Refuting false claims regarding al-Mawlid (celebrating the Prophet’s birthday – 12th Rabi al-Awwal)

As-salaam-u-alaikum

The following are 8 general claims (or excuses) that people make to celebrate al-Mawlid. We have tried our best to bring forth authentic and logical arguments proving them to be incorrect. If there are any objections, complaints, suggestions or comments, please feel free to let us know.

Jazak Allah khair

Claim 1 – Mawlid is a way of expressing joy and it benefits Abu Lahab

Claim 2 – The Prophet himself glorified his birthday

Claim 3 – Allah commanded us to rejoice in His Mercy and Prophet Muhammad was the greatest of His Mercies

Claim 4 – It is a GOOD Bid’ah (innovation)

Claim 5 – We send salaam (salutations) on the Prophet during al-Mawlid, therefore it is good.

Claim 6 – The Prophet said that Friday has a special virtue beacuse Adam was born on it; thus, the Prophet is the most honorable of all Prophets, thus his birthday must be celebrated

Claim 7 – al-Mawlid includes things which are Islamically praised and recommended

Claim 8 – Some scholars have recommended Al-Mawlid, and Muslims all around the world have celebrated it throughout history. Therefore, it must be celebrated based on the saying of Ibn Mas’ood: “Anything which the Muslims collectively deem as good is good and anything which the Muslims collectively deem as bad is bad.”

Claim 1

First claim: “The celebration of Al-Mawlid is a way of expressing joy, which is something beneficial. It would benefit anybody who celebrates it, as it even benefits Abu Lahab (a disbelieving uncle of the Prophet (pbuh)), due to the narration which states that a person saw Abu Lahab in his dream and asked him about his predicament. He (Abu Lahab) replied that his punishment in hell is reduced every Monday due to his rejoicing at the news of the birth of the Prophet (pbuh) and also because he bought the freedom of the slave who brought him the good news.”

Refutation: This narration has an unconnected chain of narrators which renders it inauthentic; therefore, it cannot be used as evidence in an argument. Even if we were to assume, for the sake of argument, that it is not a weak narration, it is still rejected for many other reasons:

• It was only a dream and dreams are never used as a basis to judge anything, let alone be used to establish a form of worship based on them.
• This contradicts the Quran. Allah Says (what means): {And we will approach [i.e., regard] what they [i.e., the disbelievers] have done of deeds and make them as dust dispersed.} [Quran 25: 23]. Therefore, nobody will get any reward for their deeds unless they intend to get closer to Allah by doing so, and a disbeliever will never attempt to do anything to get closer to Allah as he does not believe in Him in the first place.

• History proves that this story was incorrect, and that Abu Lahab did not free any slave at that time. In fact, the slave in question was freed after the migration of the Prophet (pbuh) as mentioned in the books of Ibn ‘Abdul Barr and Ibn Al-Jawzi,.

Claim 2

Second claim: “The Prophet (pbuh) himself glorified his birthday, due to his reply when asked why he fasted on Mondays: “I was born on this day and started receiving the revelation on it.” [Muslim]. Therefore, he glorified his birthday by fasting on it, and this is a form of celebration.”

Refutation: This doubt can be refuted from three different angles:

The Prophet (pbuh) never regularly fasted on the twelfth of Rabi Al-Awwal, which is the date that some claim as his birthday; rather, he fasted every Monday, and there are four Mondays in every month. Therefore, celebrating the twelfth of Rabi Al-Awwal and designating certain acts of worship for it must be considered as an attempt to correct what is thought to be wrong or less than perfect on the part of the Prophet (pbuh).
The Prophet (pbuh) did not only fast on Mondays, but in addition, he would also fast on Thursdays, as he said: “The records of deeds are raised (to Allah) every Monday and Thursday, therefore, I like to be fasting at this time.” [Tirmithi]. Moreover, the Prophet (pbuh) did not say that the reason for fasting on a Monday were due to his birth only, but also because of the fact that the records of everybody’s deeds are raised to Allah on these days. Therefore, celebrating Al-Mawlid with the excuse that the Prophet (pbuh) used to fast on a Monday is a misunderstanding and a gross exaggeration of the facts.
The Prophet (pbuh) did not add any form of celebration to his fasting, as those who celebrate Al-Mawlid do. If people intend to express their gratitude to Allah by observing Al-Mawlid and they justify it with the excuse that he used to fast on Mondays, then common sense dictates that they must completely imitate the Prophet (pbuh) in the way that he expressed gratitude to Allah. Many people who celebrate Al-Mawlid do not fast regularly on Mondays and Thursdays as they deem it to be exhausting. On the contrary, they actually prepare and eat more food than usual as part of their celebration.

Claim 3

Third claim: “Rejoicing at this event is something recommended and requested of all of us by Allah in the verse were He says (which translates as): {Say: ‘In the bounty of Allah and in His mercy – in that let them rejoice, it is better than what they accumulate.’} [Quran 10:58]. Allah commanded us to rejoice in His Mercy and the Prophet (pbuh) was the greatest of all His mercies, as Allah says (what means): {And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds.} [Quran 21:107].

