The Islamic Ruling on the Celebration of Al-Mawlid
All praise is due to Allaah. May He send salutations upon His Messenger Muhammad and exalt his mention
There is nothing in the Qur’aan to say that we should celebrate Al-Mawlid, or the birthday of the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam himself did not do this or command anyone to do it, either during his lifetime or after his death. Indeed, he told us not to exaggerate about him as the Christians had exaggerated about Jesus, peace be upon him. He sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said: “Do not exaggerate about me as the Christians exaggerated about the son of Maryam. I am only a slave, so call me ‘The slave of Allaah and His Messenger.’” (Bukhaari).
What has been reported is that the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam made the day of his birth a day of worship, which is very different to celebration. He was asked about fasting on Mondays, and he replied: “That is the day on which I was born and the day on which I was entrusted with the Mission (or when I was first given Revelation).” (Muslim, al-Nasaa’i and Abu Daawood).
Moreover, we know that the Sahaabah, may Allaah be pleased with them, were those who loved the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam the most. Was it reported that Abu Bakr, may Allaah be pleased with him, who was the closest of all people to him and the one who loved him the most, celebrated the birthday of the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam? Was it reported that ‘Umar, may Allaah be pleased with him, who ruled for twelve years, or ‘Uthmaan, did this? Was it reported that ‘Ali, his cousin and son-in-law, did this? Was it reported that any other of the Sahaabah did this? No, by Allaah! Is it because they were not aware of its importance, or did they not truly love the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam? Nobody would dare say such a thing except one who has gone astray and is leading others astray.
Did any of the Imaams – Abu Haneefah, Maalik, Al-Shaafi’i, Ahmad, Al-Hasan Al-Basri, Ibn Seereen, may Allaah have mercy upon them all, do this or command others to do it or say that it was good? By Allaah, no! It was not even mentioned during the first and best three centuries of Islaam. The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said: “The best of mankind are my generation (or my century), then those who come after them, then those who come after them. Then there will come people who will not care if their testimony comes before their oath or vice versa (i.e., they will not take such matters seriously).” (Bukhaari, Muslim and At-Tirmidhi).
The celebration of the Prophet’s birthday appeared many centuries later, when many of the features of the true religion had vanished and Bid’ah had become widespread.
Thus this celebration apparently became a sign of one’s love for the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. But can it be possible that the Sahaabah, the Imaams and the people of the best three centuries were unaware of it, and it was only those who came later who were aware of its importance?! What the Qur’aan tells us is that love of the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam can only be demonstrated by following the guidance that he brought. Allaah says that which translates as: “Say, [O Muhammad]: 'If you should love Allaah, then follow me, [so] Allaah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allaah is Forgiving and Merciful'. Say: 'Obey Allaah and the Messenger.' But if they turn away – then indeed, Allaah does not like the disbelievers.” (Aal ‘Imraan: 31-32).
The first of these verses explains that love is just a claim, but the proof of sincerity is following what the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam brought. The second verse reaffirms the importance and necessity of obeying Allaah and His Messenger. Hence Allaah ended the Aayah with a very stern warning in which those who refuse to obey Him are described as Kaafirs, and Allah does not love the disbelievers. We ask Allaah to keep us safe from that.
The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam warned us of the dangers of disobeying him, and the danger of adding to what he brought. The celebration of Al-Mawlid or his birthday is indeed an addition to what he brought – as all the scholars agree. He said: “The best of speech is the Book of Allaah, and the best of guidance is the guidance of Muhammad. The most evil of things are those which are newly-invented (in religion), and every innovation is a going astray.” (Muslim & An-Nasaa’i).
Many people have asked about the ruling concerning celebrating the birthday of the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, standing up for him, sending peace and blessings upon him and reading verses from the Qur’aan during such celebrations, holding gatherings of remembrance and doing various things to show their joy, reciting poems and other things that are done to commemorate Al-Mawlid which many people celebrate on the twelfth day of Rabee’ Al-Awwal of each Hijri year.
The answer is that it is not permitted to celebrate the birthday of the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, or that of any other person, because this is a matter that has been innovated in the religion.
The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam did not do this, neither did his successors, the Rightly-Guided Khaleefahs, or Al-Khulafaa’ Al-Raashidoon, or others among his companions, may Allaah be pleased with them, or those who followed them exactly in faith during the best centuries of Islaam – these are the people who had the best knowledge of the Sunnah of the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, who loved him the most and followed the Sharee’ah most perfectly, far better than any who came after them.
