The Sahabah who loved and followed the Prophet the most did not celebrate his Mawlid
Q: My question is about celebrating the Mawlid (the Prophet’s birthday). In our locality there is a custom that after three days of a person’s death, the family of the deceased holds a celebration of the birthday of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Some people hold it one month or one year after a person’s death. They slaughter a cow or buy meat, prepare food and distribute it to the people of the village; afterwards, they hold a celebration of the birthday of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Is this permissible? Is it recommended to do this? Was it practiced by the Sahabah (Companions of the Prophet) or by anyone from the Salaf (righteous predecessors)? Please explain this issue, may Allah reward you with the best!
A: Celebrating the birthday of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is one of the Bid`ahs (innovations in religion) introduced into Islam. There is no difference between celebrating the birthday of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and other’s birthdays. The Prophet (peace be upon him) is the best of creatures and he is the teacher and advisor, yet he (peace be upon him) did not celebrate his birth. Similarly, his Rightly-Guided Caliphs did not celebrate his birthday, and the rest of Sahabah (may Allah be pleased with them all) who were the most knowledgeable, loved the Prophet (peace be upon him) more than anyone of us, and were the most well-informed of his Sunnah did not celebrate it. This indicates that this celebration is Bid`ah and all kinds of Bid`ah are deviation from the right way as stated by the Hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him): Every Bid‘ah is a Dalalah (deviation). The earliest and best three centuries of Islam passed and there was no celebration of the birthday of the Prophet (peace be upon him) during these times and, as far as we know, the Salaf did not celebrate it.
Therefore, it is Bid`ah introduced by those who came after the best centuries in virtue and righteousness. It is said that the first to introduce this Bid`ah were the rulers of Egypt from Al-’Ubaydiyyun, who were Shiites, as reported by a group of historians. They introduced it during the fourth century after Hijrah. It is said that they are the first who held these celebrations. In any case, it is a newly-introduced matter in Islam having no basis which some people from past centuries and in our age thought it to be recommended and there is nothing wrong in celebrating it, because it is a good Bid`ah. This is not only an incorrect opinion, but it goes against the Messenger (peace be upon him) as well. It is also in contradiction with the way of the Sahabah who were the most knowledgeable and the best people; however, they did not hold these celebrations. Therefore, it is a duty upon Muslims to reject this act. The biography of the Prophet (peace be upon him) can be studied in educational circles and daily and weekly lessons in which people can learn about the Sunnah of the Messenger (peace be upon him) and know his words and deeds. They can also learn the Islamic rulings brought by the Prophet (peace be upon him). This is what should be taught in school classes, in the educational circles in the Masjids (mosques) and in admonitions and reminders from which people learn the Sunnah and the biography of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and reject the celebration of the Mawlid and what takes place there. All these acts are possible and they are sufficient for Muslims and meet their needs. As for holding such birthday celebrations and preparing banquets, there is no basis for doing this. It is a newly-invented Bid`ah and every Bid`ah introduced in Islam is misguidance. It is not proper for any person of sound mind to be tricked by these people, because their actions are baseless and most of these people do not have insight into Islamic issues. The Almighty states: And most of mankind will not believe even if you desire it eagerly. Therefore, the decisive criterion is the evidence and proof.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) stated: Anyone who introduces anything into this matter of ours (Islam) that is not part of it will have it rejected. He (peace be upon him) also stated: Anyone who does an action which is not in accordance with this matter of ours (Islam) will have it rejected. Also, the manners of the Prophet (peace be upon him), his biography, his birth and his Hijrah (the Prophet’s migration to Madinah) are all taught by scholars at schools, in educational circles, in admonitions and reminders without any need to hold such celebrations invented by Mubtadi`s (those who introduce innovations in religion). Acts of Shirk (associating others with Allah in His Divinity or worship) and excessive praising of the Prophet (peace be upon him) take place at some of these celebrations, and different forms of wrongdoing known only by Allah. Therefore, we need to shut this door and be satisfied with the Islamic lessons in the Masjids, in the educational circles, in reminders and admonitions related to important religious affairs and the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and its rulings. This is the truth, and what people do nowadays and in the past of celebrating the birthday of the Messenger (peace be upon him) or the birthdays of Al-Badawy, Shaykh `Abdul-Qadir or any other person are all innovations having no basis. It is obligatory to reject all these newly-introduced matters in compliance with the saying of the Prophet (peace be upon him): Anyone who does an action which is not in accordance with this matter of ours (Islam) will have it rejected. And: Every Bid‘ah is a Dalalah (deviation).
