In the name of God the most Gracious, the most Merciful,
By the grace of God, we gather every year especially in the month of Rabi Al-Awwal to celebrate the birth of the Prophet (PBUH ﷺ), alongside Muslims across the world. In these gatherings, we read the Barzanji Mawlid, which is a short Seerah (biography) on the life of the Prophet (PBUH ﷺ). We reflect on his life and his teachings. We send Salawat and recite poetry in his praise.
Every year, we receive questions and comments about these gatherings, specifically the permissibility of them. We have discussed this topic in detail, with references, in various talks and lectures.
For example, the Friday Khutbah on 16 September 2022
Or, the Salaam Saturday on 25 September 2021
God willing, over the coming days we will post short reflections on this topic based on the Quran and Hadith.
Mawlid Reflection 1
قُلْ بِفَضْلِ ٱللَّهِ وَبِرَحْمَتِهِۦ فَبِذَٰلِكَ فَلْيَفْرَحُوا۟ 10:58Translation of Quran (Surah Yunus: 58): “Say O Prophet: In Allah’s grace and mercy, do rejoice”
وَمَآ أَرْسَلْنَـٰكَ إِلَّا رَحْمَةًۭ لِّلْعَـٰلَمِينَ 21:107Translation of Quran (Surah Al-Anbya: 107): “We did not send you O Prophet except as a mercy to all the worlds”
We see from the first Ayat, Allah gives a Quranic injunction to rejoice, to be happy, to celebrate for the mercy we receive from Him. This is a general injunction – if you pass an exam, if you get a job, if you receive something good, be happy and celebrate. This celebration can be a means for acknowledging and showing gratitude to Allah for sending that mercy to you.
We see from the second Ayat, Allah clearly states that the Prophet (PBUH ﷺ) was sent to us as a mercy. And not just to us, but to all the worlds – the world of humans, jinns, angels and everything else.
The connection here is simple and clear. The Prophet (PBUH ﷺ) was sent to us as a mercy from Allah (SWT). The Quran invites to celebrate when we receive a mercy from Allah. So celebrating his birth (PBUH ﷺ) is completely consistent with the teachings of the Quran.
Mawlid Reflection 2
وَسُئِلَ عَنْ صَوْمِ یَوْمِ الاِثْنَیْنِ. قَالَ ذَاكَ یَوْمٌ وُلِدْتُ فِیھِ
(Sahih Muslim 1162e – Book of Fasting)
Translation of (Sahih Muslim 1162e – Book of Fasting): The Messenger of Allah (PBUH ﷺ) was asked about fasting on Monday (as he used to fast regularly on Mondays and Thursdays). He (PBUH ﷺ) said “It is the day I was born.”
Although it is a short Hadith, there are a few things we should take note of. Firstly, the Prophet (PBUH ﷺ) himself honoured and celebrated the day he was born.
Secondly, he (PBUH ﷺ) honoured the day of his birth, and the birth itself. You can’t honour the day of an event without honouring the event. So his birth is significant. And the day of his birth is significant.
Thirdly, he didn’t do this once a year, or even once a month, he did it once a week (PBUH ﷺ).
Fourthly, celebrating Mawlid (by gathering to reflect on his life, by making dhikr, by sending salawat, by feeding the hungry) may appear to be different outwardly from the ritual practice of fasting; but internally, in meaning – they are the same. These actions reflect that a person wants to honour and celebrate the birth of the Prophet (PBUH ﷺ); the person acknowledges the mercy of Allah and shows gratitude for it.
Mawlid Reflection 3
In the Hadith (Sahih Bukhari 5101), it is narrated that the punishment of Abu Lahab will be lightened every Monday because he emancipated his slave Thawayba (RA) when she gave him the good news of the birth of the Prophet (PBUH ﷺ); that a boy was born.
This Hadith comes to us as a Sahih Hadith, and it is recorded in Imam Bukhari’s compendium (in the chapter on marriage), in Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar’s Fath Al-Bari, in Al-Imam Abd Al-Razzaq Al- Sanani’s Al-Musannaf, Al-Hafiz Al-Bayhaqi’s Al-Dalail Al-Nabuwwa, and others.
Let us consider the context of this Hadith. Firstly, Abu Lahab is directly and gravely condemned by name in the Quran, Surah 111 (Al-Masad). Secondly, Abu Lahab didn’t even know at the time of the birth that the baby boy would be a Prophet (PBUH ﷺ). At the time, Abu Lahab knew him just as his brother’s child. Yet his punishment is still lightened on Mondays. We have to ask ourselves, why?
