Is the Mawlid an innovation (bid’ah)
because the Prophet ﷺ did not do it?
Shaykh Mohammed Aarab al-Maliki has examined the ten arguments against the Mawlid (celebration of the birth of the Prophet ﷺ ) . This article is about the first and most common argument against the Mawlid, namely that the Prophet ﷺ himself never celebrated his birth. This argument will be answered by Shaykh Aarab in great detail on the basis of five refutations .For the dutch version of this article click here: Mawlid: Een Innovatie? – Ustadh Mohammed Aarab.
The summary of this article
The argument ‘The Prophet PBUH has never celebrated his birth’ is not complete, because a part of it is hidden. The complete argument of the opponents goes as follows:
- First premise: The Prophet never celebrated his birth.
- Second premise: Everything that the Prophet ﷺ did not do is forbidden.
- Conclusion: Celebrating birth is therefore forbidden.
The biggest problem with this argument is the second premise. Proponents of the Mawlid generally respond to the first premise. They cite various traditions which demonstrate that the Prophet ﷺ certainly would have celebrated his birthday, such as fasting on Monday (Source: Sahih Muslim ), the lessening of punishment for Abu Lahab in the grave (Source: Sahih al- Bukhari ) and the sacrificing of an animal (source: al- Bayhaqi ). These are especially specific evidence that the Hadith scholars cite and that are interpreted by the fiqh scholars.
However, the second premise is where the big mistake is made. What is unique about this article is that it deals with the second premise, in a way that is only reserved for specialist scholars who draw on the classical books of the great judges and usul al- fiqh scholars. Usul al- Fiqh is a subject that deals with the foundations and maxims of Islamic law. In the Dutch and English language, such an argument cannot be found in an article, and perhaps not even in Arabic. The answer to the second premise is:
- We know that there are at least six reasons why the Prophet ﷺdid not do certain acts
- Only on the basis of three things can something be declared forbidden and that the Prophet ﷺ’did not do something’ is not included
- The Qur’an commands us to leave what the Prophet ﷺ “prohibited” and not what the Prophet ﷺ ‘did not do’
- Deeds that the Prophet ﷺdo is not part of the definition of the ‘ Sunnah ‘
We conclude that the first and the second premise of the opponents are incorrect. End of Sahih.nl summary.
Is the Mawlid an innovation ( bid’ah )
because the Prophet ﷺ did not do it?
The first and most important argument that the opponents of celebrating the Mawlid (celebration of the birth of the Prophet ﷺ ) focus on is the view that acts that were left behind by the Prophet ( ﷺ ) are by definition proof of prohibition. They say this to express their argument:
“The Prophet ﷺ did not do it”
(lam yafᶜalha RasulAllah ﷺ )
The opponents then prove that you must follow the Prophet ﷺ. Yes, we must follow the Prophet ﷺ, that is clear and we all do that. So we do not differ in that. It is important however that they do not mix up arguments, because only this is the argument of the opponents: “The Prophet ﷺ did not do it and the omission of an act is proof that that act is forbidden ( haram ).”
The four refutations on the argument “The Prophet ﷺ did not do it”
Is everything that the Prophet has not done prohibited (haram)? No, this does not necessarily mean that the act is haram. Therefore, the argument (that the Prophet ﷺ did not do it) can be refuted in four ways:
- Refutation 1:There are at least six reasons why the Prophet left something
- Refutation 2:You may only declare things haraam based on three reasons.
- Refutation 3:It contradicts the Quran .
- Refutation 4: The definition of Sunnah does not contain “what the Prophet ﷺ left ‘
1. There are at least six reasons why the Prophet ﷺ left a deed
We can find six reasons in the Sunnah where the Prophet ﷺ did not do something – and yet these acts are not forbidden (haram)!
The first reason why the Prophet ﷺ left something: against personal or cultural customs
It may be that the Prophet ﷺ has omitted an act because of his personal preference (ᶜadah ). Take the Hadith in Sahih Bukhari, for example, where the Prophet ﷺ did not eat a lizard when Khalid ibn Walid served it. Khalid asked: “O Messenger of Allah, is lizard forbidden?” The Prophet ﷺ indicated that it is not forbidden but that he did not find it among his people (la yuᶜafunahu ). But he let other companions eat it anyway. There is a rule in usul al Fiqh (principles of fiqh that explain things haraam and halal):
تَرْكُ النَّبِيِّ مِنْ شيء لَا يَدُلُّ عَلى التَحْرِيمِ
Tarku Nabi mien shai’in la yadullu ala tahriem.
” The Prophet’s ﷺ leavning of a deed does not indicate a prohibition.”
The omission of an act is therefore not automatically haram, because it may be that the Prophet omits something for cultural customs.
The second reason why the Prophet ﷺ left something: to teach his Ummah
It may be that he ﷺ something leaves something because seeming forgetfulness as the sadjda Sahu (extra prostration to correct a mistake in prayer). Note: that the Prophet forgets something is actually Allah wanting to teach us something. The Prophet ﷺ does not forget, because Allah says in the Quran :
“6. We will teach you so that you do not forget it – 7. Except what Allah wants.
