The Anniversary of the Prophet’s Birth (Mawlid)
and the judgement about celebrating it
Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, the One Who exists without a place. To Allah belong the endowments and proper commendations. May Allah raise the rank of Prophet Muhammad sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam and his kind Al and Companions and protects his nation from which he fears for it.
On the 12th of Rabi^ ul-‘Awal of every year an honored and glorified memory shines over the whole world. This occasion is the Honorable Birth of Prophet Muhammad sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam. How can one not celebrate this birth that has changed the face of history. This birth was one of the best gifts that one can ever receive. It is because of this Prophet may Allah raise his rank that we became Muslims. What is better than becoming a Muslim is to remain steadfast to Islam and die as a Muslim. We thank Allah for this birth and for making us among the followers of this Prophet. This event is commemorated by Muslims all over the world who join together for such rewardable deeds as reciting from the Qur’an, chanting Islamic praises, telling the story of the Prophet’s birth, teaching Religious Knowledge, slaughtering animals to feed to the poor, and gathering to thank and praise Allah and ask Him to exalt the honor of Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam. Only those who have darkness in their hearts deny the permissibility of celebrating this birth, and forbid others from doing so. It is absolutely not unlawful (haram) to celebrate the birth of the Prophet sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam, rather it is a rewarded deed. In fact it is the habit of the hundreds of millions of Muslims all over Asia, Africa, Europe, India, Bangladesh, Fiji, Indonesia, Yemen, Turkey, Pakistan, and the Americas. Only those who do not love the Prophet say that such celebrations are unlawful (haram).
The honorable, knowledgeable, and righteous ruler: al-Mudhaffar, the King of Irbil (city in the country of present day Iraq), initiated this practice about 900 years ago, and he was praised by Muslim scholars of Islam–among them the Egyptian hafidhs: Ibn Hajar al-^Asqalaniyy and Jalal ud-Din as-Suyutiyy. The famous scholar of hadith, Abul-Khattab Ibn Dihyah, wrote a book for the king especially to be read during the Mawlid celebration, and there are no great Muslim scholars who dispraised this innovated celebration.
The basis for commemorating honorable events repeatedly every year is evidenced in the Sunnah of the Prophet. As related by al-Bukhariyy, when the Prophet emigrated to al-Madinah he found the Jews fasting, so he asked them why they fasted on the 10th of Muharram (the first month of the Islamic calendar). They told the Prophet that they do so to commemorate the day in which Allah saved Prophet Moses (Musa) and the Tribes of Israel (Isra’il) from the tyranny of the Pharaoh. It was revealed to the Prophet what the Jews said was true, so Prophet Muhammad told them: “We are more deserving of Moses (Musa) than you.” He said this because Prophet Moses (Musa) was Muslim. Prophet Muhammad ordered the Muslims to fast the 9th and 10th of Muharram, and this Sunnah is still practiced today.
To celebrate the birth of the Prophet by doing rewardable deeds– that can be done on any day of the year–is considered an innovated practice because this was not done at the time of the Prophet. Although this innovation was praised by the Muslim scholars of Islam, some people consider any innovation an innovation of misguidance. Those who consider any innovation an innovation of misguidance have been misled, because there are two sahih hadiths which support celebrating such an event. Imam Muslim related, through the route of Jarir Ibn ^Abdullah that the Prophet said:
(من سن في الإسلام سنة حسنة فله أجرها وأجر من عمل بها إلى يوم القيامة، لا ينقص من أجورهم شئ ومن سن في الإسلام سنة سيئة فعليه وزرها ووزر من عمل بها إلى يوم القيامة لا ينقص من أوزارهم شئ)
Which means: “The one who innovates a good innovation in Islam has its reward and a reward similar to those who follow him in it–until the Day of Judgment–without lessening their reward. The one who innovates an innovation of misguidance would be sinful for it and has sins similar to those who follow him in it–until the Day of Judgment–without lessening their sins.”
There are two types of innovations mentioned in this hadith: the innovations of guidance and the innovations of misguidance.What complies with the Qur’an, the Sunnah, the Ijma^ (scholarly consensus), and the sayings and practices of the Companions is an innovation of guidance, and what contradicts the Qur’an, the Sunnah, the Ijma^, and the sayings and actions of the Companions is an innovation of misguidance. This definition of the two types of innovations was given by many knowledgeable and trustworthy scholars of Islam; among them Imam ash-Shafi^iyy, Imam an-Nawawiyy, al-Bayhaqiyy, and the Hafidh, Ibn Hajar al-^Asqalaniyy.
