In this short article, we shall, Insha-Allah, demonstrate that the Mawlood practices in vogue are bid’ah sayyiah (evil innovation) according to the Shariah even on the basis of just one principle of Fiqh that is accepted unanimously by the Fuqaha – the Authorities of the Shariah. That Principle of the Shariah is:
A permissible (mubah) or commendable (Mustahab) or even a Sunnah practice becomes a bid’ah if it acquires an undue emphasis in such a manner that there is a genuine possibility of the masses regarding the innovated form, or aspects of it (e.g. fixed date, a particular procedure), as Sunnah or Wajib.
This article will ignore other the other very valid reasons, perhaps more significant ones, on the basis of which the Ulama have branded Mawlood bid’ah.
Allamah Suyuti and others in the past who apparently approved of Mawlood
This article will take into account fully and explain the applicability today of the fatwa of Istihbaab (i.e. Mustahab) on the simple forms of Mawlood approved in previous eras, when the prevalent conditions were very different, by Allamah Suyuti, Allamah Qastalani, and many others including even the Deobandi Akaabir all of whom regarded the asl (original) ruling on extolling the birth of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), without any Haraam specifications or attachments, to be Mustahab.
The Prevalent Characteristics of the Mawlood Today
A perfunctory research of the Mawlood gatherings that take place around the world will easily confirm the widespread prevalence of the following characteristics that have become practically inseparable from these innovated functions as understood by both the laity and the Ulama:
1) A particular form has been accorded to Mawlood. It is generally held on specific occasions, especially the month of Rabiul Awwal, and is cloaked with a specific procedure. It is regarded as a Sunnah, in fact as a Waajib practice by a significant proportion of people, hence extreme annoyance and even animosity are displayed towards non-participants.
2) The emphasis placed on the specific form (hay’t-e-kathaaiyah) of observance of Mawlood supersedes that of the prescribed acts of Sunnah and even Wajib/Fard actions. This undeniable fact can be easily gauged from the fact that the omission of the performance of Mawlood on a specific date would lead to much turmoil, controversy and commotion amongst the masses, and even amongst those Ulama who are the promoters of this bid’ah. On the contrary, the omission of proven Sunnah acts such as fasting on Mondays and Thursdays, the Day of Arafaat, the Miswaak, Ishraaq and Tahajjud Salaat, etc., does not create even a stir among the people although all these Masnoon acts were meticulously upheld by the Sahaabah, and the Auliya of all ages. Thus, observance of Mawlood has been elevated to a higher status than even valid Sunnat and Waajib acts of Ibaadat.
3) Participation in such gatherings is used as a barometer for righteousness or even “sunnism”. Those who do not practise the specific form of Mawlood along with certain attachments, are frowned upon, or even regarded as deviants, ‘haters of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam)’ (gustakh-e-Rasul), ‘wahhabis’, etc.
Such is the prevalence of the above three characteristics, particularly the first two, that there is no real room left for subjectivity, especially when compared to other practices which received total blanket prohibition by the fuqaha of the past.
Considering only these characteristics which have become inherently associated with the Mawlood practice of today, it is quite obvious that it has superseded many other practices that were unanimously prohibited by the classical Fuqaha, based on the principle that raising a practice beyond its true status results in it becoming bid’ah.
Note: For the purposes of this discussion we will ignore the significant proportion of Mawlood gatherings today which involve even more abominable attachments such as singing, qawwali, music, free-mixing of men and women, etc.
We will cite now some examples of practices that had been emphatically prohibited and labelled as bid’ah by the Fuqaha of all Madh-habs, long before such practices had acquired the level of emphasis which the Mawlood custom of this era has acquired.
The Maliki Madh-hab
‘Allamah al-Shatibi, who had judged the Mawlood to have transgressed the bounds of permissibility during his era around 600 years ago, expounds upon the principle being discussed in this article, and cites numerous examples of its application from the early generations:
“Often an original practice is lawful but it falls onto the pattern of an innovation through the door of means…The reason for the inclusion of innovation here is that all that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) performed continuously of optional prayers and which he displayed openly in congregations, they are Sunnah, so acting on optional activities which are not Sunnah in the way a Sunnah is practiced equates to removing the optional act from its place stipulated in the Shari‘ah. Then a consequence of this is the laypeople and the ignorant believe that it is a Sunnah.
