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Friday, July 19, 2024

On Mawlid al-Nabi or Gamo: a Letter to my Friend

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By Momodou Sabally

I greet you thou Prince of Gunjur, mover and shaker of Nashville Tennessee! It was a great pleasure conversing with you this afternoon while relaxing at my beachside hideout.

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As I stroll on the seashore with the gentle rays of the sun bouncing on our glistening beaches on this blessed day, my mind keeps focused on the brith of the Seal of all Prophets Muhammad ‘sallallahu alaihi wa sallam!’

Alhassan, my friend, it is once again that time of the year when Muslims come together to reflect on the birth and life of our blessed Prophet through night vigils popularly referred to as Gamo in our local Wolof diction. But times have shifted and more and more people are challenging this practice in the name of purifying our religion. As if the challenge itself is not too heretic an act, those averse to celebrating the birth of the Prophet (SAWS) can sometimes go as far as attacking those who deem it right to observe the Gamo; what a travesty of justice! The sad thing about those attacking this practice is that the same people will take part and rejoice in celebrating the births of despotic monarchs in their own so called Islamic countries.

But so much on the negative side my brother, I wish to remind you and myself about the blessed and enlightening character that is our Prophet Muhammad (SAWS). The man of whom Allah ‘Subhaanuhu wa ta’aalaa’ was speaking when he said “Certainly you have in the Messenger of Allah an excellent exemplar for him who hopes in Allah and the latter day and remembers Allah much” in Surah A’zaab, verse 21. What then could be wrong with coming together to mark the birth of that messenger by narrating his life and character for emulation by Muslims?

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Indeed you are from Gunjur from where one of the greatest scholars of our time the late Sheikh Omar Bun Jeng hails. I cringed when I recently saw a Facebook page attached to his name make a post that was derogatory of the practice of Gamo. I challenged them, saying that the post was against the grain of the teachings of the late Sheikh who once said that bringing people together to talk about Islam, religious practice and character of the noble Prophet (SAWS) cannot be wrong practice regardless of weather one called it Gamo or the Mandinka dance ‘sewrubaa’. May Allah rain His Mercy and Blessings on the souls of the erudite Sheikh Omar Bun Jeng.

Indeed Alhassan I still recall the radio talk show of Bun Jeng and the late Alhagie Lalo Samateh of Radio Gambia when the radio host asked Bun Jeng this question as they spoke about the birth of the noble Prophet: Allah tells us in the Quran that He, Allah and His angels send their blessings and peace on the beloved Prophet so those of us who have believed should send our blessings on him [in verse 56 of Surah Ahzaab]; Mr Samateh was asking when did Allah and his angels send their blessings on our noble Prophet.

The late Sheikh’s answer to his host was classic: If you studied Arabic grammar just like you did your English grammar, you would understand that the tense used in this verse is the present continuous tense so it is an act that keeps going on perpetually!

My good friend, let us then be up and doing, sending blessings and invoking the peace of Allah on our beloved messenger (SAWS).

Indeed I do not possesss the following or resources to conduct a Gamo but I would have done so this very day with the presence of our legendary singer of Islamic songs, Landing Kintiba, luxuriating in his inspiring poetry: ‘keelaa baa la bankay lungo kaawakoo jamaa leh ketta jeenyaa lu jaata jana; dimbaa lu bay faata!’ (Upon the birth of the great Prophet, a lot of miracles happened- springs dried up and burning fires died down).

My good friend, I am not sure you find old religious songs so endearing so let me leave you with a quote from a genre you find both enlightening and refreshing as well as inspiring. Here’s a snippet from what is perhaps the mother of all modern motivational books, Napoleon Hill’s classic, “Think and Grow Rich”. The following two paragraphs are from Thomas Sugrue’s review of a biography of the Prophet (SAWS) published in Napoleon Hill’s classic “Think and Grow Rich”:

The Koran, the revealed word of God, was the closest thing to a miracle in Mohammed’s life. He had not been a poet; he had no gift of words. Yet the verses of the Koran, as he received them and recited them to the faithful, were better than any verses which the professional poets of the tribes could produce. This, to the arabs, was a miracle. To them the gift of words was the greatest gift, the poet was all-powerful. In addition the Koran said that all men were equal before God, that the world should be a democratic state – Islam …

The rise of Islam began. Out of the desert came a flame which would not be extinguished, a democratic army fighting as a unit and prepared to die without wincing.

Mohammed had invited the Jews and the Christians to join him; for he was not building a new religion. He was calling all who believed in one God to join in a single faith. If the Jews and Christian’s accepted his invitation Islam would have conquered the world. They didn’t. They would not even accept Mohammed’s innovation of humane warfare. When the armies of the prophet entered Jerusalem not a single person was killed because of his faith. When the crusaders entered the city, centuries later, not a Moslem man, woman or child was spared. But the Christians did accept one Moslem idea-the place of learning, the university.”

We invoke Allah’s blessings and peace on our believed Prophet with the timeless words of the great poet al-Busiri as expounded in his classic poem the Burda:

Mawlaaya Salli wa Sallim daaiman abadaa
‘Alaa Habibika Khayril khalqi kullihimi

Have a blessed day my good friend; with great regards,

Momodou Sabally
The Gambia’s Pen

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