Friday, February 23, 2007

JUST (don't) DO IT!

With the approach of Rabi-ul-Awal, the topic of mawlid (celebrating the Prophet S's birthday) is heating up again. Since it has been made into a controversial issue (while the facts would seemingly say that this should be a non-issue), I will try to stick to my goal of 'keep it simple, stupid' in matters of relevance to the average layman.

Let's look at mawlid ('Milaad an-nabee' in Urdu) from three perspectives:
1) Did the Prophet (S), Sahabah, Tabiyeen (the generation proceeding Sahaba), Tabe-Tabiyeen (the next generation), or any of the 4 Imams condone it or practice it?
*Answer: No, there is absolutely no evidence of the mawlid practice from these generations.

2) Were the people who started mawlid upon the mainstream Ahl-Sunnah methodology?
*Answer: No, in fact they were not even Sunnis! The first recorded celebrations of his birth occurred during the latter part of Shia Fatimid rule in Egypt (909–1171).

3) What do the scholars say?
*Answer: This is where some of the controversy has taken shape. Opinions of scholars vary from the celebrations being disallowed (e.g. Sh. Bin Baz and Mufti Taqi Uthmani) to mubah (e.g. a recent eloquent fatwa from Sh. Ibn Bayyah) all the way to mustahab (mostly braelwis and more extreme sufis).

Based on (1) and (2), it should be sufficient to raise MAJOR flags against the celebration. In fact, those two should be sufficient for us. Even if we were to consider (3), it is still perfectly clear that there are no scholars (even among extremes that I could find) who says that it is waajib (obligation). So, why risk it?

I admit that we depend on our scholars to guide us, since they are indeed the inheritors of the Prophets. And I have already shown that the 4 greatest scholars, the 4 Imams did not practice this either. However, many great scholars and Imams afterwards did allow it, so that should be considered. For this purpose, I'd like for us to use some simple logic to locate the "safe" choice. Sometimes, when we see differences of opinions, it is to our advantage to stay away from the doubtful matters, for the purposes of avoiding sin, even at the sake of losing risky reward.

First, lets assume Mawlid was indeed a sin and a blameworthy innovation:
(a) By not doing it, you have earned yourself some ajr (reward by avoiding sin).
(b) By doing it, you may be sinful (since blameworthy innovations are worse than sins, the sin may be of a greater level).

Now lets assume Mawlid was the extreme opposite, i.e. mustahab (recommended):
(c) By not doing it, you have earned yourself neither sin nor reward.
(d) By doing it, you have earned yourself reward.

Conclusion: The person who does not partake in the celebration of mawlid is subject to either (a) reward or (c) nothing. While the person who does partake in mawlid is subject to either (b) possible sin or (d) reward. So, the logical SAFE choice is the first one, which avoids all chances of sin, and has the possibility of reward, so JUST (don't) DO IT!

We can also discuss innovations for a bit. Pretty much everyone admits that the mawlid is indeed an bidah (innovation). Sh. Ibn Bayyah in the fatwa clearly states that it is NOT the sunnah, which means it is a bidah. The question comes down to whether this is a blameworthy bidah or not. The scholars that allow it consider this to be a bidah hasanah or a good bidah, while other scholars do not believe that something like 'bidah hasanah' in matters of religion exists. For the latter, bidah in deen (as opposed to the 'worldly' innovation such as cars, etc. that are ok) is blameworthy regardless of intentions. Ibn Taymiyyah gives some room for intentions as seen in the entirety of fatwa here (skip to #9 post). Here are a couple of other good reads on innovation being blameworthy (#1 and #2).

As for intentions, this is another gray area. We know that all actions are by intentions (Hadith), however, we also know that the act has to be in accordance with the Shariah to have it accepted, regardless of intention. For instance, can I choose to pray 3 rakah for tahiyat-ul-masjid (instead of the 2 rakahs sunnah) for the sake of 'increasing' reward; indeed a good intention? Everyone will respond with 'of course not'. Thus, that is a simple proof for intentions not being sufficient to make an act praiseworthy.

