Saturday, 11 January 2014
Imam Jalal ad-Din as-Suyuthi (q.s.) on Celebrating ‘Iyd-al-Milad an-Nabi
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
The following is taken from “Celebrating ‘Iyd al-Milad an-Nabi” by Imam Jalal ad-Din as-Suyuthi (q.s.).
‘Abd ar-Rahman ibn Abu Bakr ibn Muhammad ibn Sabiq ad-Din, Jalal ad-Din as-Suyuthi (q.s.) was born in 849 AH / 1445 CE. He was a Shafi’i mujtahid, mufassir, Sufi, muhaddits, and historian, a prolific writer who authored books in virtually every Islamic science. He was raised as an orphan in Cairo and memorised the Holy Qur’an by 8. Amongst his teachers were Siraj ad-Din al-Bulqini (r.a.), Sharaf ad-Din al-Munawi (r.a.), and Taqi ad-Din ash-Shamani (r.a.). He travelled to gain Sacred Knowledge to Damascus, the Hijaz, Yemen, India, Morocco, and the lands south of Morocco, as well as centres of learning in Egypt. Imam Jalal ad-Din as-Suyuthi (q.s.) passed away in Cairo at 60 years of age in 911AH / 1505 CE.
In his book, the great scholar he has shed light on the historical and legal status of the Milad Sharif in his own characteristic scholarly style. Before forming any opinion on the status of this booklet in imparting knowledge and benefit, first of all, we must consider the illustrious personality of the author. The highly acclaimed Tafsir al-Jalalayn, which he co-authored, is still a prescribed textbook in religious institutions and Muslims of all shades of opinion study and teach it, and praise Imam as-Suyuthi (q.s.) for this work. Apart from this, his book on uswul at-tafsir, al-Itqan fi ‘Ulum al-Qur'an, became an indispensable source of reference for all later works on the subject. al-Badr al-Manshur, his tafsir of the Holy Qur’an is referred to as an exemplary tafsir. On the characteristics and miracles of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.), his work, al-Khaswa’isw al-Kubra, is used as an exemplar in the field of sirah by eminent a’immah and ‘ulama.
It is thus obvious that when such a great religious luminary takes up his pen to write on the Milad Sharif, celebrating the birthday of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.), the result will be of a unique status and its every word will be a summary of his vast knowledge of tafsir, ahadits, fiqh, uswul and history. Thus it would form the conclusive verdict of this subject. The question under consideration is the verdict of the shari’ah on celebrating the birthday of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) in the month of Rabi’ al-Awwal. From the point of view of the shari’ah, is this a praiseworthy action or a blameworthy one? And do those who arrange such a celebration receive blessings or not?
The reply to this question is that the Milad Sharif, celebration of the birthday of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) is in fact such an occasion of happiness on which people assemble and recite the Holy Qur’an to the extent that is easy. Then they relate the prophecies concerning the appearance of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) that have been transmitted in ahadits and atsar, and the miraculous events and signs that took place on his birth. Then food is set before them and according to their desire they partake thereof to satisfaction. This festival of celebrating the birthday of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.), is a bid’ah al-hasanah, a good innovation, and those arranging it will get blessings, since in such a celebration is found the expression of joy and happiness at the greatness and eminence of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) at his birth.
The beginning of the celebration of the Milad Sharif in its present form lies with the ruler of Irbil, Sultan Muzhaffar (r.a.) whose full name is Abu Sa’id Kukabri ibn Zayn ad-Din ‘Ali ibn Baktaghin, who is counted among the great sultans and generous leaders. He was responsible for many other noble works as well. Among the many monuments set up by him was the Jami’ Muzhaffari, which he had constructed near Mount Tasiyun.
