Sunday 25 September 2022 \

 

Dispelling myths about Mawlid

Al‑Mawlid

 

There are three types of bid'ah - obligatory, forbidden and desired.

Al-Hafiz Abu al-Khair as-Sakhawi, may Allah have mercy upon him, stated in his book of Fatwas: “None of the pious predecessors, who lived in the first three centuries of Islam, used to celebrate Mawlid [the way it is celebrated today]. People started commemorating it later.

“Muslims started coming together in different countries and big cities and celebrating the month of the Prophet’s birth (PBUH). Meanwhile they plied each other with absolutely delicious food and joy and delight reigned over everything. They did each other favors, increased the number of their good deeds, diligently read special prayers for the sake of the Prophet (PBUH) - Mawlids. Thus they found the grace of the Allah’s Messenger (PBUH)”.

Ibn Hajar al-Haytham wrote in Al-Fath al-Mubin fi sharhi al-Arbain (p. 224): “Imam Abu Shamat, who is the Shaykh of Imam an-Nawawi, said: “The finest bid’ah nowadays is what people perform every year in honor of the birthday of the Prophet (PBUH). This includes giving alms (sadaqah), showing kindness, beauty and joy. Truly all of the above and paying attention to the poor open people’s hearts for love and respect for the Prophet (PBUH). This is also showing thanks (shukr) to Allah for creating the Prophet (PBUH) by His grace and as a mercy to the worlds”.

Imam an-Nawawi states in his book Takhsib al-Asma’ wa al-Lugat (p. 994-996): “Bid’ah (innovation in Shariah) is doing something that was not performed in the times of the Allah’s Messenger (PBUH). And it can be classified both as good and bad.

 Shaykh Imam Abu Muhammad Abd al-Aziz ibn Abdusalam wrote in a book named al-Qawaid that bid’ah can be obligatory, forbidden, desired, hateful, permissible. “To make it clear, which group does bid’ah belong to, it should be compared to Shariah laws. If it corresponds to the principles of the obligatory, then performing this bid’ah is also obligatory. But if it corresponds to the principles of the forbidden (haram), then is this bid’ah forbidden (haram) as well. The principles of desired deeds are desirable. The principles of hateful deeds are condemned. The principles of permissible (mubah) deeds are permissible. You can give examples to any kind of bid’ah”.

Learning grammar as a separate discipline can be an example of an obligatory bid’ah. It is essential for understanding the God’s and His Prophet’s (PBUH) speech, but it was not studied in the times of the Prophet (PBUH). However understanding of their speech is obligatory for preserving the Sharia, because it is impossible to understand the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah unless you know the Arabic grammar. And everything you need to perform the obligatory becomes obligatory.

The second example is learning unknown words you meet in Qur’an and Sunnah.

The third one is to write books explaining the bases of the Islamic religion and the Islamic law (Fiqh).

The fourth is writing books proving or disproving the veracity of hadiths of Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) and the authority of hadith narrators. This includes also identifying if the hadith is reliable or not. Islamic Law makes clear the necessity of preserving the Sharia. And this is impossible unless all means available are used.

Emerging of creeds like of kadarihts’, dzhabarits’, murdzhiits’, mudzhasimits’ can be given as an example of forbidden innovation. Disclosing of such believes is an obligatory innovation and exposing of their delusions as well.

Originating of inns and madrasahs can be given as an example of desired innovation as well as everything what benefits mankind, but did not yet exist in the first century of Hijra. Performing the Taraweeh-prayer collectively in mosques, talking over the fine points of Tasawwuf, debating, calling meetings for reasoning and proving also belong here if done for the Almighty’s sake.

Decorating of mosques and ornamenting of Qur’ans can be qualified as a hateful innovation.

The examples of permissible innovations are handshaking after the morning and afternoon prayers, using of various foods and drinks, dressing up the best clothes, building large houses, wearing of satin or wide-sleeve clothes. There are some differences in ulama’s opinions on these points. Some ulama consider part of them hateful innovations. But others find them desired innovations which were not, however, performed in the times and right after the times of Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) just like saying “Bismillyahi Rahmani Rahim” or “A’uzu billahi mina shaytani rajeem” in salah”. (See Takhdibu al-Asma’, p. 995)

Al-Bayhaki (referring to a chain of narrators) mentions that Manaqibu al-Shafii states: “Imam al-Shafii mentioned two categories of innovations. The innovations contradicting the Qur’an, Sunnah, Asar and Ijma are the first category. And they are called al-Bid’ah al-Zalzala, which means innovation leading to delusion”.