Bottom-line, in a confusing world, it is best to be safe. To be safe in deen is to be cool :) ! So, my dear brothers and sisters, JUST (don't) DO IT!


AnonyMouse said...

As-salaamu 'alaikum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatu,

Good points!
Subhan'Allah, I wonder about those who go to the extreme of saying that you *must* celebrate it and think it's terrible if you don't.

BTW, I was wondering... when and where did this practice originate?

Amad said...

salam.... read the post again sister, and u'll find the answer in the first few lines.

Al-Hanbali said...

As-salamu aleykum

i think points one and two are enough, no need to mushy with the the inovators and the way you depict ibn taymiyah on mulids is false, yes if you remove what he says out of context as a 'quote' then you can see that,, but in context he forbids it and in other texts he does too..

yup it was the fatimids whom did it first, and also built the hussain masjid in which if you enter the grave room is full of shirk and on the top of the walls it says the kaba of Egypt.. many if not most of the inovations in egypt have been started by them.

the previous generations are better than us if there was khair in it they would have been more keen to do it that us.

wa Allah al musta3an

Abdu said...

This is probably one of your better articles Amad.

Anonymous said...

Why would I need a scholar to tell me if I can (or cannot) celebrate a birthday? Islam celebrates human intellect, and MY INTELLECT tells me that I can celebrate whoever's birthday I want to - the Prophet's, the Khalifs', the Imams', my family, or my own. So, that is what I do, at my own risk. It is time to use our intellect and stop depending on others for every little decision in life. (From: Birthday Boy)

Abdu said...

INTELLECT? I think you mean your ignorance. If my intellect tells me I should pray only once a year, should I follow that? It is obligatory on every Muslim to follow the teachings of the Prophet (SAW), not or own whims and desires. May Allah guide you.

Amad said...

anon: you are free to follow whosoever you wish or whatever you wish: intellect or the scholars. We find it safer to follow the latter. Just like you would go to a doctor for an ailment instead of solving it yourself, similarly we like to go to the specialists. I do agree this is a minor matter, but the principle is important inshallah.

Samireye said...

I think a better slogan would be Just Leave it!

AnonyMouse said...

Oops, my bad! Serves me right for not reading properly... :P

Anonymous/Birthday Boy, as Muslims we should always look to the Qur'an and Sunnah to see if something is okay to do, right? Seemingly small and insignificant issues (like birthdays) are still considered matters of importance in Islam, things for which we still need to consult on the Qur'an and Sunnah...
And while birthdays are not explicitly prohibited in the Qur'an and Sunnah, there is still a ruling on them for a reason - just do a quick Google search on the history of birthday celebrations, and you'll see that they were festivals celebrated by the pagans: like the cult of Mithras, and others (Athena, Artemis, etc.) Remember, the Prophet (SAW) said that we Muslims have just 2 festivals: Eid al-Fitr, and Eid al-Adha, as well as the weekly Eid of Yawm al-Jumu'ah.

So y'see, there's a reason for it...

Umm Reem said...

ANONYMOUS: When the intellect of the best human being (Muhammad sallallahu wasalam) could not guide him to the truth, couldn't lead him to the right, then how can you claim that your intellect will lead you to the truth.

Allah (swt) said to Prophet (saw):
"And thus have We, by Our Command, sent inspiration to you, you knew not (before) what was revelation, and what was faith; but We have made the (Qur'an) a light..." (42:52)

He (saw) didn't even understand 'iman' without revelation from Allah! And this was the case of the best human being, who by default had the best intellect, yet his BEST intellect couldn't lead him to the truth, so how can ANYONE on this face of earth claim that his/her intellect can tell him right from wrong?!