Hafizh ibn Katsir (r.a.) wrote about Sultan Muzhaffar (r.a.) as follows: “Sultan Muzhaffar used to arrange the celebration of the Milad Sharif with due honour, glory, dignity and grandeur. In this connection, he used to organise a magnificent festival. He was a pure-hearted, brave and wise ‘alim and a just ruler. May Allah Shower His Mercy on him and Grant him an exalted status. Imam Abu al-Khaththab ibn Dziyah also wrote a book for him on the Milad Sharif entitled, at-Tanwir fi Mawlid al-Bashir an-Nadzir. For this book, Sultan Muzhaffar awarded him a gift of one thousand dananir. Sultan Muzhaffar remained the ruler until his death, which occurred in 630 AH in the city of ‘Akka when he had the Europeans under siege. In short, he was a man of piety and noble disposition.”
Sibth ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.) wrote in Mir’at az-Zaman that one participant in the Milad Sharif organised by Sultan Muzhaffar states that on the royal table-spread were laid out five hundred prepared goats, ten thousand chickens, one hundred thousand earthen tumblers and thirty thousand baskets of sweet fruits. He further writes that eminent, pious ‘ulama and illustrious Sufis used to attend the Milad Sharif ceremony held by the Sultan, who used to honour them with robes of distinction and royal favour. For the Sufis there used to be a mahfil as-sama’ from zhuhr until fajr, in which the Sultan himself used to participate and derive ecstasy therefrom together with the Sufis. Every year, his expenditure on the Milad Sharif amounted to three hundred thousand dananir. For those coming from outside the city, he had a special guest house commissioned, where people from all walks of life used to come from different places and without any discrimination of status. The expenditure of that guest house used to be one hundred thousand dananir annually.
Similarly, he used to spend two hundred thousand dananir annually to ransom Muslim prisoners-of-war from the Europeans. Also for the maintenance of the Haramayn and for providing water along the routes in Hijaz for pilgrims, he used to spend three thousand dananir annually. These are in addition to the swadaqat and charity that used to be given secretly. His wife, Rabi’ah Khatun bint Ayyub, the sister of Sultan Naswir Swalah ad-Din narrated that her husband used to wear a garment, qamisw, of coarse cotton costing no more than five darahim. She says that she once rebuked him for this, upon which he replied that his wearing a five- darahim garment and spending the rest of the money in charity is far better than wearing a costly garment and giving a poor or indigent person mere good wishes.
Imam ibn Khallikan (r.a.) wrote in the biographical sketch of Imam Abu al-Khaththab ibn Dihyah (r.a.): “He was one of the pious ‘ulama and famous scholars. He travelled from Morocco to Syria and Iraq. In the year 654 AH, he passed through the area of Irbil, where he saw that its ruler, the eminent Sultan Muzhaffar ad-Din ibn Zayn ad-Din arranged for celebrating the Birthday of the Prophet (s.a.w.). So he wrote the book, Kitab at-Tanwir fi Mawlid al-Bashir an-Nadzir for the Sultan and himself read it out to him. I myself heard the book read out in six sittings at the Sultan's place in 625 AH.”
Taj ad-Din ‘Umar ibn ‘Ali al-Khumi al-Iskandari, well known as al-Fakihani, had claimed that the Milad Sharif is a reprehensible bid’ah, innovation. In this regard, he wrote an essay al-Mawrid fi al-Kalam ‘ala al-Mawlid. Now consider our discussion on what al-Fakihani has said in this brief essay.
In connection with this statement that he could not find any basis for the Milad Sharif in the Qur’an and the sunnah, our submission is that the negation of the knowledge of a thing does not necessarily imply the negation of the existence of that thing, someone not having knowledge of a thing does not necessarily mean that that thing does not in reality exist. The Imam of the Huffazh, Imam ‘Abd al-Fadhl Ahmad ibn Hajr (r.a.) extracted a basis for the Milad Sharif from the sunnah. One more basis we have extracted, which will be mentioned later.
