What is the Mawlid
The Mawlid is a joyful event during which Muslims gather to thank Allah for sending Prophet Muhammad, peace on him. The Muslims commemorate this event repeatedly every year on the 12th of Rabee` al-‘Awwal, which is the day when the Prophet was born. During this event, the Muslims come together, recite Qur’an, praise the Prophet, speak about the honorable life of the Prophet and his attributes, learn about Islam, and serve food.
Judging the Mawlid
The activities of the Mawlid, as mentioned, are lawful in Islam. Muslims are rewarded for doing the Mawlid. The doing of the Mawlid does not contradict Qur’an, Hadeeth, Consensus or the practices and sayings of the Companions. It is a special event and Muslims celebrate Mawlid throughout the five continents. Remembering the birth of the Prophet by doing rewardable deeds is a praise-worthy practice for those who prepare and participate in this honorable event.
History of the Mawlid
The king of Irbil, Abu Sa`eed al-Muzaffar bin Baktakeen Kawkabriyy, initiated the Mawlid in the 7th hijriy century and was the first person to do so. He was a pious, brave, just, generous and knowledgeable ruler and defender of Islam, who died while fighting the Crusaders in Palestine. He invited many Muslims including the scholars of Hadeeth, Tafseer, Fiqh and sincere Sufis and celebrated the Mawlid.
The scholar of Fiqh, Abul Khattab Ibn Duhyah, wrote a book praising this doing and gave it to the king especially to be read during the Mawlid celebration. The doing of the Mawlid became known to the scholars in the east and west, who accepted it and pointed to the Islamic proofs which confirmed its validity. Among those scholars the imam of Hadeeth Hafiz Ahmad bin Hajar al`Asqalaniyy, imam Hafiz as-Sakhawiyy and imam Hafiz as-Suyutiyy. Those scholars and others wrote several books praising the Mawlid and none of the Muslim scholars dispraised this celebration.
The Proofs Given by the Scholars for the Validity of the Mawlid.
The Prophet recognized Monday and praised fasting it because he was born and received revelation on that day. He said:
ذاك يومُ أُنْزِلَ علىَّ ويومٌ ولِدتُ فيه
i.e., this is the day I was born. (Muslim)
Prophet Muhammad fasted the 10th of Muharram after he emigrated to Madinah. He found that the Jews commemorate every year the day Allah saved Prophet Musa and his followers from Pharaoh. It was revealed to the Prophet what the Jews said was true, so the Prophet told them, as Al-Bukhari narrated:
نحنُ أَوْلى بموسى
That is, “We are more deserving of Musa than you” and the Prophet ordered the Muslims to fast the 9th and 10th of Muharram as optional days.
Did the Prophet celebrate the Mawlid? The Mawlid did not occur during the time of the Prophet, peace on him, but the Prophet did not say that the Mawlid is unlawful. According to the laws of Islam, it is something innovated. Moreover, the Mawlid is a good innovation.
What is an Innovation?
An innovation is something new that did not occur previous to the advent of the innovation.
What is the Judgment on ‘Innovation’ in general?
Ahlussunnah agreed that some innovations are lawful (good) and some of them are unlawful (bad). They agreed that not every innovation is unlawful.
Allah praised the good innovation in surat al-Hadid, ayah 27:
ثُمَّ قَفَّيْنَا عَلَى ءاثَارِهِم بِرُسُلِنَا وَقَفَّيْنَا بِعِيسَى ابْنِ مَرْيَمَ وَءاتَيْنَاهُ الإِنجِيلَ وَجَعَلْنَا فِي قُلُوبِ الَّذِينَ
اتَّبَعُوهُ رَأْفَةً وَرَحْمَةً وَرَهْبَانِيَّةً ابْتَدَعُوهَا مَا كَتَبْنَاهَا عَلَيْهِمْ إِلاَّ ابْتِغَاء رِضْوَانِ اللهِ فَمَا رَعَوْهَا
حَقَّ رِعَايَتِهَا فَآتَيْنَا الَّذِينَ ءامَنُوا مِنْهُمْ أَجْرَهُمْ وَكَثِيرٌ مِّنْهُمْ فَاسِقُونَ
Qur’an praised the Muslim followers of Prophet `Isa who had innovated Rahbaneeyyah, which Allah did not make it incumbent on them. Nevertheless, they did it to acquire Allah’s blessings. Rahbaneeyyah is to abstain from fulfilling one’s desires including marriage. Those followers built simple houses from clay away from the people and devoted themselves to worshipping Allah.
