Louay Fatoohi's Blog

Birthday of Love: Celebrating the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad

Tonight, hundreds of millions of Muslims throughout the world celebrate the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad (ṣalla Allah ‘alaihi wa sallam). Ironically, other Muslims, although much smaller in number, condemn this practice as a bad innovation (bid‘a) that must be stopped. If celebrating the birth of the Prophet can be this divisive, then there is little hope that other differences, which are often more open to interpretation, can be removed. Also, the fact that celebrating the birth of the Prophet, who is described in the Qur’an as “a mercy to all peoples” (21.107), can make Muslims the subject of condemnation and even accusation of disbelief by other Muslims, raises serious concerns about the later’s mindset. This minority’s hostility towards the majority who honour the Prophet’s birth is an unmistakable sign of intolerance, and it can only point to even more hostility towards non-Muslims.

There are many issues of creed and practice that Muslims disagree on, as is the case in every religion. But objecting to celebrating the birth of the Prophet (ṣalla Allah ‘alaihi wa sallam) is one that is particularly alarming. In addition to being a sign of intolerance, it indicates two other serious problems that concern the core faith of the Muslim.

1) Rejecting the love of the Prophet (ṣalla Allah ‘alaihi wa sallam): Celebrating birthdays is an established and well-known practice. People celebrate the birthdays of their sons, daughters, siblings, parents, friends, and indeed others they admire for one reason or another. Those who argue that they are uncompromisingly against marking any birthday still have other occasions to celebrate. These include weddings, graduations, and other memorable and important events in the lives of people who are close to them. In other words, those who reject honouring the birthday of the Prophet (ṣalla Allah ‘alaihi wa sallam) single him out for exclusion from the list of people they celebrate. There is a beautiful recent karāma (wonder) about this issue here.

Yet the driver of people’s celebrations of birthdays, weddings…etc. is the love they have for the people concerned. A mother celebrates the graduation of her son because she loves him, a father’s celebration of the wedding of his daughter is driven by love, and so on. All these celebrations are expressions of love, and love is the fabric of humanity and what keeps us together. When someone objects to remembering the birth of the Prophet (ṣalla Allah ‘alaihi wa sallam), their objection is effectively to the love of the Prophet (ṣalla Allah ‘alaihi wa sallam).

The standard argument of the rejectionists is that showing this love to the Prophet (ṣalla Allah ‘alaihi wa sallam) may lead Muslims to treating him as Christians treat Jesus: a god. But this argument has been proven countless times to be completely false and baseless. Over a millennium of honouring the Prophet’s birth has not turned him into a god in the eyes of Muslims. Regardless of how high Muslims think of him, they never say “there is no god save Muhammad,” but they have always held to the teachings of the Qur’an that “there is no god save Allah” (47.19) and “Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah” (48.29).

Furthermore, the Qur’an reminds the Muslims in several places that even one’s children can be a “trial”:

Your wealth and your children are a trial, and that with Allah is a mighty wage. (8.28)

Significantly, there is not a single verse that describes the Prophet (ṣalla Allah ‘alaihi wa sallam) as a “trial.” In other words, one’s relationship with their children can make them err, but their relationship with the Prophet (ṣalla Allah ‘alaihi wa sallam) can never do that.

Even more telling is the contrast shown in the following verses:

O you who believe! Let not your property or your children divert you from the remembrance of Allah. Those who do that are the losers. (63.9)

You [who believe] have had a good example in the Messenger of Allah for whosoever hopes for Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah much. (33.21)

While one’s children can be a distraction from remembering Allah, the Prophet (ṣalla Allah ‘alaihi wa sallam) can only remind them of Allah. There is nothing to fear from any celebration and remembering of the Prophet (ṣalla Allah ‘alaihi wa sallam), but one has to be conscious that his/her love for their children does not make the person forget their duties towards Allah.

Additionally, one only needs to compare what is involved in marking birthdays and other events of ordinary people and in honouring the birth of the Prophet. While permissible, the former does not involve any acts of worship, whereas the latter includes reciting the Qur’an, remembering Allah, praying to Allah, and recalling the Prophet’s attributes and deeds.