al-Fakihani stated that the Milad Sharif is an innovation invented by useless and idle people, who are slaves of their stomachs and on whom the lower desires of the nafs predominate. Further, having explained the different kinds of rules he stated that it is neither wajib, nor mandub, since neither did the shari’ah demand it nor did the swahabah, the tabi’un and the ‘ulama of the early generations celebrate it. In this connection we say, as stated earlier, that it was a just Sultan who was an ‘alim who started the Milad Sharif with the objective of obtaining nearness to Allah (s.w.t.). There were many ‘ulama and pious people with him, yet none of them deemed it reprehensible. On the contrary, Imam ibn Dihyah (r.a.), such an eminent ‘alim of that time, liked the celebration of the Milad Sharif, and wrote a book for the Sultan on this subject, as mentioned earlier. These were all ‘ulama of the earlier generations who liked the Milad Sharif, who supported and confirmed it and did not criticise or refute it. This is itself a self-evident proof that al-Fakihani's allegations are wrong.
Then there remains his statement that the Milad Sharif is not even mandub in reality, which the shari’ah has demanded. In this regard our submission is that the demand of the shari’ah is known sometimes through a naswsw, an explicit textual statement in the Qur’an or in the ahadits, and sometimes through qiyas, analogical deduction. For the Milad Sharif, although no naswsw is to be found, yet from those two bases in the sunnah which are mentioned further on, qiyas can definitely be made; when qiyas is applied on those two bases the commendability, being mandub, of the Milad Sharif can be realised.
His statement that the Milad Sharif can also not be mubah because the ijma’ of the followers of Islam is that anything that is a bid’ah, innovation, in religion cannot be mubah, is one that is not accepted. This is because bid’at are not classified only as haram or makruh, but they can also be mubah as well as mandub or wajib.
Imam an-Nawawi (r.a.) wrote in Tahdzib al-Asma’ wa al-Lughat, “Bid’ah in the shari’ah is the invention of that which was not there in the period of the Messenger of Allah, and it is divided into two categories, hasanah and qabihah,” “good and evil.”
Imam ‘Izz ad-Din ibn ‘Abd as-Salam (r.a.) wrote in al-Qawa’id, “Bid’ah is divided into wajib, haram, mandub, makruh and mubah. And the way to know to which category it belongs is to examine it together with the laws of shari’ah. If it falls with those laws that deal with what is wajib, then it is wajib; if with those laws that deal with what is haram, then it is haram; if with the laws dealing with what is mandub, then mandub; if the laws dealing with what is makruh, then makruh; if with the laws dealing with what is mubah, then mubah.”
After this he went on to give examples of the five kinds of bid’at and wrote, “As for bid’ah that is mandub, its examples are the setting up of inns and educational institutions and very good action which was not there in the first age. Among the latter are tarawih, discussion on the intricacies of taswawwuf and debates. And among these is the convening of assemblies for deduction of laws in connection with problems providing that the motive thereof is to seek the Pleasure of Allah Ta’ala.”
Imam al-Bayhaqi (r.a.) in Manaqib ash-Shafi’i has transmitted with his isnad, chain of narrators, from Imam ash-Shafi’i (r.a.) himself, that he said, “The new things that are brought about are of two kinds. One kind is that which is brought about, inconsistent with something in the Qur’an or the sunnah or with some atsar or some ijma’. This is the category of bid’ah adh-dhalalah. The second kind is that which is brought about from good things which are not inconsistent with any of the above.”
‘Umar (r.a.) did say about standing in prayer in the month of Ramadhan, “What a good bid’ah this is!” meaning that this is a new thing which was not there before and being a new thing it does not contradict anything that went before.
This refutes al-Fakihani’s statement that the Milad Sharif cannot also be mubah. But on the contrary it is a bid’ah that is makruh. This is because the Milad Sharif is of that category of new matters which involve no inconsistency with anything in the Qur’an or the sunnah, or with any atsar or ijma’. Thus, this is not blameworthy, from the point of view of the shari’ah, there is no evil in it. As in the statement of Imam ash-Shafi’i (r.a.) and it is a good action which, even though in its present form was not done in the first age, was brought about afterwards.
