Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Celebrating the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.)

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is taken from “Celebrating the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.)” from Shaykh ‘Ali Juma’ah.

The birth of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) was an Outpouring of Divine Mercy in respect to human history.  The Qur’an Describes the presence of the Prophet (s.a.w.) as a Mercy to Mankind.


We Sent thee not, but as a Mercy for all creatures. (Surah al-Anbiya’:107)

This Mercy is not limited as it encompasses personal growth, self-purification, knowledge, guidance to the straight path, and offering people a felicitous spiritual and material life.  This Mercy is also not limited to a specific historical circumstance; rather it stretches throughout the entirety of history.


As well as (to confer all these benefits upon) others of them, who have not already joined them: and He is Exalted in Might, Wise. (Surah al-Jumu’ah:3)

Celebrating the birth of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) is amongst the best actions and the best acts of drawing near to Allah (s.w.t.) as it is an expression of happiness and love for the Prophet (s.a.w.) and love of the Prophet (s.a.w.) is from the fundamentals of faith.  It is narrated that he said in a rigorously authentic hadits, “By the One in whose hands is my soul, none of you truly possess faith until I am more beloved to them than his parents and children.”, and he also said, “None of you truly believe until I am more beloved to him than his parents, children, and all people.”

Imam ibn Rajab (r.a.) wrote that love of the Prophet (s.a.w.) is from the fundamentals of faith, and it is equivalent to loving Allah (s.w.t.), as the two are associated.  Allah (s.w.t.) has also Warned those who place love of anything else that is natural to love such as kin, wealth, and homeland by Saying:


Say: If it be that your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your mates, or your kindred; the wealth that ye have gained; the commerce in which ye fear a decline; or the dwellings in which ye delight ― are dearer to you than Allah or His Messenger or the striving in His Cause; then wait until Allah Brings about His Decision: and Allah guides not the rebellious. (Surah at-Tawbah:24)

And with regards having faith, when ‘Umar (r.a.) said to the Prophet (s.a.w.), “You are more beloved to me than anything else except myself,” the Prophet (s.a.w.) responded, “‘Umar, until I am more beloved than even yourself.”

‘Umar (r.a.) then said “By Allah, you are more beloved to me than myself.”

The Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “It is now ‘Umar.”

Celebrating the birth of the Prophet (s.a.w.) is a form of celebrating him and is an act that is absolutely established according to the shari‘ah as it is an act you rely on so as not to fall into error.  Allah (s.w.t.) has Made Known to the world the rank of His Prophet (s.a.w.) so He Made Known to the entire existence his name, his prophetic commission, his spiritual rank, and his place with Him.  Therefore the universe is in constant happiness and absolute bliss as a result of the Light of Allah (s.w.t.), His Relief, His Proof, and His Blessing to the world.  Our pious ancestors since the fourth and fifth Islamic centuries have celebrated the birth of our beloved by enlivening the eve of his birth by various pious acts such as feeding the poor, reciting Qur’an, invoking, singing religious odes, especially odes in praise of him.  This has been documented by many of the historians such as Shaykh al-Hafizh (r.a.), Imam ibn Jawzi (r.a.), Hafizh ibn Katsir (r.a.), Shaykh ibn Dahiyyah al-Andalusi (r.a.), Imam ibn Hajr (r.a.), and the last of the hufazh Imam as-Suyuthi (r.a.).

Many of the scholars and jurists have composed treatises describing the religiosity of celebrating the birth of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and discussing the text proofs for this in such a manner that anyone who is intelligent and of sound mind cannot deny what our pious ancestors have engaged in.  Imam ibn al-Hajj (r.a.), in his Madkhal, enumerated the uniqueness of this celebration as well as mentioned that which would give joy to any believer’s heart if reading it, especially knowing that Imam ibn al-Hajj (r.a.) wrote this book in order to criticize reprehensible innovation that had no foundation in the shari‘ah.

