Is celebrating the Mawlid of the Messenger of Allah a bid’ah (innovation)?
Some critics of Milad consider it to be a bidah Dallah, a misguided innovation. Let us briefly examine this allegation. Bidah is an innovation in religion; something new appended to religion. As such it can be good or bad, condoned or condemned, praiseworthy or blameworthy. Imam Bukhari narrates that Umar t gathered people for Tarawih prayers and said this is a good innovation. Whilst commenting on this hadith Hafiz Ibn Hajar says: “Bidah is something which has no precedent and if its application contravenes a sunnah it is a condemnable bidah. If it conforms to Shariah then it is a good bidah otherwise it is permissible.” This is also the view of Imam Shafi who divides bidah into bidah mahmooda (good) and bidah mazmooma (bad).
Similarly Imam Baihaqi has said in his book “Munaqib”: “Bidah is of two kinds, one that contravenes the Quran and hadith and is also against the consensus, that is misguided bidah, but any innovation which is for the benefit of the Muslims and is not against the Shariah is acceptable.” Other scholars have divided bidah into five categories:
- Wajib: This is any innovation which is for the benefit or welfare of the Muslims like the invention of the science of grammar, syntax, logics, and the punctuation of the Quran, etc. These formative sciences were nonexistent in the time of the Prophet r, and today they are used for the proper understanding of Islam. Learning them is therefore wajib.
- Mustahab: The building of roads is mustahab since people benefit from them. Similarly the building of minarets for Adhan aids in spreading the call of prayer and it is therefore regarded as a mustahab bidah.
- Mubah: This third category of innovation is mubah or permissible. For example wearing good clothes, eating varied and refined foods. These are all permissible. Are Milad Celebrations Bidah?
- Makruh: Anything that has an element of extravagance is makruh, or offensive in the sight of Shariah. Like unnecessary decoration of Masjids and copies of the Quran.
- Haram: An innovation is haram if it is against the sunnah and has no benefit for the Muslims.
Considering this we can now examine the allegation that the celebrations of the Prophet’s r birthday are a blameworthy bidah. One may ask what is wrong in these celebrations? Is the praising and telling of stories about the Prophet r haram? Is thanksgiving for the coming of the Prophet r undesirable? The answer is obvious. Milad celebrations are held to carry out the Quranic command “Fal yafrahoo” – “Therein rejoice.”
Imam Bukhari narrates a hadith about Abu Lahab, the Prophet’s r uncle, who upon hearing the news of his nephew’s birth freed his maid Saubiya as a mark of joy and happiness. However, Abu Lahab never believed in the Prophet r and died a Kafir. A whole chapter was revealed to condemn his anti-Prophetic attitude. In this hadith, Abu Lahab tells his older Abbas, “I receive a sip of water every Monday and my punishment is somewhat lightened.” So, we see that even a non-Muslim benefited from celebrating the coming of the Messenger r. Will a Muslim then, and a follower of the Prophet r not benefit from celebrating his birthday? We therefore suggest humbly to these brothers that they should stop their extremism and join the rest of the Ummah in thanking God for this great favour that He bestowed upon us.
Let us all on this blessed occasion prostrate before our Lord and sing His praise and hymns as a show of our joy and happiness. Let us hold gatherings and conferences where the Scholars explain the contributions and the impact of Muhammad’s r teachings on humanity. The birth of Mustafa r undoubtedly heralded a new dawn for mankind and it marked the end of ignorance and the beginning of enlightenment.
Professor Muhammad Saeed Ramadan Bootie of Damascus University rejected the opponents of Milad and said “every new thing is not bidah. He says yes to gather people to tell them of Eid Milad is one of those things which began after the Prophet r. Is it enough to say it is bidah and whoever invented something which was not in our deen was an apostate?
And Allah knows best.
Dr Musharraf Hussain Al-Azhari
Director of British Fatwa Council