Wednesday, February 24, 2010

When poetry meets piety

By the late 11th century veneration of the Prophet had begun to assume a visible form in different parts of the by-now burgeoning Islamic world. Celebrations of maulid, the day of birth of the Prophet, on 12th Rabi' ul-awwal, the third month of the Muslim lunar calendar, had begun to make an appearance. Piety increasingly began to take the form of poetry and song. Love for Hazrat Mohammad, the Prophet of Islam, began to be expressed beautifully and eloquently in the poetry of the many languages of the Islamic world. The tradition continues - the day of the Prophet’s birth is still celebrated. From the eastern end of the Muslim world to the western the maulid is a wonderful occasion for the pious to show their warm love of the Prophet in songs, poems and prayers. And hand-in-hand with the maulid has grown an entire poetic tradition – one that flies in the face of an orthodox view that considers all such celebrations as bid’at or a misguided form of innovation.

The number of poems written for this festive occasion in different languages is beyond reckoning. Using local idiom and metaphor, they express a deep, trusting love for the Beloved of God whose life and sayings, as exemplified in the Hadith, influence the lives of Believers in more ways than can be counted. While an unshakeable love for the Prophet is the strongest binding force among Muslims, its expression in song -- often using the language of conventional love poetry and the idiom of the ghazal and the geet - is frowned upon by some. Others believe that since 12th Rabi’ul-awwal is not only the day of the Prophet’s birth but also considered to be the day of his death, such celebrations are inappropriate. Still others are uncomfortable with this almost mystical veneration of the Prophet that seems not in keeping with the essential spirit of Islam. Many point out, quite rightly, that the cornerstone of Islam is the Word of God, not the person of His Messenger.

Full report here

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