Imam Jalal ad-Din as-Suyuthi (r.a.) wrote in his Husn al-Maqsid fi ‘Amal al-Mawlid after being asked about the ruling of celebrating the birth of the Prophet (s.a.w.) during the month of Rabi al-Awwal: “My answer is that the basis of celebrating the birth of the Prophet (s.a.w.) is people coming together, reciting Qur’an, and reciting sound traditions concerning the beginnings of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and what occurred during his birth from Qur’anic verses.  Then they eat food that has been prepared and when they finish they leave without doing anything else.  This is a praiseworthy innovation which the person doing it is rewarded for as it is a form of magnifying the rank of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and a form of expressing happiness and joy at his noble birth.”

Imam as-Suyuthi (r.a.) also responded to those who say, “We have no knowledge of the basis of this act from the Qur’an or sunnah” by responding that the “lack of knowledge of something does not mean its non-existence.”  Imam as-Suyuthi (r.a.) went on further to highlight the opinion of Imam ibn Hajar (r.a.) who found a basis for it from the sunnah, and Imam as-Suyuthi (r.a.) himself found another basis for it in the sunnah as well making it clear that reprehensible innovations are ones that cannot be placed under legal proofs and therefore praised.  If, however, praise is found for them, then they cease to be reprehensible innovations.

Imam al-Bayhaqi (r.a.) narrated on the authority of Imam ash-Shafi’i (r.a.) who said, “Newly invented matters are of two kinds: one, something that contradicts the Qur’an, sunnah, tradition, or scholarly consensus.  This is the reprehensible innovation.  The second is a newly invented matter of goodness of which there is no doubt amongst anyone.  This is a newly invented matter that is not reprehensible.  ‘Umar ibn Khaththab (r.a.) said concerning the night prayers of Ramadhan, ‘What a great innovation this is!’ meaning that it is a newly invented matter that was not in existence before and in its new existence there is no negation of that which has come before.”

Imam as-Suyuthi (r.a.) said in light of Imam al-Shafi’i’s (r.a.) quote above that celebrating the birth of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) has no contradiction to the Quran, sunnah, traditions, or scholarly consensus and is therefore not a reprehensible innovation as is clear from Imam ash-Shafi’i’s statement (r.a.).  Rather this act is amongst the pious acts that were not present during the early generations.  Likewise feeding people from food that is free of any crime is from amongst the pious acts.  It is therefore from the innovations that are recommended as has been stated by the prince of the scholars al-‘Izz ibn ‘Abd as-Salam (r.a.).

The basis for the gathering of celebrating the birth of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) is a recommended act of drawing near to Allah (s.w.t.) as his birth is the greatest Blessing upon us and the shari’ah has commanded us to express thanks to Allah (s.w.t.) for His blessings upon us.  This is what Imam ibn al-Hajj (r.a.) has opined in his al-Madkhal where it is stated: “In this month, Allah has Blessed us with the greatest of the first and the last, therefore it is proper that there be an increase in good works, acts of devotion, and thanksgiving for what Allah has Given us.”

The proof-text used by Imam ibn Hajr (r.a.) is the hadits found in the two Swahih collections stating that when the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) came to Madina he found the Jews fasting ‘Ashurah so he asked about this and they said, “This is the day that Allah Caused Pharaoh to drown and Saved Moses so we fast this day out of thanks to Allah.”

Imam ibn Hajr (r.a.) said, “One can benefit from this text the permissibility of thanking Allah for something in a certain day as a way of bringing more Blessing or preventing harm.  This sort of thanks can be reoccurring on the same day every year.  Thanks toward Allah can be expressed in the different ways of acts of worship such as prostration, fasting, charity, and Qur’anic recitation.  And what could be a greater blessing than the manifestation of this Messenger of mercy in this specific day?”  Imam ibn Hajr (r.a.) further discussed the forms of celebration that can occur on this specific day by saying, “We should limit ourselves to those things which are known to be a sign of thanksgiving to Allah such as recitation of the Qur’an, feeding the poor, singing odes in praise of the Messenger of Allah which cause the heart to move towards good works in preparation for the Last Day, and whatever is permissible as a way of showing thanksgiving there is nothing wrong with adding it to this day.”

