Sunday was the starts the Islamic Unity Week that bridges the two dates of the month of Rabi al-Awwal – 12 and 17 – which two groups of Muslims, that is, Sunnis and Shi’ites respectively believe to be the auspicious birthday of Prophet Mohammad (Blessings of God upon him and his progeny) regarding whom God Almighty says in ayah 107 of Surah al-Anbiya:
“We have not sent you, but as a Mercy unto the creation.”
Following is a special feature on Islamic Unity Week.
“Hold fast, all together, to Allah’s cord, and do not be divided; and remember Allah’s blessing upon you when you were enemies, then He brought your hearts together, so you became brothers with His blessing.”
The holy Qur’an is the “Revealed Word” of Allah, conveyed to humanity as the universal code to abide by, through the Last and Greatest of Divine Messengers after whom no Prophet will be sent nor any heavenly scripture revealed. As the most Excellent Exemplar to mankind, during his 23-year mission Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) transformed fratricidal tribes into monolithic Muslims, who soon became torchbearers of science and civilization. Although born among the Arabs, or to be more precise, in the then obscure place called Mecca, in the monotheistic Hashemite clan which was descended from Prophet Abraham’s firstborn son, Prophet Ishmael, his message was not for any specific race, ethnicity, class, language, group or geographical area – as is clear by the afore-mentioned Words of God Almighty that speak of the universality of Islam.
As the person foretold by Prophets all over the world, including Moses and Jesus, he preached in the full limelight of history, and whatever he did or whatever he spoke was diligently recorded by scribes. With such an impeccable and irrefutable record of his mission, when it was time for him to leave he bequeathed to Muslims the formula of unity, famously known as the Hadith Thaqalayn. It reads:
“I am leaving among you the two weighty things; the Book of God (the Qur'an) and my progeny the Ahl al-Bayt. Hold fast to them and you will never go astray for the two will never part with each other even when they return to me at the Pool (of Kowsar on Judgement Day)."
The Prophet, moreover demonstrated the practicability of his immaculate “Sunnah” and “Seerah” which means practice and behavior. The finest example in this regard was his emphasis on the prime position after him, of his daughter, Hazrat Fatema (peace upon her) – whom God calls the Kowthar in the holy Qur’an; his grandsons, Imam Hasan and Imam Husain (peace upon them) – whom he hailed as the Leaders of the Youth of Paradise; and his dear cousin and son-in-law, Imam Ali (AS) – whom he publicly proclaimed his vicegerent at Ghadeer-Khom in the front of a huge gathering of 120,000 on the express commandment of God. This is evident by ayah 67 of Surah al-Ma’edah.
Perhaps some might say that if such crystal clear was the record of the mission of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA), then why the two differing dates for his birthday. This is indeed an interesting question. It, however, does not mean that there are any differences amongst the Ummah of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA). An important point to note is that the Muslims believe in the One and Only God; face the same focal point (that is, the holy Ka’ba), for the daily ritual prayers; recite the same single Qur’an as the Revealed Word of God; fast in the blessed month of Ramadhan; perform Hajj in the same days of Zilhijjah; and unanimously regard Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) as the Seal of all divine messengers. Thus, in view of these facts, the difference of date in his birthday could be a scribal error in those days when paper was not yet available and the Arabic numerals had not yet been standardized.
Another explanation in this regard is the chain of authorities of narrators. For instance, the Sunnis, on the narrations of the Sahaba – who before becoming Muslims from decades of idol-worship were not much familiar with the Prophet – believe the 12 of Rabi al-Awwal to be his birthday.
The Shi’ites, for their part, believing family accounts of the Ahl al-Bayt to be more reliable, consider the 17th of the same month as the auspicious day the Last Prophet was born.
It is worth noting that for the Infallible Imams of the Prophet’s Household the account of the life of their ancestor was a household affair. It is also on their authority that we have come to know of so many events of the Prophet’s life, beginning from the miracles at his birth and details of the forty years he spent before being entrusted with the divine mission, including his marriage to the Immaculate lady Hazrat Khadija (peace upon her), who is the Omm al-Momineen or the Mother of all true believers, and with whom he spent over 25 years of marital bliss.
Thus, in view of these undeniable facts, we are indebted to the foresight of the Sage of our Age, Imam Khomeini (RA), for taking the commendable step 35 years ago of declaring Islamic Unity Week to span these two dates of Rabi al-Awwal, so that the plots of the enemies of Islam, especially the Zionist agents, the Takfiris could be nipped in the bud.