The Religious and Legal status of the Birthday of the Holy Prophet (saw) In light of the Quran and Sunnah. - Part Three

Part Three

There are many Hadiths that provide clear evidences for the legality of celebrating the birth and raising of the Holy Prophet (saw).

First Hadith:

It is reported by Hadrat Abdullah ibn Abass that the Holy Prophet (saw) had migrated to Madina and saw the Jews were fasting on 10th Muharram, “yawme ashura”.  He asked them why they fasted on that day.  They replied that this was a spiritual and righteous day, a blessed day since on this day God gave Bani-Israel liberty and independence from firown, Pharaoh.  The Holy Prophet (saw) then said “if you are fasting on a day when Musa received success on this day (liberation from firown and his tyrannical government) then I am more closer to Musa than you.  I have a better right than Musa over you.  So I will fast on the same day due to this success, due to Allah’s blessing on him.”  So the Holy Prophet (saw) ordered his Companions to begin to fast on the day of Ashura.

Sahih Muslim, Book 6, Ch. 19 Hadith no. 2518, 2520.

This is Hadith is also contained in Sahih Bukhari, (vol. 7, Kitab-al-Sawm, Ch. 29, Hadith no.2157 and also in Kitab al Anbiya Ch. 24; in the Muwatta of Imam Malik, Kitab-al-Siyam, Hadtih no. 28; in the Musnad of Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal – vl. 2;as well as by Imam Asqalani who gives many references in his book “Fath al Bari”, Vol. 4, pg. 245-249.

This Hadith creates the juristic principle that is permissible to celebrate a blessing of Allah Almighty even if it is celebrating an event that took place on a particular day and in this case the blessing conferred onto the people was their liberation from firown through the means of their Prophet, Hadrat Musa (a.s).  When the Holy Prophet (saw) heard the answer of the Jews, he did not rebut their celebration, nor did he say it was not permissible to celebrate such a day.  Instead he commented that the Muslims had a greater right to celebrate and thus asked the Muslims to fast on this day too.

It is clear from this Hadith that if the day of Ashura was made blessed due to Hadrat Musa (a.s) and the Jews celebrated it out of gratitude to him and Allah, then surely the day that the Holy Prophet (saw) was made rahmatalil alimeen should also be celebrated by us.    Hadrat Musa (a.s) came just for the bani-israeil but Allah Almighty sent His mercy, in the form of the Holy Prophet (saw) to liberate the whole of mankind from all burdens. The birth of the Holy Prophet (saw) came as a liberation from every kind of tyranny, cruelty and suppression.  It was the day of the birth of justice and the establishment of haq, truth and righteousness.  So how can we possibly resist in rejoicing and thanking Allah Almighty for His Mercy on this day.

This same Hadith is narrated again in Sahih Muslim, Kitab-ul-Sawm, Book 6 – Hadith. no.2528.  Ibn Abass is again the reporter of this Hadith but in this narration he says the Jews, in answering the Holy Prophet’s (saw) question said they held this day with great esteem and regard, so they fasted on the day of Ashura out of respect and reverence, known as th’azeem.  If this is the case then does not the day of the raising and birth of Allah’s Prophet (saw) deserve respect and reverence?  If we can respect the day Hadrat Musa (a.s) liberated the Jews then we can surely respect and revere the day the seal of the Prophets (saw) was born.

It is sometimes argued that since the Jews celebrated the day of Ashura through keeping a fast, any celebration based upon this Hadith should thus be done just by fasting.  Critics argue that in modern times Muslims celebrate the Milad-un-Nabi as an Eid which has no base in the Sunnah and has its roots in the Asian sub-continent. This however is an erroneous view.  The Jews did not celebrate this day just through fasting.  This is merely one of the acts that they did.  Moreover even if they had only fasted on this day this still cannot detract from the fact that an event took place which was considered a blessing from Allah Almighty and the Holy Prophet (saw) made this blessing worthy of being commemorated, so much so that he made it a part of his Sunnah. 

In actual fact the Jews celebrated this day in many ways.  The day of Ashura was celebrated as an Eid and considered a great event where even the women were given beautiful dresses and jewelry to wear.  In another Hadith of Sahih Muslim, Kitab-al-Sawm, Bk. 6, Hadith no. 2522 Abu Musa (Allah be pleased with him) reported:

“The day of 'Ashura was one which the Jews respected and revered and they treated it as an Eid. The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: You also observe fast on this day.”