The invitation to partake of food and drink in which there is no sin, is an act of goodness for sure. Therefore, in connection with the Milad Sharif, that assembly in which someone, out of his lawfully earned wealth, invites his family, relatives and friends to partake of food and drink in which there is no action against the shari'ah; that assembly is a bid’ah that is mandub, as is clear from the above quoted statements of Imam ‘Izz ad-Din ibn ‘Abd as-Salam (r.a.).
In connection with the second manner al-Fakihani described and criticised, his criticism is in itself correct. There is no doubt that the assembly, mahfil, is haram where men, women, youths and little boys are freely mixed, and which there is dancing and music, with musical instruments in busy use, or where women assemble separately and sing in raised voices. But this does not mean that to arrange for the Milad Sharif has been deemed haram. On the contrary, in the above instances the reason for their being haram is not assembling to celebrate the Milad Sharif but is due to those things which are haram in the shari’ah and have become mixed with the blessed assembly. And if these things are not indulged in, then the Milad Sharif would be as assembly for remembering Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), and would thus be full of goodness and blessings.
Furthermore, if these kinds of actions were to take place say, in the assembly for swalat al-jumu’ah, then it is evident that would be a reprehensible step and an evil matter. However from this the criticism of the original assembly for swalat al-jumu’ah does not necessarily ensue. It has been seen that some of these kinds of actions also take place on the nights of Ramadhan, when people assemble for swalat at-tarawih. Now, on the basis of those actions, can one conceivably criticise assembling for swalat at-tarawih? Definitely not! However, we will say that the original assembly for swalat at-tarawih is sunnah, an act of virtue and an ‘ibadah, but that those above mentioned actions, which have become mixed with it, are evil and repulsive. Similarly, we say in connection with the celebration of the Milad Sharif that the assembly is itself mandub and an act of virtue, but the above mentioned kinds of other actions, which have become mixed with it, are blameworthy and unlawful.
In conclusion, al-Fakihani stated that Rabi’ al-Awwal is the month not only of the birth of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.), but also of his demise. Therefore, instead of grief and sorrow, exhibiting joy and happiness is neither better nor suitable. In reply to this, first of all we submit that the birth of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) is the greatest Favour of Allah (s.w.t.) Granted to us, and that his death is the greatest affliction for us. However, the shari’ah has encouraged us to show our gratitude for favours has taught us to observe patient, perseverance, silence and calm in the face of afflictions. The shari’ah has ordered us to offer the ‘aqiqah on the birth of a child, which is an expression of gratitude and happiness on the birth of that child. But the shari’ah has not ordered us to sacrifice any animal on the death of someone, nor to do any such action. On the contrary, it has prohibited wailing and lamentation. Thus the laws of the shari’ah indicate that to exhibit happiness in this holy month in connection with the birth of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.), is better than showing grief at his demise.
Imam ibn Rajab (r.a.) in his Kitab al-Latha’if, wrote criticising the Rawafidh, that because of the martyrdom of Husayn (r.a.) they have made ‘Ashura a day of mourning, whereas Allah (s.w.t.) and His Messenger (s.a.w.), have Prohibited taking the days of affliction on the prophets and the days of their deaths as days of mourning. What, then, is the justification for taking days of mourning for those who are not prophets?
Imam Abu ‘Abdullah ibn al-Hajj (r.a.) has discussed the subject of the Milad Sharif with great maturity and insight in al-Madkhal. To sum up his discussion, he has praised celebrating the Milad Sharif with joy and happiness and exhibiting gratitude to Allah (s.w.t.), therefore. And he has criticised those haram and prohibited things which have been included in it. Here, we quote his discussion section-wise: “From among those innovations which those people have brought about, thinking that thereby they are engaging in a great act of ‘ibadah and participating in religious ceremonies is this that in the month of Rabi’ al-Awwal, they celebrate the Milad, which celebration is constituted of many innovations and unlawful things. Among these are the participants sing songs and ghazals while at the same time using musical instruments – drums, flutes, fiddles. – and in this connection do many other evil actions which are customarily done mainly at those times which Allah Ta’ala has endowed with excellence and greatness and which are innovations wholly and totally, and are prohibited. There is no doubt that this kind of sama’, if it takes place on other nights apart from this, even then it would not be permissible. What then is the justification for holding such a sama’ in this holy month, which Allah Almighty the Most Excellent has Endowed with Excellence and Blessings in that His Beloved was born therein - such a sama’ in which musical instruments are used? What relation can such a sama’ have to this holy and blessed month, in which Allah (s.w.t.) granted us the great ihsan of the auspicious birth of the Noble Prophet, (s.a.w.), the leader of those who are first and those who are last?