The second one is all the good and beneficial innovations and there are no contradicting opinions of ulama. In this case the innovations are not hateful. For pious caliph Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, said in the matter of people gathering in mosques for collective Taraweeh-prayers: “This is a nice innovation!” It means this was an innovation that has not been practiced before.

These statements about good innovations do not contradict sayings of Prophet (PBUH) “Beware of introducing something new, truly every innovation is a delusion”, and “He who does an act which our matter is not (in agreement) with, will have it rejected” (Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood, Ibn Majah). These statements have an overall character.

In the book Al-Fatawa al-Hadisiya (p. 265) Ibn Hajar al-Haytami wrote: “Mawlids and adhkars performed nowadays generally do good. Among these are giving alms, remembrance of Allah (dhikr), blessing and praising (reciting salawat) the Allah’s Messenger (PBUH).” Here is another quote from this book: “Someone asked Ibn Hajar if it was allowed for people to gather together to perform a permissible innovation. And he answered: “Yes, it is allowed.”

Thus hadith “Every innovation is a misguidance and every misguidance goes to hellfire” mentions forbidden innovations.

But if anything forbidden is performed at a place where people have gathered for remembrance of Allah (dhikr) or collective Taraweeh-prayer etc., then everyone should warn people against doing this. And others should stay away (from where haram takes place). Otherwise they become accomplices.” (al-Fatawa al-Hadisiya, p. 265-268)

Ibn Hajar al-Haytami said: “The main point is that there are no debates of ulama regarding good innovations. Ala’ Bid’ah al-Hasana (good innovations) is something that people should urge each other to do”. And celebrating Mawlid, gathering people for this are actions considered good innovations.

Someone asked Imam as-Suyuti what was the Shariah’s decision on celebrating Mawlid of the Prophet (PBUH) in the month of Rabi ul-Awwal, was it a praiseworthy or hateful action, what requital would get the one performing it. Imam as-Suyuti answered this in the book al-Havi fil-Fatawa (vol. 1, p. 181-182): “I like people celebrating Mawlid, when they gather together to read Qur’an, tell early prophecy stories and retell the miracles related to the birth of the Prophet (PBUH). It is so nice thereafter to set the table. So this is a good innovation, namely, bid’ah al-hasana. And the one who arranges this meeting is rewarded, because this way he glorifies and shows respect to the Prophet (PBUH) and confesses great joy at his birth. The sovereign of Irbil al-Muzafar Abu Said Kavkabary was the first person to perform Mawlid this way. And he was one of the noble and generous rulers.”

Ibn Kathir wrote in the book Al-Bidayat wa an-Nihayat, that Irbil sovereign celebrated Mawlid in the month of Rabi ul-Awwal year by year. He gathered huge amount of people. He was an alim, a very strong, fair, clever and brave ruler. He gave alms everywhere people worshipped the Almighty and in both al-Haram mosques as well.

Every year he ransomed prisoners who had been captured by the French. Some say the total amount of the prisoners he ransomed is about 60.000. His wife was Rabiatu Hatun, Ayub’s daugther. And she said: “His clothes were not worth five silver coins (dirhams)”. Once someone asked him why and his answer was “It is better to wear five dirham clothing and give the rest [money] away as sadaqah (alms), than to wear expensive clothing and leave the poor in need”. He spent 300.000 dinars (gold coins) on each Mawlid celebration, and 100.000 dinars on payment for a night's lodging of guests and travellers. On each of the al-Haram mosques and on water provision of Hijaz (the pilgrims’ road to Mecca) he spent 30.000 dinars. And all these contributions yet do not include the donations he was making secretly (see vol. 13, p. 158).

The book Fiqh al-Ibada states that the madhab of Imam Malik disapproves of observing an extra fast on the birthday of the Prophet (PBUH) because this day is considered a festive day. Similar statements can be found also in Fiqh al-Islam wa Adilatuhu (vol. 3, p. 21) and Fiqh ala Madhabi al-Arbaati (vol. 1, p. 889).

Shaykh al-Islam al-Hafiz Ahmad Ibn Hajar al-Askalani, who is the author of multi-volume commentary of Sahih al-Bukhari named Fatkhu al-Bari, was also asked a question about Mawlid. And his answer was the following: “The basis of Mawlid is an innovation (bid’ah) that did not yet exist in the first three centuries. And there are both the good and the bad sides of it. If people will be trying to do the permitted and to stay away from the forbidden while celebrating Mawlid, then it can be considered a good innovation (al-bid’ah al-hasana). But if people do not stay away from the forbidden, then it’s not.”

And then he said: “Truly I have found the reasons for Mawlid to be permissible in the reliable sources like Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim.”