It is proven that the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said: “Whoever innovates something in this matter of ours (i.e., Islaam), will have it rejected” i.e., it will be thrown back at him. In another Hadeeth, he sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said: “I advise you to adhere to my Sunnah and the way of the rightly-guided successors (Al-Khulafaa’ Al-Raashidoon) who will come after me, and to cling stubbornly to it. Beware of newly-invented things (in religion), for every newly-invented thing is an innovation and every innovation is a going astray.” These two Ahaadeeth contain a very stern warning against coming up with innovations (Bid’ah) and acting on them. Allaah says in His clear Book that which translates as:
“… And whatever the Messenger has given you – take; and what he has forbidden you – refrain from …” (Al-Hashr: 7).
“… So let those beware who dissent from his [i.e., the Prophets] order, lest trails and affliction strike them, or a painful punishment.” (Al-Noor: 63).
“There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allaah an excellent example for anyone whose hope is in Allaah and the Last Day and [who] remembers Allaah often.” (Al-Ahzaab: 21).
“And the first forerunners [in the faith] among the the Muhaajiroon (those who migrated to Madeenah from Makkah) and the Ansaar (the citizens of Madeenah who helped and gave aid to the Muhaajiroun) and those who followed them with good conduct – Allaah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him, and He has prepared for them gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide forever. That is the great attainment.” (Al-Tawbah: 100).
“… This day, I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favour upon you and have approved for you Islaam as your religion…” (Al-Maa’idah: 3).
There are many other verses from the Qur'aan that convey the same meaning. Innovating things like Al-Mawlid implies that Allaah did not complete the religion for the Muslim nation, and that the Messenger sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam failed to convey to this nation all that he should have done. In fact, it implies that the religion was not completed until these people came along later and innovated in the religion things that Allaah had not permitted, claiming that these were things that would bring them closer to Allaah.
Without a doubt, this is a very serious matter, which indicates opposition and resistance towards Allaah and His Messenger sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. Allaah has perfected the religion for His slaves and completed His favour upon them. The Messenger sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam has conveyed the Message clearly, and there is no way of reaching Paradise or avoiding Hell that he has not explained to his nation, as is clear from the Saheeh Hadeeth narrated by ‘Abullaah ibn ‘Amr may Allaah be pleased with him and his father, where the Messenger of Allaah sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said: “Allaah has not sent any prophet but it was his duty to point out to his nation the best of what he knew, and to warn them against the worst of what he knows.” (Muslim).
It is well known that our Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam is the best and the seal of the Prophets, the most eloquent and the most sincere in advice. If celebrating his birthday had been a part of the religion which Allaah liked, His Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam would have told his nation about it, and he would have celebrated it during his lifetime, or his companions would have done so after his death. Since nothing of the kind happened, we know that this is not part of Islaam at all; rather it is one of the innovations about which the Messenger sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam warned his nation about, as stated in the two Ahaadeeth quoted above. Other Ahaadeeth also convey the same meaning, such as the words spoken by the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam in his Friday sermons: “… The best of speech is the Book of Allaah and the best of guidance is the guidance of Muhammad (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam). The most evil of things are those which are newly-invented (in religion), and every innovation is a going astray.” (Muslim).
There are many Qur'aanic verses and Ahaadeeth which say the same thing. A group of scholars have condemned the practice of celebrating the Prophet’s birthday and warned against it, in accordance with the evidence quoted above and other texts. Some of the later scholars went against this and allowed these celebrations as long as they did not involve anything forbidden such as exaggerating about the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, free-mixing between men and women, musical instruments, etc. They thought that this was a kind of 'Bid’ah Hasanah (good innovation)'. But the rule is to refer disputed matters to the Book of Allaah and the Sunnah of His Messenger Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) as Allaah says that which translates as:
“O you who have believed, obey Allaah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allaah and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allaah and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in result.” (Al-Nisaa’: 59).
Therefore, let us refer this matter of celebrating the birthday of the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, to the Book of Allaah. We find that the Qur’aan commands us to follow the Messenger in that which he has brought to us, and warns us to shun that which he has forbidden, and it tells us that the religion of Islaam has been completed and perfected for this nation. This celebration is not a part of that which the Messenger sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam brought, so it is not a part of this religion which Allaah has perfected for us and in which He has commanded us to follow his Messenger. Let us also refer this matter to the Sunnah of the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam: we will find that he did not do this, or command others to do it, and his Companions, may Allaah be pleased with them all, did not do it either. So it is not part of the religion; it is a newly-invented innovation, and an imitation of the Jews and Christians in their festivals.
