IT was a typical day in England, the sun was out and the bitterness of the afternoon breeze cut through my skin. As I walked around the park, the leaves swaying and birds chirping, I noticed a minibus within the boundaries of the park. I thought what a strange sight it was and what is the bus doing inside the park? As my eyes moved up, I saw a chair, decorated with a green what-seemed-to-be silky cloth, fixed on its roof. To my utter amazement, there were, what I can only describe as frantic Muslims, running behind the bus. I didn’t have a clue what was happening. I asked a fellow passerby in the park what on earth was going on. He told me that they were celebrating Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be on him) birthday. I was flabbergasted. They were chasing a bus with an empty chair on it?! Then he further explained that they “believed” the Prophet was actually sitting in the chair and the runners were trying to get some blessings from him! Allah’s refuge is to be sought from such false and repugnant beliefs. It looked like people from a mental asylum were let loose.
Muslims who celebrate Meelad-un-Nabi (the Prophet’s birthday) do it thinking it is a great deed. They have Insha Allah good intentions. But having good intention is not sufficient when it comes to religion – one must have proper knowledge of the right action.
Here’s a question, think about it: A man who wanted to get closer to Allah decided to go on top of a mountain and stand up on one leg the whole day long. He thought he will be purified from his sins and get closer to Allah. Do you think his action is correct? Why not? Yes, his intention was good, but his action was not in accordance with what Allah and His Messenger have laid down. He should have instead repented to Allah, prayed Salah, given in charity and tried to act on Islamic teachings in his life. He did not do the right thing because he did not know how one gets closer to Allah.
So knowledge of what one must do is a pre-requirement to any action. No doubt loving the Prophet more than everything in this world is required of every Muslim. And if one wants to show his love for the Messenger, that’s very good. But the question is how? By celebrating his birthday?
Muhammad (peace be on him) lived for 63 years, 23 years of which as a Prophet and Messenger. He never celebrated his birthday in his entire life. After he passed away, Abu Bakr, the closest companion to the Prophet (peace be upon him), became the Caliph. Then Umar, Uthman and Ali (may Allah be pleased with them) ruled as the rightly-guided Caliphs. But none of them – or any of the Companions or Tabi’een – ever celebrated the Prophet’s birthday. Does that mean they didn’t love the Prophet?
In fact there can be no one on this earth until the Day of Judgment who can love and sacrifice for the Prophet (peace be upon him) more than the Sahabah. They gave up their wealth, land, and lives for the Prophet (peace be upon him). What about the Prophet’s beloved wife Ayesha (Allah be pleased with her)? Can anyone claim to love the Prophet more than her? Why didn’t she ever celebrate Meelad-un-Nabi? Religion is complete
Islam is a complete religion. So complete that nothing can be added to it and nothing can be subtracted from it. Allah said in the Qur’an:
“This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.” (Qur’an, 5:3)
The innovation of celebrating the Prophet’s birthday was first introduced 300 years after the death of the Prophet (peace be upon him), but it was still not practiced. It was only 600 years after the death of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that this celebration really started in the Muslim Ummah. (See Ibn Kathir’s Al-Bidayah wa’l-Nihayah, 13/137) The Prophet (peace be upon him) has told us several times to stay clear of innovations in religion.
“I urge you to follow my Sunnah and the way of the rightly-guided Caliphs after me; adhere to it and cling to it firmly. Beware of newly-invented things, for every newly-invented thing (in the religion) is an innovation (bid’ah) and every innovation is misguidance.” (Narrated by Ahmad, 4/126; Al-Tirmidhi, no. 2676).
Apart from being an innovation it is imitating the Christians, who celebrate the birthday of Jesus (peace be upon him). Both, innovating in religion and imitating other religions, are Haraam in Islam. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever imitates a people is one of them.” (Ahmad, 2/50; Abu Dawood, 4/314)
Then how do we express our love for the Prophet? Allah says in the Qur’an:
“Say (O Muhammad, peace be upon him, to mankind): ‘If you (really) love Allah, then follow me (i.e. accept Islamic Monotheism, follow the Qur’an and the Sunnah), Allah will love you and forgive you your sins.” (Qur’an, 3:31)
Loving Allah and His Messenger means to obey them. Loving Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) means following his Sunnah, reviving his practices which have become uncommon in our societies. It doesn’t mean introducing our own way of worship and rituals.
Allah and His Messenger did not say to hold celebrations where men and women mix, sing and dance with music playing. These Haraam activities can be found in the heart of London on a Friday or Saturday night, in the name of loving the Prophet (peace be on him). How absurd!
One of the early scholars, Al-Barbahari, one of the companions of Ahmed Ibn Hanbal, said,
“Beware of innovation, because every innovation started out as something small and resembling the truth and people were fooled by it and followed it until it became bigger and bigger and were trapped by it and it took them out of Islam.”
Isn’t this what is exactly happening today? We find that in some places this event has become so important that if it is not practiced you are seen as a sinner! People who do this do not even give importance to prayer.
The important lesson to learn here is that when something is innovated into the religion, a Sunnah is lost. People are celebrating the birthday, which is not legislated, and are leaving the established Sunnahs. Let us ask ourselves: how many of us fast on the 13th, 14th and 15th of every month? How many of us fast Mondays and Thursdays? How many of us pray the Qiyam Al-Layl (the night prayer) or Tahajjud?
It is also important to know that the correct date of the Prophet’s birth is not known. Some scholars say it was 9th Rabi Al-Awwal and others say it was 12th. However, it is known for sure that the Prophet (peace be upon him) died on the 12th, which in fact was the greatest calamity that has ever struck Muslims.