In another Hadith of Sahih Muslim, Kitab-al-Sawm, Bk. 6, no. 2523, Abu Musa (rad) reported:

 “The people of Khaibar (most of them were Jews) observed fast on that day of 'Ashura and they treated it as an Eid and gave their women ornaments and beautiful dresses to wear. The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: You observe fast on this day.” (Also in Sahih Bukhari Hadith no. 2005)

What is interesting is that the Holy Prophet (saw) did not question the celebration of the day as an Eid.  He understood why they celebrated the day as an Eid and accepted this fact.  He did not question the celebrations or even criticize the buying of new clothes and jewelry, nor did he prohibit the Companions from doing the same or confined them to just fasting.  The reason is that this day was already a day of Eid and an accepted fact by all.  It was not only the Jews but the Makkans themselves who celebrated this day as an Eid before the migration.  This was not similar to the Eid of Shariah, but similar to it in respect of the act of celebration.  Imam Asqalani, in “Fathi-al-bari” (vol.4 p.245 ) stated that this was the day when the Ka’abah was first dressed and so the Makkans celebrated this day as an Eid.  The Holy Prophet (saw) and the Companions were already celebrating this out of reverence and respect due to the ancient history involved. Imam Asqalani also quotes Abu Hurairah (rad) who says that this was the day of Sayyidina Nuh’s boat landing on the mountain of Judi, and thus celebrated for this reason too.  That is why the Holy Prophet (saw) did not ask about the Eid festivities but asked regarding the fast.  It was only when the Jews began to criticize the Muslims later on did the Holy Prophet (saw) ask the Companions to increase their fasts to one day before and one day after.  By basing his arguments on this Hadith, Imam ibn Hajar Asqalani establishes the legality of the Mawlid un Nabi, concluding:

“from this, we learn to perform the act of thankfulness to Allâh, the Most High on a certain day for a bounty He has bestowed or a disaster He has averted. And that act has to be repeated on the same day every year (anniversary). And thankfulness to Allâh, the Most High is done with different kinds of `ibâdât (acts of worship) like sujûd (prostration), fasting, giving charity and recitation (of the Qur'ân). And what bounty is greater than the bounty of the coming of the Prophet peace and blessings of Allâh be upon him, the one who is the Prophet of Mercy on that day?"

Imam Jalaludin Sayuti in “Al Hawi lil Fatawa” (Vol. 1 p. 302) also wrote a full fledged Risala on the Malwid.

Second Hadith

The Holy Prophet (saw) also specified his own birthday in the same way.  In a Hadith narrated by Abu Qatada Ansari (Allah be pleased with him), he reports that Allah's Messenger (saw) was asked about fasting on Monday, whereupon he said: “It is (the day) when I was born and revelation was sent down to me.” Sahih Muslim, Bk 6, Number 2606.

This Hadith is also reported in by Imam Bahayqi  in his “Susnan ul Kubra” (vol. 4, pg. 300 Hadith no 8182, 8259), in the “Sunan” of Imam Nisai and the “Musnad” of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal.

It is clear from this Hadith that the Holy Prophet (saw) was very happy about the day of his birth and so fasted out of gratitude.  Fasting is a form of worship, so one can celebrate this day by any form of ibada.  One can fast or hold gatherings or provide food to the poor, all being acts of worship.

Third Hadith

The third Hadith is regarding a dream seen by the Uncle of the Holy Prophet, Hadrat Abass (rad).

Before the birth of the Holy Prophet (saw), his father, Hadrat Abdullah (rad) had already died, so a lady slave called Thwaiba was sent to Hadrat Aminah’s house for her help and service.  Upon the birth of the Holy Prophet (saw) Thwaiba came running to Abu Lahab, the Prophet’s (saw) uncle, to give the good news of the birth of his nephew.  Abu Lahab became extremely happy and raising two fingers pointed to Thwaiba saying  “ I free you in thankfulness of the birth of my nephew”.  That day was a Monday. When he died he came in the dream of Hadrat Abass (rad) who asked him how he was fairing in the life after death.  Abu Lahab replied: “I am in the fire of hell day and night and have no escape except Monday.  The punishment is reduced for me and from these two fingers of mine I receive water from which I drink (like a fountain) for I freed Thwaiba on the birth of the Holy Prophet (saw).

This Hadith is in the Sahih of Imam Bukhari, Kitab-ul-Nikah who quotes this from his own Shaykh, Imam Abdul Razzaq who was the student of Imam e Azaam, Abu Hanifah (ra).  It is also quoted by Imam Ibn Asqalani in “Fath al bari”, Hafiz Ibn Kateer, Imam Bahaiqui, Imam Sohaili, Imam Baghawi, Imam Qurtubi, Imam Jawzi, Imam Mullah Ali Qari, and Imam Abdul Haq Muhaddith Delhvi (ra).