Therefore, it should be clear to anyone who has the slightest common sense, sincere desire for the truth and open-mindedness, that celebrating the birthday of the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam is not a part of Islaam; it is an innovation, which Allaah and His Messenger sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam warned us against and ordered us to shun.
A wise person should not be swayed by the fact that so many people all over the world do this. The truth is not known by the number of people who follow it; it is known through the evidence of the Sharee’ah, as Allaah says of the Jews and Christians that which translates as: “And they say: ‘None will enter Paradise except one who is a Jew or a Christian.’ That is [merely] their wishful thinking. Say: 'Produce your proof, if you should be truthful.’” (Al-Baqarah: 111).
“And if you obey most of those upon the earth, they will mislead you from the way of Allaah. They follow nothing except assumption, and they do nothing but lie.” (Al-An’aam: 116).
Most of these Al-Mawlid celebrations, besides being Bid’ah, also contain other sinful practices, such as the free mixing of men and women, use of songs and musical instruments, consumption of alcohol and other intoxicants, and other evils. They could even involve something worse, which is Al-shirk Al-Akbar, in the form of exaggeration about the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam or other Awliyaa’ (the so-called 'saints'). They may even pray to him or call out for his help and support, claiming that he knows the unseen, and other forms of Kufr which many people indulge in when they celebrate the birthday of the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam or others whom they call Awliyaa’.
The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said, as narrated by ‘Umar, may Allaah be pleased with him: “Beware of going to extremes in religion, for those who came before you were destroyed by their going to extremes in religion.” He also said: “Do not exaggerate about me as the Christians exaggerated about the son of Maryam. I am only a slave, so call me 'the slave and Messenger of Allaah.’” (Bukhaari).
It is most strange indeed that many people make huge efforts to attend these innovated gatherings and to defend them, when they do not do this in the case of the duties that have been enjoined on them like attending Jumu’ah (Friday) prayers and all other prayers in congregation; they do not care about these duties and do not think that they are doing anything wrong. There is no doubt that this is due to weakness of faith, lack of understanding and the effects of sins piling up on one's heart. We ask Allaah to keep us and all the Muslims safe from that.
Some of them think that the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam actually attends the Al-Mawlid celebration, so they stand up to greet and welcome him. This is a serious falsehood and a form of gross ignorance. The Messenger of Allaah sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam will not come out of his grave, or contact anybody, or attend any gatherings. He will remain in his grave until the Day of Resurrection, and his soul is in the highest ‘Illiyoon (in Paradise), with his Lord in the abode of honour, as Allaah says that which translates as: “Then indeed, after that you are to die.” (Al-Mu’minoon: 15).
The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said: “I will be the first whose grave will be opened on the Day of Resurrection, and I will be the first to intercede and the first to be asked to intercede.” This Qur'aanic verse and Hadeeth, and others that say the same thing, all indicate that the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam and everyone else who has died will only emerge from their graves on the Day of Resurrection. This is something on which all the Muslim scholars agree; there is no controversy here. Every Muslim should pay attention to these matters and be careful to avoid the innovations and illusions introduced with no authority from Allaah by those who are ignorant. Allaah is the One whom we ask for help, and in Him we put our trust. There is no power and no strength except with Him.
Sending prayers and blessings upon the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam is one of the righteous deeds that bring a person closer to Allaah, as He says that which translates as: “Indeed, Allaah confers blessing upon the Prophet, and His angels [ask Him to do so]. O you who have believed, ask [Allaah to confer] blessing upon him and ask [Allaah to grant him] peace..” (Al-Ahzaab 33:56)
The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said: “Whoever sends one blessing on me, Allaah will send ten on him.” This sending of blessings is recommended on all occasions, and is prescribed at the end of every prayer – indeed, according to all scholars, it is obligatory in the final Tashahhud of every Salaah (prayer), and it is Sunnah Mu’akkadah (confirmed Sunnah) on a number of other occasions, such as after the Adhaan, when the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam is mentioned, and during the day and night of Jumu’ah (i.e. from Maghrib on Thursday until Maghrib on Friday), as is indicated in a number of Ahaadeeth.