This is a great evil! Because believing what is not a Sunnah [to be a Sunnah], and acting upon it within the remit in which a Sunnah is practiced equates to changing the Shari‘ah, just as if it were believed that an obligation is not an obligation or that that which is not an obligation is an obligation, and then practice in accordance with this belief – For, this is ruinous! So, granted, the action is originally valid, but its extraction from its remits [stipulated in the Shari‘ah] in belief or practice equates to ruining the laws of the Shari‘ah.
From this the justification of the righteous Salaf in their intentional avoidance of Sunnahs becomes manifest – so that the ignorant person doesn’t believe that it is from the obligations, like the sacrifice (udhiyah) and other than that, as has preceded.
This is why most of them also forbade tracing the relics [of pious people], as al-Tahawi, Ibn Waddah and others transmitted from Ma‘rur ibn Suwayd al-Asadi, he said: “I attended the [Hajj] season with the commander of the believers, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (Allah be pleased with him). When we turned back to Medina, I went back with him. When he had prayed with us the Morning Prayer and recited therein alam tara kayfa fa‘ala (Sura 105) and li’ilafi Quraysh (Sura 106), he then saw people taking a path, so he said: ‘Where are these people going?’ They said: ‘They are going to a mosque here wherein the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) prayed.’ He said: ‘Those before you were destroyed because of this! They traced the relics of their Prophets and adopted them as churches and monasteries. Whoever [unintentionally] catches the prayer in any of these mosques in which the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) prayed, then he should pray in them, otherwise he should not intentionally proceed to them.’”
Ibn Waddah said: I heard ‘Isa ibn Yunus – the Mufti of the people of Tartus – say: ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab ordered the cutting of the tree under which the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) was pledged allegiance. He cut it because the people would go and pray under it, so he feared temptation for them.
Ibn Waddah said: Malik ibn Anas and other jurists would dislike going to those relics of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) with the exception of Quba’ alone.
Imam Malik’s Position
While providing justification for this position which was adopted by Imam Malik (rahmatullahi alayhi), al-Shatibi states:
“Malik would dislike all innovations even if it was [done] in goodness. All of this is a means to not take as a Sunnah what is not a Sunnah, or to consider as part of the Shari‘ah what is not recognised. Malik would dislike going to the Bayt al-Maqdis for fear that that would be taken as a Sunnah, and he would dislike going to the graves of the martyrs and he disliked going to Quba’ for that very fear – despite the reports that have come on encouragement towards this, but since the ‘ulama feared the consequence of that, they avoided it.
Ibn Kinanah and Ashhab said: We heard Malik say when he came to [the grave of] Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqas: “I wish my legs were paralysed and I did not do this!”…
Note: Imaam Maalik (rahmatullah alayh) understood the merit and the benefit of visiting the grave of this illustrious Sahaabi. Nevertheless, his far-sightedness constrained him to make this very serious statement thereby conveying the danger of even a meritorious practice being elevated by the masses to a status not conferred to it by the Shariah. The deeds of the Fuqaha are arbitrarily considered as being emphasized Sunnah acts by the masses.
Sa‘id ibn Hassan said: I used to read [hadiths] to Ibn Nafi‘, and when I read the hadith of spending generously [on one’s family] on the night of ‘Ashura’, he said to me: “Burn it!” I said: “Why is that O Abu Sa‘d?” He said: “For fear that it will be taken as a Sunnah.”
Allah Ta’ala had blessed the illustrious Fuqaha and Muhadditheen of the Khairul Quroon era with such Firaasat (spiritual perception and wisdom) which enabled them to understand with precision the dangers of exceeding the limits prescribed by the Shariah. Every mediocre Aalim does not have the authority to so daringly order that a Hadith be burnt. But, a Muhaddith of the rank of Hadhrat Naaf’i, the Maula of Hadhrat Ibn Umar (radhiyallahu anhu), knew exactly what he was instructing and why. Guarding the purity of the Shariah by preventing innovation (bid’ah) has priority over the observance of a Mustahab practice such as spending generously on the occasion of Aashura. It was via the avenue of bid’ah that the entire Shariats of Hadhrat Nabi Musa (alayhis salaam) and of Hadhrat Nabi Isaa (alayhis salaam) had been corrupted and mangled beyond recognition by their followers, the Yahood and Nasaara.
