating Maulidurrasul?” Izhar Arif asked seriously, keen on hearing his answer.
“In this matter, we have to look at it in a comprehensive view. Syeikh Abu Shamah Abdul Rahman bin Ismail al-Maqdisi, one of the Syeikh of Dar al-Hadis in Damascus states, it is permissible to celebrate Maulidurraasul following the practice of previous scholars such as Irbil. Imam Jalaluddin al-Suyuti, Imam Ibn Hajar al-Haithami, Imam Ibn al-Battal, Syeikh ‘Atiyyah Saqar, Syeikh Abdul Halim Mahmud, Syeikh Mutawalli al-Sya’rawi also ruled this celebration permissible. We will even be joined by Syeikh al-Buti in a short while.” Zul explained one by one the names of scholars who supported the celebration of Maulidurrasul.
He then continued, “What’s important is that there are no elements of sin and transgressions during the celebration of Maulidurrasul and that it is filled with reminders of our Prophet PBUH through agreed narrations, reading sirah books, Syama’il and encouraging the public to follow the sunnah as well as a feast, then that is fine. We should instil the love towards the Prophet PBUH in the general public through these programs. Not everyone is interested to read thick books. We have to adopt different approaches.”
Manjak Mosque is brilliantly lit with colourful lights. Masses of people filled the mosque, overflowing it up to the streets. The celebration began after ‘Isyak until it was nearly midnight. After performing the ‘Isyak prayer, the invited scholars and speakers start to take their respective places on the chairs arranged at the front of the mosque facing the congregants. Billowing smoke from the lit bukhour emits a pleasant smell all around. A staff member rubs some athar perfume of Zul’s hand and those who were present.
The emcee welcomes everyone present and introduces the invited scholars who will be giving a brief sermon that night. The ceremony begins with the recitation of the Quran by a qari. He recited Surah al-Ahzab, verses 40 – 48:
مَّا كَانَ مُحَمَّدٌ أَبَا أَحَدٍ مِّن رِّجَالِكُمْ وَلَٰكِن رَّسُولَ اللَّهِ وَخَاتَمَ النَّبِيِّينَ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمًا ﴿٤٠﴾ يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ ذِكْرًا كَثِيرًا ﴿٤١﴾ وَسَبِّحُوهُ بُكْرَةً وَأَصِيلًا ﴿٤٢﴾ هُوَ الَّذِي يُصَلِّي عَلَيْكُمْ وَمَلَائِكَتُهُ لِيُخْرِجَكُم مِّنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّورِ ۚ وَكَانَ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ رَحِيمًا ﴿٤٣﴾ تَحِيَّتُهُمْ يَوْمَ يَلْقَوْنَهُ سَلَامٌ ۚ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُمْ أَجْرًا كَرِيمًا ﴿٤٤﴾ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ إِنَّا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ شَاهِدًا وَمُبَشِّرًا وَنَذِيرًا ﴿٤٥﴾ وَدَاعِيًا إِلَى اللَّهِ بِإِذْنِهِ وَسِرَاجًا مُّنِيرًا ﴿٤٦﴾ وَبَشِّرِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ بِأَنَّ لَهُم مِّنَ اللَّهِ فَضْلًا كَبِيرًا ﴿٤٧﴾ وَلَا تُطِعِ الْكَافِرِينَ وَالْمُنَافِقِينَ وَدَعْ أَذَاهُمْ وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ ۚ وَكَفَىٰ بِاللَّهِ وَكِيلًا ﴿٤٨﴾
“Muhammad is not the father of [any] one of your men, but [he is] the Messenger of Allah and last of the prophets. And ever is Allah, of all things, Knowing. O you who have believed, remember Allah with much remembrance. And exalt Him morning and afternoon. It is He who confers blessing upon you, and His angels [ask Him to do so] that He may bring you out from darkness into the light. And ever is He, to the believers, Merciful. Their greeting the Day they meet Him will be, “Peace.” And He has prepared for them a noble reward. O Prophet, indeed We have sent you as a witness and a bringer of good tidings and a warner. And one who invites to Allah, by His permission, and an illuminating lamp. And give good tidings to the believers that they will have from Allah great bounty. And do not obey the disbelievers and the hypocrites but do not harm them, and rely upon Allah. And sufficient is Allah as Disposer of affairs.”