It reminds me of the hadeeth where Prophet Muhammad (saw) stated that before he was sent Allah looked down upon humanity and He (swt) was angry at ALL of them except for a few remanance of Ahl-ul-kitaab (who were upon the pure tawheed).

No doubt the great Greek philosophy and mythology existed during then, Roman civilization was at its peak! Yet, all that put together neither the INTELLECT of entire humanity could guide them to what was correct and pleasing to Allah.

So, NO ANON, it is time to put our intellect aside, and take the 'real Guidance' as the one and only mean of guidance.

abd4evr said...

Asalaamu alaikum

Here's a lecture by shaykh Yasir Qadhi on the role of intellect in Islam. Check it out:

Asalaamu alaikum

Shazia said...

Assalamo Alaikum

Historically, traditional Islamic scholars of all four schools (Imam Suyuti, Imam Nawawi, Imam Shams ul Din, Imam ibn Hajar to name a few) have viewed the celebration of Milad as a good innovation. Scholars have not said it is compulsory, but that it is recommended, nor that it be confined to the day of 12 Rabi-ul-Awal alone. Indeed, they say Milad should be celebrated every day of the year. As long as nothing unislamic takes place at a gathering such as music, singing, excessive spending and ostentation and mixing of the sexes I fail to see how one can object to remembering the life of the Prophet (PBUH), feeding guests, giving alms, fasting etc, all of which are his Sunnah. These only serve to increase love in your heart for our beloved Messenger (pbuh)and his Message which in turn encourage Muslims to be more practicing and observant.

With all due respect, I most certainly will DO it.

Proofs for Milad:

Abu Lahab set Thuwaiba free being happy for the Meelad of Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam). It is in “Bukhari” that Abu Lahab's punishment is made light every Monday as a reward of his act, i.e. of expressing happiness for the birth of the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam).

Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) used to respect the day of his own Meelad. He used to thank Allah Ta'ala for that great favour. He used to fast in order to respect that day, as it is being reported in “Muslim” from Abu Qatadah (radi Allahu anhu). In assemblies of Meelad functions, although the manner of respect is different, but the meaning of respect is there.

It is a requirement of the Quraan to show respect on the Meelad of Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam). Allah Ta'ala says: “In the bounty of Allah Almighty and His mercy, in that, let them rejoice, that is better than the wealth they accumulate”. (Surah Yunus: 58) Almighty Allah had ordered us to rejoice on His Mercy and Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) is the greatest Mercy of Allah Ta’ala to all the Worlds.

If any great Deeni event occured in the past and when that period or season returns, then that period or season should be respected. Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) set this rule himself. When Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) saw the Jews fasting on the Day of Ashura and found out the reason for their observing fast on that day - to thank Almighty Allah for freeing them from Firoun (Pharoah) - Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) said, “We have more right than the Jews to rejoice on the basis of Allah's Favour upon Moosa (alaihis salaam).”

Meelad celebration causes the recitation of Durood and Salaam. Durood and Salaam are required by Shari’ah. It is the Shari’ principle that any thing which leads towards an act which is desired by Shari’ah, then this leading factor (Meelad in this case) is also desired by Shari’ah.

When certain of the Sahabah (such as Hasan ibn Thabit) used to recite the praises of Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) in poetry form, Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) used to rejoice and reward those Sahabah. In the Meelad function, the character and virtues of Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) are explained and his praises are recited in poetry and prose form. This will make Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) happy. The happiness of Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) is the requirement of Shari’ah.

Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) expressed the virtues of Jummah (Friday) by saying that Hazrat Adam (alaihis salaam) was born on that day. Therefore, imagine the virtue of that day when Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) was born! A place where any Nabi is born is respected by Shari’h because at the time of Me’raj, Hazrat Jibraeel (alaihis salaam) indicated to Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) a special place near Baite Lahm. He said, “Ya Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam), please perform two Rakaats Salaah. This is the place where ‘Isa (alaihis salaam) was born”.

