Question: Is it permissible to celebrate the birth of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ?
Answer: The Muslim community has in the last century and a half come into a great deal of confusion regarding the celebration of the mawlid – the birth of the Beloved Messenger of Allah ﷺ. Many have chosen to avoid this practice, and others have shunned it, calling it an innovation. Some even say that this is shirk. This was a practice that was performed by the early Muslims from the time of the Companions of the Messenger ﷺ, may Allah be pleased with them all. We will attempt to clear this confusion by presenting some Quranic āyāt, aḥādīth, and statements of classical `ulamā’ in support of this practice.
Allah Almighty says in the Quran:
قُلۡ بِفَضۡلِ اللّٰهِ وَبِرَحۡمَتِهٖ فَبِذٰلِكَ فَلۡيَـفۡرَحُوۡا
Say: They should rejoice in the Favor and Mercy of Allah (Yūnus, 10:58)
Allah ﷻ is commanding us to celebrate His Favor and Mercy. What is this Favor and Mercy? Allah ﷻ says:
لَقَدۡ مَنَّ اللّٰهُ عَلَى الۡمُؤۡمِنِيۡنَ اِذۡ بَعَثَ فِيۡهِمۡ رَسُوۡلًا
Allah surely favored the believers when He sent to them a messenger (Āle `Imrān, 3:164)
The Favor is explicitly mentioned here as the Messenger ﷺ. Next, we have the following āyah:
وَمَاۤ اَرۡسَلۡنٰكَ اِلَّا رَحۡمَةً لِّـلۡعٰلَمِيۡنَ
And We have not sent you (O Beloved) except as a mercy to all Creation. (al-Ambiyā’, 21:107)
Allah ﷻ is directly addressing the Holy Messenger ﷺ as a Mercy to all of creation itself. When we have verses in the Quran telling us that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ is a mercy and favor, and when we have verses commanding us to rejoice in the favor and mercy of Allah, then it should be obvious that we have been commanded to celebrate and rejoice in the Holy Messenger ﷺ himself.
The Quran talks about the blessedness and joy to be found in the births of other prophets as well. Speaking of the Prophet Yaḥyā عليه السلام, Allah ﷻ says:
وَسَلٰمٌ عَلَيۡهِ يَوۡمَ وُلِدَ
And peace upon him the day he was born (Maryam, 19:15)
Allah sends peace to him the day he was born. That makes the day of the birth of Hazrat Yaḥyā عليه السلام blessed, and it shows how Allah ﷻ has Himself honored that day. If this is the honor and blessing bestowed on the day of the birth of a prophet of previous communities, then how much greater would the blessing and honor be for the day of the birth of the Leader of the Prophets and the Greatest of Creation ﷺ?
There are several aḥādīth referring to the practice of the mawlid and its virtue. Imām Tirmidhi even has an entire chapter devoted to it in his canonical ḥadīth collection. He narrates the following from the Mother of the Believers Sayyida `Ā’isha Ṣiddīqa رضي الله عنها:
قَالَتْ كَانَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَتَحَرَّى صَوْمَ الاِثْنَيْنِ وَالْخَمِيسِ
She said, “The Messenger ﷺ would try to fast Mondays and Thursdays. (Tirmidhi, Kitāb-uṣ-Ṣawm, Bāb mā Jā’a fī Ṣawm Yawm-il-Ithnayn wa’l Khamīs, Ḥadīth 745)
Many reasons are given for why the Beloved of Allah ﷺ would fast these days. Imām Muslim narrates the following from Sayyiduna Abu Qatāda رضي الله عنه:
سُئِلَ عَنْ صَوْمِ الاِثْنَيْنِ فَقَالَ فِيهِ وُلِدْتُ وَفِيهِ أُنْزِلَ عَلَىَّ
He was asked about fasting on Mondays, so he said, “It is the day I was born and the day revelation was sent to me.” (Muslim, Kitāb-uṣ-Ṣawm, Bāb Istiḥbāb Ṣiyām Yawm-il-Ithnayn wa’l Khamīs, Ḥadīth 1164)
We can see from these aḥādīth that even the Blessed Messenger of Allah ﷺ used to commemorate this day. He recognized the blessings of the day of his birth and showed gratitude to his Lord through fasting.
