Birth of Prophet Mohammed. Tabriz (?), 1314/15. Water colours on paper.

Peace be upon him.

The first time I really felt any love for the Prophet I was baking a cake. This was long before marriage, and I was standing in my mother’s kitchen grating carrots, absentmindedly humming to an English CD of religious Islamic music. A song about his last moments on earth came on the stereo, and for the first time, I really listened to the lyrics: “…as ‘Aisha his wife, held tight to his hand, the Prophet spoke again before he passed away…

There was something about imaging ‘Aisha comforting the Prophet and the idea that his last breath was spent speaking to her, that went directly to my heart — and I found myself sobbing over a bowl of flour and cinnamon.

In a very lovely post, Dr. Omid Safi shares and interprets a poem about the birth of the Prophet — written by the Ottoman Suleyman Chelebi in the 15th century. What makes this poem so incredible to me, is that it’s written not from the standpoint of his Companions, or with a list of prophetic traditions describing his attributes, but through the voice of his mother, Amina, as she experienced giving birth to him.

Many believe that today, the 12th of Rabi’ al-awwal in the Islamic calendar, is the day the Prophet was born. I can’t see a better way to celebrate than to remember his mother. Here are a few exerts, but go read the whole thing.

Dr. Safi provides a wonderful poetical exegesis.

Amina Khatun, Muhammad’s mother dear:
From this oyster came that lustrous pearl.
After she conceived from ‘Abdallah
Came the time of birth with days and weeks.
As Muhammad’s birth was drawing near
Many signs appeared before he came!

In the month of Rabi‘ al-awwal then
On the twelfth, the night of Monday, look,
When the best of mankind was born
O what marvels did his mother see!

Spoke the mother of that friend: “I saw
A strange light; the sun was like its moth.
Suddenly it flashed up from my house,
Filled with world with light up to the sky.
Heavens opened, vanquished was the dark,

And I saw three angels with three flags.
One was in the East, one in the West,
One stood upright on the Ka‘ba’s roof.
Rows of angels came from heaven, and
Circumambulated all my house;

Some have said that of these charming three
One was Asiya of moonlike face,
One was Lady Mary without doubt,
And the third a houri beautiful.
Then these moonfaced three drew gently near
And they greeted me with kindness here;

Then they sat around me, and they gave
The good tidings of Muhammad’s birth;
Said to me: “A son like this your son
Has not come since God has made this world,
And the Mighty One did never grant
Such a lovely son as will be yours.
You have found great happiness, O dear
For from you that virtuous one is born!

“They described him in this style to me,
Stirred my longing for that blessed light.”
Amina said: “When the time was ripe
That the Best of Mankind should appear,
I became so thirsty from that heat
That they gave me sherbet in a glass.
Drinking it, I was immersed in light
And could not discern myself from light.

Then a white swan came with soft great wings
And he touched my back with gentle strength.
And the King of Faith was born that night:
Earth and heaven were submerged in light!”