Monday, February 21, 2011

What's in a middle name?

I rarely think of my middle name and never use it. Very few people know it. Only the late father of a friend, who was very close and dear to me, called me by my middle name.

But once a year, on the occasion of Mawlid al-Nabi or the Birth of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), I remember it and can still hear Abu Fawaz affectionately calling me by it.

Eid al-Mawlid falls on the 12th day of the month of Rabi' al-Awwal in the Islamic calendar. As the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, the corresponding date in the Gregorian calendar varies each year. This year, 12 Rabi’ al-Awwal 1432 was last Tuesday (15 February).

Festivities are often restricted because the same day also marks the anniversary of the death of the Prophet. According to Egyptian Islamic theologian Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi,the exact date of the Prophet's birth is disputed, but it is most likely to be on Monday 9 Rabi’ al-Awwal (20 or 22 April 571 AC), the same year in which the invasion of the Elephants took place against the Ka’abah. And the Prophet passed away on Monday 12 Rabi’ al-Awwal in the 11th year of Hijrah (8 June 632 AC). Allah Almighty knows best.”

Speaking in April 2001 at the Mufti Islam Online Fatwa Committee, Sheikh Qaradawi said: “We all know that the Companions of the Prophet did not celebrate the Prophet's birthday, Hijrah or the Battle of Badr, because they witnessed such events during the lifetime of the Prophet who always remained in their hearts and minds. Sa’ad Ibn Abi Waqqaas said they were keen on telling their children the stories of the Prophet's battles just as they were keen on teaching them the Koran. Therefore, they used to remind their children of what happened during the Prophet's lifetime so they did not need to hold such celebrations [as Eid al-Mawlid]. However, the following generations began to forget such a glorious history and its significance.”

“Actually,” Sheikh Qaradawi noted, “celebrating the Prophet's birthday means celebrating the birth of Islam.”
So parents tell stories of the Prophet's life to their children. Religious leaders deliver speeches at public gatherings about the life of the Prophet. Families get together, donations are made to charity and food is distributed to the poor.

Baby Nabawiya with mum, Vicky
I was born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It was Mawlid al-Nabi on that day, that year (no, don’t ask what year!). To honor their Moslem friends and hosts, my parents gave me the middle name Nabawiya.