The Prophet distinguished between the good and the bad innovation. He said, as narrated by Muslim:
من سنّ في الإسلام سنّةً حسنة فله أجرها وأجر من عمل بها بعده من غير أن ينقص من
أجورهم شىء، ومن سنّ في الإسلام سنّة سيئة كان عليه وزرها ووزر من عمل بها من
بعده من غير أن ينقص من أوزارهم شىء.
It means that the one who innovates a good innovation acquires its reward and the reward similar to the rewards of those who follow him, but their rewards are not diminished. And the one who innovates a bad innovation acquires its sin and the sin similar to the sins of those who follow him, but their sins are not diminished.
Al-Bukhariyy and Muslim narrated that the Prophet said:
منْ أحْدثَ في أمرِنا هذا ما ليسَ منه فهو رَدٌّ
It means that if anyone innovates in our Religion a matter which does not belong to it (ما ليس منه), then it is rejected. Because the Prophet specifically pointed to the matters that do not conform to the rules of our Religion, it follows that not any innovation in Islam is rejected. Hence, the innovation which complies with the Qur’an, Hadeeth, Consensus and sayings and practices of the Companions is not rejected (it belongs to the innovations of guidance).
Imam ashShafi`iyy said: the innovation is of two kinds; the innovation of guidance, and the innovation of misguidance. He said: what complies with the Qur’an, Hadeeth, Consensus, and sayings and practices of the Companions is an innovation of guidance, and that which contradicts the Qur’an, Hadeeth, Consensus, or sayings and practices of the Companions is an innovation of misguidance. Imam alBayhaqiyy, `Izz bin `Abd as-Salaam, anNawawiyy, and Ibn Hajar al-^Asqalaniyy gave the same definition of the two types of innovations. The four schools agreed on that classification.
Some Innovations of Guidance
Although most innovations are innovations of misguidance, there are numerous examples of Islamically acceptable innovations. Since the time of the Prophet, many good innovations have been adopted.
One person was praying behind the Prophet, peace on him, and said a good statement after he stood up from ruku^. After the prayer, the Prophet asked who that person was. The Prophet said: I saw less than 40 angels in favour of each writing it first. (Al-Bukhari)
The companion Khubayb bin `Adiyy innovated praying two raka`at before his enemy was about to kill him and was the first person to do so. The Prophet was told about this doing, but the Prophet did not prohibit it.
Al-Bukhariyy (Malik and Muslim) narrated that the caliph `Umar Ibn al-Khattab gathered the Muslims and assigned an imam for them to pray the Taraweeh Prayer in congregation. When he saw them the next day praying behind the imam in congregation he said:
نِعْمَت البِدعةُ هذِه
which means: “What a good innovation that is!” `Umar used the explicit term (البدعة innovation) in his praise. If all innovations were misguided, `Umar would not have innovated this practice, nor expressed this praise.
The caliph `Uthman innovated the first athan on Friday before the imam ascends the minbar.
Initially, Qur’an was written with letters like the
ب, ت, ث
and ى, which did not have dots above or below them. The practice of distinguishing between the letters by using the dots notation began by al-Hasan alBisriyy after the time of the Prophet.
During the era of the followers of the Companions, Yahya bin Ya`mur was the first to put the tashkeel on the letters of Qur’an. Today, Qur’an is recited using these signs without objection.
Muslims added the mihrab (semi-circular, hollow structure which shows the qiblah) to the mosques including the mosque of the Prophet in Madinah.
What is the meaning of the Hadeeth:
كُلُّ بِدعةٍ ضَلالةٌ
This hadith was narrated by Abu Dawud and it means that most (not everyone) of the innovations are innovations of misguidance.
It cannot mean that every innovation is misguidance because this interpretation contradicts the previous proofs and the proofs of Islam do not contradict one another.
Linguistically, the word (كل) here is a general statement giving a specific meaning and it does not mean (every).
This usage is seen in Qur’an in ‘ayah 25 of surat al-Ahqaf:
تُدمِّرُ كلَّ شَئ
This means: [the wind Allah sent as punishment to the people of ^Aad] demolished most of the things [but not all the things like trees, skies or the mountains].
Similarly, in the explanation of Sahih Muslim, an-Nawawiyy said: The saying of the Prophet, peace on him:
كلُّ عَينٍ زانية
In a general sense, it means: The Eye commits adultry. It is among those phrases which reflect a general statement that gives a specific meaning. It clearly does not mean that every eye commits a sinful gaze leading to adultery (the forbidden look). The Prophets would never commit such an abject sin and the person blind since birth would surely not have the forbidden look.