What is the source of Islamic chants and Madih Nabawi? It is claimed that chants and Madih performed in chorus were originated from Christianity. Is it so?
The history of chant and Madih genre can be traced back to time immemorial. When we look over the history of Islam, we cannot trace these to Christian tradition.
When Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) migrated to Medina, townspeople, all of the home folks triumphed. They were reciting poems, and chanting all together. "Talaa'l-badru alayna" which is even chanted in chorus today was a piece of verse that all Muslims chanted all together.
English translation of Talaa'l badru alayna:
"O the white moon rose over us,
from the valley of Wada,
and we owe it to show gratefulness,
where the call is to God.
O You who were raised amongst us,
SallAllahu 'Alaihi Wa Sallam,
coming with a work to be obeyed,
You (SallAllahu 'Alaihi Wa Sallam)
have brought to this city nobleness,
Welcome (O) Best caller to God's way."
Narrates Anas Ibn Malik: [Having entered the city>, the Holy Prophet (pbuh) passed through a certain part of the town. Suddenly some slave girls appeared singing on the Daff (a musical instrument) the following ditty: ‘We are the slave girls of Bani Najjar. How lucky! This day the Holy Prophet (pbuh) has come to be our neighbor'. At this the Holy Prophet (pbuh) remarked: ‘God knows that I love you people' (Ibn Majah, No: 1899)
We can claim that this is the first one ever chanted in chorus. Having religious music in Christian tradition does not mean that tasawwuf (is a mystic tradition within Islam that encompasses a diverse range of beliefs and practices dedicated to Divine love and the cultivation of the elements of the Divine within the individual human being) music, which has a vast repertoire with its unique style, was originated from Christian counterpart.
On the other hand, it should not be forgotten that Christianity too, is a Samawi religion. As it is normal to have similarities in their beliefs, it is normal to have similarities while exercising it. For instance, both Muslims and Christians believe in the Hereafter, angels, and so on...
Madih Nabawi, on the other hand, as it was introduced after the death of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) also considered a beautiful bid'at (innovation in Religion). Imam ibn Hajar Asqalani reports the below given hadith about the legality of the Madih Nabawi:
It is reported by Hazrath Abdullah ibn Abass that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) had migrated to Medina and saw the Jews were fasting on 10th Muharram, Yawme Ashura. He asked them why they fasted on that day. They replied that this was a spiritual and righteous day; a blessed day since on this day God gave Bani-Israel liberty and independence from Pharaoh. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) then said, "if you are fasting on a day when Musa received success on this day (liberation from Phroah and his tyrannical government) then I am more closer to Musa than you. I have a better right than Musa over you. So I will fast on the same day due to this success, due to God's blessing on him." Therefore, the Holy Prophet (pbuh) ordered his Companions to begin to fast on the day of Ashura. (Sahih Muslim, Book 6, Ch. 19 Hadith no.2518, 2520.)
Imam ibn Hajar Asqalani establishes the legality of the Madih Nabawi, concluding:
"from this, we learn to perform the act of thankfulness to God, the Most High on a certain day for a bounty He has bestowed or a disaster He has averted. And that act has to be repeated on the same day every year (anniversary-birthday of the Prophet).
Today, in many Islamic countries there is a tradition of Madih Nabawi in different languages to commemorate the birth of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). In Arabic, each one of Banad Suad, Burda, and Hamziyya eulogies are Madih Nabawi. There are more than twenty Madih poems in Turkish. However, the Madih named Vasilat-ul Najat is one of the most chanted of all. Madih ceremonies early on, which used to be done only on the anniversary day of Prophet's birth, later became widespread on occasions such as Holy Nights, deaths, marriages, and illnesses in Turkey. Altough some scholars of Islam considered Madih as Bid'at, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi made this below explanation for Madih:
The recitation of the Prophet's ‘Mevlid' and its section about his Ascension is a most beneficial and fine custom and admirable Islamic practice. It is a pleasant, shining, and agreeable means of fellowship in Islamic social life; gratifying and pleasurable instruction in the truths of belief; and an effective and stimulating way of demonstrating and encouraging the lights of belief and love of God and love for the Prophet. May Almighty God cause this custom to continue to eternity, and may He grant mercy to the writers of ‘Mevlids' like Süleyman Efendi, and make their dwelling Paradise. Amen.
1. İbni Mace, Nikâh: 21.
2. Müslim, Siyam: 127.
3. el-Hâvî fi'l-Fetevâ, ı: 190.
4. The Letters, s. 281-285
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