Therefore, it is wajib that special gratitude to Allah Ta’ala should be expressed in this month and as much ‘ibadah and charity should be done as is possible, since He has Bestowed on us this very great favour of His Beloved (s.a.w.). Even though the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) did not engage in more ‘ibadah in this month as compared with other months, yet in reality, this was due to his mercy and kindness to his ummah, and also to create ease and mildness for them. This is why at times the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) would leave off doing an action, lest it should become compulsory on his ummah. This is the result of his mercy on us.
Nevertheless, the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) has indicated the excellence of this great month in reply to a questioner. When he questioner wanted to find out about fasting on Mondays, the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) replied, ‘That is the day on which I was born.’ Since the excellence of this day implies the excellence of this month in which the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) graced this world, then it is our duty to give this month its due respect and sanctity, and we should understand it to be very excellent just as Allah Ta'ala has Deemed other blessed months to be very excellent. In this connection the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) is reported to have said, ‘I am the leader of the children of Adam and there is no pride,’ and ‘Adam and all other prophets will be under my flag (on the Day of Judgement).’
The merits and excellence of times and places are a result of those forms of ‘ibadah which are carried out therein, and by which Allah Ta'ala has specially favoured them. When it is known that times and places do not in themselves contain any honour and greatness accrues on account of those characteristics and distinctions, then reflect on this greatest Favour of Allah Ta'ala, with which He has Distinguished and Ear-Marked this blessed month, Rabi’ al-Awwal Sharif and the day, Monday. Do you not see that fasting on Mondays has great merit because the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) was born on a Monday?
For this reason, it is of the utmost appropriateness that when this holy month comes, it should be treated with the exaltation, honour, esteem and respect it deserves. The example of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) should be followed in that in times endowed with special distinction, he himself used to perform the maximum possible acts of virtue and of charity, and he used to make special arrangements thereof. Have you not seen the following statement of ibn ‘Abbas (r.a.): ‘The Messenger of Allah was the most generous of men and his generosity was the utmost in Ramadan.’
For this reason, just as the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) honoured those times endowed with distinction, we carry out this very duty in accordance with our capacity, in the month of Rabi’ al-Awwal Sharif. If it be said that what the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) took upon himself in times of special distinction is known, but what he undertook in other months he did not do so in this month, then the answer is that it is well-known that the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) had this noble trait of wanting ease and relief for his ummah, especially in those things concerning himself. Do you not see that the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.), the leader of the world, declared Madinah Munawwarah as sacred territory just as Ibrahim (a.s.) has declared Makkah Mukarramah to be, yet he did not fix any punishment for hunting, cutting down any tree in Madinah? Do you not see that he did this out of desiring ease and relief for his ummah and out of mercy on them?
As it were, the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) used to consider what things concerned his own self, and even though those things in themselves are of great merit, yet through desiring ease and relief for his ummah, he used to abstain from them. The honouring of Rabi’ al-Awwal Sharif is of this category, that in it the maximum possible acts of virtue and charity should be done and he who cannot do so, at least he should abstain from all haram and makruh things in this holy month, out of respect for it. Even though the abstention from all haram and makruh things is required in other months as well, yet this month deserves the greatest respect. He should do so just as in Ramadhan al-Mubarak and other sacred months, he remains careful to the utmost, abstains from misdeeds in religion and keeps away from other unsuitable things.