1.Al-Masjid-Al-Nabawi

2) Misunderstanding the Muslim’s relationship with the Prophet (ṣalla Allah ‘alaihi wa sallam): Rejectionists know why they must follow the Prophet, as this is clearly stated in the Qur’an. Their relationship with the Prophet is based on reason. Yet the truth of the Muslim’s relationship with the Prophet (ṣalla Allah ‘alaihi wa sallam) is that while it starts with reason and continues to have rational bases, its developed form is love. If someone who objects to celebrating the Prophet’s birth thinks they love him, they clearly do not understand what love is. As discussed earlier, one would not object to celebrating anyone they love, let alone the Prophet.

This verse in particular sheds light on what loving the Prophet (ṣalla Allah ‘alaihi wa sallam) really means:

Say: “If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your clansmen, the wealth which you have gained, the merchandise which you fear may slacken, and dwellings that you love are dearer to you than Allah, His Messenger, and fighting in His way, then wait until Allah brings His command. Allah does not guide the ungodly people.” (9.24)

Naturally, the person loves much their family, relatives, and possessions, so the verse states that he/she should have even more love for the Prophet (ṣalla Allah ‘alaihi wa sallam). This is a state that one can never achieve while objecting to celebrating the Prophet’s birth. To really love him more than anything else, including one’s close family members, that love must overtake the person. This is not a relationship with the Prophet (ṣalla Allah ‘alaihi wa sallam) that is only based on reason, but one that has moved into the realm of love.

Similarly, the absolute obedience to the Prophet in this verse cannot be observed by the Muslim without being overwhelmed by love for the Messenger (ṣalla Allah ‘alaihi wa sallam):

What the Messenger gives you, take; and what he forbids you, refrain from. (59.7)

The great Sufi Master Shaikh ‘Abd al-Qādir al-Gaylānī recounts a short, beautiful story about Majnūn Lailā (The mad lover of Laila). One day he came across some people who asked him: “Where have you come from?” He replied: “From being with Lailā.” They asked him: “Where are you going?” He answered: “To Lailā.” Try to convince Majnūn not to celebrate Laila’s birthday!

The love for the Prophet is not an extra that the Muslim may or may not have. It is the very spiritual power that embeds Islam in the heart. Without this love, one’s faith and practice of Islam is bound to be superficial. It is the lack of this love that is behind the complaint of many Muslims that they are unable to find much warmth in their hearts when worshipping. The love of the Prophet (ṣalla Allah ‘alaihi wa sallam) is the door to divine love:

Say [O Muhammad!]: “If you love Allah, then follow me, and Allah will love you, and forgive you your sins. Allah is forgiving, compassionate.” (3.31)

Copyright © 2015 Louay Fatoohi
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13 thoughts on “Birthday of Love: Celebrating the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad

  1. Salam: Well explained and hope it will help better understanding of this issue, it was always celebrated in Iraq, from memory.

  2. The article makes certain ill founded assumptions and arrives at its conclusions based on these assumptions.

    Those who oppose celebrating of the Prophet’s birthday do not celebrate anyone’s birthday. This does not mean that they love their spouse, siblings, parents, children and the Prophet any less than those who celebrate birthdays.

    It  is a principled opposition to a bid’at because almost every religion based on revealed scriptures which possibly covers every major religion, was exactly like Islam as it was based on revelations from the same God and has become what theses religions have become by opening the doors to bid’at. Every religion has veered to polytheism and idol worship. Islam will meet the same fate unless a principled approach is followed.

     

    Having said this, the more important distortions to Islam are the distortions in the understanding of the Quran such as:

    1. The parochialism among the Muslims that has distorted the  meaning of Islam, Muslim, Momin and Kafir.

    2. The distortion in the meaning of Shuhuda to mean martyr when the Quran does not use this term to refer to martyrs at all.

     

     

  3. Very nice article and well written. Those who opposes celebrating the Prophets birthday have no sold proof at all. Such celebration is truly a sign of love and respect to our beloved prophet

  4. Salam Javeed,

    I am sorry to say that you do not seem to have read the article carefully, as what you say has already been addressed in the article, yet you ignored the arguments of the article. These are not assumptions. They are based on the Qur’an.

