With the start of Rabi-ul-Auwal, a month which marks the birth of the Beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), moulood celebrations will be in full swing. Again, the annual Mass Mawlid on the 16th December has reignited a debate over the celebration of moulood in the Cape. This age old tradition, which brings Muslims together to honour the Prophet (pbuh), is believed to be of Indonesian origin and gave slaves a link to their ancestral home. The purpose of this gathering is to send praises (salawat) to the Nabi (pbuh). However, some scholars believe moulood should not be observed as it is a form of bi’dah or innovation, which was not practised by the Prophet (pbuh) or the Sahaabah.
To understand the Sharia’h perspective on the celebration of Milaad-un-Nabi, hadith scholar Shaykh Fakhruddien Owaisi answers the following questions:
Q1: What is the ruling (hukm) regarding celebrating the Mawlid-un-Nabi?
A1: Any action we do may be judged by the Shari ah as being of one of the following five categories:
Mubah/Ja iz (Simply Permissible)
Past and present Ulama from the four Madhabs (Hanafi, Shafi, Maliki and Hanbali) have considered the commemoration of the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) birth as being Mubah, i.e. permissible, as there is no evidence in the Shari ah that prohibits such an event. In fact, there is some evidence that actually supports the commemoration of the noble birth. For example:
– Allah says in the Qur’an:
“Say in the Bounty of Allah and His Mercy, Let them rejoice.” (Surah Yunus, verse 58).
There is no greater bounty given to creation than the Holy Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam).
– The Quran narrates to us the stories of the births of Prophets Isa, Musa and Yahya (‘alayhis-salam) in an honorable manner. As the greatest of the Prophets, the birth of
Nabi Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is even more deserving of such attention.
– Imam al-Bukhari narrates that when the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was born, his uncle, the unbeliever Abu-Lahab freed the slave-girl Thuwaybah that brought him the good news, by gesturing to her with his finger. When Abu-Lahab passed away, his brother Sayyidna al-Abbas (radiya Allahu ‘anhu) saw him in dream and asked him about his condition. He replied: I am in severe punishment, but my punishment is lessened every Monday as I am allowed to suck some water from that finger of mine with which I freed Thuwaybah.
– It is also narrated by Imam Muslim that the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) used to fast on Mondays. When asked why, he (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) replied: That is the day I was born.
That is why many scholars have been very supportive of the Mawlid. For example, the great 9th Century Shafi i scholar Imam Jalaluddin al-Suyuti writes in his Al-Hawi lil Fatawi:
To commemorate the Mawlid, which is basically gathering people together, reciting parts of the Qu’ran, narrating stories about the Prophet’s birth and the signs that accompanied it, then serving food, and afterwards, departing, is one of the good innovations; and the one who practices it gets rewarded, because it involves venerating the status of the Prophet and expressing joy at his honorable birth. However, while commemorating the Mawlid cannot be considered Haram, it also must not be considered Fard.
It must be understood that it is simply a beneficial practice that is nevertheless not obligatory. Note, too, that while commemorating the Mawlid itself is only Mubah, many of the actions done in it are Mustahabb (Recommended) such as recitation of Salawat, coming together of Muslims, discussing the life of the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), feeding the hungry etc. People will undoubtedly be rewarded for these actions. Wa Llahu A’lam.
Q2: Is commemorating the Mawlid un-Nabi a bid ah (an innovation)?
A2: Bid’ah refers to beliefs and practices that appeared after the era of the Holy Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). Broadly speaking, bid’ahs are acceptable or unacceptable depending upon whether or not they fall under the general principles and spirit of the Qur’an and Sunnah.
Given this they will be classified according to the five Shari’ah rulings mentioned above. Therefore, some bi’dahs may be obligatory such as writing books on the din and the gathering of the Qur’an and hadith into book form. Some may be recommended such as the translation of the Qur’an, the congregational Tarawih prayer and the second adhan for Jumu’ah. Some Bid’ahs may simply permitted such as performing Eid Salah in Mosques, qira’ah programs, Quranic competitions and the commemoration of Mawlid as noted earlier. Depending upon the intention and results, such permitted bid’ahs may even become recommended.