However, at the present time some people are acting contrary to this. When this blessed month comes they busy themselves with amusement and sport, using musical instruments. However, regretful it is that they make music and merriment and then entertain the assertion that they are showing respect for this blessed month! Leave aside the fact that they begin such Milad celebrations with the recitation of the Holy Qur’an. They then, for the sensual delight of the nafs, take resort to those who are expert at the art of creating restlessness and excitement in the emotions – which in itself contains many causes of corruption and destruction.
Yet they do not content themselves with that alone, but some of them add an even more dangerous thing in that the singer is young, handsome, mellow-voiced, well-attired and of a very pleasing appearance. He sings ghazals, at the same time with crescendo and diminuendo in voice and ascent and descent in movements. Thus, he puts the audience, men and women into temptation. The result is that the two sides become prey to temptation and other many evils take the root. In some extreme cases, the husband-wife relationship is destroyed and it even reaches the extent of separation between them at times. Thus, the period of destruction and ruin begins, in which a settled and complete home is destroyed and peace of mind and heart ruined. These evils are the result of that kind of Milad celebration in which there is also a session of sama’.
Yes, if the Milad Sharif is free from those evils – only food is prepared and in that ones niyyah is of celebrating the Milad and Muslim brethren are invited and in which those matters contrary to the shari’ah and those blameworthy matters described above are abstained from – then it is an innovation merely on account of one’s niyyah because this is an accretion in the religion. Also the pious predecessors have not done it, and it is evident that it is better than more appropriate to follow the predecessors from none of whom has this been transmitted, nor has it been said of any of them that they made the niyyah of celebrating the Milad. We are their followers and are obligated to observe the same precepts as they were.”
The gist of the above quoted writing of Imam ibn al-Haj (r.a.) is that he has not criticised the Milad Sharif. On the contrary, he has criticised those things which are haram and makruh in the shari’ah. From the opening section, it is clear that this holy month should be accorded a special status and it should be honoured and respected. The maximum possible acts of virtue should be done therein. One should try to surpass one’s limits in doing acts of ‘ibadah, of charity and other virtuous acts. This is the method of celebrating the Milad Sharif which he has deemed praiseworthy and commendable, because in that there is nothing but the recitation of the Holy Qur’an and an invitation to partake of food and drink – and these are the acts of goodness, meriting Reward.
As far as his statement goes that this is an innovation – either it is in clear contradiction to what he said earlier, when Imam ibn al-Haj (r.a.) himself stressed honouring the month of Rabi’ al-Awwal, or it means that it is a good innovation, bid’ah al-hasanah, the elucidation of which was given earlier, or it means that the Milad Sharif is a virtuous and praiseworthy act, and the innovation is the niyyah of the Milad, as he has suggested in his statement of his, then it will be an innovation merely on his account of his niyyah.
There remains the statement of Imam ibn al-Haj (r.a.) that it has not been transmitted that any of the predecessors made the niyyah of celebrating the Milad. From this, it is clear that he considered the niyyah of celebrating the Milad to be makruh and that he did not deem the preparation of food and inviting Muslim brethren to partake thereof as makruh. If this is examined closely, then it seems that this statement of his is not consistent with his earlier statements. This is due to the fact that he first taught the showing of gratitude to Allah Ta’ala in Rabi’ al-Awwal Sharif, and the engaging in the maximum acts of ‘ibadah and of charity and other virtuous acts therein since He Caused His Beloved (s.a.w.) to be born in this holy month. The niyyah of celebrating the Milad Sharif means only this. Then how can something be criticised after doing it has been stressed? Abstract virtue, acts of ‘ibadah, of charity, and other acts of goodness cannot be conceived of without a niyyah. And even it could be considered, then it could not be deemed ‘ibadah, nor can it earn any Reward. This is because no action without an intention is worthy of acceptance. And the niyyah to celebrate the Milad Sharif means only to demonstrate gratitude to Allah Ta’ala on the auspicious birth of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) in Rabi’ al-Awwal. The intention of celebrating the Milad Sharif means only this, and there is no doubt that this intention is commendable. We must ponder on this well and impress it on the mind well.