The mercy to be found in his birth alone has been extended to everyone, even those not in the fold of Islam. Imām Bukhāri narrates the following from Hazrat `Urwa ibn Zubayr رضي الله عنهما:
وَثُوَيْبَةُ مَوْلاَةٌ لأَبِي لَهَبٍ كَانَ أَبُو لَهَبٍ أَعْتَقَهَا فَأَرْضَعَتِ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَلَمَّا مَاتَ أَبُو لَهَبٍ أُرِيَهُ بَعْضُ أَهْلِهِ بِشَرِّ حِيبَةٍ قَالَ لَهُ مَاذَا لَقِيتَ قَالَ أَبُو لَهَبٍ لَمْ أَلْقَ بَعْدَكُمْ غَيْرَ أَنِّي سُقِيتُ فِي هَذِهِ بِعَتَاقَتِي ثُوَيْبَةَ
Thuwayba was a slave girl of Abu Lahab whom he had freed (out of joy upon hearing the news of the birth of the Messenger), and so she nursed the Messenger ﷺ. When Abu Lahab died, some of his relatives saw him in a dream in a very bad state. They asked him, “What have you found?” He replied, “I have not found any good since I left you, except that I am given water in this (finger of mine) due to my freeing Thuwayba.” (Bukhāri, Kitāb-un-Nikāḥ, Bāb Wa Ummahātukum allātī Arḍa`nakum, Ḥadīth 5101)
Abu Lahab was the uncle of the Messenger ﷺ who was one of the fiercest enemies of Islam. So severe was his animosity, that Allah ﷻ revealed a Sūrah of the Quran just for mentioning his depraved state and the punishment that awaited him in the Afterlife. If such a disbeliever can be granted some reprieve for expressing the smallest joy at the birth of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, then what would the virtue be for someone who believes in and loves the Messenger ﷺ?
Statements of the `Ulamā’
The statements of the `ulamā’ in support of the mawlid are beyond count. Here we will mention two. Imām ibn Kathīr mentions in “al-Bidāya wa’n Nihāya”:
Sultan Muzaffar used to arrange the celebration of the Mīlād Sharīf with honor, glory, dignity, and grandeur, and he would organize a magnificent festival.
Imām ibn Kathīr goes on to praise this Sultan Muzaffar:
He was pure hearted, brave, and wise scholar, and a just ruler, may Allah Almighty shower His mercy upon him and grant him an exalted status. (al-Bidāya wa’n Nihāya, Vol. 13, pg. 136)
Imām ibn Kathīr is praising and extolling the virtues of a man who celebrated the mawlid; clearly he views it as a virtuous practice.
Imām Jalāluddīn Suyūṭi mentions in his work “al-Ḥāwi lil Fatāwa” a question posed on the permissibility of celebrating the mawlid. He responds:
In my view, the Mīlād Sharīf is an occasion of happiness on which people assemble and recite the Holy Quran as much as possible. They relate incidents concerning the arrival of the Noble Messenger ﷺ that are transmitted from ḥadīth and āthār. Food is arranged and they eat as much as they desire. This festival of celebrating the birth of the Noble Messenger ﷺ is a good innovation, and those arranging it will receive blessings, since in such a celebration is found the expression of joy and happiness at the eminence of the Holy Messenger ﷺ and his birth.
Imām Suyūṭi is showing his clear approval of this practice, and he even adds that this is a praiseworthy act that is deserving of reward from Allah ﷻ and His blessings.
These are just a few of the endorsements by the `ulamā’ of this blessed practice, showing its permissibility and its praiseworthiness. No one should say that this is an unjustified or blameworthy act.