Celebrating Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) Birth (Milad al-Nabi)

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This article is by His Eminence Ayatollah Al-Muhaddith Sheikh Ja’far Al-Sobhani (may Allah preserve him). You can refer to it in the book: “Letters and Articles: 212,” first edition, year: 1419 AH (Hijri), Imam Al-Sadiq Foundation, Qom, Iran. [1]

Celebrating the birth of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is among the manifestations of love for the Prophet. This love, honoring, and reverence for him is rooted in the Quran and the Sunnah (traditions of the Prophet).

Loving the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and honouring him is a fundamental aspect of Islam that cannot be denied. It is well-known that what is sought is not love hidden within the heart without visible effects in real life. Therefore, it is permissible for a Muslim to engage in actions that are considered expressions of love for the Prophet (s.a.w.a.), provided that these actions are lawful and not contrary to Islamic laws.

The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) can be honoured by:

1.            Preserving the prophetic traditions, explaining and publishing them in various forms and modern methods. The same can be done for the sayings of the Ahle Bait (a.s.).

2.            Disseminating articles and words, authoring books about the life of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.), composing poems in various languages and dialects in their honor, just as the early Muslims did.

After the advent of Islam, Arabic literature reveals that composing poems in praise of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was a means by which its authors expressed their love for him (s.a.w.a.).

For instance, Ka’b ibn Zuhair composed an extensive poem in praise of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.), driven by his admiration and love for him. In a portion of his poem, he expresses his devotion for the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) comparing it to one’s devotion for something beautiful:

“Saeeda’s beauty has captured my heart today, I am smitten, unable to be turned away. I was informed that the Messenger of Allah promised me, and pardon from the Messenger of Allah is sought.”

He continues:

“Wait, O camel driver, the one who guides you is none other, than the light from Allah’s swords, anointed like no other.” [2]

Ka’b Ibn Zuhair recited this poem in the presence of Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) and the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) did not object to it.

Hassan Ibn Thabit al-Ansari eulogizing the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and praising his qualities recites:

“Medina is a sanctuary dedicated to the Prophet, A guiding light, where problems cease and fall. It points to the Most Merciful, who is followed by it, and rescues from the hardships, guiding all.”

He goes on to say:

“He shows the way to the Most Compassionate, striving hard, A truthful teacher; those who obey him, their hearts are glad.” [3]

This is Abdullah Ibn Rawaha composing verses in a similar context, saying:
“Keep the polytheists away from his path, for all goodness lies in his message. O Lord, I believe in what he says, I acknowledge Allah’s right to accept his message.” [4]

These are examples of poets during the time of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.), expressing their love and admiration for him through poetry.

If a researcher were to compile the poems and verses dedicated to the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) there would be a need for dozens of volumes. The praise of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was the primary concern of those who were sincere and believers since the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) answered his Lord’s call.

There were devoted poets who poured forth the virtues and merits of the Prophet in magnificent and everlasting poems, drawing inspiration from what was mentioned in the Quran and the pure Sunnah in this field. May Allah reward their commendable efforts and sincere endeavors.

3.            Kissing everything related to the Prophet (s.a.w.a.), such as the walls of his house, his tomb, and the coverings of his grave, is a natural and instinctive act stemming from the principle of love, as indicated by the evidence. [5]

And this is natural and instinctive because, since a believing person cannot physically kiss the Prophet after his journey, they kiss anything associated with him as a form of connection. As we mentioned earlier, this is a natural behavior among humans, where they touch things related to their beloved to feel close to them.

4.            Celebrating their birthdays and delivering sermons and poems praising them and mentioning their efforts and ranks in the Quran and the Sunnah is permissible, provided that these celebrations do not involve prohibited or sinful activities.

Anyone who calls for celebrating the Prophet’s birthday in any century has acted out of love for the Prophet, as commanded by the Quran and the Sunnah through this action.

The author of “Tarikh al-Khamees” says in this regard: “The people of Islam continue to celebrate the month of the Prophet’s birth, holding feasts, giving various forms of charity in its nights, expressing joy, increasing acts of kindness, and reading his noble biography. They witness the blessings of the Prophet manifesting in them, encompassing every great virtue.” [6]

Abu Shamah al-Maqdisi also wrote in his book: “One of the best deeds to perform on the day corresponding to the Prophet’s birth is giving charity and performing acts of kindness, as well as displaying adornments and expressing joy. In this, there is not only goodness for the poor but also a sign of love for him. [7]

Al-Qastalani stated: “The people of Islam continue to celebrate the month of his birth, holding feasts, giving various forms of charity in its nights, expressing joy, increasing acts of kindness, and reading his noble biography. The blessings of his birth manifest in them, encompassing every great virtue. May Allah have mercy on those who consider the nights of his blessed birth as festive occasions, for it serves as a remedy for the hearts of those suffering from ailments.” [8]

If you understand what we have mentioned, you should not doubt the permissibility of celebrating the Prophet’s birthday as a religious celebration that pleases Allah and His Messenger. It should not be labeled as an innovation (bid’ah), as innovation refers to acts that have no basis in the Quran and Sunnah. The evidence supporting this practice is general and sufficient.