Abu Lahab was an infidel and one of the greatest enemies of Islam having been cursed in the Holy Qur’an too. Yet despite this he was still was given a favour and benefit from his act.  It thus stands to reason that if a man such as Abu Lahab can be blessed then surely those Muslims who celebrate the Milad will receive manifold blessings too.

Unfortunately many people use different arguments to criticize this Hadith.  Firstly some critics have argued that since it is an Islamic principle that a pious act done by a kafir is not rewarded in the Hearafter how can Abu Lahab benefit?  Imam Razzaq discusses this subject in his “Musanaf” (vol 7 p. 478) as does Imam Abdul Haq Muhaddith Delhvi (ra).  They state that this is the qisays of the Holy Prophet (saw) and an exception just reserved for him.  Imam Ibn Kateer in “Seerat un Nabawiyyah” (vol. 1 pg 224) states this is because of the fadl and kirama of Holy Prophet (saw) who is given this exception and is reiterated by Imam Suyuti, Imam Shaybani, Ibn Hashim and Imam Baghawi too.  Moreover in a Hadith of Sahih Bukhari the Holy Prophet (saw) states that his uncle, Abu Talib will benefit from his intercession which is again part of the ‘qisayse muhammadiyy’

A second criticism leveled at this Hadith is that the event has been narrated in the form of a dream and so loses some of its integrity.  This again is not a valid point. This Hadith has been accepted by Imam Bukhari in his Sahih who is one of the greatest muhaddith of Hadith so we cannot object to it.  If this dream was not to be accepted then why did he bother to accept it?  Moreover this is a narration of Hadrat Abass (rad) and if had considered the dream as unimportant then he too would not have narrated it and rejected it as insignificant.  Both of these great men as well as the other scholars mentioned earlier all considered the Hadith as authentic and used it in arguments pertaining to the legality of the Mawlid.

A third criticism is that Hadrat Abass had this dream when he was a not a Muslim and he is quoting something said by another non-Muslim thus querying its authenticity.  Again this is not a valid critique.  When we take this Hadith as evidence that celebrating the birth of the Prophet (saw) is rewarded , the base of this argument has no link with the aqueeda of Abu Lahab and the information he gives.  The evidence is based on the narration of Hadrat Abass (rad).  If he was not a Muslim at the time of the dream, he was a Muslim when he reported it!  It is part of the Usool of Hadith, legal and juristic principles, that the narrator of Hadith must be a Muslim.  Hadrat Abass narrated this dream in his capacity as a Companion of the Holy Prophet (saw) whilst living in Madinah. 

Fourth Hadith

Those critics who argue that only the two Eids of Shariah should be celebrated are also in error.

In a Hadith of Sahih Bukhari, (Kitabl-al-Iman, Ch. 34, Hadith n.45) a Jew quoted a Quranic verse to Hadhrat Umar (rad) (‘today we have completed your Deen for you and have chosen the Deen of Islam for you’) and said had such a verse been revealed to us in our Torath we would have celebrated that day as an Eid day.  In this statement there is an implicit question addressed to Hadhrat Umar (rad) asking why the Muslims did not celebrate this day as an Eid too.  Hadhrat Umar (rad) replied: ‘we know which day and which place this verse was revealed on to the Holy Prophet (saw).  The day of this revelation was Arafat – yawm al-hajj and that was a Friday’.

On this answer Imam Asqalani raises a question.  He states that a doubt can emerge in ones mind that the question was not answered satisfactorily.  The Jewish man wanted to ask why this day had not been celebrated as an Eid and the answer should have been given in same way – ie we do celebrate it as an Eid or that there are only two Eids in Islam and other Eid celebrations are prohibited.  However the answer given by Hadrat Umar (rad) does not appear to address the question directly, merely informing the Jew the day upon which the verse was revealed.  Imam Asqalani then answers his own question and comments that when Hadhrat Umar (rad) mentioned the day of Hajj and Friday, in fact he was impliedly saying is that we already celebrate this day as an Eid since yawm-al-hajj is one of the Eid’s of Shariah and every Friday, Jumma, is also considered an Eid for Muslims too.    He did not reply that celebrating something as an Eid is confined just to certain named days but merely said we already have celebrations on this day.  Moreover the Jew did not question again and ask for clarification but kept quiet indicating he understood.

It is thus established from this Hadith that if a verse containing good tidings revealed on to the Holy Prophet (saw) is worthy of being celebrated as an Eid then why cannot the day that the Prophet (saw) came to this world be celebrated too? 