Hence, these are permissible or desirable activities, but they disliked their performance for fear of innovation, because taking them as Sunnah by continuously practicing upon them with open display of them – which is the nature of Sunnah – and when it falls on the pattern of Sunnahs, they turn into innovations without doubt. (End of abbreviated quote from al-Shatibi)”
Examples from the Sahabah (radhiyallahu anhum)
Allamah Turtushi, an early Maliki authority, in his Kitāb al-ḥawādith wa-l-bidaʿ, mentions examples of the Sahabah (radhiyallahu anhum) preventing even Sunnah acts in order to prevent the masses from elevating these acts to a status higher than what the Shariah has conferred:
“Among these is abstention from Qasr Salaat by Hadhrat Uthman ibn Affaan
(radiyallahu anhu) while traveling. It was said to him “Did you not perform qasr
with the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam)?” He said “Yes, but I am the Imaam
of the people.The bedouins and the people of the desert will see me performing
two raka’ts and say: This (i.e. two raka’ts) is what was made obligatory. Now
reflect! Allah have mercy on you!”
There are two views regarding Qasr Salaat for the musaafir (traveller). According to the Hanafi Math-hab, performing Qasr is Waajib whereas according to the Shaafi’ Math-hab it is optional. Both Math-habs have their respective Shar’i proofs. One of the Shaafi’ evidences is this particular episode of Hadhrat Uthmaan (radhiyallahu anhu). Despite Qasr being a valid Sunnah practice, he abstained from it on that particular occasion for the fear of it being regarded as a Fardh practice. Whilst in terms of his view such abstention was permissible, it is not permissible according to the Hanafi view of Qasr being Fardh.
“Among these is abstention from Udhiyyah (Qur’baani) for the fear of it being considered Waajib.”
(Abstention is permissible according to the view which says that Qur’baani is not Waajib. This is not the Hanafi view, hence abstention is not permissible).
Hudhayda ibn Ased said “I witnessed Abu Bakr and Umar and they did not sacrifice in fear of it being considered wajib”
Abu Masud al-Badari said “I leave my sacrifice and indeed I am from the most simple of you, in fear of my neighbours thinking it is wajib”
Tawus said “I have not seen a house having more meat and bread than the house of Abbas. He would slaughter and sacrifice every day, but then would not do so on Id day; he would do this so people did not think it wajib and he was an Imam that people followed” (According to him, Qur’baani is not Waajib. It is Sunnah, hence he occasionally abstained for the fear of a Sunnah being elevated to the status of Wujoob.)
Abu Ayyub al-Ansari said “We would sacrifice for the women and our family and when people competed in this we left it”
Look, Allah have mercy on you! Indeed the consideration of this athar is like the one before, for the people of Islam have two views about sacrifice: first, it is sunna, and second, it is wajib. Even so, the Sahabah attempted to leave a sunna in fear of people understanding it different to how it should be understood believing it to be fard.”
The Shafi’i Madh-hab
Salat al-Raghaib and Salat al-Nisf Sha’ban
Salat al-Raghaib and Salat al-Nisf Sha’ban were Nafl congregational prayers fixed on a particular night. Both Salaat were unanimously labelled as bid’ah by the Fuqaha. It’s worth noting that these gatherings were completely free from the numerous other Haraam attachments which are inherently associated with the Mawlood of today.
Shaykh al-Izz ibn al-Salam states several times in a work specifically dedicated to this issue, that the reason why Salat al-Raghaib is prohibited is because the public would think that this Salaat in the manner it is performed has its origin in the Sunnah:
العالم إذا صلى كان موهما للعامة أنها من السنن فيكون كاذبا على رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم بلسان الحال ولسان الحال قد يقوم مقام لسان المقال
When a scholar performs this Salaat al-Ragha’ib in congregation with the public then the masses will think that it is the Sunnah of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), hence he would be attributing a falsehood to Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) by his example. Some times one’s practical example is similar to verbal expression.”
Reiterating this elsewhere, he says:
صلاة الرغائب بخصوصياتها توهم العامة أنها سنة من سنن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم كما هو الواقع
“Salaat al-Ragha’ib with its peculiarities conveys the impression to the public that
it is a Sunnah from the Sunnahs of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), and
this is the factual position.”
