When is Rabi’-ul-Awwal?
Rabi’-ul-Awwal is the third month of the Islamic calendar, occurring after Muharram and Safar. In 2020, it will begin on either 18th October or 19th October, subject to the sighting of the new moon.
The literal meaning of Rabi’-ul-Awwal is ‘the first spring’, but this has no relevant meaning today, because the Islamic calendar follows the moon rather than the solar seasons. Thus, Rabi’-ul-Awwal will begin in autumn this year.
Why is Rabi’-ul-Awwal important to Muslims?
Muslims consider Rabi’-ul-Awwal to be significant because the following events took place during this month:
- The birth of the Prophet Muhammad (saw), the final Messenger to whom the Qur’an was revealed.
- The Hijrah of the Prophet (saw), when he emigrated from Makkah to Madinah. The Islamic calendar is dated from this event.
- The death of the Prophet (saw), on 12th Rabi’-ul-Awwal in the eleventh year of Islam.
Does Rabi’-ul-Awwal have any special blessings or benefits?
Unlike, for example, the months of Ramadan or Dhul Hijjah, there are no special recommendations to fast, pray or make du’a during Rabi’-ul-Awwal. However, the events that took place during this month mark it as specifically blessed.
Allah chose Rabi’-ul-Awwal to send the Prophet (saw) into the world, and to take His Beloved (saw) back to Him. Out of the twelve months in the lunar calendar, He chose to bless only Rabi’-ul-Awwal in this way. Therefore, it is of course a special month and deserves our attention and respect. With that in mind, let’s take a more detailed look at the blessed events of this month and what we can learn from them.
Event One: The Birth of the Prophet Muhammad (saw)
Rabi’-ul-Awwal is one of the most significant months in Islamic history, because humanity was blessed by the birth of the Prophet (saw) during this month. He (saw) would eventually lead the world, beginning with the Arabs, Persians and Romans, from the darkness of ignorance and oppression into the light of Tawhid, and true justice and peace. His birth was ‘a mercy to the worlds’ (Qur’an, 21:107), and Allah chose Rabi’-ul-Awwal to illuminate us with this mercy.
The Prophet (saw) was born in Makkah on a Monday in Rabi’-ul-Awwal, though narrations differ on the exact date. Many narrations say the 12th, but others have mentioned different dates between the 8th and the 17th. Nevertheless, he (saw) was definitely born on a Monday:
His birth had been anticipated for a long time. Isa (as) had mentioned it to his people five centuries earlier:
'And remember when Isa, the son of Maryam, said, "O Children of Israel! I am the messenger of Allah [sent] to you, confirming the Torah (Law) [which came] before me, and giving glad tidings of a Messenger to come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad"'. (Qur'an, 61:6)
Ibrahim (as) and Isma’il (as) had also prayed for the Prophet’s (saw) birth when they were rebuilding the Ka’bah:
'Our Lord, send among them a messenger from themselves who will recite to them Your verses and teach them the Book and wisdom and purify them. Indeed, You are the Exalted in Might, the Wise'. (Qur'an, 2:129)
There were many miracles surrounding his birth. The Prophet’s (saw) mother, Aaminah, was conscious of a light within her when she was pregnant with him, which one day shone from her so intensely that she could see the castles and palaces of Syria. (Ibn Ishaq)
There were also the miracles witnessed by his foster mother, Halimah, who had been hoping for a rich child to nurse, because her family was suffering from drought. Nevertheless, she took fatherless Muhammad (saw) as her foster child, and her family were blessed for years afterwards:
It is clear the Muhammad’s (saw) arrival was much-anticipated and it was widely recognised that he was a blessed and special child. Even his name was unique; it means ‘one who is praised’, and no one else used that name at the time. His mother, grandfather (‘Abdul-Muttalib) and foster-parents all knew that great things lay in his future.
So what lessons can we draw from his (saw) birth this Rabi’-ul-Awwal?
The Importance of Loving the Prophet Muhammad (saw)
‘The Prophet is closer to the believers than their own selves’. (Qur’an, 33:6)
The month of Rabi’-ul-Awwal is a good time to remind ourselves of the place of the Prophet (saw) in our lives. He is the best of creation, and he should be dearer to us than any place or person, including ourselves.
If we do not feel this closeness to the Prophet (saw), the solution is simple: learn more about his character and his life, and naturally our love for him will grow.
This Rabi’-ul-Awwal, why not begin reading the Seerah (the Prophet’s (saw) biography) so you can learn more about the best of creation? It is also a good idea to start following Prophetic habits, such as visiting the sick and elderly, smiling often, and feeding the poor.
Take this chance to revive or strengthen your connection with the Prophet (saw) and his Sunnah.
Event Two: The Hijrah of the Prophet Muhammad (saw)
The Prophet (saw) and his Companion, Abu Bakr (ra), also emigrated from Makkah to Yathrib during Rabi’-ul-Awwal. This event is known as the Hijrah, and we date the Islamic calendar from it. So, the first year they spent in Madinah was the first Islamic year, the second year was the second Islamic year, and on. The Islamic year is denoted by ‘AH’, which stands for ‘After Hijrah’. We are currently in the year 1441 AH.