After this, Imam ibn al-Haj (r.a.) wrote, “There are some people who do not celebrate the Milad solely for the purpose of demonstrating honour and respect. On the contrary, someone has some money in the possession of various people which he had given them on different occasions and ceremonies and now he wants to re-possess this money and is shy to ask for it. Therefore, he makes arrangement for the Milad which becomes the cause for the recovery of his wealth which was in the hands of people.”
“In this, many types of corruption are found. One is that hypocrisy is found there – in his heart the opposite of what he outwardly shows is present. Outwardly he shows that he is celebrating the Milad because he wants to gain benefits in the Hereafter, however, in his heart that he should recover his money dispersed in the hands of people. Some are such that they celebrate the Milad in order to collect money or so that people may praise them and join them to work so that it may be evident from this how many people are with them. In these forms as well as the acts of corruption and destruction are not hidden.”
The criticism by Imam ibn al-Haj (r.a.) is also of that kind which has already been examined above. The blameworthy or evil aspect in it is based on the absence of pure niyyah, and not that in the Milad Sharif itself there is to be found any evil or blameworthy aspect.
Shaykh al-Islam ‘Abd al-Fadhl Ahmad ibn Hajr (r.a.) was asked about the Milad Sharif. His reply was that the Milad Sharif is, in fact, an innovation, which was not transmitted from any pious predecessor in the first three centuries. Nevertheless, both acts of virtue as well as acts of abomination are to be found in it. If, in the Milad Sharif, only acts of virtue are done and acts of abomination are abstained from, then the Milad Sharif is a bid’ah al-hasanah; otherwise not.
He has said that he found a strong basis for the Milad Sharif in Swahih al-Bukhari and Swahih Muslim. It is that when the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) migrated to Madinah, he saw the Jews fasting on ‘Ashura. He enquired from them as to reason for this. They told him that ‘Ashura is that day on which Allah Ta’ala Caused Pharaoh to drown, and Granted Musa (a.s.) deliverance from him, and that they, the Jews, therefore fast on that day out of gratitude to Allah Ta’ala.
From this, the proof is obtained of showing gratitude to Allah, and in that connection to do any virtuous act and to observe it annually as a means of recollection for any special day on which Allah Ta’ala has Bestowed any favour or Removed any calamity. Gratitude to Allah Ta’ala is expressed through different kinds of ‘ibadah – prostration and standing in prayer, charity and the recitation of the Holy Qur’an. And what greater Favour of Allah Ta’ala can there be than the appearance of the Prophet of Mercy (s.a.w.) on this day? Therefore, this day should be specially observed so that consistency with the event concerning Musa (a.s.) on the day of ‘Ashura, be attained. Some people do not limit it and celebrate the Milad Sharif on any day of Rabi’ al-Awwal. Nay, some have extended it even more and increased the period to the whole year. According to the latter, the Milad Sharif can be celebrated on any day of the year. The objective here is the same.
This discussion has been in connection with the basis of the Milad Sharif. As far as those actions are concerned which are done in the Milad Sharif it needs that one content oneself with only such actions through which gratitude through Allah Ta’ala is demonstrated in a proper manner. For example, the above-mentioned matters – recitation of the Holy Qur’an, invitation to partake of food, acts of charity, reciting verses in praise of the Leader of the Two Worlds (s.a.w.) and such verses through which hearts are moved towards acts of ‘ibadah and piety and through which there is motivation for bringing about acts of virtue and for working for the Hereafter.
Concerning those things belonging to the category of sama’ and amusement and song, and which happen to be within the sphere of permissibility and through which joy is expressed on that day – if such things are done, there is no evil therein. And those things belonging to the categories of haram and makruh, they should be guarded against. Similarly, those things which are inconsistent with what is most preferable and which are not appropriate, such things should be abandoned.
