Is Celebrating Mawlid Haram or Bidah? The Ultimate Truth

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The observance of Mawlid, the celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ  (peace be upon him) birth, is a topic that has sparked debates and discussions within the Islamic community. While some embrace it as a cultural and religious expression, others raise questions about its compatibility with Islamic teachings.

This article delves into the historical origins, cultural significance, and diverse perspectives surrounding Mawlid celebrations, aiming to unravel the controversy and provide insights for a well-rounded understanding.

Key Takeaways

📌 Historical Origins of Mawlid Celebrations
📌 Diverse Scholarly Perspectives on Celebrating Mawlid
📌 The permissibility of celebrating Mawlid

What is a Mawlid in Islam?

Mawlid is the observance of the birthday of the Islamic prophet Muhammad . Mawlid al-Nabi, as it’s also known, is celebrated in the third month of the Islamic calendar, Rabi’ al-awwal.

The term “Mawlid,” resonating with the Arabic words for “giving birth,” “descendant,” or “bearing a child,” was chosen to encapsulate the essence of this commemoration. Its focal point lies in honoring the birth of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ  (peace be upon him), serving as a testament to his legacy and teachings.

Celebrations of Mawlid can vary widely from country to country, but they often include:

  1. Recitation of Poetry and Quranic Verses: People gather to recite poetry and verses from the Quran, often focusing on the life, teachings, and character of the Prophet Muhammad.
  2. Processions and Parades: In many places, people organize large processions and parades to celebrate Mawlid, often with participants carrying green flags or banners (as green is a color traditionally associated with the Prophet).
  3. Lectures and Sermons: Scholars and religious leaders deliver lectures and sermons highlighting the Prophet’s life and teachings.
  4. Charity and Alms-giving: Many Muslims choose this time to give to charity or help the less fortunate, reflecting the charitable nature of the Prophet.
  5. Feasting: Some communities prepare special meals or distribute food to celebrate Mawlid.

Historical Origins of Mawlid Celebrations

The origins of Mawlid celebrations, a topic that has ignited debates within the Islamic world, are shrouded in complexity and historical ambiguity. Although precise details are elusive, some key insights can be gleaned from the mosaic of search results.

The inception of Mawlid is attributed to the Abbasids or the Fatimids, though the exact origin remains veiled in uncertainty. It is believed that this commemoration, celebrating the birth of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (peace be upon him), was introduced during a transformative era.

The first public display of Mawlid’s festivity emerged under the stewardship of the Muslim general Gökböri in 1207, marking a significant milestone in the evolution of this observance.

The resonance of Mawlid expanded across boundaries, finding its place within the Ottoman Empire under the rule of Murad III. In 1588, Mawlid was formally recognized as an official holiday, solidifying its presence on the calendar and in the hearts of believers.

The earliest accounts of Mawlid’s celebration are traced back to the words of Jamāl al-Dīn Ibn al-Ma’mūn, whose connection to the Fatimid Caliph al-Amir paints a vivid historical backdrop. Interestingly, the dating of Mawlid’s observance itself bears a degree of uncertainty. The writings indicate the 13th of Rabi’ al-Awwal as the chosen date, though scholars suggest the likelihood of an alteration from the 12th within a generation.

It was a Sufi mystic, Umar al-Mulla, who took the step of openly celebrating Mawlid within the Sunni community. This pioneering act laid the foundation for government-sponsored Mawlid commemorations in Sunni lands, propelled by Muẓẓafar al-Dīn’s inspiration.

The canvas of Mawlid celebrations is as diverse as the global Muslim community itself. While Pakistan embraces the occasion with national pride, marked by flag-raising ceremonies and gatherings at national monuments, other regions infuse the holiday with a vibrant, carnival-like spirit.

Do Sunni Muslims celebrate Mawlid?

prophet Muhammad's birthday

Indeed, many Sunni Muslims across the globe celebrate Mawlid, The celebration takes various forms and encompasses a diverse range of activities, with variations reflecting the cultural richness of the Muslim world.

1. Indonesia

In Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population globally, Mawlid is celebrated with great enthusiasm and is known locally as Maulid Nabi. The celebrations are characterized by colorful processions, music, and the recitation of stories about the Prophet Muhammad’s life.

Traditional foods and sweets are also prepared and distributed. Indonesian Muslims also attend lectures and sermons in mosques, focusing on the life and teachings of the Prophet .

2. Pakistan

In Pakistan, Mawlid is a public holiday, and the celebration is marked with a mix of religious fervor and festive activities. Large processions are organized in major cities, with participants carrying green flags and banners depicting the Prophet.

People also decorate their houses and streets with lights and colorful decorations. Special conferences and events are held, where religious scholars discuss the Prophet’s teachings. Charity events and communal meals are also common, with food and sweets distributed to the poor and needy.

3. Egypt

In Egypt, Mawlid celebrations include festive decorations and lighting in streets and mosques. Sufi Muslims in Egypt play a significant role in the celebrations, with spiritual music and dhikr (remembrance of Allah) sessions. Traditional sweets, known as “Halawet el-Moulid,” are prepared and distributed among families, friends, and neighbors.

