Now knowing that it was the Ismaili Fatimid dynasty that came up with this festival, let us identify the main person who developed this centenary.
The person who inaugurated this invented festival is Umar al-mulla, a venerated Sufi ascetic and not a scholar of Islam, who lived in the city of Mosul.
Under the entry of Muhammad b. Abd al-Bāqī (d. 571 AH), a Ḥanbalite scholar from Mosul, he mentions how Umar al-Mulla was greatly respected in the city of Mosul, and a disagreement happened between the two of them, which resulted in Muhammad b. Abd al-Bāqī being falsely accused of stealing, because of which he was beaten.
Writes Ibn Rajab [Dhayl, vol. 1, p. 254], “As for this Umar, he outwardly showed himself to be a pious man and ascetic, but I believe him to be [a follower] of the innovated groups. And this incident [with Muhammad b. Abd al-Bāqī] also shows his injustices and transgressions [against others].”
Also Ibn Kathīr (d. 774 AH) mentions that when Nūr al-Dīn Zangi abolished the unjust taxes that had been levied on the people, Umar al-Mulla actually wrote him a letter chastising him for his decision, and saying that this would lead to an increase of evil in the land. At which Nūr al-Dīn responded back, saying,
“Allah created the creation, and legislated the Sharīʻah, and He knows best what is beneficial for them. So if He knew that there should have been an increase [in revenue from taxes], He would have legislated it for us. Hence, there is no need for us to take more than what Allah has decreed, since whoever adds to the Sharīʻah has presumed that the Sharīʻah is incomplete and he needs to perfect it by his addition. And to do this is arrogance against Allah and against what He has legislated, but darkened minds will never be guided, and may Allah guide us and you to the Straight Path” [al-Bidāyah wa-l-Nihāyah, vol. 12, p. 805].
In what can only be described as a reversal of traditional roles, it was the ruler who chastised the ʻsaint’ when Umar al-Mulla actually encouraged the collection of unjust taxes, while Nūr al-Din sought to abolish it. Before proceeding, it is noteworthy that the mawlid instituted by Umar al-Mulla involved singing poems in praise of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and nothing more than this.
Umar al-Mulla, was in charge of a zawiya (Sufi monastery). This zawiya was a popular place for the local leaders and noblemen to visit, and in particular “…every year, during the days of the mawlid of the Prophet, (peace and blessings be upon him), he would invite the governor of Mosul, along with the poets, who would come and sing their poems, and be rewarded [by the governor] for this.”
The city of Mosul was located in a relatively small province, and remained under the control of the larger Zangid Empire. Hence, it was only natural that mawlid celebrations performed in Mosul would not garner too much attention nor have a large budget at their disposal to use for the mawlids. Rather, for this to occur, it had to be sponsored by a dynasty that could afford to do so, and this dynasty was found in the neighboring province of Irbil, a city less than a day’s journey from Mosul. As news of the mawlid spread to this city, the ruler of the semi-autonomous province, Muẓẓafar al-Dīn Kokburi (d. 630/1232), took it upon himself to celebrate the mawlid in an extremely lavish manner.
It would take another few decades for the mawlid to spread to Irbil, but eventually, sometime in the early part of the seventh century, Muẓẓafar al-Dīn became famous for the extravagant mawlid ceremonies that were sponsored through the State Treasury of his principality.
The historian Ibn Khallikān (d. 681/1282) mentions that Muẓẓafar al-Dīn was known for his generosity, for he had built many khānqahs (monasteries) for the Sufis to worship in. Ibn Khallikān was also from Irbil, and was a friend of Muẓẓar al-Dīn, and witnessed first-hand the mawlid celebrations.
Writes Ibn Khallikān:
Two days before the mawlid, Muẓẓafar al-Dīn would take out camels, cows and sheep – a large number, beyond counting – and he would send these animals, accompanied with drums and song and other instruments, until they would reach the large open ground [outside the city]. Then, these animals would be slaughtered, and pots would be set up, and all types of different foods would be cooked, until finally it would be the Night of the Mawlid itself [meaning the night before the mawlid]. On that night, he would allow samāʻas [special poems] to be sung in his fort, and then he would descend down [to the people], the procession being led by countless candles. Amongst these candles were two, or four – I forget now – that were so large that each one had to be carried on a mule, and behind it was a man in charge of keeping the candle erect [on the mule], until it reached the Sufi monastery. Then, on the very morning of the mawlid, he commanded that the Royal Robe be taken out from the Palace to the khānqah (Sufi monastery), by the hands of the Sufis. Each Sufi would wear an expensive sash around his hand, and they would all walk in a procession, one behind the other – so many in number that I could not verify their quantity. Then, Muẓẓafar al-Dīn himself would descend to the khānqah, and all of the noblemen and leaders and gentry would gather together. A chair would be placed for the preachers, and Muẓẓafar al-Dīn himself would be in a special tower made of wood [that he had built for the occasion]. It had many windows, some of which faced the people and others faced the open ground, which was a large ground of immense size. The infantry would also gather there, in procession. So Muẓẓafar al-Dīn would listen throughout the day, sometimes looking at the people and sermons, and sometimes at the infantry, and this would continue until the infantry finished their processions. Then, a general tablecloth would be laid out for the poor, and all who wished could eat from it, bread and other types of foods beyond count! And there was another tablecloth laid out as well, for the people of the monastery, those close to the throne, and while the sermons would be delivered, he would call [each speaker] one by one, and the noblemen and leaders and guests who had come for this season: scholars, and preachers, and reciters, and poets, and he would give each of them garments, and they would then return to their seats. Once this was finished, they would all gather at the tablecloth to partake of the food. This would continue until the ʻasr prayer, or even after that, and he would spend the night there, and the samaʻās would continue to the next day. And this would be done every year, and what I have described is in fact a condensed summary of the reality, for to mention it in detail would be too cumbersome and take a long time. Finally, when these ceremonies would be completed, he would gift an amount to every visitor who had come from afar, as provision for his journey home. And I have already mentioned how, when Ibn Diḥya passed by Irbil, he wrote up a work regarding the mawlid, because of what he had seen Muẓẓafar al-Dīn do, and because of this he was gifted a thousand gold coins, along with the generous hospitality he was shown for the duration of his stay.
From this passage, it is clear that the custom of the mawlid was already known to Abū Shāmah in Damascus, but he points out that the celebration occurs in Irbil, and not in Damascus. Hence, at this stage, in the middle of the seventh century, news of the mawlid has reached Damascus, which is around 500 miles away, but the city of Damascus itself had yet to start its own mawlid.
It is also striking to note the similarities between the Fatimid celebrations of the mawlid and the ones sponsored by Muẓẓafar al-Dīn: in both cases, the pomp and pageantry and generosity lavished upon the population must have played a vital role in popularizing these rulers amongst the people.
Dear readers, now that we have introspected at the origins of this festival, we see that it has in no way any relation to the times of the Prophet or his Sahabas, as a matter of fact, not a single report exists that show any one of the sahabas celebrating this “invented occasion” rather it was initiated by the fatamids, a corrupt cult and by a namesake “saints.”
Then why should we the followers of the Prophet now start following a man such as Umar Al Mulla, who instigated the increment of taxes among other things.
My dear readers, it is incumbent that we appreciate the fact that this celebration is nothing less than innovation, our prophet never advocated it, neither did his Sahabas, then why do we yet insist on celebrating something which has no basis in our religion as Muslims and only endears the use of our wallets on extravagant purchases.
We ask Allah for guidance.