The reason that Abu Lahab’s punishment is lightened is because he celebrated the birth of the Prophet (PBUH ﷺ). The news of the child’s birth as a boy made him happy, and out of happiness he freed Thuwayba (RA). This happiness and the actions associated with this happiness, in the judgement of Almighty Allah as reported in this Hadith, resulted in the lightening of his punishment.
The lesson for us is: if someone who didn’t accept the Prophet’s message can benefit from celebrating his birth, then we as muslims definitely benefit from celebrating his birth (PBUH ﷺ).
Mawlid Reflection 4
وَكُلَّ بِدْعَةٍ ضَلاَلَةٌ(Sahih Hadith from Sunan Abi Dawud 4607)
Unfortunately, a common misunderstanding is that celebrating the Mawlid is an innovation (bidah). There are two steps to deconstructing this misunderstanding.
Firstly, from the earlier reflections we can see that honouring and celebrating the Prophet’s birth and the day of his birth is a practice established by the Prophet (PBUH) himself. So there is nothing “new” about it. The external format of the celebration is different, but the root is the same.
Secondly, we should appreciate that there are two categories of innovation – bidah dhalaalah (misguiding innovation) and bidah hasanah (beneficial innovation). What is the evidence for the existence of beneficial innovation?
مَنْ سَنَّ فِي إلاِسْلاَمِ سُنَّةً حَسَنَةً فَلَھُ أَجْرُھَا وَأَجْرُ مَنْ عَمِلَ بِھَا بَعْدَهُ مِنْ غَیْرِ أَنْ یَنْقُصَ مِنْ أُجُورِھِمْ شَىْءٌ
وَمَنْ سَنَّ فِي إلاِسْلاَمِ سُنَّةً سَیِّئَةً كَانَ عَلَیْھِ وِزْرُھَا وَوِزْرُ مَنْ عَمِلَ بِھَا مِنْ بَعْدِهِ مِنْ غَیْرِ أَنْ یَنْقُصَ مِنْ أَوْزَارِھِمْ شَىْءٌ
(Sahih Hadith from Sahih Muslim 1017)
Translation of (Sahih Hadith from Sahih Muslim 1017): “Whosoever establishes a good precedent in Islam will receive a reward for this action and in addition the reward of anyone who follows it subsequently without any deduction from the followers’ reward. And whosoever establishes an evil precedent in Islam will receive the burden of it and in addition the burden of anyone who follows it subsequently without any deduction for the followers’ burden.”
Does this Hadith contradict the first one? No. The first Hadith applies to areas of Islam which have been clearly prescribed. For example, we cannot add an extra Rakah to Maghreb prayer; Maghreb prayer is 3 rakah. We cannot pay zakat on gold at 2%; Zakat on gold is 2.5% (if the minimum threshold is met). In areas such as these, innovating would clearly be misguidance.
However, the second Hadith shows us that there is encouragement to initiate new practices if they are beneficial. Islamic history has several of these beneficial innovations. For example, praying Tarawih in congregation, compiling and binding the Quran into a single written book, and there are other areas as well. So just because something is new or outwardly different does not automatically make it misguidance; we have to judge it according to its benefit.
Mawlid Reflection 5
وَسَلَٰمٌ عَلَیْھِ یَوْمَ وُلِدَ وَیَوْمَ یَمُوتُ وَیَوْمَ یُبْعَثُ حَیًّۭا 19:15Translation of Quran (Surah Maryam: 15): “Peace be upon him on the day he was born, the day of his death, and the day he will be raised back to life”
This Ayat of the Quran refers to Yahya (AS), son of Zachariyah (AS). A similar verse also comes Ayat 33 of the same Surah, this time related to Isa (AS). In this Ayat, a Sunnah of Allah established (a practice of Allah) to send peace to one of his Prophet’s on the day of his birth. Does it then make sense to say it is impermissible to gather to remember and send peace and blessings on the Prophet (PBUH ﷺ) on the day of his birth?
Alhamdulilah we have tried to reflect on the practice of gathering to celebrate the birth of the Prophet (PBUH ﷺ) in the light of the Quran and Sunnah. We firmly believe that celebrating the birth of the Prophet (PBUH ﷺ) is permissible and is in fact encouraged and beneficial for Muslims. We hope these reflections have been beneficial, and that we can celebrate the Mawlid as a unified Ummah in the future, as our predecessors did in the past.
For a more detailed discussion, please see the beautiful book “Celebrating the Birth of the Prophet” by Sayyid Muhammad Bin ‘Alawi Al-Maliki Al-Hasani.