It is apparent Muslims have not gone astray in celebrating the birth of the Prophet, based upon the aforementioned hadith, because the deeds practiced during this event are considered rewardable by the standards of the Religion, and in line with the definition of innovations of guidance. Unfortunately, there are some people who misinterpret a sahih hadith related by Abu Dawud:
(كل بدعة ضلالة)
Which means: “Most innovations are innovations of misguidance.”
Those who are misguided interpret the word “كل” (kul) as ‘every’ and thus claim this hadith means: “Every innovation is an innovation of misguidance. Their claim is unfounded for two reasons. Linguistically, this hadith is similar to the hadith related by al-Bayhaqiyy:
“كل عين زانية”
Which clearly does not mean: “Every eye gazes the look of the adulterer;” rather, “Most people are guilty of the forbidden look.” The person who has been blind since birth would surely not have the forbidden look, and it is known the Prophets would never commit such an abject sin. The word “كل” (kul) as used in both hadiths refers to ‘most,’ although it can mean “every” it does not mean this in all cases.
As a matter of fact, in the explanation of Sahih Muslim, an-Nawawiyy said: “The saying of the Prophet, sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam, “كل بدعة ضلالة” is among the terms which areعام مخصوص (^am makhsus) i.e., a general statement giving a specific meaning; which is a known field in Islam, and the meaning of the hadith is “most innovations are innovations of misguidance.” This field the عام مخصوصis seen in the Qur’an in Verse 25 of Surat al-Ahqaf:
(تدمر كل شئ)
Which means the wind Allah sent as punishment to the people of ^Ad demolished most of the things.
To accept the meaning: “Every innovation is an innovation of misguidance,” as the meaning of the sahih hadith related by Abu Dawud would negate the sahih hadith related by Imam Muslim which specifies two types of innovations: the innovations of guidance and the innovations of misguidance. In the rules of the Religion it is not permissible to interpret two sahih hadiths in contradiction to one another, therefore we know the true meaning.
Although most innovations are innovations of misguidance, there are numerous examples of Religiously acceptable innovations. During the Caliphate of ^Umar Ibnul Khattab, ^Umar initiated the gathering of people in Ramadan to pray the Tarawih Prayer in congregation. When he saw the people performing this prayer in congregation he said:
Which means: “What a good innovation that is!” The high status of ^Umar Ibnul Khattab is known, thus it is important to point out ^Umar used the explicit term البدعة“innovation” in his praise. If all innovations were misguided–as some claim–^Umar would not have innovated this practice, nor expressed this praise, yet both al-Bukhariyy and Muslim related this incident. During the era of the followers of the Companions of the Prophet, another praise-worthy innovation took place. Initially, letters like the “ba”, “ta”, “tha”, and “ya”, did not have dots above or below them. This practice of distinguishing between the letters by using this notation began after the time of the Prophet.
Since the time of the Prophet, many innovations have been adopted. Remembering the birth of the Prophet by doing rewardable deeds is a praise-worthy innovation. It is an honorable event and special to Muslims throughout the world. We rejoice in being members of the greatest nation of Islam–the nation of Muhammad–who was the best Prophet and the best creation of Allah. In Surat Al ^Imran, Verse 110, Allah said:
(كنتم خير أمة أخرجت للناس تأمرون بالمعروف وتنهون عن المنكر وتؤمنون بالله)
Which means: “You are the best of nations brought forth to the people; bidding the lawful (ma^ruf) forbidding the unlawful (munkar), and believing in Allah.” This verse means this nation is the best of nations by virtue of its Prophet,” as explained by the scholars of Islam. Muslims are thankful to Allah for the blessings of Islam and for being among the followers of Muhammad.
In Surat Al ^Imran, Verse 31, Allah said:
(قل إن كنتم تحبون الله فاتبعوني يحببكم الله)
Which means “If you truly love Allah, then follow the Prophet to gain Allah’s love.” It is fitting to honor the Prophet. The Mawlid (the celebration of his birth) has a great benefit: it inspires the heart to have a more profound love for the Prophet sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam.