Can the Birthday of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) be celebrated?

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Back in 1982, Shaikh Abd al-Aziz Ibn Baaz, the Chairman of Decreeing, Missions and Guidance in Saudi Arabia, issued a decree (Fatwaa) wherein he deemed it unlawful to celebrate the Holy Prophet’s (peace be upon him and his progeny) birthday. He said: “It is not permitted to celebrate the birthday of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his progeny) or of anyone else because it is an innovation (Bid’ah) in religion.” [1]

Reply

To find out whether the decree is as per Shariah or not and whether it is permitted to celebrate the birthday of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) and other righteous personalities, let us try to find the answer in the Holy Quran and the Prophetic Sunnah (practice). Ironically, the Quranic view concerning this issue is quite contrary to the aforementioned Fatwa. Let us see how –

  1. Firstly, it is important to see whether there was any celebration at the time of the birth of holy personalities and the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. In fact, practices like shaving the hair of the new born, feeding the poor, etc. are all a part of the birth celebrations in Islam. Also, no forbidden act is performed while celebrating such birthdays. Hence, if there is no problem in celebrating the birth of holy personalities, how can mere commemoration of that occasion every year, inviting guests, extolling the virtues of the holy personalities, recounting Quranic verses and Prophetic traditions for the benefit of everyone be unlawful?
  • Hajj has always been the most revered and cherished occasion for all Muslims. Most of the Hajj rituals are eventually celebrations and memories of the divine Prophets (peace be upon them) and holy men, such as:
    • Maqaam-o-Ibrahim (peace be upon him)

وَ اتَّخِذُوْا مِنْ مَقَامِ إِبْرَاهِيْمَ مُصَلًّى

“And you all take of the place of Ibrahim (peace be upon him) as a place for prayers.” [Surah Baqarah (2): Verse 125]

The Maqaam-o-Ibrahim (peace be upon him) is nothing but his standing place wherein he stood while re-constructing the Holy Kaabah. It is clear that Allah, the Glorified, commands the people to get blessed by Ibrahim’s (peace be upon him) standing place, in His Sacred House, taking it a place for prayers, in order to revive and immortalize Ibrahim’s (peace be upon him) memory. It has nothing to do with associating partners with Allah, the Glorified.

  • Safaa and Marwah

إِنَّ الصَّفَا وَ الْمَرْوَةَ مِنْ شَعَائِرِ اللهِ فَمَنْ حَجَّ الْبَيْتَ أَوِ اعْتَمَرَ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِ أَنْ يَطَّوَّفَ بِهِمَا

“Surely the Safaa and the Marwah are among the signs appointed by Allah; so whoever makes a pilgrimage (Hajj) to the House or pays a visit (Umrah), there is no blame on him if he circumambulates them both…” [Surah Baqarah (2): Verse 158]

Allah the Almighty ordained that ‘running between Safaa and Marwah’ should be a part of the Hajj rituals to revive the memory of Haajar’s (peace be upon her) running between them, remembering her toil. It is also recommended to hasten when reaching the place in the valley where Haajar (peace be upon her) hastened her weary steps, to revive her scampering (called in religious parlance as “Harwalah’).

  • Throwing pebbles

Ahmad and al-Tayaalisi, both in their books called Musnad, quoting the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his progeny), said: “Jibraeel took Ibrahim to Jamarah al-Aqabah. There, Satan appeared to him. He threw at him seven pebbles till he sank away. They came to the middle Jamarah, where Satan appeared to him once again. Again, he (Ibrahim) threw seven pebbles at him till he sank away. Then they came to the farthest Jamarah where Satan appeared again. Again, Ibrahim threw at him seven pebbles till he sank away…” [2]

In this way Allah the Almighty revived the memory of Prophet Ibrahim’s (peace be upon him) throwing the pebbles at Satan – a procedure ordained to be a part of the Hajj rituals called as Ramy al-Jamaraat.

  • Sacrificial Slaughter

Allah, the Exalted, in the story of Ibrahim and Ismael (peace be upon both of them), says: “So we gave him the good news of a forbearing boy. When he (Ismael) attained (the age) of working with him, he said: O my son! Surely I have seen in a dream that I should sacrifice you; consider then, what you see. He said: O my father! Do what you are commanded; you will find me, if Allah wills, of the patient ones. So, when they both submitted and he threw him down on his forehead. We called out to him saying: O Ibrahim! You have already fulfilled the vision; surely, thus We do reward the good-doers. Most surely this is a clear trial. And we ransomed him with a great sacrifice.” [Surah Saaffaat (37): Verses 101-107]

Thus, Allah made the revival of the memory of Ibrahim’s (peace be upon him) sacrificing his son, Ismael (peace be upon him), and the offering of great sheep as a ransom, and celebrating it, also parts of the Hajj rituals, ordering the pilgrims to offer a sacrifice in Mina, following the example of Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) and to celebrate his obedience and submission to Allah the Almighty.

Conclusion

Thus, we see that the blessings of a blessed time or a blessed place spread out because of Allah’s bestowal over His chosen Ones. Allah, the High, has ordered us to take the deeds of His chosen ones as examples to be imitated in their particular time and place, by way of celebrating their memories and keeping alive their deeds, so that we may also receive their blessings. What lawful objection can prohibit us from celebrating similar Islamic occasions, such as the birthday of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his progeny), the night of his ascension (Israa’) from the sacred Mosque (in Makkah) to al-Aqsa Mosque (in al-Quds), and the day on which Allah sent him (peace be upon him and his progeny) as a mercy to the worlds?

Having finished stating the preference of celebrating the memories of those most favored by Allah, we do confirm that by such celebrations, we only mean, for example, the recitation of the conduct of the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him and his progeny) – his correct and undistorted biography – in the night of his birthday, giving out food in the way of Allah, sending its reward to the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him and his progeny) and avoiding innovations by mystics and charlatans.


[1] Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper dated 3/12/1982 in an article captioned: “The Judgment concerning the Prophet’s (peace be upon him and his progeny) birthday and other birthdays.”

[2] Musnad-o-Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, vol. 1, p. 306. Almost the same narration is also found on p. 127. Musnad al-Tayaalisi, H. 2697, look up the entry of “al-Ka’bah” in Majma’ al-Buldaan and the history of Ibrahim and Ismael (peace be upon them) in Tarikh al-Tabari and Tarikh Ibn al-Athir.

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