Imam Thirmidhi also reported a similar event from two narrators, Hadrat Tariq and Abdullah ibn Abass (rad).  The first narration in “Kitab Tafseer ul Qur’an” (ch 6, n 3043) is similar to the one in Sahih Bukhari.  However the second Hadith, (n. 3044) is narrated by Ibn Abbass (rad) and related by him.  He states he recited these verses from Surah Al-Maidah and a Jewish man who was standing near him commented that had this verse been revealed on to them (the jews) they would have adopted this day as an Eid.  Hadrat Ibn Abass (rad) replied, endorsing the idea, saying the Muslims have already made it as a day of two Eids.  These verses were revealed on Jumma and on the Day of Arafat meaning the Jews would have celebrated it as one Eid but we celebrate it as a double Eid.  Those who argue that we cannot use the word Eid for celebrations are also incorrect since Hadhrat Ibn Abass (rad) says ‘eidain’ in the Hadith and refers to Friday as ‘yawm-ul-eid’. 

The words yawm-ul eid are also contained in a Hadith of Sunan Abu Dawood, (Kitab al Salat, Ch. fadlal yawm al jummah, Hadith no.1043).  Here the Holy Prophet (saw) said the Ummah  should read as much salaam and darood on him on a Friday in particular, as this is the day of the creation of Sayyidina Adam (a.s), the birth or kalq of a prophet being yawm ul eid. The Companions then asked if it would be possible that the salaam reaches him after his demise?  He replied in the affirmative saying Allah has forbidden the earth and land to eat the bodies of the Prophet’s.

So if Friday has been singled out as a special day being the day of creation of Sayyidina Adam (a.s), in other words the birthday of the first prophet of Islam, then surely the birthday of the last prophet (saw) should can also be singled out as an Eid.

In another Hadith in the “Sunan” of Imam Nisai (vol. 1 n.1666 pg. 519, vol.3 pg. 91) the Holy Prophet (saw) said we should fire bakoor in mosques as it is the Milad day of Sayyidina Adam (a.s) and the day of darood for me.  (see also the “Sunan” of Imam Ibn Maja vol.1, pg. 385 n.1085).  Bakoor is a special incense that is lighted and releases a beautiful smelling fragrance.  Elsewhere the Holy Prophet (saw) has also said that on the day of Jumma one must first bathe and wear clean clothes, and then send darood on him collectively.  Sayyidina Umar also appointed a man to perfume the mosques every Friday. (“Sunan” Imam Abu Dawud Hadith n.1666)

Fifth Hadith

The Holy Prophet himself celebrated his Milad.  In a Hadith narrated by Hadrat Anas (rad) contained in the Sunan of Imam Bayhaqi, (v.9 p.300 no. 43), (also mentioned by  Imam Tabrani, Imam Zahbi, Imam Asqalani in ‘fath ul bari’, and Imam Haythimi) states that the Holy Prophet (saw) sacrificed some animals and did an aqia for himself after the announcement of his Prophethood.  Imam Suyuti, commenting on this Hadith states that this was not an aqia done in the traditional sense since his grandfather Abdul Muttalib had already done the aqia of the Holy Prophet (saw) seven days after his birth. Since it is not possible to repeat an act of shariah once it is already done, ie one cannot repeat their prayers once they have already been performed, Imam Suyuti states that the reason for the sacrifice of the animals was an act of thankfulness and a celebration done by the Holy Prophet (saw) for his birth. The Holy Prophet (saw) was thanking Allah for his status as  rahmta li lalimeen.  Imam Suyuti finally concludes it is mustahab (advisable) for us to celebrate the mawlid in ijtima (collectively) since the Holy Prophet (saw) sacrificed animals and distributed the food and thus we too should have a gathering and distribute food and rejoice in a good manner (‘Husn Maqsid fî `Amal-il mawlid by Imâm Jalâl ad-Dîn Suyûtî, pp. 64-6).

Some critics may argue that since the Holy Prophet’s orginal aiqa was done in the period of jahliyyah he wanted to repeat the aqia to ensure its proper performance.  However this is not a valid argument since if acts those acts of shariah performed in the time of jahliyyah needed to be repeated then many why were other similar acts not repeated by the Holy Prophet (saw)?  Why for example did he not repeat his nikah to Hadrat Khadija (rad) which was originally done 15 years prior to Prophethood? The nikah had been read by his unlce Abu Talib and the mahr was paid by him too. 

Thus it is clearly evident that the mawlid of the Holy Prophet (saw) has its origins and roots in the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah and is a celebration that all Muslims should eagerly rejoice in.

By. G.H. Qadri