These celebrations symbolize the honoring of the Prophet and reflect your sincere emotions. They undoubtedly elevate the status and greatness of the Prophet. Everyone who witnesses these celebrations up close will realize that the participants hold their Prophet in high regard and seek to elevate his status, in line with the Quranic verse: “And We raised high your fame” (Surah Inshirah (94) : 4) [9]

The Prophetic Sunnah and the Honor of His Birthday

1.            Muslim recorded in his authentic collection, on the authority of Abu Qatada, that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) was asked about fasting on Mondays, and he replied:
“That is the day I was born, and it is the day when revelation was sent down to me.” [10]

Al-Hafiz Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, when discussing the recommendation of fasting on days when Allah’s blessings are renewed upon His servants, stated the following:
“Among the greatest blessings that Allah has bestowed upon this nation is the appearance of Muhammad (s.a.w.a.), his prophethood, and his being sent to them. Fasting on the day when these blessings are renewed by Allah upon His believing servants is a beautiful and excellent practice. It is a form of responding to these blessings with gratitude.”
As Allah says in the Holy Quran: “Certainly Allah conferred a benefit upon the believers when He raised among them an Apostle from among themselves, reciting to them His communications and purifying them, and teaching them the Book and the wisdom, although before that they were surely in manifest error.” (Surah Ale Imran (3): 164) (In all, there are three verses on these lines in the Holy Quran on Prophet (s.a.w.a.)) [12]

2.            Muslim also reported in his authentic collection, on the authority of Ibn Abbas that when the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) saw the Jews fasting on the Day of Ashura. When he inquired about it, they said, “This is the day when Allah saved Moses and the Children of Israel from Pharaoh, so we fast out of respect for it.” The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) responded, “We have more right over Moses than you do,” and he ordered the fasting of that day. (This report is rejected by the Shias for historical inaccuracies but is quoted here because it proves fasting on select days according to the Ahle Tasannun records). [13]

Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani used this hadith to support the legitimacy of celebrating the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) birthday, as reported by al-Hafiz al-Suyuti. He stated:
“This hadith can be used to establish the practice of expressing gratitude to Allah for bestowing His blessings on a particular day by fasting, and this can be repeated annually. Expressing gratitude to Allah can take various forms of worship, such as prostration, fasting, charity, and recitation. What greater blessing is there than the appearance of the Prophet, the Prophet of Mercy, on that day?” [14]

3.            Al-Suyuti also has another statement on this matter. He said: “I have found evidence to support celebrating the birth of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.), from another perspective. Al-Bayhaqi reported from Anas that the Prophet (s.a.w.a.), performed the Aqiqah (sacrifice for a newborn) for himself after his prophethood, even though it is reported that his grandfather, Abdul Muttalib, performed it at his seventh birthday. Aqiqah is not repeated. This indicates that what the Prophet (s.a.w.a.), did was an act of gratitude for Allah’s gift of him as a mercy to the worlds and an honor to his nation, as he used to pray for himself. Therefore, it is also recommended for us to express gratitude for his birth by coming together, sharing meals, and other acts of worship and celebration.”

4.            Bukhari reported from Umar Ibn al-Khattab that a Jewish man said to him: “There is a verse in your Book that, if it had been revealed to us Jews, we would have taken that day as a festival.” Umar asked, “Which verse?” The Jewish man replied, “This verse: ‘Forbidden to you (for food) are dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine, and that on which hath been invoked the name other than Allah; that which hath been killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a headlong fall, or by being gored to death; that which hath been (partly) eaten by a wild animal; unless ye are able to slaughter it (in due form); that which is sacrificed on stone (altars); (forbidden) also is the division (of meat) by raffling with arrows: that is impiety. This day have those who reject faith given up all hope of your religion: yet fear them not but fear Me. This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.” (Surah Maidah (5):3) [15]

Umar replied, “I know the day and the place where this verse was revealed to the Prophet (s.a.w.a.). It was on a Friday while he was standing at Arafat during the Hajj season.” (This report is rejected by the Shias for historical inaccuracies but is quoted here because it proves celebrating certain occasions as Eid according to the Ahle Tasannun records) [16]

Tirmizi also reported a similar hadith from Ibn Abbas and declared it authentic. Tirmizi commented: “This is a sound hadith.”