    Also, it is not true that all those who do note celebrate the birth of the Prophet (salla Allah ‘alaihi was sallam) do not celebrate other birthdays. I have already quoted one incident, but it does not take much search to establish this fact and find such people.

    Your claim that Islam could end up being polytheistic is refuted by the very history of Islam. Almost everyone who refers to this alleged danger to Islam has Christianity in mind. Unfortunately, drawing this false similarity reflects ignorance of the history of Christianity and that of Islam. Again, I make a quick reference to this false claim in the article, but this is not a particularly sophisticated claim to refute.

    The supposed objection to bid’a makes no sense. A bid’a is something new, which can be good or bad. In Islam there is a juristic rule that “the norm with regard to things is permissibility.” One looks at the intention behind the new thing and its outcome, and only then it is possible to tell whether it is good or bad, as the Prophet said: “All actions are judged by the intentions behind them.” The intention behind celebrating the Prophet’s birth is to honour all that he represents. Muslims have been celebrating this blessed event for centuries, and the rejectionists have been predicting those Muslims to become polytheists as long. This is absurd.

    Islam has all kinds of enemies these days, and there are immense efforts and huge amounts of money being spent to discredit and distort Islam and defame the Prophet (salla Allah ‘alaihi was sallam). How can any Muslim justify spending any time and effort lambasting brothers and sisters who celebrate the Prophet’s birth instead of defending him against the incessant attacks? There is no credible justification whatsoever.

    1. You are really in error; when you say all actions are judged by intention; which actions are these/. these are only actions/deeds/worship which are allowed in Islam only. Innovations/munkarat/sinfuls actions do not enter into this hadith. You cannot have a religious function like the miladu nabii innovated in the 6th century A.H to be an acceptable ibada while all the pious predecessors did not celebrate the birth day of the prophet. Are you telling us that your religion is better than those of the pious predecessors who new the Quran as it was revealed in their very lifetime…amazing..!!. Follow and to not innovate because it is sufficient for us what was left by the prophet, otherwise you will have your selves be like the Jews and Christians with innovations in their religion.

      1. Hssan,

        Your comments ignore points the article already deals with, so I am not going to repeat these.

        I would only like to add point. There is a legal principle in Islamic law that states that “everything is permissible by default.” In other words, unless there is something in the Qur’an or Sunna that describes a thing or practice as impermissible, then it is considered permissible. Without such a rule, the status of permissibility or otherwise of most things and practices in our modern life would be unknown. BTW, the legal rule that “everything is permissible by default” is accepted even by scholars such as Ibm Taymia, whom I guess you respect. You need to consult his book “Majmu’ al-Fatawa”. Your comments reflect ignorance of this rule.

  5. Salam Louay Sb,
    I don’t agree that all
    those who celebrate the Prophet’s birthday stop at merely celebrating his
    birthday. You may be aware that there is a sect in India which forms the
    majority among the Muslims according to whom it is an article of faith to
    believe:
    ·
    Muhammad,
    although insan-e-kamil (perfect human),
    possessed a nūr or “light” that predates creation.
    ·
    God created the world
    for the sake of Muhammad. Adam saw on the throne of God the Shahada “There is
    no god except God, and Muhammad is His messenger” and when Adam begged God to
    forgive him his sin he invoked by the merit of Muhammad. On Adam’s forehead was
    a blaze of light which was to be transferred through the generations down to
    Muhammd: it was the light of Muhammad.
    ·
    Muhammad is haazir
    naazir
     (can be present in many places at the same time by the power
    given by Allah,
    ·
    That he possessed
    knowledge of the Unseen. etc etc. :
    All
    of which contradict the Quran. In this distorted description of the Prophet,
    these people are clearly competing with both the Christians and the Hindus.
    Muhammad is so special for these people that he is the reason that God created
    the Universe itself!
    Listen to the Qawalis
    in which they invoke not the name of God but that of Muhammad. For example:
    Bhar do jholi meri Ya Muhammad (Fill up my
    begging bowl O Muhammad)
    Lautkar mai na jaaunga khaali (I shall not return
    empty handed)