4. Turkey

Turkey observes Mawlid with religious recitations, particularly of the Mevlid, a traditional Turkish Islamic poem narrating the birth of the Prophet. Mosques are illuminated, and homes are decorated. Special prayers are offered, and religious meetings are organized where scholars recount stories from the life of the Prophet Muhammad .

5. Nigeria

In Nigeria, where Islam is one of the major religions, Mawlid is celebrated with prayers, readings from the Quran, and recitation of poetry about the Prophet . Religious lectures and processions are common, and people often distribute food and alms to the less fortunate.

Diverse Scholarly Perspectives on Celebrating Mawlid

Views of Scholars Advocating Permissibility of Mawlid Celebrations

Several Islamic scholars argue in favor of Mawlid celebrations, citing historical precedents and the potential for fostering love and connection to the Prophet’s teachings. They contend that when approached with sincerity and within the boundaries of Islamic principles, Mawlid can be a means of spiritual enrichment.

Perspectives of Scholars Expressing Caution or Opposition to Mawlid Celebrations

Conversely, some scholars express reservations about Mawlid celebrations, concerned that they may deviate from the simplicity of the Prophet’s life and inadvertently lead to innovations in religious practices (bid’ah). They urge caution to ensure that Mawlid observances do not compromise the essence of Islamic teachings.

Is Celebrating Mawlid Haram?

The celebration of Prophet Muhammad’s birthday is considered mubah (permissible) in Islamic law. It is not regarded as a harmful innovation (bid’ah dhalalah), but rather a commendable innovation (bid’ah hasanah).

This is because there is no strong evidence against commemorating the Prophet’s birthday, and upon examination, there are arguments that support its permissibility.

The celebration of Prophet Muhammad’s birthday is supported by significant religious arguments. For instance, it’s known that the Prophet ﷺ  himself observed his birthday by fasting on Mondays to show gratitude for his birth and the start of his divine revelations. This practice highlights the positive aspect of commemorating his birth.

عَنْ أَبِي قَتَادَةَ اَلْأَنْصَارِيِّ ‏- رضى الله عنه ‏- { أَنَّ رَسُولَ اَللَّهِ ‏- صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏-سُئِلَ عَنْ صَوْمِ يَوْمِ عَرَفَةَ.‏ قَالَ: ” يُكَفِّرُ اَلسَّنَةَ اَلْمَاضِيَةَ وَالْبَاقِيَةَ “, وَسُئِلَ عَنْ صِيَامِ يَوْمِ عَاشُورَاءَ.‏ قَالَ: ” يُكَفِّرُ اَلسَّنَةَ اَلْمَاضِيَةَ ” وَسُئِلَ عَنْ صَوْمِ يَوْمِ اَلِاثْنَيْنِ, قَالَ: ” ذَاكَ يَوْمٌ وُلِدْتُ فِيهِ, وَبُعِثْتُ فِيهِ, أَوْ أُنْزِلَ عَلَيَّ فِيهِ ” } رَوَاهُ مُسْلِمٌ ‏ .‏

Abu Qatadah Al-Ansari (RAA) narrated, ‘The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was asked about fasting on the day of Arafah (the 9th of the month of Dhul Hijjah). He replied, “Fasting on the day of Arafah is an expiation for the preceding year and the following year.”

He was also asked about fasting on the day of Ashura (the 10th of the month of Muharram). He replied, “Fasting on the day of Ashura is an expiation for the preceding year.” The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was also asked about fasting on Monday, and he replied, “This is the day on which I was born and the day on which I was sent (with the Message of Islam) and the day on which I received revelation.”
Sahih Muslim

We’re also encouraged to rejoice in Allah’s blessings and kindness towards us, including the birth of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ  (peace be upon him). He is considered a source of mercy for the entire universe. This sentiment is echoed in Allah’s words:

قُلْ بِفَضْلِ ٱللَّهِ وَبِرَحْمَتِهِۦ فَبِذَٰلِكَ فَلْيَفْرَحُوا۟ هُوَ خَيْرٌۭ مِّمَّا يَجْمَعُونَ

Say, ˹O Prophet,˺ “In Allah’s grace and mercy let them rejoice. That is far better than whatever ˹wealth˺ they amass.”

Furthermore, Imam al Suyuthi said in response to the ruling on the celebration of the Prophet’s birthday:

وَالجَوَابُ عِنْدِيْ أَنَّ أَصْلَ عَمَلِ المَوْلِدِ الَّذِيْ هُوَ اِجْتِمَاعُ النَّاسِ وَقِرَأَةُ مَاتَيَسَّرَ مِنَ القُرْآنِ وَرِوَايَةُ الأَخْبَارِ الوَارِدَةِ فِيْ مَبْدَأِ أَمْرِالنَّبِيّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلّمَ مَاوَقَعَ فِيْ مَوْلِدِهِ مِنَ الاَياَتِ ثُمَّ يَمُدُّ لَهُمْ سِمَاطٌ يَأْكُلُوْنَهُ وَيَنْصَرِفُوْنَهُ مِنْ غَيْرِ زِيَادَةٍ عَلَى ذَالِكَ مِنَ البِدَعِ الحَسَنَةِ الَّتِيْ يُثَابُ عَلَيْهَا صَاحِبُهَا لِمَا فِيْهِ مِنْ تَعْظِيْمِ قَدْرِ النَّبِيْ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَإِظْهَارِالفَرَحِ وَالِاسْتِبْشَارِ بِمَوْلِدِهِ الشَّرِيْفِ

In my perspective, the origin of celebrating Prophet Muhammad’s birthday involves people coming together to read the Quran and stories of the Prophet’s life, from his birth to his life journey. Later, they share a meal in a communal setting and then disperse.

