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Celebrating the Prophet's Birthday

Date of Fatwa

19/ April/ 2001

Date of Reply

19/ April/ 2001

Topic Of Fatwa

Miscellaneous

Question of Fatwa

As Salaamu `alaykum. Does celebrating the birthday of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, have any evidence from the Qur'an and Sunnah? www.Sunnidawateislami.Com has answered that question in their question-answer column saying that it is allowed to celebrate the Prophet's birthday, the Qur`an has approved it and there is evidence from it in the Sunnah. When I discuss this matter with my family, I tell them it is Bid`ah (innovation). Am I right? I'd like you to please clarify this matter to me. I'd also like to know the correct date of birth of our Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and the date he died.
Name of Mufti Islam Online Fatwa Committee
Content of Reply
Wa`alykum as-salaamu wa rahmatul Allahi wa barakaatuh.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah , and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Sheikh `Atiyyah Saqr answers:

According to historians, the Fatimides were the first to celebrate the Prophet's birthday. Qalqashandi, in his book Subh Al-A`sha, says that the Fatimides used to make a huge celebration in Egypt and distribute large amounts of sweets for the occasion. Actually, the Fatimides used to celebrate the birthdays of other members of the Prophet's family and they also celebrated Christ's birthday.

However, all of these celebrations were stopped in 488 upon an order from Caliph Al-Musta`li billah appointed as prime minister Al-Afdal Shahindah, son of Commander-in-chief Badr Al-Jamaali, a powerful man who conformed to the Sunnah as stated by Ibn Al-Atheer in his book Al-Kamel, volume 8, page 302.

People stopped celebrating such occasions till Al-Ma'moon Al-Bataa'ihi came to power and issued an official decree in 517 enjoining the distribution of alms in 12th Rabee` Al-Awwal. Sanaa' Al-Malik was in charge of distributing them.

When the Ayoubides came to power, they stopped all Fatimide practices, but families used to celebrate the Prophet's birthday in their houses. Then it returned to be officially celebrated at the beginning of the seventh century in the city of Irbil upon a decree from its prince, Muzafar Al-Deen Abi Sa`d Kawakbri Ibn Zein Ed-Deen `Ali- Ibn Tabakatikin, who was a Sunni.

Muzafar gave great care and attention to such celebrations and ordered marquis to be erected starting from the beginning of Safar. Such tents, which were wonderfully decorated and extended from Al-Qal`a gate till the Khandaq gate. Muzafar used to go everyday after `Asr prayer to watch the festivities in these tents.

The celebration was sometimes held on the 8th of Rabee` Al-Awwal (and sometimes on the 12th) which used to be an official holiday so that the people could enjoy the festival. Two days before the actual celebration, Muzafar used to order the sheep, cows and camels to be slaughtered in the main avenue amidst cheerful festivities, then the meat would be cooked and distributed among the people.

Ibn Al-Haajj Abu `Abdullah Al-`Abdari says that such festivals were widespread in Egypt during his rein and condemned the innovations that used to take place during such festivals. (Al-Madkhal, volume 2, p 11, 12)

Many books were written on the Prophet's birthday in the seventh century such as the stories of Ibn Dahya, who died in Egypt in 633 AH, Muhy Ed-Deen Ibn Al-`Arabi, who died in Damascus in 683 AH, Ibn Taghrabik, who died in Egypt in 670 AH; and Ahmad Al-`Azli and his son Muhammad, who died in Sabata in 670 AH.

Due to the spread of innovation during such celebrations, scholars have denounced them and stated that they were groundless. Among those scholars is the Maliki jurist Taaj Ad-Deen `Umar Ibn Al-Lakhmi Al-Sakandari known as Al-Fakahaani, who died in 731 AH, wrote his thesis Al-Mawrid fil Kalaam `Ala-Mawlid on this issue and As-Syooti quotes it in his book Husn Al-Maqsid.

Sheikh Muhammad Fadl `Ashoor says that in the ninth century, scholars were divided over the issue. Some said it was permissible, others said it was not and it was recommended by As-Siyooti, Ibn Hajar Al-`Asqalaani and Ibn Hajar Al-Haythmi, yet they condemned the innovations that took place during such festivities. Their opinion was derived from the verse: "And remind them of the days of Allah" (Ibraheem: 5).

Explaining the previous verse, An-Nasaa`i and `Abdullaah Ibn Ahmad report in Zawayd Al-Musnad and Al-Bayhaqi in Shu'ab Al-Iman reports on the authority of Ibn Ka`b that he said that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said: "The days of Allah" are Allah's Blessings and Signs, and the Prophet's birth is a great bliss. (Al-Aloosi's Rooh Al-Ma`aani)

Muslim reports on the authority of Qatadah Al-Ansaari that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, was asked about fasting on Monday and he replied: "It is the day on which I was born and on which I received the Divine Revelation". It is also reported on the authority of Ibn `Abbas and Ibn Jabir that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, was born in the "year of the elephant" on the 12th of Rabee` Al-Awwal. He also received the Divine Revelation, ascended to the Heavens, migrated to Madinah and died on the 12th of Rabee` Al-Awwal.

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, says that the day he was born was a special day. Since it is well known from Shari`ah that Muslims should seize the opportunity in blessed days and do good deeds, Muslims should celebrate the Prophet's birthday so as to thank Allah for guiding them to Islam through Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him.

Therefore, celebrating the Prophet's birthday is permissible provided that it does not include committing any of the prohibited things. As for throwing banquets, this comes under the verse saying: "O ye who believe! Eat of the good things wherewith We have provided you, and render thanks to Allah if it is (indeed) He whom ye worship.þ" (Al-Baqarah: 172)

My opinion is that celebrating such a religious occasion is recommended especially nowadays for youth have become forgetful of these religious occasions and their significance because they have indulged in other celebrations.

Celebrating such a great event should be done through reading more about the Prophet's Sunnah and life, building mosques, religious institutes and doing other forms of charity work that remind people of the Prophet's life and his struggle.

Therefore, it is permissible to celebrate the Prophet's birthday as an expression of our love to him and our endeavor to follow him as an example provided that these celebrations do not involve any of the prohibited things. Some prohibited things are improper intermingling between men and women, behaving improperly at mosques and partaking in innovations such as worshiping at tombs and other things that violate the teachings of Islam. If such previously mentioned violations surpass the religious benefit realized from these celebrations, then they should be stopped in order to prevent harm and wrongdoing as indicated in the Shari`ah.

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