Imam as-Suyuthi (r.a.) has quoted the Imam of Qur’anic recitation, Imam Shams ad-Din ibn al-Jazari (r.a.) from his ‘Urf at-Ta‘arif bi al-Mawlid ash-Sharif, the following: “It is rigorously authenticated that Abu Lahab’s punishment in the Hellfire is Reduced every Monday due to his freeing Tsuwaybah (his slave girl) as a sign of thanksgiving for the birth of the Messenger of Allah.  If this is Abu Lahab, the disbeliever whom the Qur’an has Damned and his punishment is allowed to be lessened as a result of his happiness for the birth of the Messenger of Allah, then what is the state of the believer from the followers of the Prophet who is happy with his birth and spends all he can in expressing this love?  Indeed his Reward would be to be Admitted to Paradise by Allah.”

Imam Shams ad-Din ad-Dimishqi (q.s.) composed some lines of poetry regarding this issue in his book Mawrid asw-Swadi fi Mawlid al-Hadi:

“If this is a kafir whose Damnation has been Proclaimed,
With, ‘Perish the hands,’ in the hell fire for eternity;
It has been transmitted to us that on Mondays always,
His punishment is Made lighter for his joy with Ahmad.
What does one think, then, of the servant whose whole life
Is made joyful by Ahmad and he dies as a monotheist?”

One can also use as a proof-text that Statement of Allah (s.w.t.):


… and teach them of the Days of Allah... (Surah Ibrahim:5)

As there is no doubt that the birth of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) is from the days of Allah (s.w.t.).  Therefore celebrating it is nothing but a form of obeying this Command, and whatever is likewise cannot be considered a reprehensible innovation, rather it is a good sunnah even if it be something not found during the time of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.).  We celebrate the birth of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) because we love him, and how can we not love him as all of Creation knows and loves him such as the tree stump which is an inanimate object, but it loved the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) and was attached to him and longed to be with him to the point that it cried extensively out of longing.  This story has been narrated by diffuse congruence and its veracity is unquestioned.  Many of the companions reported that, “He used to deliver his sermons standing leaning on the stump of a palm tree which was standing straight.  If his sermon was long he would place his blessed hand on that stump.  When the number of people praying increased, the companions built him a pulpit.  When he left his blessed room one Friday going to the pulpit and he passed the stump he used to use for his sermons, the tree stump cried out a great cry and it moaned a great moan until the entire mosque was shaken and the tree stump split and it did not let up until the Messenger of Allah descended from the pulpit, went to it, and wiped his hands over it until he hugged it and brought it close to his chest and it quieted.  He then allowed it to make a choice: either it could be planted in paradise and drink from the waters of paradise, or it could be planted in this world, and the tree stump chose paradise and the Messenger of Allah said, ‘So be it, Allah Willing; so be it, Allah Willing; so be it, Allah Willing.’  And the tree stump seized and the Messenger of Allah said, ‘By the One in Whose Hand is my soul, if I did not attend to it, it would have cried and moaned until the coming of the Hour longing for the Messenger of Allah.’”

From all that has preceded from the words of the great scholars such as Imam ibn Hajr (r.a.), Imam ibn Jawzi (r.a.), Imam as-Suyuthi (r.a.), and others it is clear that this has been the situation of the greater Muslim community since the 5th Hijri century.  We can see that celebrating the birth of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) is an encouraged act in congruence with the opinions of the scholars, and that this celebration should be by reciting Qur’an, invocations, feeding the poor.  Doubt concerning the celebration of the birth of the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) should not be taken from those who dance lewdly and do other things.  Nor is the contention of those who have gone astray by denying this scholarly consensus as this celebration is not too much for the Prophet of Mercy (s.a.w.), the Beloved of Allah, the Lord of all the worlds.  We conclude by the words of Imam al-Buswiri’s (q.s.) poem, al-Burdah:

“He is the one whose meaning and form were Perfected,
And then the Originator of souls Chose him as the Beloved.
Incomparable, his beauty has no peer -
The essence of beauty itself is in his nature.
Leave aside what the Christians have claimed for their prophet –
Then praise him as you like, but do so wisely.
Ascribe to his essence what you wish of honour,
Attribute to his exalted status what you will of greatness!”


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