وَذَكِّرْهُم بِأَيَّامِ اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّكُلِّ صَبَّارٍ شَكُورٍ
“‘And remind them of the days of Allah.’ There are certainly signs in that
for everyone who is steadfast, thankful.” [Al-Qur’an 14:5]
In addition to the mandated festivals (i.e. ‘Idu-l Fitr and ‘Idu-l Adha), the Islamic calendar is replete with milestones and anniversaries. The birth of the Paragon of creation in Makkatu-l Mukarramah (Allah bless him and give him peace), his receiving of the first revelation, his migration to Madinatu-l Munawwarah, the defining battle of Badr, the various conquests, the farewell Hajj, and his eventual return to his Lord in pure bliss are some of the key events in the life of the beloved Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace.
The earlier generations used to recount such significant events and anecdotes not just from the life of the holy Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). They also recounted fondly the stories from the lives of his pure family (Ahlu-l Bayt), the righteous Caliphs (Khulafâ’u-r Râshidîn), the other companions (Ashâb), the successive generations (tâbi’în wa taba tâbi’în), the worshipful slaves (‘Âbidîn), the pious ascetics (‘Ârifîn), those annihilated in the love of Allah and His Prophet (‘Âshiqîn) and the intimate friends of Allah (Awliya-Allah) – may Allah be well pleased with all of them.
The people of the bygone eras did not measure blessings by tangible wordly possessions alone. They revered pious individuals in their midst like they were precious treasures and viewed their presence – be they alive or in their resting abodes – as great blessings and undoubted mercy from Allah. They internalised the belief that when the Awliya raise their hands in humble entreaty, Allah causes rain to fall; for their sake, Allah makes the earth hospitable; were they not to shoulder the brunt of the bala’ and musiba, our existence would be a painful one.
وَمَن يُعَظِّمْ شَعَائِرَ اللَّهِ فَإِنَّهَا مِن تَقْوَى الْقُلُوبِ
“And whosoever honours the symbols of Allah, then it is truly
from the piety of the heart.” [Al-Qur’an 22:32]
To accept a fellow creation as being better and of being in closer proximity to Allah than one’s self, is a sign of humility – a trait that the previous generations possessed in abundance. It is out of this acceptance of one’s fraility, weakness and sinfulness that they celebrated the lives of savants and saints who were beloved to Allah in the ardent hope that He, Most High, will bless, honour and look favourably upon those still treading the face of the earth for their sake.
Mawlid, ‘Urs (in the Indo-Pak tradition), Hawl (in the Arab tradition), and Moussem (in the African tradition) all stemmed from the desire to practically implement the above verses of the Qur’an so that people may express gratitude for the favours bestowed by Allah and honour the symbols that He has sent. The greatest of these favours and symbols is the beloved Prophet himself, Allah bless him and give him peace. It is for this reason that when the month of Rabi’u-l Awwal arrives, the young and old celebrate his birth with fondness.
The term ‘Urs [wedding] is used to denote the anniversary of an ‘Âshiq who annihilated him/her self in the love of Allah and His Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace. While it may appear strange, ‘Ursis indeed a fitting term as death is but a beginning. It is the day when the lover, freed from the shackles of this worldly prison, reaches the Promised Land, and gets to sleep the sleep of a bridegroom (Hadith: nimka nawmati-l ‘Arûs) – thus completing his/her destiny in this worldly plane.