Discouraged innovations would be to have the Holy Qur’an on a cellphone, as some Ulama have said. Forbidden bid’ahs are any innovated beliefs and practices that are in clear violation of agreed upon principles and rulings of the Shari’ah. The hadith that states that every bid’ah is a misguidance refers to this last category of bid’ah only as explained by hadith authority Imam al-Nawawi in his commentary on Sahih Muslim (Volume 6, p154):
“What is meant by it is new matters that are not validated by the Shari ah. That – and that alone – is what are meant by innovations.”
Q3: What is the ruling on standing up to recite Salawat (Salutations) and Salam (Greetings of Peace) upon the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam)?
A3: It is permissible if done with the intention of respecting the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), and without the belief that it is obligatory. The Qur’an has ordered us to present the Salam to the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) in a respectful manner as implied in the verse Wa Sallimu Taslima i.e. “And send worthy greetings of Peace upon him.” (Qur’an 33:56)
Furthermore, it is permissible in Islam to stand up to greet any honorable or beloved person. The Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) used to stand up to greet many people, including his beloved daughter Sayyidah Fatimah Zahra (radiya Allahu ‘anha).
Imam al-Bukhari narrates that once the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was sitting in the Mosque and saw a funeral passing by. So he immediately stood up in respect of it. He was then told that it was actually the funeral of a Jew. So he (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) replied; It is still a soul.
The Ulama have also deemed it permissible to stand up for a national anthem.
It has for centuries been the custom in many Muslim lands to stand up when reciting the Salawat and Salam on the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), especially upon hearing the news of his Birth, so as to display love, gratefulness and respect. This practice has been commended by ulama from all four Madhhabs.
The Mufti of the Shafi’i madhhab of Medina al-Imam al-Sayyid Ja’far al-Barzanji wrote in his Mawlid that:
“Scholars of great character and knowledge have commended the practice of standing up at the mention of the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) birth. So glad-tiding to the one whose goal and purpose is to honor the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam).”
This was written by him in Medina four centuries ago, and he referred to scholars before his time. The Salawat can be recited in all positions: sitting as in the Jalsah (sitting position) in Salah, or standing as in the Salat-ul-Janazah or even while lying down.
Furthermore, it is general command of the Shariah to display all sorts of love, honor and veneration to the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) [Qur an 7:157; 33:6 amongst others], as long as it does not involve any prohibited action. Wa Llahu A’lam.
Q4: Is it possible for the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) to be present at a Mawlid gathering?
A4: The blessed body of the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is buried in Medina. But his Soul, like the souls of all Prophets and pious believers, is free to roam in the Kingdom of Allah to attend blessed gatherings. Evidence for this is what occurred on the Night of the Mi’raj when all the Prophets gathered in al-Quds to meet and pray behind our Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). Many of them met him again in the Heavens.
Ibn al-Qayyim mentions in his Kitab al-Ruh that the famous Companion Sayyidna Salman al-Farisi (radiya Allahu ‘anhu) said:
“The souls of the believers are in a partition from the (visible) earth, they go anywhere they want to.”
He also quotes the great Imam Malik as saying:
“I was informed that the soul is free; it goes anywhere it wants to.”
The above has also been confirmed by great Classical scholars such as Imam al-Suyuti and Imam Ibn-Hajar al-Haytami in their Fatawa. However, a person who experiences the spiritual presence of the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) at any gathering should normally keep such things to him or herself. In general, this is a matter of the unseen and it is best to not to delve into the issue unnecessarily.
Q5: What are the Riwayats popularly recited in Cape Town?
A5: The Riwayats are basically narrations on the happenings of the noble Birth of the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), compiled in a book from by the 16th century Mufti of the Shafi’i madhhab in Medina al-Imam al-Sayyid Ja’far al-Barzanji. Whatever is mentioned in them is authentically sourced from the books of Hadith and Sirah (biographies of the Prophet). It is a blessing to recite them as it is a blessing to recite any hadith of the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). Muslim throughout the world recite these Riwayat during the blessed month of Mawlud. They are usually referred to in other parts of the world as Mawlid al-Barzanji.
Shaykh Fakhruddin Owaisi al-Madani is a Lecturer in Hadith at IPSA. Shaykh Fakhruddin completed a Master s dissertation on the issue of Mawlid and Bid’ah at the University of Cape Town.