Umar (ra) said, ‘The Hijrah has separated truth from falsehood, so calculate dates from it’. (Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani)
The Hijrah marked the beginning of a new chapter for the Muslims. The Prophet (saw) united the tribes of Yathrib, guiding them with justice, wisdom and mercy. The city of Yathrib became known as ‘Madinah al-Munawarah’, the Illuminated City, and is now commonly called Madinah.
Did you know that the first masjid was also built in Rabi’-ul-Awwal? The Prophet (saw) left Makkah with Abu Bakr (ra) and they crossed the desert to Quba, a town near Yathrib. They stayed there for three days and built the first masjid, before travelling on to Yathrib, where they would begin building a second masjid, known as Masjid An-Nabi today.
The Prophet (saw) greeted the people of Quba by saying, ‘O people, give one another greetings of peace, feed the hungry, honour the ties of kinship, and pray in the hours when men sleep. Then you shall enter Paradise in peace’.
The anniversary of the Hijrah should remind us of these words. In both Quba and Madinah, the Prophet (saw) established a community centred around Allah’s worship, where the beautiful lessons of the Qur’an and Sunnah were followed. The Prophet (saw) said, 'Leave me as I leave you, for the people who were before you were ruined because of their questions and their differences over their prophets. So, if I forbid you to do something, then keep away from it. And if I order you to do something, then do of it as much as you can'. (Bukhari)
This Rabi’-ul-Awwal, we should strive to follow the Sunnah of the Prophet (saw) as much as possible in our daily lives.
The best way to follow the Prophet's (saw) example is to read, understand and follow the Qur’an. Increase your Qur’anic recitation, and bring life to the Qur’an and Sunnah in your house by reminding yourself to be kind, generous, patient and grateful. The Prophet (saw) is the best example for us, and this Rabi’-ul-Awwal, we should take the opportunity to remind ourselves of the lessons he taught and build good habits.
Event Three: The Death of the Prophet Muhammad (saw)
On Monday 12th Rabi’-ul-Awwal, in the eleventh year of Islam, the Prophet (saw) passed away.
A day or two before his death, he had gone into the Masjid and told the people from the pulpit, ‘There is a slave amongst the slaves of God to whom God has offered the choice between this world and that which is with Him, and the slave has chosen that which is with God’. He had been ill for a few days, and his family and closest friends knew that it would soon be time for him to go back to Allah.
Nevertheless, it was still a great shock to the Muslims when he died, so much so that some of them refused to believe that he had passed away. Just a few hours before his death, he had gone into the Masjid and watched the people praying, and Anas (ra) later said, ‘I never saw the Prophet’s face more beautiful than it was at that hour’. It seemed impossible that he (saw) should have left them, and even Umar (ra), one of his closest Companions, was adamant that it was a lie.
Abu Bakr (ra), however, reminded the people that the Prophet (saw) was only a human Messenger, and he was not immortal. Abu Bakr (ra) said,
‘O people! If it was Muhammad whom you worshipped, then know that he is dead. But if it is Allah whom you worshipped, then know that He does not die’.
It was as if the people had not known of the revelation of this verse until Abu Bakr recited it that day. They took it from him, and it was on all their tongues. Umar (ra) said afterwards, ‘When I heard Abu Bakr recite that verse, I was so astounded that I fell to the ground. My legs would no longer carry me, and I knew that Allah's Messenger had died’.
Allah had presented the Prophet (saw) with the choice to live a little longer or to return to Him. Allah’s Beloved chose to return to him. The grief and sorrow felt by the Muslims was immense, in Madinah in particular. They were grieving not just for the Prophet (saw), whom they loved more than anyone else, but for the end of Revelation:.
‘I don’t weep for him’, said Umm Ayman, who had been like a mother to the Prophet (saw). ‘Don’t I know that he has gone to something which is better for him than this world? But I weep for the tidings of Heaven which have been cut off from us’.
Since the Prophet Muhammad (saw) is beloved to all Muslims, it is natural for us to mourn the Prophet’s (saw) death, and to feel great sadness at his loss. With that in mind, here is one final lesson we can draw from the month of Rabi’-ul-Awwal.
Gratitude for the Prophet Muhammad (saw)
It is only through the sacrifices, efforts and immense love of the Prophet (saw) that we have been given the incredible guidance of the Qur’an and Sunnah. Allah says in the Qur’an:
‘Indeed Allah conferred a great favour on the believers when He sent among them a Messenger from among themselves, reciting unto them His verses, and purifying them, and instructing them (in) the Book (Qur'an) and Al-Hikmah, (the wisdom and the Sunnah of the Prophet (saw)), while before that they had been in manifest error’. (Qur’an, 3:164)
We naturally tend to remember the beautiful character of the Prophet (saw) more in Rabi’-ul-Awwal, but we should not single out this month to connect with him and follow his Sunnah. Rather, we should use this month as an opportunity to build good habits so we can emulate him throughout the year.
Above all, Rabi’-ul-Awwal is a time for being grateful to Allah for the amazing blessing of sending the Prophet (saw) to us and guiding us to His Light. It is a time for grounding ourselves in our purpose once more and reviving our connection with Allah and His Messenger by learning more about the Qur’an and Sunnah. This is the ultimate blessing and significance of Rabi’-ul-Awwal.