Just remember what happened when Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) arrived in Medina. He found Jews fasting on the day of Ashura and wondered what the reason was. They answered that this was the day Allah drowned the Pharaoh and saved the Prophet Moses (PBUH). So fasting on this day was a way to thank and praise Allah. This hadith proves that any person may praise the Almighty the day Allah granted mercy to him or saved him from a trouble. And he is allowed to do this on the same day year by year. Different types of divine services (ibadah), like kowtowing (sujud), fasting, almsgiving (sadaqah) and reading Qur’an are the ways to praise Allah.

Is there any greater joy on this day (the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) than the birth of the Prophet of Mercy (PBUH)? Thus it is essential to work hard on celebrating the birth of the Prophet (PBUH) on this very day. Then it will fit the situation with the Prophet Moses (PBUH) and the fasting of Jews on the day of Ashura as a way to thank Allah for saving Prophet Moses (PBUH) and his people from Pharaoh. The one who doesn’t pay attention to this very day may celebrate Mawlid any other day of the year. All of the above proves that the Mawlid celebration is permitted.

While celebrating Mawlid we should confine ourselves to performing the actions expressing our gratitude and praise to Allah. And also remember the things mentioned above like reading Qur’an, plying people with food, almsgiving, chanting verses praising the Prophet (PBUH) or speaking for asceticism, keeping distant from the worldly matters and urging the hearts to do good for the sake of the next life (Al-Hawi fil-Fatawa, vol. 1, p. 188).

In the book As-Sirra al-Halabiya an outstanding scholar Abu al-Faraj Nuruddin Ali ibn Ibrahim wrote: “It is quite good for the most people to stand up when the birth of the Prophet (PBUH) is described on the celebration of Mawlid, thus showing respect and glorifying the Prophet (PBUH). This kind of standing up is an innovation having no grounds. But it is a good innovation, as not all the innovations are hateful. Truly it was the great scholar of our Ummah Imam Takiyuddin as-Subky, whose devotion and understanding of religion are followed by theologians and who stood up at the mention of the Prophet’s birthday (PBUH). And as-Subky’s contemporary ulama took after him”.

“Once many alims and Imam as-Subky came together. A chanter of the verses in the honor of the Prophet (PBUH) said: “And the noble raise and draw up in straight lines when hearing praises to the Prophet (PBUH) or kneel down if they are on horsebacks!” Imam as-Subky, may Allah have mercy on him, heard these words and rose! And also everyone those present stood up and they got the peace of mind. And this is already enough for us to take after them” (See vol. 1, p. 123).

One chanted this poem (qasida) in front of well-known Islamic judges (qadis) right after the lesson of Shaykh al-Islam al-Hafiz Takiyuddin as-Subky. When the chanters said: “Rise the noble when hearing the praises of the Prophet!... ” Shaykh al-Islam as-Subky stood up complying with the text of as-Sarsari’s qasida. It was this moment when everyone got the peace of mind. The son of Imam as-Subky Shaykh al-Islam Abu an-Nasr Abu al-Wahab retold this story in At-Tabaqat al-Qubra (vol. 5, p. 345). He wrote the biography of the father in this book. Here is a quote: “Al-Umawiya mosque in Damascus brought together the great ulama and Islamic judges of the city. Imam as-Subky sat in the mihrab of Prophet’s companions. And someone chanted Imam as-Sarsariya’s poem (qasida) which starts with the words: “Even the praises of the Prophet (PBUH) written in golden letters are not worth him!” And when the chanter came to the words “Rise the noble when hearing the praises of the Prophet (PBUH)!” Imam as-Subky stood up and everyone followed him and they got an exceptional peace of mind” (At-Tabaqat al-Qubra, vol. 5, p. 345).

In the book I’anatu at-Talibin (vol. 3, p. 123) Abu Baqr Uthman ibn Muhammad al-Baqry gives a quote from the book As-Sirra an-Nabawiya. The Mufti of Mecca Shaykh al-Islam Ahmad ibn Zayni Dahlan, who cognized Allah, mentions rising during Mawlid: “That is a really beneficial action and it is a custom to stand up when hearing [during Mawlid] the description of the Prophet’s birth (PBUH). This is considered an approved action, because thus people show respect to the Prophet, (PBUH)”.