This practice doesn’t extend beyond these activities. It falls under the category of bid’ah hasanah (a commendable innovation). Those who participate are rewarded for honoring the Prophet’s status, expressing happiness and delight in the birth of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ .
Al- Hawi Li al-Fatawa

To ensure that celebrating the Prophet’s birthday remains in accordance with genuine religious principles, it’s important to adhere to the following ethics:

  • Engage in abundant blessings and praises for Prophet Muhammad ﷺ  (peace be upon him).
  • Practice remembrance (dhikr) and intensify worship of Allah.
  • Reflect upon the history of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ  and share his virtues and qualities.
  • Extend charity to the needy and less fortunate.
  • Cultivate stronger bonds of friendship.
  • Express joy and happiness by recognizing the continuous presence of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ  (peace be upon him) among us.
  • Organize gatherings or learning sessions that emphasize goodness and adherence to the teachings of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ  (peace be upon him).

Final Thought

To conclude, we’d like to share a sharp insight from Sayyid Muhammad Alawi Al Maliki, who stated,

“It is not fitting for a person of understanding to inquire, ‘Why do you celebrate the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ  ?’ It’s akin to asking, ‘Why do you rejoice in the birth of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ  ?’ Should such a query arise from someone who testifies that there is no God but Allah and that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ  is His messenger?

This question inherently requires no response; the individual being asked simply affirms, ‘I commemorate (mawlid) out of joy and devotion for Prophet Muhammad . I rejoice in his honor because I cherish him. My affection for him is rooted in my faith.'”

Allahu a’lam (Allah knows best)


Is celebrating the Prophet’s birthday (Mawlid) allowed in Islam?

Many Islamic denominations endorse the celebration of Mawlid. The celebration of the Prophet’s birthday is allowed and even regarded as a commendable practice, viewing it as a way to express love and gratitude for the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings and His role in Islam.

Is celebrating Mawlid considered a religious obligation?

Celebrating Mawlid is not considered a religious obligation in Islam. It is not mandated by Islamic teachings as a necessary religious practice. Instead, it is viewed as a commemorative tradition that some Muslims choose to observe to express their love and admiration for the Prophet Muhammad .

How is Mawlid bid’ah?

The term “bid’ah” in Islam refers to innovations or practices that were not originally part of the Prophet’s teachings or the early Islamic tradition. Mawlid is categorized under bid’ah hasanah. It refers to actions that were not directly practiced by the Prophet or His companions, yet they hold positive value and are in harmony with the teachings of the Quran and Hadith.

One example of bid’ah hasanah is when Sayyidina Uthman ibn Affan increased the call to prayer for Friday to two times. Imam Bukhari narrated this story in his Sahih book that the addition of the call to prayer was due to the increasing number of Muslims. Apart from that, Sayyidina Uthman also ordered to pronounce the iqamat over the az-Zawra’, which is a building located in the Medina market.

Is Mawlid Haram in Saudi Arabia?

Mawlid celebrations are currently not permitted in Saudi Arabia. However, it’s interesting to learn that the commemoration of the Prophet’s birthday was a common practice in the Mecca area. Did you know that the commemoration of the Prophet’s birthday was commonly held in the Mecca area?

Before the rise of Wahhabism and its influence over the Hijaz region (Saudi Arabia), the observance of the Prophet’s Birthday was a prevalent tradition in the Holy Land. This included significant locations such as Mecca and Medina, where gatherings to honor the occasion were held.

The insights shared by Sheikh Mulla Ali Al-qari shed light on this historical aspect:

قال شيخ مشايخنا الإمام العلامة الخبر البحر الفهامة شمس الدين محمد السخاوي، بلغـه الله المقـام الـعـالـي: وكنتُ ممن تشـرف بـإدراك المولد في مكة المشرفة عـدة سـنين، وتعرف ما اشتمل عليه من البركة المشار لبعضهـا بالتعيين، وتكررت زيارتي فيه لمحل المولد المستفيض، وتصورت فكرتي مـا هنالك من الفخر الطويل العريض

My teacher, al-Hafidz al-Sakhawi, narrated: I am among those who have had the honor of attending the Mawlid celebration in Makkah al-Musyarrafah for several years and know the blessings that clearly encompassed a part of it. And I repeatedly visited the place of the Mawlid, and thoughts of pride from the deepest corner of my heart always imagined what was there.
Majmu’ Rasail
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