In this narration, Umar Ibn al-Khattab accepted the idea of taking a day on which a great blessing occurred as a festival. When the same day of the year returns, it serves as an occasion for gratitude, joy, and celebration. [17]

We see that even Prophet Isa, when he invoked Allah to send down a table spread with food, referred to it as an ‘Eid’ (festival). “Isa the son of Maryam said: O Allah, our Lord! send i down to us food from heaven which should be to us an ever-recurring happiness, to the first of us and to the last of us, and a sign from Thee, and grant us means of subsistence, and Thou art the best of the Providers.” Surah Maidah (5): 114

The Prophet (s.a.w.a.), was a great blessing from Allah to the Muslims, so why not take his birth as a day of joy and celebration? [18]

It is indeed true that celebrating the birth of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.a.), is a practice that has been widely accepted among Muslims throughout history. The consensus (ijma) of the Muslim community on the permissibility and desirability of celebrating the Prophet’s birth has been established long before any doubts or objections arose. This practice was embraced and celebrated for centuries without significant opposition.

Some historical accounts attribute the initiation of the Milad (birthday of Prophet) celebration to different individuals or rulers, such as the ruler of Irbil, King Al-Muzaffar, or the Fatimid rulers in Cairo. However, regardless of who first initiated the celebration, clearly Muslims collectively celebrated the Milad over extended periods without any substantial objections. The consensus of the Ummah on the permissibility and desirability of this practice was well-established before any doubts were raised.

The objection to the Milad celebration as a bid’ah (innovation) emerged much later, primarily in the writings of scholars like Ibn Taymiyyah, Abdul Aziz Ibn Abdul Salam [19], and Al-Shatibi. Despite their objections, the consensus on its permissibility had already been established for centuries. The concept of ijma, or consensus, holds significant weight in Islamic jurisprudence.

Allah’s guidance in the Quran and the Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) actions and words in the hadith have been used to justify the celebration of the Milad. The practice has continued for generations as a means of expressing love and respect for Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.a.). It is crucial to understand that the objections raised by a few scholars in later centuries do not negate the historical practice and consensus of the Muslim community.
“And whoever acts hostilely to the Apostle after that guidance has become manifest to him, and follows other than the way of the believers, We will turn him to that to which he has (himself) turned and make him enter hell; and it is an evil resort.” (Surah Nisa (4): 115) [20]

1.            “Safinah al-Bihar”: The subject is “love.”

2.            Ibn Hisham: The Prophetic Biography: 2|513.

3.            The same source: 2|666.

4.            Ibn Hisham: The Prophetic Biography: 2|371.

5.            Abu Bakr entered the Prophet’s room, may (s.a.w.a.) after his passing, while he was covered with a burial shroud. He uncovered his face, kissed it, and wept, saying, “By my father, O Prophet of Allah, Allah will not cause you to die twice. The death that was decreed for you, you have already experienced.” Refer to Sahih al-Bukhari: Book of Funerals: 2|17.

6.            Al-Diyar Bakri: “Tarikh al-Khamees”: 1|323.

7.            Al-Halabi: “The Biography”: 1|83-84.

8.            Al-Mawahib al-Laduniya: 1|148.

9.            The Holy Quran: Surah Al-Inshirah (94), verse 4, page 596.

10.         Muslim: Sahih: 3|168, Chapter on the Recommendation of Fasting Three Days Each Month from the Book of Fasting.

11.         The Holy Quran: Surah Aal-E-Imran (3), verse 164, page 71.

12.         Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali: “Lata’if al-Ma’arif” (Delights of Knowledge): 98.

13.         Muslim: Sahih: 3|150, Chapter on Fasting on the Day of Ashura from the Book of Fasting.

14.         Al-Suyuti: “Al-Hawi lil-Fatawa” (The Complete Compendium of Legal Opinions): 1|196.

15.         The Holy Quran: Surah Al-Ma’idah (5), verse 3, page 107.

16.         Al-Bukhari: Sahih: 1|14, Chapter on Increasing and Decreasing in Faith from the Book of Faith, 6|50 Tafsir of Surah Al-Ma’idah. It is also narrated by Al-Tirmizi in 5|250. According to concurrent narrations, it was revealed on the 18th of Dhul-Hijjah during the Farewell Pilgrimage.

17.         Isa al-Humairi: “Balagh al-Ma’mul” (Attainment of the Desired): 29.

18.         The Holy Quran: Surah Al-Ma’idah (5), verse 114, page 127.

19.         He is Abd al-Aziz ibn Abd al-Salam al-Sulami al-Dimashqi (577-660 H): A Shafi’i jurist. He authored “Al-Tafsir al-Kabir” and “Masail al-Tariqah” among other works. Refer to A’lam al-Zarkali: 4|21.

20.         The Holy Quran: Surah An-Nisa (4), verse 115, page 97.

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