Many alims of authority in our Ummah have performed this action. Shaykh Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Qastalani affirms in Al-Mawahibu al-Ladunya bi minahi al-Muhammadiya: “[Allah] sent a surah which mentions Abu Lahab (the uncle of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), who openly opposed the Prophet. Abu Lahab interfered with the Prophet (PBUH) and was damned forever as well as his wife. Someone dreamed of Abu Lahab after his death and saw him in Hell. They asked him what his condition was and the answer was “I am in hellfire! But every Monday night the punishment becomes easier. Once a week I can suck water between two fingers”. And he nodded to them. “I get this relief for the manumission of Suwayba. I gave her freedom for bringing the message about Muhammad’s birth (PBUH) and being his wet-nurse.”

Qur’an readers’ Imam al-Hafiz ibn Jawzi said: “This kafir who is mentioned in Qur’an gets a relief in hellfire just for rejoicing at the Prophet’s birth (PBUH). Then what is the condition of the Muslim, who is a member of the Muhammad’s Ummah and believes in the only God, if his heart fills with joy on the day of Mawlid and he spends funds on this day for the Prophet’s sake?! Truly I believe he will get his requital from Allah the Merciful, who will lead him to the Heaven” (See vol. 1, p. 89).

Ibnu Kathir writes quoting Imam as-Suhayli that it was ‘Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, who dreamed of Abu Lahab. ‘Abbas is another uncle of the Prophet (PBUH) and he is the brother of Abu Lahab.

Imam as-Suyuti writes in Al-Hawi fil-Fatawa that Tajuddin Umar ibn Ali al-Fakihani, one of the scholars of Maliki Madhab, said Mawlid was a hateful innovation. He wrote a book on this topic and stated: “These are meetings of men, women and teenagers together in a one room or two, but so that they see each other. And they dance bending from side to side and circle around. They speak of nothing forgetting the Judgment Day. Or sometimes it is a separate meeting of women, who raise their voices in congratulations and sing nasheeds that break the calmness of the hearts, make dhikr and read Qur’an in an irrelevant to the Shariah way. And they forget the words of Allah: “Indeed, your Lord is in observation” (Surah al-Fajr, ayah 14). And there is no doubt that this is forbidden. No one having good disposition will ever consider this beneficial, but the ones whose hearts are dead because of great sins. Besides, they believe this was a divine service and not a hateful or forbidden action. Truly, Allah is our Creator and we all will return to Him!”

Imam as-Suyuti commented on this: “Actually he is right. But these meetings are not forbidden because of Mawlid itself. They are forbidden because of these unlawful actions. If similar deeds happened during the Friday prayer, this would also become forbidden. But this would not turn forbidden performing the Friday prayer in its must-be form.

Truly I have seen people performing this kind of actions on the believers’ gatherings for Taraweeh-prayer at the nights of Ramadan. Do we have a right to forbid a meeting for collective Taraweeh-prayer just because someone performs unlawful actions there? Of course, not! Quite in the contrary we say that these meetings are based on Sunnah and they lead to Allah’s grace, but the unacceptable deeds performed herewith are foul and prohibited. The same way Mawlid is based on the good and if one performs there anything hateful, then the action itself is forbidden”(See vol. 1, p. 185).

The advantages and divine grace of Mawlid

An outstanding alim Abu Baqr Uthman ibn Muhammad al-Bakry commented on the book Fath ul-Mubin: “Al-Hasan al-Basri, who is one of the known tabi’un, may Allah have mercy on him, said: “I would like to have as much gold as big the Uhud mountain is, so that I could spend it on reading Mawlid of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)”.

Junayd al-Baghdadi, may Allah have mercy on him, said: “Anyone who visits a place where Mawlid of the Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) is read and honors him is a true believer”.

Ma’ruf al-Qarhi, may Allah have mercy on him, said: “If anyone cooks on the day of Mawlid of the Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) invites brothers in faith, dresses smartly and perfumes his house, thus showing respect for the Prophet’s birthday (PBUH) Allah will raise him on the Judgment Day together with the Prophets, peace be upon them, and grant him the highest levels of Heaven”.

Al-Yafin al-Yamani, may Allah have mercy on him, writes the similar.

As-Sariyu as-Sakaty, may Allah have mercy on him, said that a person who visits Mawlid of the Prophet (PBUH) is truly seeking the Eden. Because he goes there just out of love for the Prophet of Allah (PBUH). And the Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said: “The one who loves me will be right next to me in Heaven”.

Imam of those who cognized Allah Jalaludin as-Suyuti affirms in Al-Wasail sharhu ash-Shamail that angels and Allah’s mercy surround any place, house and mosque where people read Mawlid.

Truly I wrote this article to urge people to read Mawlid of the Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) and to rejoice at his birth. Because his arrival is a mercy and he undeceived people. Allah says in Qur’an: “And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds” (Surah Al-‘Anbya’, ayah 107).   And don’t pay attention on the words of those people whose hearts are blind. They cannot tell the really hateful and forbidden in Islam from the desired and permitted!

If anyone seeks for the truth about the mentioned above, let them follow the given links and read the biographies of the mentioned people. So that the seekers can be aware of their knowledge, authority in Shariah studies, their devotion and godliness, their care of Islamic sciences and compliance with the Sunnah of Prophet (PBUH). Because they are leading figures in Islamic sciences, hafizes of the Qur’an and of the Prophet’s hadiths (PBUH).

We don’t need Imam Shafii or any other Imam to have performed an action to evaluate it. It’s enough that they laid down the foundations relying on the Qur’an and Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). And all the innovations that rose up after their times and the times of the Prophet’s companions must be compared to the bases they left us. When these innovations correspond to the fundamentals, then are they permissible. And if they contradict the basic principles, they are forbidden.

For a better understanding of this question I will give an example. Once men gathered together in a Dagestani country mosque to celebrate Mawlid. And there were some worshipers who left the place quoting the words of the Prophet (PBUH) that all the innovations go to hellfire. This made those who do not know much about the religious matters [except for the obligations like salah and fasting] began to hesitate. In fact thus the ones who left disrupted the Muslim community of the village.

And what was taking place in the mosque? At first men collectively performed the evening salah, then they pronounced three times the witness of the monotheism (shahada) and repented of the sins (tauba) saying “Astaghfirullah”. After that the believers remembered Allah by making dhikr “La ilaha illallah”. Two of them read then a poem about the night trip (Miraj) of the Prophet (PBUH). The parishioners recited salawat of the Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) in the beginning and the end of the meeting. Imam of the village and some especially invited theologians were present on this gathering. These ulama preached on different topics calling to the good, explaining the bases of Islam and the importance of observing them, disclosing the advantages of remembrance of Allah (dhikr) and reciting salawat of the Prophet (PBUH). Everyone said their prayers to Allah (made du’a) and thus ended the meeting. Those who could afford giving alms did it. People called this meeting Mawlid and held it at the night of the night trip of the Prophet (PBUH).

Now let us think over all this without caviling at the words and names, if we have a will to discover the truth. And no matter whom are we hearing this truth from. Is there anything this community performed that could be called an innovation forbidden in Islam and which could disrupt Muslims? Does not Islam impel to pray collectively? Does not it impel to repent of the sins (tauba), remember Allah (dhikr), praise the Prophet (PBUH)? Need not we to learn the history and events occurred to the Allah’s Messenger (PBUH)? Or is there in Islam a permission to preach for incompetent people? And finally does not Islam caution against disruption of Muslims? We can list many actions approved by the religion, all of them are based on Qur’an and Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH). We are not going to list these actions here, because they are so common that anyone to some extent acquainted with Islam knows them.

Here arises a question - if the Prophet’s companions celebrated Mawlid the way we do today. Here is the answer – there are so many deeds they did not perform. But then the bands of Islam expanded and they saw that there appears something that was not practiced in the times of the Prophet himself (PBUH) and of his companions. And they did not hasten to forbid it, but compared to the norms of the Qur’an and Sunnah. If they found something contradictory, they would correct it and say it was forbidden or it was permissible, but you must eliminate here this and that. Thus Imams defined different types of innovations and were able to find different solutions according to their correspondence with the bases of Islam.

Today we organize such events called Mawlid at least to retell people the story of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and to make them think about meaning of the Being, repent of the sins (tauba), remembrance of Allah (dhikr) etc. Were the companions and their followers in need of all this? Did anyone need these special events like our modern contests for motivating people [and especially youngsters] to learn the life of the Prophet (PBUH)? Did not they know it to perfection? Their times were free of such a mass lack of knowledge of Islam and the story of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). They spent their time serving their Lord and studying their religion. The whole of their lives was a worship.

But who are the people visiting our Mawlids? Most of them are engaged in the worldly business and their attention is away from Allah. They visit mosques only on Fridays and festive days. They usually miss both the desired and obligatory deeds. The reason for this is lack of knowledge, zeal for Islam and its propaganda, imperfection of their faith. Like it was “something they should know, but not we”. It is possible to go on with the topic, but everyone already knows who we are and what the times are. And that the main problem of our community is ignorance. So let us call to staying away from everything contradicting Islam. No matter what place, what time or on what meeting it happens – a funeral, a wedding, Mawlid etc. And let us leave as it is everything satisfying Islamic demands.

May Allah give us the proper understanding of Islam and may He grant us the Intercession (shafa’ah) of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on the Judgment Day! Ameen.

 

 

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