– Surah al-Aᶜlaa (The Most High).
Allah makes him ﷺforget for us, so that he teaches the community (ummah). The Prophet ﷺdoes not sleep (which is confirmed in different Ahadith) and to not sleeping is more difficult than to not forget. There is a well-known tradition in which the Prophet completed the prayer too early, two rak’at instead of four rak’at . After the companion (sahabi) asked the Prophet ﷺ about this, he said ﷺ : “No, it is not shortened, nor have I forgotten.” Then the Prophet ﷺ taught his ummah how to correct mistakes in the prayer (sujud al-sahu).
The omission of an act is therefore not automatically haram, because it may be that the Prophet omits something because Allah made him forget so that his community could learn.
The third reason why the Prophet ﷺ left something: afraid it would become obligatory
Sometimes the Prophet ﷺ left something behind because he was concerned that Allah would make those acts mandatory. That would burden Muslims with more prayers, for example. A good example of this is salat al- tarawih (the voluntary night prayers in the month of Ramadan). The Prophet ﷺ performed this prayer individually in the beginning. Subsequently the companions (sahaba) joined in and eventually the group became so large that the mosque filled up. The Prophet ﷺ prayer was after that night and said he did not wish to come, so that this prayer would not become a mandatory part of the religion (al-deen).
The omission of an act is therefore not automatically prohibited (haram), because it may be that the Prophet ﷺ omits something because he ﷺ is afraid that it would become obligatory on the Ummah.
The fourth reason why the Prophet ﷺ left something: not thought of
It may also be that the Prophet ﷺ did not thought of something like the story about the pulpit (minbar). The Prophet ﷺ did not come up with the idea of placing his minbar higher.
The omission of an act is therefore not automatically prohibited (haram), because it may be that the Prophet ﷺ omits something because he ﷺ did not thought of it.
The fifth reason why the Prophet ﷺ left something: general rule of the Shariᶜa
Perhaps the Prophet ﷺ has left something behind because it falls under the generality of Islamic Law (ᶜumum of the Shari’ah). Certain things exist in the general rule of Shari’a . Allah says in the Quran :
’77 – … and do well ( alkhayra ), that you may succeed ‘.
– Surah al-Hajj (The Pilgrimage).
Since the word “good” (al- khayr) “is determined by a definite article (the alif and lam), according to the Arabic language it refers to all good in all times. So this verse means that from the beginning to the end of time there will be many good deeds, but the Prophet ﷺ could not do all these good deeds.
Setting up hospitals, printing of the Quran and building orphanages was not done in the time of Prophet ﷺ
Some recommended good deeds were simply not present in his ﷺ time, so the Prophet ﷺ could not carry it out. Some of those good deeds are: setting up hospitals, printing Qurans, printing books and building orphanages for orphans. Although these acts were not performed during the time of the Prophet ﷺ, it cannot be denied that these acts fall precisely in the generality of ‘all good deeds’ that the above Qoranic Verse ‘ do good ‘ talks about. fall. The mandubat (recommended acts in shariᶜa ) fall under “good deed in it’s generality” for all times, even if a act was not performed in the time of the Prophet ﷺ.
Otherwise, it should be said that the Prophet ﷺ did all highly recommended things during his lifetime. Then that would mean that good deeds are limited to the deeds that the Prophet ﷺ has done. All acts that do not correspond to, or fall outside of that, should not be characterized as a good deed.
There are many types of charity (sadaqa)
Another example is that there may be a charity (sadaqa) that the Prophet ﷺ did not do. The reason for this is that there are so many different types of charities. But even though he did not do it all, all these forms of sadaqa fall under the general rule of “do good.”
The omission of an act is therefore not automatically prohibited (haram). For it may be that the Prophet ﷺ leaves an act behind, because that specific act falls under the general rule of the Shari’a: ‘do good’.
The sixth reason why the Prophet ﷺ left something: thoughts new sahaba
The Prophet ﷺ was afraid that new companions (sahaba) had different thoughts about a certain act. The proof for this is that the Prophet wilde wanted to rebuild the Ka’bah once more from it’s foundations. But he did not because he was afraid of how certain new sahaba would react. The full Hadith is included in Sahih Muslim:
“The Prophet ﷺ once said to (our mother) Aisha: ” If your people had not just become Muslims, I would break the Kaa’bah and rebuild it from the foundation of Prophet Ibrahim (upon him be peace). I’m afraid it would go wrong with the new Muslims. ”
This is because the love of the Kabah was already great before the advent of Islam.
The omission of an act is therefore not automatically haram! Because it may be that the Prophet ﷺ left an act because he ﷺ took into account the thoughts of new companions.
Thus, it is proven that the Prophet ﷺ leaves acts for various reasons. Therefore it cannot be said that the Mawlid (celebration of the birth of the Prophet ﷺ) is forbidden because the Prophet ﷺ did not celebrate it.