    Tumhaare aastane se zamaana kya nahi paata (At your shrine, what is
    it that the world does not get)
    Koi bhi dar se khaali maangne waala nahi jaata (no
    beseecher returns disappointed)
    While you may be right
    that there are some who celebrate birthdays but make an exception when they do
    not celebrate the Prophet’s birthday but go back to their forefathers and you
    will find that they did not celebrate birthdays at all. Even today there are
    many who just do not celebrate anyone’s birthday.
    If
    you   read my earlier comment carefully,
    I am finding fault with those who object to the bid’at of celebrating the
    Prophet’s birthday but have themselves distorted the message of the Quran and
    corrupted the Islamic theology.
     

  6. Dear brother Javeed,

    Thank you for your thoughts. There is a serious methodological flaw in the argument you advocate. You are arguing that people have made various claims about the Prophet and some of these are not factual. But then Muslims have come up with all kinds of interpretations for just about every verse in the Qur’an, and some of these interpretations are credible for some people yet completely absurd for others. I would be very surprised if you yourself have not come across interpretations you totally disagree with. Going with the logic of your argument about celebrating the Prophet’s birth, what are you suggesting that should be done about the ongoing phenomenon of misinterpreting the Qur’an? Stop people from reading the Qur’an, stop them from attempting to understand the Qur’an, or what?

    Also, you seem to have a particular image of the people who make about the Prophet the kind of claims you disagree with, imagining them to be poorly-educated and lacking in knowledge in comparison to those who do not make such claims. Before you take such a view, please read about the scholars who have made such claims. They are not what you think.

    The other issue that you keep on glossing over is that Muhammad (salla Allah ‘alaihi wa sallam) has not turned into a god as a result of the celebration of his birth. Yet celebrating his birth is an occassion in which Allah is much remembered and worshipped. See my points above about what the Qur’an says about remembering the Prophet.

    There is no good argument whatsoever for any Muslim to dedicate time and effort to convince other Muslims not to celebrate the birth of the Prophet. This is even more so given the attacks that Islam and the Prophet are coming under all the time from various directions in the world.

  7. Dear Brother Louay,

    You make too many assumptions and argue based on your assumptions.

    The fact that my religious views are monotheistic does not mean that I hold all polytheists to be as you say “poorly-educated and lacking in knowledge” in comparison to the monotheists. Why would I then consider Muslims who hold a different view from mine as “poorly-educated and lacking in knowledge”? As you should know from the Quran, knowledge alone is never enough and if this was so, all people would have been alike.

    (45:17) And We granted them Clear Signs in affairs (of Religion): it was only after knowledge had been granted to them that they fell into schisms, through insolent envy among themselves. Verily thy Lord will judge between them on the Day of Judgment as to those matters in which they set up differences.

    I have no quarrel with anyone andI support every group’s right to advance their viewpoint. Those who oppose (peacefully and through discussion alone) celebrating the Prophet’s birthday have a valid religious view point and are well within their rights to oppose it peacefully. You are also well within you rights to argue against them. However, as far as your arguments in this article are concerned, they are flawed.

    The article focuses on a sub set of people who celebrate the birthday of the Prophet who in your opinion have not slipped  into polytheism and idol worship. It completely ignores the large number of Muslims who celebrate the Prophet’s birthday and have slipped into polytheism and idol worship.

    Allah has been called in verse (24:35) The Light of the heavens and the earth. These people, by saying that the Light or Nur of Muhammad precedes the rest of Allah’s creation, have place Muhammad just a shade below God but since both are Light I am not sure what difference do they really make. Have they not gone beyond the Christians who only claim that Jesus Christ is the begotten son of God and almost on par with the Hindus who claim their “prophets” to have been God? I have cited evidence to show that these people seek from the Prophet what should be sought solely from God  which in my opinion is polytheism and revere/worship the Prophet’s relics including his grave/shrine from where “nobody returns unfulfilled in his prayer” which in my opinion is both idol worship and polytheism.