Everything went silent for a while.
The voice of Imad Rami breaks the silence. The audience was mesmerized by his opening song, Sollu ‘Alaih. When it ends, the first sermon was given by Syeikh Sadiq Habannakah.
“What we are celebrating today is just a means (wasilah) of our love for the Prophet PBUH. Just as stated by Imam Jalaluddin al-Suyuti in al-Hawi fi al-Fatawa, the Maulidurrasul celebration is nothing but a way to gather people to recite several verses of the Quran. Afterwards, explaining the routes of dakwah since Rasullullah PBUH was first sent. The celebration is filled by preparing a feast for the attendees before each return home. It’s not extreme for me to say that celebrations such as this are included as bid’ah hasanah of which if done, one will be rewarded. They have honoured the prophet PBUH and showcase their gratitude on the birth of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH as the leader of the ummah.”
One by one the invited speakers went on to give their tazkirah regarding the beauty of the character of Rasullullah PBUH. Each of the tazkirah took only a brief 5-10 minutes each. Some sermons are delivered passionately. Others are delivered in a mellow and touching way, making the audience long and yearn to meet the Prophet PBUH. Every Syeikh has his own style and approach.
The ceremony continues alternating each sermon with nasyeed performance by Imad Rami.
أحمد يا حبيبي حبيبي
يا عون الغريب
أحمد يا حبيبي حبيبي
يا عون الغريب
احمد يا حبيبي
Imad Rami was in a full suit and a tie while he sang his songs accompanied by supporting vocals who also wear a similar attire and a tarbus. Their voices meld together in harmony. It was the second time Zul witness a truly amazing nasyeed performance, after the Nadamurni concert that he attended while he was just as s student in SMAASZA. Imad Rami’s euphonious voice is the best in Syria or may be among the best in the whole Arab.
“I’m a huge fan of Imad Rami.”Zul whispered to Azli Khalid who was beside him. “Love his Ya Rasulullah Syafa’ah, Ya Asyiqin Muhammad, Asmaul Husna, Muhammad Nabiyyina songs. I even bought the cassette.” Zul continues as he puckered his lips towards Imad Rami.
The mosque that has been built since the 15th century is echoed with nasyeed and praises for Rasullullah PBUH. As the audience was entertained by the golden voice of Imad Rami, the staff members have begun to distribute desserts and coffee to the attendees, row by row.
After about an hour, the ceremony is nearing the end. As usual, Syeikh Dr Muhammad Sa’id Ramadhan al-Buti was invited to give his tazkirah to close the event that night. This has been the annual custom. People were drawn and enthralled by his every word, which is different from all the previous Syeikh who had given their tazkirah even when it is under a shared there about Rasullullah PBUH.
“The one thing that I would like to state is that we as the ummah of Muhammad should strive to celebrate and commemorate Maulidurrasul more than the Prophet PBUH himself. Only with love would it move a person’s heart to celebrate the birth of a beloved. As one’s love grows, a person will also grow fonder and misses his beloved more every time it is the birthday of the beloved. We may feel as such when we visit the Prophet PBUH’s tomb. How do we feel at the time? The same feeling should be felt every time it is the Maulidurrasul.”
Syeikh al-Buti pauses as he gazes at the crowd. He then continued, “This feeling pushes us to study his sirah, emulate his deeds and character. When we see a person, whose heart is drowned in love for the Prophet PBUH, certainly his heart will be easily touched even by the smallest of matters related to him. When we read his sirah, our love and devotion will burn brighter in our hearts. How could we not love someone who has been acknowledged by Allah SWT Himself for his commendable character?”
As the needle of the clock approaches midnight, the ceremony ended and the audience starts to disperse. Zul grabbed his bicycle and ride it together with Hazman. Throughout their return journey, both shared their excitement with every tazkirah given, especially that of Syeikh al-Buti. What’s for sure is that that was the most memorable Rabi’ul Awwal for Zul all his life.