Sultan Salahuddin al-Ayyubi viewed the disease of wahn as a disease that must be eradicated from the hearts and minds of the Muslims. Therefore, he organized a large scale event of festival all over the Muslim countries. This festival is known as the celebration of Maulid ul-Rasul SAW.
The disease of Wahn (the love of this life and hate of death) was spreading and swallowing up the souls of the Muslims. This acute disease had seeped into the deepest spot of the heart and infected the lives of most Muslims. Accumulating wealth, forgetting the hereafter and fearing death had made the Muslims reluctant to join the caravan of Jihad and fight. This was the reason why the Muslims were easily subjugated by the kufr Crusader forces the first time they set foot in Palestine.
The power of weaponry, technology and the number of forces had never been a main factor in the history of the true Muslims’ struggles, like what we have seen in the victories given by Allah SWT to His Rasul in the battle of Badr, the battle of Yarmuk and many other battles.
It was all due to the Muslims’ love for shaheed and their longing to meet their Rabb. However, the ambition to die shaheed faded with times, replaced by the glitters of the world, to the point that when the invaders arrived, there was no significant call for resistance i.e. Jihad.
Sultan Salahuddin al-Ayyubi viewed the disease of Wahn as a disease that must be eradicated from the hearts and minds of the Muslims. Thus, he organized a large scale event of festival all over the Muslim countries. This festival is known as the celebration of Maulid ul-Rasul SAW. Therefore, this event of festival reverberated and was filled with At-Taujih (briefings, instructions, guidelines), advices on the subject of the sirrah (history) of Rasulullah SAW, as well as poetry and story-telling contests with regards to the sirrah of Rasulullah SAW.
In the beginning, this Maulid was opposed by some ulamas, considering its nature, which was new and pointing towards bid’ah. However, Salahuddin clarified that it was an activity that would enliven the Shi'ar (hallmarks) of Islam (bid’ah hasanah) and not ritual in character which is a forbidden bid’ah. Salahuddin asked for the consent of the Abbasiyah Khalifah, an-Nasir, in Baghdad who approved his initiative.
During the hajj season in Dzulhijjah 579 H (1183 AD), Salahuddin as the sultan who was protecting Makkah, immediately instructed the entire jama'ah of hajj to immediately spread the information to all the Muslims when they all went back to each of their villages, to organize the commemoration of the birth (Maulid) of the Prophet SAW in the month of Rabiul Awal in the following year. The Maulid they were going to organize should be having the character of being able to arouse the spirits of the Muslims, so that they would return to studying Islam and conduct Jihad.
Suddenly, the life of Rasulullah SAW was once again exposed in every corner of the Muslim countries and implanted into the souls of the Muslims. The winding courses and the ups and downs of his struggles were clearly pictured in front of their eyes. The longings and affections recurred, and the tears dropped remembering the beloved Rasulullah SAW. This festival that took place for two months without stopping really reawakened the Muslims to rise up from their long slumber. The values of Jihad were also introduced which really rekindled their spirits to conduct Jihad.
In this festival, a compilation of beautiful pieces of poetry which praised Rasulullah SAW known as ‘Iqd al-Jawahir (a string of gems) won the contest of the festival. This compilation of poetry is better known as Barzanji, because it was written by Sheikh Ja’far al-Barzanji, who came from Barzinj, Kurdistan. This is the most recited poetry by the Muslims in many countries to these days. In fact, even the Maulid of the Prophet SAW continued to be commemorated by the Muslims today.
Unfortunately, these poetry and Maulid are like empty and without meanings in their performance today. In fact, even the Sheikhs and Ustadzs do not seem to understand the early history of Maulid which they are commemorating every year. Even though the performance of Maulid is repeatedly held, the ruh and spiritual values of Jihad still do not arouse the Muslims to wake up from their long slumber.
This festival solemnized by Salahuddin was successful in shaking the countries of the Muslims. The elderly citizens and the youths, they both rose and marched behind the Sultan to join ranks in Jihad. The buzz and echoes of Jihad verses were reveberating everywhere. The caravans of Jihad were lined up elegantly, the ambitions for shaheed tolled and were ready to storm the invading Crusaders and cleanse Palestine from humiliation and dishonor.
Note: Other source mentions that the Maulid was first held by the Fatimiyyah Dynasty, also in the era of Salahuddin. However, this is hard to accept considering the Fatimiyyah are Shi’ah which generally is more inclined to idolize Ali RA than Rasulullah SAW. Ibnu Kathir in his book al-Bidayah wan Nihayah, 13/137, mentioned that King Mudhafir had organized the Maulid in the early 6th century of Hijrah (Crusader War era), but only when he became Salahuddin’s in-law that the Maulid was held in a much larger scale in all the Muslim countries.
Translated from the book "Panglima Syurga" (Warriors Of Paradise) by Abu Fatah Grania