    The article also focuses on a sub set of people who celebrate birthdays in general but do not celebrate the prophet’s birthday and assumes that these people also object to the celebration of the prophet’s birthday.Without exception, being human, we are all subject to many transgressions of what we otherwise consider to be wrong or a sin or not conforming to the highest standards and principles of morality. People therefore lie sometimes but not always etc etc.while considering all lies to be immoral. So I find nothing wrong in people making compromises in their private life as it concerns birthdays but not in their religion.

    The article completely ignores the set of people who do not celebrate birthdays at all and oppose celebrating the prophet’s birthday as a matter of religious principle. It assumes that such people do not exist when it is mostly likely that all opposition to celebrating the prophet’s birthday is from such people alone.You can prove anything by ignoring half the data and I am afraid that this article is flawed in that it highlights only what suits the author’s thesis and ignores the substantial evidence which completely demolishes .his thesis.

     

  8. Dear brother Javeed,

    I need to bring this thread to an end, as you keep on repeating the same points, and these points are not particularly relevant to the article anyway.

    The article is not making any assumption. It is not about any group of people or a subset of them. It is all based on reading the Qur’an as stipulating that the love for the Prophet is at the heart of one’s practice of Islam. That is the core of what this article says.

    The article then mentions the rejectionists and shows how they treat the Prophet and their loved one differently. Let me repeat for the last time something that the article has already discussed. The rejectionists may not celebrate the birthdays of their loved ones but they do celebrate other events of their loved ones. Let’s not get bogged down in the silly argument about whether they specifically celebrate birthdays or not. I do not believe there are people who object to the celebration of the Prophet’s birth or do not celebrate it who at the same time do not celebrate anything about their sons, daughters….etc. These people do not exist. The question is that whether this behaviour says anything about how much love they may or may not have for the Prophet (salla Allah ‘alaihi was sallam). You are free of course to take whatever view you are happy with.

    I do not want to spend more time on this thread, so this is my last comment on your replies.

    Regards.

    1. Join the discussion…Understand this great principle: IN ISLAM ALL KINDS OF IBADA (ACTS OF WORSHIP) ARE NOT ALLOWED UNLESS YOU BRING AN EVIDENCE HAVING BEEN DONE IN THE PAST AND AS UNDERSTOOD BY THE COMPANIONS OF THE PROPHET; UNLIKE ALL THINGS THAT WE EAT/OR USE IN OUR DAILY LIFE ALL OF THEM HAVE A GENERAL RULE THAT ARE PERMISSABLE UNLESS YOU BRING A PROHIBITION FROM THE TEACHING OF ISLAM
      So amazingly you find somebody saying; where is it in the Quran that it is not allowed to celebrate Maulid/…Its you to tell us where is it commanded to celebrate in the Quran? did the companions of the prophet celebrate?…if not why? Did they not have the Quran?..Or they didn’t love the prophet more than you love him. Unless you have your own understanding of the Quran/sunnah than the Sahaba…….

      1. Hssan,

        Your comments ignore points the article already deals with, so I am not going to repeat these.

        I would only like to add point. There is a legal principle in Islamic law that states that “everything is permissible by default.” In other words, unless there is something in the Qur’an or Sunna that describes a thing or practice as impermissible, then it is considered permissible. Without such a rule, the status of permissibility or otherwise of most things and practices in our modern life would be unknown. BTW, the legal rule that “everything is permissible by default” is accepted even by scholars such as Ibm Taymia, whom I guess you respect. You need to consult his book “Majmu’ al-Fatawa”. Your comments reflect ignorance of this rule.

  9. Salam Bro Louay,

    It’s been more than 5 years since you wrote this article but the arguments against celebrating the birthday of our beloved prophet sallalahualiahiwasalam still goes on.

    For my part, I have refrained from the word ‘celebrate’ and instead use the word ‘commemorate’ and ask them to point out to me which of the practice of mine goes against the teachings of the prophet sallalahualiahiwasalam or the pious predecessors:
    i) Reading salawats;
    ii) Reading sirah;
    iii) Reciting Quran
    iv) Bringing together family and friends;
    v) Strengthening siratulrahim
    vi) Entertaining family and friends with a meal

    The above is what happens at my home on an almost monthly basis and we still use the term ‘mawlid’.

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