When his opponent argued that there are Ahaadith which confirm that Rasulullah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) had led some of the Sahabah in congregation for nafl Salaat, he replied:
وأما حديث أنس وعتبان بن مالك رضي الله عنهما
فالفرق بينهما وبين صلاة الرغائب لأن الاقتداء في صلاة الرغائب توهم العامة أنها سنة وشعار فى الدين بخلاف ما وقع في حديث أنس وعتبان رضي الله عنهما فإنه نادر فلا يوهم العامة أنه سنة بل يوهم الجواز
“As for the hadith of Anas and ‘Itban ibn Malik (Allah be pleased with them), there is a difference between them and Salat al-Ragha’ib because being led in Salat al-Ragha’ib gives the impression to the public that it is a Sunnah and a symbol (salient feature) of the Deen whereas what is reported in the Hadith of Anas and ‘Itban (may Allah be pleased with them), is a rare circumstance, hence the public does not believe that it is Sunnah, rather they believe that it is permissible.”
This shows that anything which is in essence permissible or mustahabb, becomes a bid’ah if it is performed in such a way that gives the impression that it is a salient feature or emphasized act of ibaadat, i.e. Sunnatul Muakkadah.
He further explains that the innovation of this Salaat is further proven by the absence of its mention and description by the illustrious authorities of the Khairul Quroon in their kutub. Thus, he states:
ومما يدل على ابتداع هذه الصلاة أن العلما الذين هم أعلام الدين وأئمة المسلمين من الصحابة والتابعين وتابعى التابعين وغيرهم ممن دون الكتب فى الشريعة مع شدة حرصهم على تعليم الناس الفرائض والسنن لم ينقل عن أحد منهم أنه ذكر هذه الصلاة ولا دونها في كتابه ولا تعرض لها في مجالسه
والعادة يحيل أن تكون مثل هذه سنة وتغيب عن هؤلاء الذين هم أعلام الدين
“From the facts which prove that this Salaat is an innovation is that it has not
been transmitted from any of the Ulama of the Sahaabah, Taabieen and Tab-e-
Taabieen who are the Standards of the Deen and Imaams of the Muslims. This
Salaat is neither recorded in any of their kutub, nor discussed in any of their
gatherings. It is impossible that an important Sunnah practice would have
remained hidden from these illustrious authorities who were the Standards of the
Imam Nawawi, in his Sharh Muslim labelled this Nafl congregational prayer as bid’ah while commenting on the following Hadith which proscribes specifying dates and time not prescribed in the Shar’iah. Such specification not found in the Sunnah would cause the masses to gain the erroneous impression that the specification itself is from the Sunnah:
“Do not single out the night (preceding) Friday from among the nights for prayer; and do not single out Friday from among the days for fasting, but only when anyone among you is accustomed to a fast which coincide with this day (Friday).”
Imam Nawawi states:
“The ‘ulama use this hadith to prove the dislike of the bid’ah prayer called Salat al-Raghaib. May Allah destroy the fabricator and creator of this prayer. This is because it is a reprehensible innovation from the type of innovations that is divergent and ignorant.” (Sharh Sahih Muslim).
In his authoritative work, “Reliance of the Traveller”, containing the soundest positions of the Shafi’i madh-hab, Shaykh Ahmad ibn an-Naqib al-Misri (d.769) states regarding Salat al-Raghaib and other acts of ibadah not found in their exact form in the Sunnah, that all of them are despicable acts of innovation (kullu dhaalika bidAtun QabeeHatun):
“It is an offensive, blameworthy innovation to perform any of the following spurious prayers: (1) twelve rak’as between the sunset prayer (maghrib) and nightfall prayer (‘isha) on the first Thursday night of the month of Rajab; (2) one hundred rak’as in the middle of the month of Sha’ban; (3) (O: two rak’as after each of three times of reciting Ya Sin (Koran 36) on the night of mid-Sha’ban; (4) or the so-called prayer of ‘Ashura’ on 10 Muharram.)”
The Fuqaha disallowed the performance of a simple Sajdah for gratitude after Salat due to the reason that people will think it is Sunnah, as stated by Shaykh Ibrahim al-Halabi:
“It is disliked because the ignorant believe it is Sunnah or obligatory, and every permissible act leading to this is disliked.” (Sharh al-Munyah)
Imaamul Haramayn, citing his teacher Abu Muhammad, mentions the bid’ah status of this voluntary, seemingly harmless, act of ibadah:
“…And my teacher, Abu Muhammad, vehemently rejected this Sajdah and he derived proof for this through Qiyaas (analogy) with the rukoo’ (bowing); for indeed if a person were to perform a voluntary act of goodness with a single rukoo’, then this would be Haraam by agreement because it is a bid’ah and very bid’ah is misguidance except that which an evidence indicates towards it being an exception.” (Sharhul muhadhdhab (3/565))
Imam an-Nawawi also held this view and mentions that this was the definitive position of Imam al-Ghazali.