Refutation: The mercy mentioned in the first verse means other than what the celebrators of Al-Mawlid claim. Commenting on this verse, Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri said: “‘The Bounty’ refers to the Quran and ‘The Mercy’ is if one is from the people who adhere to it.'” Hilaal Ibn Yasaaf (رحمه الله) said commenting on the verse: “‘The Bounty’ means Islam and ‘The Mercy’ means the Quran.'”

None of the Sala (first three righteous generations of Islam) interpreted this command of Allah to mean rejoicing in the form of feasts and festivals. The mercy in the second verse is nothing other than the Quran and the Sunnah which the Prophet (pbuh) was sent with. Therefore, the true meaning of rejoicing due to Allah sending us His Prophet (pbuh) must be to follow him completely and adhere to all his commands verbally and practically.

There can be no doubt that attempting to use this verse as an evidence for the permissibility of celebrating Al-Mawlid is applying it in a way other than how the Salaf, or pious first three generations of Muslims applied it.
Ash-Shaatibi (رحمه الله) said: “Any application from the later generations of a text which was not understood nor applied by our Salaf is unacceptable.”
Ibn ‘Abdul Haadi, (رحمه الله) said: “It is prohibited to interpret a verse from the Quran or a Hadith in any way other than the way our Salaf interpreted, applied and clarified it to the Ummah(Muslims nation), because this would imply that they were ignorant of the truth and strayed away from it while the latter generations were guided to it. It is even worse if the interpretation of the latter generations opposes and contradicts that of the Salaf.”

Indeed the understanding and interpretation of the texts of those who celebrate Al-Mawlid is misguidance and an innovation in itself. Ash-Shaatibi said: “It is commonplace that the innovators and people of misguidance manipulate the Quran and Sunnah and apply it in a way that suits their needs. Also, they propagate these false ideas to the common people in order to confuse them.”

Claim 4

Fourth claim: Although we acknowledge that it is a Bid’ah (innovation) to celebrate Al-Mawlid due to the fact that the different acts of worship performed during it were not collectively practiced at the time of the Prophet (pbuh) we still hold that it is a good Bid’ah because these acts are mentioned in some general texts individually. So we accept that it is a Bid’ah in the sense that it is a new phenomenon, but not regarding all its details because these did exist individually at the time of the Prophet (pbuh).

Refutation: The presence of the necessity of establishing a certain act of worship at the time of the Prophet (pbuh) plus the absence of any preventing factors, in addition to the fact that the Prophet (pbuh) did not do it, are all factors which determine that celebrating Al-Mawlid is a Bid’ah.
A Bid’ah can never be deemed as good, even if there are texts that generally recommend the innovative acts performed for other times and places. To illustrate this point, the remaining companions of the Prophet (pbuh) condemned and rejected Marwaan Ibn Al-Hakam (رحمه الله)when he innovated of a new Adhaan, or call for prayer, for the ‘Eed prayer. This was despite the fact that the Adhaan already existed for the five daily prayers and so was not something entirely new. Likewise, it would be an innovation if someone were to pray at a specific time of the day or the week, a certain number of optional prayers. This is because although praying is an act which is legislated and the Islamic texts recommend it, specifying a time and a set number of prayers with the intention of pleasing Allah is an innovation if specific supportive evidences to prove the legitimacy of the specified time, day and number of prayers are not given.

Once an act is proven to be a Bid’ah, it can never be deemed of as good because the Prophet (pbuh) gave a comprehensive statement saying: “Every Bid’ah (innovation) is misguidance” [Ahmad, Tirmithi and others].

Shaykh Al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah (رحمه الله)said: “If something is called a Bid’ah, yet was proven to be good according to evidences from the Sharee’ah, then it must be one of two things:

It is not a Bid’ah by the Islamic definition but rather linguistically (i.e. something abandoned and then newly revived) like the saying of ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattaab : “Good Bid’ah” when he observed that the people had gathered behind one Imaam to lead them in their Taraaweeh prayers in congregation during Ramadan”.

It is a special case which is exempted from the general texts because it has a specific evidence, but the general text still applies to every other case other than the special one (i.e. nobody is permitted to use this special case as an excuse to oppose the general text and innovate new things due to it).” He) (رحمه الله) also said: “It is well known that any form of worship which was not established by either the Prophet (pbuh) or his companions, or shown by the trustworthy scholars to have a firm foundation, is rejected.”

Ibn Rajab, (رحمه الله) said: “The description of some of the Salaf about some matters being ‘good Bid’ah'(s) are always in the linguistic sense of the term and never the religious one, like for example, the saying of ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattaab : “Good Bid’ah” when he observed that the people had gathered behind one Imaam to lead them in their Taraweeh prayers in congregation during Ramadan. Praying Taraweeh in congregation was practiced by the Prophet (pbuh) and all that these people were doing was simply reviving an act which already existed, so the usage of the term here must have been purely linguistic.”