Q: What is the ruling on celebrating the Mawlid (the Prophet’s birthday)? What is the ruling regarding those who attend it? Will those who celebrate it be punished if they die upon this practice?
A: There is nothing in Shari`ah (Islamic law) which permits the celebration of birthdays, whether that of the Prophet (peace be upon him) or any other. What we know from the study of purified Shari`ah and from what has been established and confirmed by the verifiers from the people of knowledge is that such birthday celebrations are, undoubtedly, Bid`ah (innovation in religion). The Messenger (peace be upon him), who was the sincerest advisor, the most knowledgeable of Allah’s Law, who delivered Allah’s Message, did not celebrate his birthday or the birthday of any other person. By the same token, none of his Sahabah (Companions of the Prophet), his Rightly-Guided Caliphs or other followers celebrated his birthday. If such celebrations were correct, good or recommended, they would not have been neglected by the Prophet (peace be upon him) or by his Sahabah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) would not have disregarded it; rather, he would have taught his followers and would have done it himself. His Sahabah after him would have practiced this along with his Rightly-Guided Caliphs (may Allah be pleased with them all). The Sahabah not having held such gatherings gives us certainty that such celebrations are not part of Shari`ah. Furthermore, during the best centuries of Islam such celebrations were not conducted, and therefore, it becomes clear that they are Bid`ah. He (peace be upon him) stated: Anyone who introduces anything into this matter of ours (Islam) that is not part of it will have it rejected. And: Anyone who does an action which is not in accordance with this matter of ours (Islam) will have it rejected. There are other Hadiths referring to this meaning.
Based on this, it is known that such celebrations of the Prophet’s birthday during the month of Rabi` Awwal or other days, as well as others birth celebrations of Al-Badawy, Al-Husayn and others are all condemned Bid`ahs which Muslims must reject because Allah has instead gifted us with two great annual celebrations: `Eid-ul-Fitr (the Festival of Breaking the Fast) and `Eid-ul-Adha (the Festival of the Sacrifice). These two festivals are sufficient for Muslims and protect them from inventing new festivals and rejected celebrations. Love of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is not achieved by holding such birthday celebrations, but his love requires following him, acting according to the rules of his legislation, defending it, inviting others to it and being steadfast on it. This is the love of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Allah (may He be Glorified and Exalted) states: Say (O Muhammad peace be upon him to mankind): “If you (really) love Allâh then follow me (i.e. accept Islâmic Monotheism, follow the Qur’ân and the Sunnah), Allâh will love you and forgive you your sins. Thus, the love of Allah and His Messenger is not expressed through birthday celebrations or Bid`ahs, but by obedience to Allah and His Messenger, being upright in Allah’s Legislation and striving in the Cause of Allah by inviting to the Sunnah of the Messenger (peace be upon him), raising it to the highest position, defending it and denying the actions of those who go against it. This is the way of expressing love of the Messenger (peace be upon him). It is also achieved by following his example in words and deeds, and following his path and inviting others to it. This is the true love proved by adherence to Islamic ethics and acting in accordance with Allah’s Legislation (may He be Glorified and Exalted). As for the punishment of those holding these celebrations, it is a different issue because it is up to Allah (may He be Glorified and Exalted). Bid`ahs and sins are among the reasons for being punished; however, Muslims may deserve punishment for their sins and Allah may forgive them, perhaps because of their ignorance of the ruling regarding these celebrations or because they just imitated those who think it is the right thing to do; or because of righteous actions and good deeds they forwarded for themselves and become a reason for obtaining Allah’s Forgiveness; or because of the Shafa`ah (intercession) of the Prophets, the believers, or children who died at an early age. The point is that sins and Bid`ahs are reasons for punishment and the perpetrator is subject to Allah’s Will (may He be Glorified and Exalted). This applies if the Bid`ah committed does not tantamount to Kufr (disbelief).
If the Bid`ah introduced into religion leads to Kufr, such as those involving major Shirk (associating others with Allah in His Divinity or worship), then the perpetrator will abide in Hellfire forever, we seek the refuge with Allah from this! On the other hand, if the Bid`ah does not involve major Shirk, but it is related to subsidiary matters that contradict Shari`ah (Islamic law) such as innovated Salahs (Prayers) or celebrations which do not include or lead to Shirk, then the perpetrator will be subject to Allah’s Will the same as all sins.