Shaykh Ahmad ibn an-Naqib al-Misri (d.769) states regarding performing the single prostration to merely humble oneself to Allah in order to draw near to Him:
“It is unlawful to prostrate without occasion merely to humble oneself to Allah to draw near to Him (O: because it is a reprehensible innovation).” (Reliance of the Traveller)
Raising the hands for du’a upon the minbar on the day of Jumu’ah
Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani states regarding two acts which were labelled as bid’ah despite having a clear precedence and basis in the Shar’iah:
“And Imaam Ahmad reported with a good sanad from Ghadeef Ibnul-Haarith who said, ‘al-Malik Ibn Marwaan sent (someone) to me and he said: indeed we gather the people for two matters: raising the hands (for du’aa) upon the minbar on the day of jumu’ah, and giving exhortations after the fajr and ‘asr prayers.
So he said: as for these two, then they are examples of your innovations in my opinion and I will not accept anything of them from you because the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, ‘a people do not introduce an innovation except that a sunnah the likes of it is raised (i.e. forgotten and neglected)’ and sticking to the sunnah is better then introducing a bid’ah”
So if this was the answer of this sahaabee concerning a matter that has a basis in the religion, then what do you think the case would be concerning a matter that has no basis in the religion?” [Fath al-Bari (13/314)]
Recitation of a particular Surah during a Salaat in public
Regarding the recitation of a particular Surah during Taraweeh on a particular day in Ramadhan, the first reason given by Imam Nawawi for its reprehensibility is that the masses will gain the impression of it being a Sunnah:
“This is not a sunnah but a detestable bid‘ah and for its detestability are reasons: from them is the impression of it being sunnah…Thus, every worshipper should refrain from this practice and should relay its condemnation, for indeed it is established in authentic hadiths that newly-invented matters are prohibited and that every bid‘ah is misguidance, and this practice has not been transmitted from any of the Salaf.” (Fatawa l-Imam al-Nawawi, ‘Ala’ al-Din ibn al-‘Attar, 1:25-6)
Those Shafi’is who, when it suits their purposes, intransigently cling to every fatwa of Imam Nawawi, placing him on a pedestal above even that of Imam Shafi’i and his Ashaab, should adhere strictly to this principle applied by Imam Nawawi on the several instances cited above.
The Hanafi Madh-hab
Always Shaking Hands after the Congregational Fard Prayers
Ibn ‘Ābidīn al-Shāmī (d. 1252 H) writes in his Radd al-Muhtār, that shaking hands after the congregational prayers would give the false impression that the particular time and place in which this is practised, is Sunnah:
وقد صرح بعض علمائنا وغيرهم بكراهة المصافحة المعتادة عقب الصلوات مع أن المصافحة سنة، وما ذاك إلا لكونها لم تؤثر في خصوص هذا الموضع فالمواظبة عليها فيه توهم العوام بأنها سنة فيه
“Some of our [Hanafī] scholars and others have stated explicitly the detestability of the customary handshake following the salawāt, although shaking hands is sunnah. And that is only because it has not been transmitted [from the early generations] in this specific place [i.e. after the salawāt] – thus, continuity on it in this [specific place] gives the false impression that it is sunnah therein.” (Radd al-Muhtār,Dār ‘Ālam al-Kutub, 3:141)
Ibn ‘Ābidīn al-Shāmī continues to state that the reason for the reprehensibility of this Nafl congregational prayer is due to the specification not found in the Sunnah, even though Salaat is the most virtuous of deeds:
ولذا منعوا عن الاجتماع لصلاة الرغائب التي أحدثها بعض المتعبدين لأنها لم تؤثر على هذه الكيفية في تلك الليالي المخصوصة، وإن كانت الصلاة خير موضوع
“This is why they forbade gathering for Salāt al-Raghā’ib which some worshippers invented because it has not been transmitted in this form in those specific nights, even though Salāh is the best institution.” (ibid.)