إِذَا قُبِرَ الْمَيِّتُ أَوْ قَالَ: أَحَدُكُمْ أَتَاهُ مَلَكَانِ أَسْوَدَانِ أَزْرَقَانِ، يُقَالُ لِأَحَدِهِمَا مُنْكَرٌ وَالْآخَرِ نَكِيرٌ، فَيَقُولَانِ: مَا كُنْتَ تَقُولُ فِي هَذَا الرَّجُلِ؟ فَيَقُولُ: مَا كَانَ يَقُولُ هُوَ عَبْدُاللهِ وَرَسُولُهُ، أَشْهَدُ أَنْ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللهُ وَأَشْهَدُ أَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا عَبْدُهُ وَرَسُولُهُ، فَيَقُولَانِ: قَدْ كُنَّا نَعْلَمُ أَنَّكَ تَقُولُ هَذَا، ثُمَّ يُفْسَحُ لَهُ فِي قَبْرِهِ سَبْعُونَ ذِرَاعًا فِي سَبْعِينَ، وَيُنَوَّرُ لَهُ فِيهِ، ثُمَّ يُقَالُ لَهُ: نَمْ، فَيَقُولُ: أَرْجِعُ إِلَى أَهْلِي فَأُخْبِرُهُمْ، فَيَقُولَانِ: نَمْ نَوْمَةَ الْعَرُوسِ الَّذِي لَا يُوقِظُهُ إِلَّا أَحَبُّ أَهْلِهِ إِلَيْهِ حَتَّى يَبْعَثَهُ اللهُ مِنْ مَضْجَعِهِ ذَلِكَ، وَإِنْ كَانَ مُنَافِقًا قَالَ: سَمِعْتُ النَّاسَ يَقُولُونَ: فَقُلْتُ مِثْلَهُمْ لَا أَدْرِي، فَيَقُولَانِ: قَدْ كُنَّا نَعْلَمُ أَنَّكَ تَقُولُ هَذَا، فَيُقَالُ لِلْأَرْضِ: الْتَئِمِي عَلَيْهِ فَتَلْتَئِمُ عَلَيْهِ حَتَّى تَخْتَلِفَ أَضْلَاعُهُ، فَلَا يَزَالُ فِيهَا مُعَذَّبًا حَتَّى يَبْعَثَهُ اللهُ مِنْ مَضْجَعِهِ ذَلِك
“When the dead – or one of you – is buried, two dark and blue angels will come to him; one is called Munkar and the other is called Nakir. They will ask him, “What did you say about this man (Muhammad)?” He will reply, “What he used to say, that he is Allah’s servant and Messenger. I bear witness that there is no true deity except Allah and that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger.” They will reply, “We know that you used to say that,” and his grave will be made larger for him to seventy forearms length by seventy forearms length and will be filled with light for him. He will be told, “Sleep,” but he will reply, “Let me go back to my family in order that I tell them!”
They will say, “Sleep, just like the bridegroom who is awakened by the dearest of his family, until Allah resurrects him from that slumber.”
If he was a hypocrite, his answer will be, ‘I do not know! I heard people say something, so I used to repeat what they were saying.’ They will say, ‘We know that you used to say that.’ The earth will be commanded, ‘Come closer all around him,’ and it will come closer to him until his ribs cross each other. He will remain in this torment, until Allah resurrects him from that state.”
[At-Tirmidhi classed this narration as Hasan, Gharib]
It is our hope to have a comprehensive database of the ‘Urs dates of Awliya around the world. We begin with the following, grouped by the months in the Islamic calendar. We have called these dates, Days of Allah:
Amiru-l Mu’minin fi-l Hadith Imam Abdullah b. al-Mubarak:
“Mercy descends when the righteous are mentioned and remembered.”
— Yahya, F (1431 AH). The Life of Abdullah ibn Al-Mubarak (click to open eBook in PDF). Cairo: fajr.wordpress.com. p43
Al-Hafiz Al-Imam Al-Dhahabi:
“O, what longing for an assembly where the pious are mentioned, for mercy descends where the righteous people are remembered, not where the righteous are spoken of with contempt and curses.”
— Al-Dhahabi. Al-Nasihah Al-Dhahabia li Ibn Taymiyya. Available: http://www.masud.co.uk/ISLAM/misc/dhahabi.htm. Last accessed 5th Aug 2013.
Habib ‘Umar b. Saqqaf al-Saqqaf:
“The most beneficial thing for the wayfarer is to remember the lives and states of the pious, especially those who lived recently because they sought Allah at a time when people had turned away from Him and Allah gave them insight at a time when most people were blind.”
Habib Abdullah b. Husain b. Tahir:
“If you are unable to physically keep their company then read their books, their poetry and their biographies – for “mercy descends when the pious are mentioned.” The meaning of this, as Imam al-Ghazali says, is that mentioning them brings forth the desire to emulate them and to make up for one’s shortcomings which in turn leads to entering Paradise and meeting Allah which is the true meaning of mercy.”
Dr. Mostafa al-Badawi:
“The mitigating presence of saintly persons among a corrupt population is a compensatory factor of substantial weight, due to the power of their baraka that, unknown to the community at large, neutralises to a certain extent the adverse effects of corruption.”
— Al-Badawi, M (2002). Man & the Universe – An Islamic Perspective. 2nd ed. Amman: Wakeel Books. 12.
Khwaja Hasan Sani of Dargah Nizamuddin:
“The death for common people could be a sad, mournful affair, but for a Sufi it is only a transition – the final step to the soul’s communion with God; a ‘wedding with the Divine’ which the Sufi had been aspiring his/her entire life – hence the celebration.”
— Chatterjee, A. (2008). A Relationship Par Excellence: Amir Khusrau and Nizamuddin Aulia. Available: http://www.boloji.com/culture/017.htm. Last accessed 1st Jan 2011.
Shaikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson:
“One of the benefits of studying the biographies of the people that went before us is that our predecessors inspire us by their lives and by their sacrifices. Among these inspirational people are the prophets, saints, scholars, and even righteous political rulers.”
— Yusuf, H. (2003). Biography of Nizam al-Mulk. Seasons. 1 (-), 28-29.