What is Al-Mawlid? It’s the celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) birthday.
Al-Mawlid is celebrated by many Muslims throughout the world. They will celebrate in many numbers of ways. Some will hold processions in the streets, marching through towns and cities, in much the same way that the Sikhs do on their holy days/festivals. Some will hold lectures and serve food in the masjids. Some will read the Qur’an and make collective dua after reading. Some will hold parties and gatherings in their homes.
It all sounds very good, doesn’t it. Except for one, very important fact – this is not an Islamic festival. And so it is not part of Islam. And those who make it part of Islam are in fact introducing an innovation. And what’s the position of innovations in Islam?
“Whoever innovates something in this matter of ours (Islam) that is not part of it, will have it rejected.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim)
“…The most truthful speech is the Book of Allah. The best way is the way of Muhammad. The worst of affairs are the novelties and every novelty is an innovation and every innovation is misguidance and every misguidance is in the Fire.” Reported by an-Nasaa’ee
Celebrating the birthday of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is not something we have been Ordered to do by Allah, nor the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). There is no verse nor saheeh hadith (strong hadith) that instructs us to do this. So this is an innovation and not part of Islam. Further evidences from shari’ah can be found at the bottom of this post.
Al-Mawlid An-Nabi (ie. the birthday of the Prophet (pbuh)) is not an Islamic festival and you will find that those who call upon Muslims to practise this, (the ‘pirs’ and ‘saints’ and ‘religious leaders’) are also engaged in other innovations as well. Now there’s an interesting coincidence!
HISTORY OF AL-MAWLID
Public celebrations of the Prophet’s birth first occurred 400 years after his death. Milad un-Nabi started as a festival for the Shia ruling class, without the involvement of ordinary people, near the end of the 11th century in Egypt. The celebrations emphasised the Ahl al-Bayt, the family of the Prophet Muhammad, with sermons and recitation of the Qu’ran. The first Sunni celebration took place in the 12th Century in Syria, when Nur ad-Din was the ruler. The reason why the Sunnis adopted the Shi’ite festival is not clear, but it is possible it was done to counter Christian influence in Spain and Morocco.
SO WHY DO PEOPLE CELEBRATE IT?
I offer one explanation, and that is that they have misinterpreted the following hadiths:
Muslim (1162) narrated from Abu Qataadah al-Ansaari (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) was asked about fasting on Mondays and he said: “On (that day) I was born and on it Revelation came down to me.”
Al-Tirmidhi (747) narrated, in a hadeeth that he classed as hasan, from Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “Deeds are presented (to Allah) on Monday and Thursday and I like my deeds to be presented when I am fasting.”
Many Muslims have mistaken these hadiths to meaning that the day the Prophet (pbuh) was born is a blessed day and that we should celebrate this ‘birthday’. However, the hadith clearly is about MONDAYS – meaning, any Monday and not one specific Monday in the year. Also, the Prophet (pbuh) fasted on Mondays for the reasons outlined above – he (pbuh) didn’t fast on his day of birth only. He also fasted on Thursdays as well, so his actions did not show any more significance for his day of birth than other days. We would realise this, if we thought about it. Also, the Prophet (pbuh) used to FAST on Mondays, as he did on Thursdays – he did not hold a procession, nor a gathering, nor a feast, nor a festival… need I go on?
WHAT’S THE HARM?
Enjoining good and forbidding wrong is one of the key principles of Islam. We don’t just sit back and allow things to happen, in front of our eyes, like mindless couch potatoes sitting in front of the TV.
“Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to all that is good (Islam), enjoining Al-Ma‘roof (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam orders one to do) and forbidding Al-Munkar (polytheism and disbelief and all that Islam has forbidden). And it is they who are the successful” [Qur'an, Aal ‘Imraan 3:104].
So we have been instructed to be protective about Islam, keep it free of wrongdoings, of keeping made-up practises away from Islam. By doing this, we keep the message clear for people to learn the truth. And we avoid going down roads that lead to bigger sins. Once you start to introduce innovations in Islam, you give room for other innovations to creep in. Over time, the religion will have changed from what it originally was. Remember that Shaytaan is an open enemy to mankind and he will try to mislead us in SMALL things – things that we will think are good but lead to wrongdoing. If these things were obvious, we would reject Shaytaan very easily.
We have been Instructed by Allah not to make distinctions between the Prophets:
Say (O Muhamma, pbuh): We believe in Allah and in what has been sent down to us, and what was sent down to Ibrahim (Abraham), Isma’il (Ishmael), Ishaaq (Isaac), Ya’qub (Jacob) and Al-Asbat (the twelve sons of Ya’qub) and what was given to Musa (Moses), ‘Isa (Jesus) and the Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between one another amon them and to Him (Allah) we have submitted (in Islam).” (Qur’an, 3:84)
So if we are not to make distinctions, then if celebrating the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) birthday was halaal, shouldn’t we celebrate ALL the prophets’ birthdays? Yet we all know the harm of celebrating Christmas. So isn’t there a hypocrisy here by those who call on other Muslims to celebrate Al-Mawlid?
Look at what has happened with birthdays generally speaking – they involve making someone feel special for ONE day – if you miss it, they feel bad. You have to spend money, waste money on buying things – there is a culture of trying to better your gifts each time – it becomes a burden. And yet there is nothing, after all this effort, that benefits a person in the HereAfter. Look at what’s happened with Christmas and the distortions and mistruths that are surrounding the Prophet Isa (as).
An extract from the last sermon of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh):
“…Beware of Satan, for the safety of your religion. He has lost all hope that he will ever be able to lead you astray in big things, so beware of following him in small things…”
Secondly, we do not emulate non-Muslims, nor the Christians, nor the Jews. The Christians exaggerate in their love for Prophet Isa (as) – we should not exaggerate in our love for the Prophet Muhamamd (pbuh) – we must love him but not to the extreme, wherein we will be stepping into sin. By celebrating the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) birthday, we end up following the path of the Christians and Christmas and we open up the door of practising extremes – and MUSLIMS ARE NOT EXTREMISTS.
The Prophet (pbuh) said: “Do not exaggerate about me as the Christians exaggerated about the son of Maryam. I am only a slave, so say, ‘The slave of Allaah and His Messenger.’” (Reported by al-Bukhaari)
So Muslims, love our Prophet (pbuh) but stay within the Islamic bounds. Shaytaan is always trying to push you outside the boundaries of Islam, so that you don’t even realise when you’ve stepped over the edge! Don’t fall into Shaytaan’s trap. Think about what you’re doing and does it make sense? Always ask, did the Prophet (pbuh) do this? And if he (pbuh) didn’t, then don’t you do it either.
We Muslims are meant to contemplate about things – to be Men of Understanding (including women in this as well, of course!). Islam is not hard but we make it hard with our own little ways that we introduce. Do not spoil your good deeds by mixing them with bad deeds.
Stay away from innovations. Stand up 4 Islam!
Further information about the Islamic rulings on celebrating birthdays, whether it is the Prophet’s (pbuh) birthday or anyone else’s birthday, can be found in the following links:
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