Sajdat al-Shukr on a Particular Occasion
Al-Haskafī (d. 1088 H) writes in al-Durr al-Mukhtār that every permissible action which the ignorant may come to believe to be Sunnah becomes Makruh (Tahreemi):
لكنها تكره بعد الصلاة لأن الجهلة يعتقدونها سنة أو واجبة وكل مباح يؤدي إليه فمكروه
“But it (sajdat al-shukr) is detestable after Salāh because the ignorant believe it is sunnah or wājib (i.e. after Salāh), and every permissible action leading to it is makrūh.” (Al-Durr al-Mukhtar/ Radd al-Muhtār,Dār ‘Ālam al-Kutub, 2:598)
Ibn ‘Ābidīn explains that this statement was transmitted from al-Zāhidī (d. 658 H) in his commentary on Qudūrī.
The karāhah (detestability) mentioned here refers to makrūh tahrīmī (prohibitively disliked) for which a person is sinful, as mentioned by Ibn ‘Ābidīn, quoting Tahtāwī:
فمكروه الظاهر أنها تحريمية لأنه يدخل فى الدين ما ليس منه ط
“It is apparent that it is makrūh tahrīmī because he inserts into religion what is not from it.”
Imām Burhān al-Dīn al-Hanafī (d. 616 H) conveys this view right from the founders of the Hanafi Madh-hab:
وجه الكراهة على قول النخعي وأبي حنيفة رضي الله عنهما على ما ذكره القدوري أنه لو فعلها من كان منظورا إليه وظن ظان أنه واجب أو سنة متبعة عند حدوث نعمة فقد أدخل فى الدين ما ليس منه وقد قال عليه السلام: من أدخل فى الدين ما ليس منه فهو مكروه
“The reason for the karāhah based on the view of al-Nakha‘ī and Abū Hanīfah (may Allah be pleased with them), according to what al-Qudūrī mentioned, is that if one who was observed (by people) was to practise upon it, and a supposer wrongly imagined that it is sunnah or wājib adhered to at the instance of blessing, then indeed he has inserted into religion what is not from it, and he (upon him peace) said: Whoever inserts into religion what is not from it, it is detestable.” (al-Muhīt al-Burhānī, Dār al-Kutb al-‘Ilmiyah, 5:323)
Similarly Ibrahim al-Halabi stated in Sharh al-Munyah under “The Prostration of Gratitude and what is Done after the Prayer”:
“It is disliked because the ignorant believe it is Sunnah or obligatory, and every permissible act leading to this is disliked.”
Fixing a Sūrah to a Rak‘ah
Abū Bakr al-Jassās (d. 370 H) writes in explaining another Hanafī ruling:
قال أبو جعفر: ويكره أن يتخذ شيء من القرآن لشيء من الصلوات
وذلك لأنه لو أبيح ذلك لم يؤمن على مرور الأوقات أن يظنه الناس مسنونا أو واجبا كما قد سبق الآن إلى ظن كثير من الجهال في مثله
“Abu Ja‘far [al-Tahawi] said (quoting the imāms of the Hanafī madhhab): It is makrūh (prohibitively disliked) to adopt a part of the Qur’ān for a specific part of the prayers.
“And that is because if that was to be permitted, it would not be assured that with the passage of time people will believe it is sunnah or wajib; as has occurred today in the understanding of many of the ignorant people in the like of it.” (Sharh Mukhtasar al-Tahawi, Dār al-Sirāj, 8:525)
Note: This was in the 4th Islamic century! How then can we claim our ignorant and common people are immune from this misunderstanding?
The Hanbali Madh-hab
We will ignore the Hanbali madh-hab for now in this short treatise, and hope and pray that our Salafi-Hanbali brethren do not also start imitating the pseudo-Sufis in their twisted use of Quran and Sunnah to justify singing, dancing and celebrating the Mawlood.
Futility of Quoting Fuqaha Before Application of Principle
It is futile to quote certain Fuqaha of the past eras, who had permitted a particular form of Mawlood under completely different conditions, well before such gatherings had acquired the status they hold today.
For example, the Deobandi Akaabir clearly held the view that lecturing about the birth of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) is meritorious as stated explicitly here by Shaykh Rashid Ahmad Gangohi:
“The actual extolling of Wilaadat (birth of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace)) is praiseworthy. It will become Makrooh if conditions are attached to it…It is Mustahab to extol the Wilaadat of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant peace), however due to the attachment of various conditions this gathering is now prohibited.’ [Fatawa Rashidiyyah]
“Extolling the Wilaadat” is not a merrymaking function and feast organized in the month of Rabiul Awwal and accompanied by a host of baseless acts. A simple bayaan just like any other bayaan, for educating Muslims about the fadhaa-il of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) is adequate.