Hazrat Imam Shafa'ee (radi Allahu anhu) said: “Any thing which opposes (or changes) the Quraan, Sunnah, Ijma (consensus) or the sayings of the Sahabah is Bid’at. Any good deed which is not opposed to them is praiseworthy.” (Meelad celebration does not oppose any of them.)
If every Bid’at is Haraam then the collecting of the Holy Quran as was done by Hazrat Abu Bakr and Hazrat Omar (radi Allahu anhuma), Hazrat Omar (radi Allahu anhu) starting the Salaah of Taraweeh with Jamaat, and the writing of many other useful knowledge will become Haraam. It will then be Waajib upon us to fight the enemies with arrows and spears. The use of guns and canons will become Haraam. It will be Haraam then to give Azaan in Minarets and to build Inns, schools, hospitals, guest houses and orphanages. Remember, that the only factor that makes new things Haraam is if it is based on evil things. Therefore, Meelad is permissible because it is based on good things.

Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) said that anyone who invented a good deed and people later practiced upon it, they will be rewarded.

As in the practices of Haj, the running between Safa and Marwa are legal in order to refresh the remembrance of pious people, similarly, the celebration of Meelad-un-Nabi is also legal to refresh the remembrance of Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam). (Reference: Al Moure Dur Ravi Fil Moulidin Nabi, summarised pg. 9-17)
- Shaikh bin Bas, a Saudi 'alim, has written a small pamphlet in which he argues that celebrating 'Id Milad an-Nabi (the Prophet's birthday) is un-Islamic since this great occasion was not celebrated by the Prophet and the sahabah. Yet it seems that Shaikh bin Bas is willing to accept the institution of kingship in his country even though kingship also did not exist in the days of the Prophet and the rightly guided caliphs.
- The members of Tablighi Jama'at are cool to the idea of general elections. Yet many of the ways in which the work of this jama'at is organized has no precedence in early Islam. For example, they get together every Saturday evening or so and hold a bayan (speech). Also they tell Muslims that they should go to a center of the jama'at such as Ra'y Wind, Pakistan once in their lifetime and spend four months there. Of course, the custom of holding a bayan on Saturday evenings and going to any specified place for four months once in one's lifetime did not exist in early Islam.

The truth is that this whole argument about precedence, its arbitrary and hypocritical use and the resulting controversy, confusion and dividing among Muslims is the result of a wrong model of the Islamic tradition in our minds. Consciously or unconsciously we think of the Islamic tradition as a castle of rocks that was built in the days of the Prophet and the sahabah. But such a dead model does not do justice to the living force that is Islam. It is far more accurate to think of Islamic tradition as a living organism with the Qur'an and the authentic Sunnah as its genes. A living organism - a plant or a human being - grows and changes during its lifetime and yet the blueprint of this growth and change, is already in its genes. In the same way the Islamic tradition grows and changes with time but the pattern of its growth and change is once and for all fixed in the Qur'an and the authentic Sunnah. The Islamic sciences of Hadith, fiqh (jurisprudence), kalam, etc. did not exist in early Islam as we know them today. Yet they have been accepted by almost the entire Muslim world as legitimate Islamic developments. This would not have been possible if Islamic tradition were not something living and growing but dead and fixed.
The fact that Islamic tradition grows continuously does not mean that revelation did not come to an end with the Prophet Muhammad or that it was not perfected by his work. For the entire growing Islamic tradition is the Prophet's work . It is like a planter who plants a tree and the tree that continues to grow even after the planter departs from this world.

Even Ibn Tay'miah said in his book "Necessity of the Right Path", p. 266, 5th line from the bottom of that page, published by Dar Al-Hadith, the following:

"As far as what people do during the Milad, either as a rival celebration to that which the Christian do during the time of Christ's birthday or as an expression of their love and admiration and a sign of praise for the Noble Prophet (Allah's Grace & Peace be upon Him), Allah Almighty will surely reward them for such Ijtihad". He then said: "Although Milad was not practiced by (Salaf), they should have done so since there was no objection against it from the Shari'ah point of view".
And we certainly only celebrate Milad out of love and admiration to the Prophet of all Mankind.