To sum up, what are the reasons why the Prophet ﷺ did not do certain acts? It may be:
(1) due to personal preference or preference of his ﷺ people,
(2) because Allah caused him ﷺ to forget to teach us,
(3) for the reason that the Prophet ﷺ was afraid that the act would become obligatory and that it would be too heavy for his community,
(4) on the grounds that it might be an act that he ﷺ did not think of,
(5) owing to it falling under a general rule of the Shari’a or
(6) by virtue of him begin of discord among new companions.
The argument of the opponents ‘the Prophet ﷺ did not do it’ can therefore be understood in several ways. So we might as well say: the Prophet ﷺ did celebrate his birthday (mawlid) because he was afraid it would become mandatory!
Since the argument of the opponents can be understood in several ways, as we have shown, the argument loses its strength. In this case the scholars (‘ulema) are known apply the following maxim:
الدَّلِيلُ إِذَا تطرق إلَيْهِ الإِحْتِمَالُ سَقَطَ الإِسْتِدْلُالُ بِهِ
If a proof can be interpreted in multiple ways,
the shine of the proof (daleel) is gone!
2. When can you declare things forbidden (haram)?
The second way to refute the argument of the Mawlid ‘s opponents is to analyse how something is declared prohibited.
You can only declare something haraam bases on three:
- First, if it is an negative imperative form (nahi) in grammar is used, such as: La taqrabu (do do near!). This consists of a particle (harf) indicating a prohibition and a present tense (la al-nahiya and al-fi’l al-mudari). Because al-nahi jufeedu at-tahreem (the imperative form indicates a prohibition).
- Secondly, if the word haram is clearly used in the Qoran of the Sunnah. For example: hurrima alaykumm (it is forbidden for you).
- Thirdly, if the act is described very negatively (dham al-fi’l ). Like the Hadith:
“He who cheats on us is does not belong to us.”
Is there anywhere in the Islaimc sources where one of these three things appear with regards with regards to celebrating the Mawlid? No! That is why the opponents can not declare celebrating the Mawlid forbidden (haram).
These three reasons are studied in Islamic science called “usul al- fiqh” (principles of Islamic law). The salafi scholars, the opponents of the Mawlid, have not written a fundamental book in usul al-fiqh. So if there is another condition, with which something is declared haram to prove that the Mawlid is haram, they are most certainly welcome to present their claims.
3. The Qoran teaches us something else
The second way to refute the argument of the Mawlid ‘s opponents is through the literal words of Allah in the Quran .
Allah the Exalted says:
“Whatever he (Prophet ﷺ ) forbids you, abstain from it.”
– Quran Surah al Hashr Verse 7.
It does not say in the Quran: “What he (the Prophet ﷺ ) left behind , then leave it.” Allah uses the words ” whatever he forbids you ” and not “whatever he left.”
4. Definition of the Sunnah does not “what the Prophet ﷺ left ‘
The fourth way to refute the argument of the Mawlid ‘s opponents is to understand what Sunnah is.
What is the definition of the Sunnah? We don’t mean what the scholars of Seerah (Prophetic biography) and Hadith (prophetic traditions) use as a definition. But we mean the scholars of usul al-fiqh ( principles of legislation). Because these are the scholars who make statements about whether things are haram or halal.
السُّنَّةُ : قَوْلٌ ، فِعْلٌ ، تَقْرِيرٌ
Sunnah are the words, deeds, and consent of the Prophet ﷺ .
Al- Sunnah: qawl, fiᶜl or taqeer (Prophet ﷺ approves an act of a sahabi).
The question now is: is there in the definition anything about the abstaining from a act by of the Prophet ﷺ? No! The Prophet ﷺ leaving an act is not part of Sunnah and therefore it is not proof against celebrating the Mawlid.
Conclusion Team Sahih.nl
This is a four-fold refutation on the first argument against the Mawlid (celebration of the birth of the Prophet ﷺ ). It was decided to share only the first argument of the opponents and to omit the other nine, les known, arguments.
The thinking person who reads this carefully and reflects on it will come to the conclusion that with such a strong refutation of the first counter argument, the other nine counter arguments can be answered in the same way. On the other hand there are 10 arguments for celebrating the Mawlid and a whole list of hundreds if not thousands of scholars who were in favor. These can all be found in the official dutch article by Shaykh Mohammed Aarab al-Maliki called “The celebration of the Prophet ﷺ – innovation or enrichment?” (not yet published).
We hope that this article does not cause further discussion, but that it provides clarity on an issue that has always been clear to Muslims.
- Lecture: ‘ The Fiqh of Mawlid ‘ by Shaykh Mohammed Aarab in Minhaj ul Quran The Hague, 2013.
- Article: “The Prophet ‘s birthday celebration ﷺ – Unauthorized addition or enrichment?”, Ustadh Mohammed Aarab , not issued.
- Qoran verses : “The Glorious Qoran ” translated by Rafiq Ahmed Fris, Mehmet Fatih Özberk and Muhammed Aarab .
– The above is based on the “The Fiqh of Mawlid” and the references use “The Prophet’s Birthday Celebration.” The references of the Hadith have been looked up by Team Sahih.nl. Therefore Ustadh Aarab can not be held responsible for incorrect references and possible errors in formulations.