In light of the principle expounded in this article, accepted by all 4 Madh-habs, and it’s full applicability to the Mawlood today, it will be pointless now to quote the Fatwa of Istihbaab (commendability) of Shaykh Rashid Ahmad Gangohi, Allamah Suyuti, or any other Aalim from the past.
Such an exercise in futility would be similar to quoting the Fuqaha in the past who had permitted the following practices, for example, before the application of principles causing such practices to become prohibited:
1) Performance of the Nafl congregational prayers on the night of Ragha-ib, or the night of Nisf Sha’ban,
2) Permission to drink alcoholic beverages not derived from grapes or dates (e.g. cider, beer, etc.), as long as it is done without desire or for enjoyment.
3) Permission to pick and mix rulings from all the living and dead madh-habs, as long as it is done without desire or for chasing concessions, and as long as the people can be relied upon to be cognizant of, and abstain from the prohibited forms of talfeeq (mixing between madh-habs in a manner that causes conflict with ijma’).
A Note Regarding Universal Application of Fatwa of Prohibition
In all of the examples cited in this article, the prohibition of practices based on this fiqhi principle (and other similar principles), was applied universally, both to the Ulama and the masses.
These fuqaha did not state that if the Haram elements were removed then congregations such as Salat Nisf Shabaan could be permitted, despite the fact that such gatherings were good opportunities for people to receive Naseehah, and participate in good deeds. Similarly, with regards to the Sajdat al-Shukr, or recitation of Surah An’am in the Taraweeh, the fuqaha did not say that the practices could continue, whilst educating the people with the correct beliefs.
A corrupted practice automatically becomes forbidden for the knowledgeable people, since they are seen as leaders and are much more likely to become a means through which the masses find justification.
Similarly, the legitimisation of a prohibited act in one part of the world today will almost definitely justify its practice in another part of the world. In today’s global village, the whole world is practically part of the same neighbourhood. Since nowadays fatawa is accessible to all parts of the world, they need to be issued taking into consideration the ramifications globally.
In any case, the fitnah associated with the Mawlid, especially the emphasis beyond Sunnah, is undeniably prevalent in virtually every part of the world.
Avoiding the perpetration of Haram takes precedence over benefits of a non-obligatory practice
Regardless of the benefits of any non-Wajib practice, its prohibition takes precedence, if it is the cause for misuse and harm. This principle was applied so thoroughly by the fuqaha that even proven Sunnah acts were forbidden at times, as demonstrated by some of the examples cited above.
With regards to a Wajib/Fard (obligatory) practice which may have become contaminated, the practice itself will not be discarded. Shaykh Ashraf Ali Thanwi explains the difference:
“The act of doing the sajdah (prostration) of thankfulness is mubah according to the hadiths but Hanafi jurists, as mentioned by ‘Allamah Ibn ‘Abidin al-Shami (may Allah have mercy on him), declared this act to be makruh in case the masses start considering it a desired sunnah. It is mentioned in ‘Alamgiri (Fatawa Hindiyyah) that people used to do this (sajdah) after prayers and it is makruh because ignorant people will begin considering it sunnah and wajib. Any mubah action which comes to this becomesmakruh. Although if it is necessary in the Shari’ah, it will not be abandoned rather the corrupt traits which have crept in it will be rectified.
For instance, the act of accompanying the funeral [procession] will not be abandoned due to the association of a makruh action with it such as the presence of a wailing woman; rather the wailing will be prohibited. This is because this (funeral) is something necessary and it will not be abandoned because of a temporary karahah (reprehensibility). This is in contrast to accepting the dinner invitation, which should be refused after [one becomes aware of] the makruh action’s association with it because the dinner party [in itself] is not something necessary [in the religion]. ‘Allamah Ibn ‘Abidin al-Shami has differentiated [between] these issues as well.”
The true sign of love for the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) is strict adherence to his (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) Sunnah and the Sunnah of his Sahabah (radhiyallahu anhum) who held the greatest love for the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). All other claims to love that differs from the manner it was manifested in the lives of the Sahabah (radhiyallahu anhum) are but empty slogans.
Muslims should celebrate Rasulullah’s (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) birth and existence, by following his Sunnah and guidance outwardly and inwardly; sending frequent durood on him; reading about him and sharing his life with others; fasting on Mondays; visiting his blessed Rawdah to give salam directly to him; venerating and respecting anything associated with him, etc.