Amad said...

Sr. Shazia, thanks for the comments. Just a suggestion for the future-- people tend to not read lengthy comments, esp. if they seem to be the cut and paste variety.

What the post was referring to was the specific celebration of 12th rabi ul awal for the Prophet's birth. Nothing about not celebrating his life other days or every day. We should absolutely do that. We should not assume that the milad is the only way we express our love for the Prophet (S). There are countless others, including following his sunnah. Though you mention many examples of the Sahabah and the Imams as evidences, the fact remains that they themselves did not do it. I just don't think I am smart enough to do one better than the companions in ibadah. Also, seems you are mixing the linguistic bidah with the bidah in ibadah.

Anyway, its up to everyone what they wish to do. My little entry was a simple logical argument. Finally, my reply to those who insist on following this doubtful act has always been: "Have you finished performing all the ESTABLISHED sunnahs first? Are you running out of non-controversial ibadahs?" Let's talk more when your answer to these questions becomes yes.


CooL MuslimaH said...


My post is long and mostly copy and paste but you cannot be certain no one will read it and the points raised are valid.

I don't disagree with the assertion that the Milad as it is understood today was not celebrated in the time of the Sahaba but the distinguished ulema who have deemed it permissible have only done so after examining the Quran and Sunnah and practice of the Sahabas and Imams therafter. Why would they approve anything which they thought had the slightest chance of being disapproved by the Prophet (pbuh), sahaba and the 4 imams (May allah bless them all)?

The sahabas were constantly remembering the life of the Prophet (pbuh), the story of his birth especially. Why would they object to people gathering to do the same today? Especially when it can light the fire of deen in people's hearts and bond them with their Muslim brethren?

Nowhere in my post did I suggest Milad is the only way to express love for the Messenger (pbuh). It complements all the other ways in a most beautiful fashion.

Furthermore, proofs for the permissibility go back hundreds of years and disapproval is extremely recent.

The Milad as I understand it can be celebrated any day of the year, it is stepped up during the month of the Prophet's blessed birth and is certainly not restricted to just the 12th. But there is no wrong in celebrating it on the 12th as I have tried to show in my previous post and really, if as you say, there is no harm in celebrating it on any other day of the year, why is it wrong on the actual day itself?

Umm Reem said...

Those who claim to love the Prophet and want to remember his birth (as even quoted by Sr. Shazia):
Why not celebrate it the way Prophet Muhammad (saw) celebrated it, (i)FAST every Monday(/i). This is exactly what he said in the hadeeth that he fasts on Mondays because he was born on that day.
Irony is that those who want to celebrate the Mawlid remembering the Prophet, would not follow his simple way of 'celebrating' his birth (the way he sallallahu wasalam) did and rather follow new inventions.

Please read the history of mawlid that was invented hundreds of years later after Muhammad (saw).

CooL MuslimaH said...

Assalamo Alaikum Umm Reem

You will notice in my first post I mention fasting as one of the ways to remember the Prophet (PBUH).I don't think any of the other ways such as reading the sira, tilawat, sending darood and salaams upon him, giving to charity, feeding guests are unislamic or new inventions.

Allah tells us in the Quran to rejoice at His Mercy and the biggest Mercy he has given us is Mohammad (SAW) for all mankind. I don't understand why it is thought wrong to show joy upon his birth on the day itself or any other day. Without him, we would be lost and in darkness for all time.

Amad said...

My argument was not intended to be theological but rather a logical attempt. The theological discussion with scholars on both sides will continue probably till the Mahdi settles it! So, if the logic doesn't appeal to you sister, or anyone else, then by all means, follow the theology that you prefer.

"Without him (S), we would be lost and in darkness for all time."

And I think we all can agree on that. On that note, let's agree to disagree on the rest.

Anonymous said...