Imam Jalal ad-Din as-Suyuthi (q.s.) submitted that he had also found another basis for the Milad Sharif in the ahadits. It is that Imam al-Bayhaqi (r.a.) transmitted from Anas (r.a.) that the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) performed his own ‘aqiqah in the period after the proclamation of prophethood. This was in spite of the fact his grandfather, ‘Abdul Muththalib (r.a.), had already performed the ‘aqiqah on the seventh day after the birth, and ‘aqiqah is done only once and is not done a second time.
From this it is understood that the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) did this to show his gratitude to Allah Ta’ala for Causing him to be born, having Made him the Mercy unto All the Worlds. The objective was also to create a precedent in the shari’ah for the ummah, just as the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) himself used to recite swalawat on his own self in order to create a principal in the shari’ah for that act of showing honour and esteem to him. Therefore, it is commendable, mustahab, that we arrange for the Milad Sharif to show our gratitude to Allah Ta’ala for the birth of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.), in which the invitation to food and drink is there and other similar acts of virtue are done and which occasion is celebrated with happiness.
Imam Shams ad-Din ibn al-Jazari (r.a.) in ‘Urf at-Ta’arif bi al-Mawlid ash-Sharif, he wrote that after the death of Abu Lahab, someone saw him in a dream and enquired from him as to his condition. He said that Punishment is being meted out. However, on the night of Monday, there is some relaxation in his punishment and he manages to suck some water from his finger, so saying, he indicated the finger, because it was through a gesture of that finger that he set his female slave Tsuwaybah (r.a.) free when she conveyed to him the good news of the birth of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) and that she had the privilege of suckling him. We must consider. If this Abu Lahab, a kafir whose censure has come in the Holy Qur’an, if he has been Rewarded for his expression of the joy at the birth of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.), what will be the condition of that Muslim, the sincere upholder of tawhid from his ummah who express joy at the birth of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) and spends whatsoever is possible for him, out of love for the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.)? His Reward will be that Allah the Most Noble, out of His Comprehensive Grace will Place him in the Gardens of Bliss.
Hafizh Shams ad-Din ibn Naswir ad-Din ad-Dimashqi (r.a.) wrote in Mawrid as-Sadi fi Mawlid al-Hadi, “It is established in swahih ahadits that punishment is lessened for Abu Lahab every Monday because he said Tsuwaybah free out of joy and happiness at the birth of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.).” After this he wrote the following lines of poetry:
“When this is a kafir and his Censure has come,
Perish his hands in the Fire of Hell forever
It has been narrated that always on a Monday
(His Punishment) is lessened because of his happiness at (the birth of) Ahmad
What is the view then about the servant (of Allah) who spent his whole life
Being happy at (the birth of) Ahmad and died an upholder of tawhid?”
Imam ibn al-Haj (r.a.) wrote that if it is questioned as to wisdom in the birth of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) being in the month of Rabi’ al-Awwal and on Monday not in the month of Ramadhan ash-Sharif, which is the month of the sending down of the Qur’an and in which Laylat al-Qadr is found, nor in any of the sacred months nor on the fifteenth of Sha’ban, nor on Friday, nor on the night of Friday; then the reply can be given from four angles:
It has been transmitted in ahadits that Allah Ta’ala Created the trees on a Monday. In this, there is great admonition and that is that on a Monday Allah Ta’ala Created food, sustenance, fruits and the things given in charity. Mankind’s growth development and livelihood are closely connected with these and men's selves get joy from them.
In the word ‘Rabi’,’ from the point of view of its etymology, a good indication and a virtuous omen is found. Shaykh Abu ar-Rahman as-Saqli (r.a.) stated that for every man, his name is a part for him.
The reason of Rabi’, spring, is the most moderate and beautiful of all the seasons. And the shari’ah of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) is the most moderate and the easiest among all the shara’i.
Allah, the All-Knowing and All-Wise, Wanted to Bestow eminence on that time in which the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) entered this world. Had he been born in any of the above-mentioned Sanctified times, then the illusion may have arisen that the nobility and eminence of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) are on account of those Sanctified times.