Furthermore, the true followers of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) have always been the strictest adherents to the Shar’iah and the most outspoken against all forms of bid’ah and shirk, as exemplified by all the Mujaddids (revivers of the Deen), including the recent ones such as Mujaddid Alf-e-Thani and Shah Waliullah.
Harshness against shirk and bid’ah has always been the salient feature of the Ulama-e-Haqq.
Imam Bukhari (rahmatullahi alayhi) states regarding the one quality that he found consistently within the 1000+ scholars he had met during the best of generations:
“I have met more than a thousand scholars.(then he mentioned the names of the more prominent in each of the lands that he travelled in) and I found that they all agreed on the following points: they all used to prohibit bid’ah – that which the Prophet and his Companions were not upon, because of the saying of Allaah, ‘and hold fast to the rope of Allaah and do not separate’” [Sharh Usul I’tiqaad]
For a glimpse of what the Maslak (methodology) of the true Sufis and Mujaddids was like with regards to bid’ah and shirk, see:
[The Mujlisul Ulama]
This brief Naseehat is for the benefit of those who are in doubt, but are in the quest for the Truth. This Naseehat is for the uncommitted ones who think rationally, whose minds are free of Qabar Pujaari indoctrination – those who have a natural aversion for bid’ah such as rituals proffered in the guise of ibaadat, but which have absolutely no truck with Islam.
Intelligent Muslims are not in need of a rigmarole of devious arguments to understand the simple issue of the Shariah’s stance on the question of maulood. The votaries of this birthday merrymaking custom contend that maulood is for the love of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). The vehemence and rigidity which they have assigned to their innovation of meelaad, have constrained them to brand as ‘kaafir’ those who do not participate in this practice. They are branded gustaakh-e-Rasool (disrespectful to Rasulullah – sallallahu alayhi wasallam), hence their fatwa of kufr for abstainers.
Can a Muslim be a kaafir merely because he abstains from a custom which had not existed in Islam for the first five centuries of its history? Are all the Sahaabah, Taabi-een and Tabe-Taabieen ‘kaafirs’ because they never practised meelaad nor had they dreamt about this bid’ah? Why did the love and devotion of the Sahaabah for Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) not constrain them to innovate meelaad or to celebrate Rasulullah’s birthday? Did those who appeared on the scene five centuries after Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) have greater love and devotion for Nabi-e-Kareem (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) than even the Sahaabah?
Does intelligence accept that a practice innovated five hundred years after Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) can be regarded as a compulsory act of ibaadat, abstention from which is kufr?
The ordinary intelligent Muslim in search of the truth is not interested in the views of Ulama who appeared on the horizon seven and eight centuries after the Sahaabah. The view of an Aalim regardless of his lofty status is not binding on any one if such a view is pure opinion unsubstantiated by theNusoos of the Shariah. Intelligent Muslims, before they accept a practice to be ibaadat, require evidence from the Aimmah-e-Mujtahideen, not from sources a thousand years after the Sahaabah. Our Deen was perfected and finalized during the very age of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), and his Age includes the Khairul Quroon according to his command.
Declaring the perfection and finalization of the Deen, the Qur’aan states:
“This Day have I (Allah) perfected for you your Deen, and have completed for you My favour, and have chosen for you Islam as your Deen.” (Aayat 4, Al-Maaidah)
About the epoch of Khairul Quroon, Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:
“Honour my Sahaabah, for verily they are your noblest, then those who follow them (the Taabieen), then those who follow them (Tabe-Taabieen). Thereafter falsehood will prevail.”
Rituals and practices in the form of ‘ibaadat’, innovated a thousand years after Rasulullah (sallallahu alahu alayhi wasallam) may not be imposed on the Ummah as acts of Ibaadat. Even if it be hallucinated that a meelaad practice is without any of the evils which bedevil all these innovations, then too, it will not be Ibaadat, and may not be imposed on the Ummah if it was not sanctioned by the Aimmah-e-Mujtahideen of the Khairul Quroon. The private devotional practices of Ulama and Auliya centuries after the Sahaabah are not meant for mass consumption by the Ummah. Such practices may not be elevated to the status of Sunnah. In fact, the grave-worshippers have elevated their meelaad bid’ah to the status of Fardh, hence they feel justified to brand as kaafir those who do not accept their evil bid’ah.
To know and understand the reality of meelad it will suffice to know that this merrymaking custom came into existence many centuries after Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), hence it has absolutely no relationship with the Sunnah. On the contrary, due to the plethora of evil elements associated with meelaad, the practice is bid’ah and haraam.