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The Mawlid Papers Part 21 – An Abridgment of The Treatise on the Ruling of Celebrating the Prophet’s Birthday by Allamah Shawkani

An Abridgment of The
Treatise on the Ruling of Celebrating the Prophet’s Birthday
رسالة في حكم المولد
الإمام محمد بن علي الشوكاني
Imaam Muhammad bin ‘Alee ash-Shawkaanee (d. 1170H)
Edited by Shaykh Muhammad Sahbee bin Hasan Hallaaq
With Comments From
Shaykh Saaleh bin ‘Abdullah al-‘Usaymee
Teacher in the Prophet’s Masjid, al-Madeenah
Edited and Compiled by
Ariff bin Abee Bakr Olla
بسم الله الرحمان الرحيم

Praises are for the One Who Sent the Bringer of Glad Tidings and the one who came as a Warner. The illuminating lantern with a Sharee’ah which is clear and pure. A monotheistic religion which has wide-spread acceptance, predominant and inviting in its message. Its people are the carries of the Sunnah, irradiating its radiance removing by it all traces of darkness and despondency.

To proceed from:

The humble servant, Muhammad bin ‘Alee ash-Shawkaanee[1] – may Allaah Forgive his and his father’s sins – was asked about the celebrating of the Prophet’s [Peace and Blessings of Allaah be upon him] birthday[2]. He said:

I say: thus far, I have not found affirmative evidence from the Book, nor for the Sunnah, nor from scholarly consensus (Ijmaa’), nor from al-Qiyaas (analogy with pre-established rulings in the Sharee’ah), nor from al-Istidlaal (the process of derivation)[3] to support the Mawlid. Rather, there is scholarly consensus that celebrating the birthday of the Prophet [Peace and Blessings of Allaah be upon him] was not present at the time of the best generation (i.e. the Companions – may Allaah be Pleased with them all), nor those after them (i.e. the students of the Companions – may Allaah have Mercy on them all) nor those after them (i.e. the times of the four Imaams and those like them – may Allaah have Mercy on them all). Scholars throughout the generations have all agreed that celebrating the birthday of the Prophet is an innovation which was invented by Sultaan al-Muthhafar Aboo Sa’eed Kawkboonee bin Zayn ad-Deen ‘Alee bin Sabaktayn[4], in a place called Irbil.

Therefore, the first time such a celebration was practiced was some six hundred years after the Hijrah of the Prophet in the seventh century, thus none of the scholars have denied the Mawlid being an innovation[5].

Based on these facts, the person who believes it to be permissible to celebrate the birthday of the Prophet [Peace and Blessings of Allaah be upon him], knowing it to be an innovation and that all forms of innovation are misguidance, then they have become misguided by the very statement of al-Mustaphaa [Peace and Blessings of Allaah be upon him]. They are only introducing something which will oppose his purified Sharee’ah. 

The only proof they may perhaps rely on is the fact that some scholars have divided innovations intro various types, however, this again has no real tangible proof to help establish it. Therefore, I cannot accept the opinion of those who hold it permitted to innovate such a practice (or use innovated principles to try to support it), except until they are able to present clear proof to authenticate such an innovation[6].

As for taking the opinion of such-and-such scholar or such-and-such individual then this is not academic. The truth is greater than the statement or opinion of any scholar. If we were to make rulings based on the statements of scholars (alone, without any evidence) then in actual fact we will be basing our rulings on hearsay and anecdotes. So none can permit such an innovation except those who have anomalies from the Muslims[7].

As for what is pure and noble (i.e. the way of the Salaf) and those who follow them, then one will not be able to find from them a single utterance to support this innovation. Rather, their statements are all in agreement that anything invented into the religion is an innovation. It is from the most contemptible vices which lead the Sharee’ah becoming eroded to corruption. For this reason, you will see this land (Yemen in the time of the Shaykh) baring the fruits of it being purified from the cult of the Soofees, those who practice wicked actions introduced into the religion, and all Praises are due to Allaah.

After its introduction, eventually the practice of Mawlid under the caliph al-Mahdee ad-Deen al-‘Abbaas bin al-Mansoor [may Allaah have Mercy on him], was eradicated. He banned the Mawlid and he ordered that tombs and shrines that the people had become devoted to, be destroyed and leveled. He returned the nation back to Allaah, the Most High, and to follow the path of the Salaf as-Saaleh (the pious predecessors).

Sparks of innovation spread like wildfire, especially the innovation of the Mawlid, because the masses from the common folk are always allured to innovation and at times gain a passion for it. Most laypeople only follow that which leads to degeneracy and they take up all paths to achieve its aims. They divulge in whatever is Haraam (prohibited) until they end up falling into immorality, similar to the implications found with the celebration of the Mawlid.

So whoever is able to attend these celebrations, from the people of knowledge and that their word will be accepted by them, then he should explain to them their wrongdoing – even though it may seem like they are doing something commendable. He must preach to laymen and those who are misguided. He must try all means to distance them from this innovation and show rejection of it, and by this, they can advise the general masses to leave the opinions of the person they are (blindly) following. Some of even believing that their pious saints visit them during these celebrations.

Where is the honour of our religion? If the religion disappears then where would our modesty, piety and intellect go? Do they not realise that laypeople will accept these practices which will lead to all forms of immorality. They will adopt any measure to celebrate this event in the name of enjoyment.

From this, we realise the mistake that some have fallen into when they claim that these celebrations are only a praiseworthy event of Dhikr and sharing of food between Muslims. There is no harm in this, they claim. Just because we are celebrating the Mawlid it doesn’t mean anything Haraam will take place, they say.

We say: celebrating the Mawlid is an innovation, this is something you admit to, and thus innovations can only increase a person in what is foul and immoral. It is a means to corruption[8]. Rather, saying the Mawlid is prohibited involves both gatherings where you think nothing wrong will happen with gatherings which are clear in its misconducts.

A principle known as “Blocking the Means” (سد الذرائع) is a principle which takes the objectives of the Sharee’ah and thwarts all means that lead to whatever that is not permissible. This principles is extremely important to which the majority of the scholars have agreed to and adopted[9].

If all of this becomes clear to you, and if you have a shred of justice within you, you will not disagree to what is being said here. We have explained above that none of the People of the Household of the Prophet [Peace and Blessings of Allaah be upon him] ever permitted the Mawlid[10], and it is likewise upon you (if you are just) to know the evidences and arguments presented by those who reject such a celebration[11].

So we say to you (supporter of the Mawlid), you have agreed with us that there is scholarly consensus that the Mawlid is an innovation. It was introduced by kings in the seventh century and it was only after then did people believe it to be a part of the religion and adopted by religious personalities. After it became apparent, the scholars authored books in rejection for such an innovation. From them include:

Al-Mawrid fee al-Kalaam ‘ala ‘Amal al-Mawlid by the Faqeeh Taaj ad-Deen al-Faakihaanee al-Maalikee (d. 734AH)[12]. In this treatise he describes and exposes its wickedness.

In the above book there is also a Fatwaa by al-Faakihaanee’s Shaykh, al-Allaamah, the Imaam – Ibn Daqeeq al-‘Eed (d. 702AH) prohibiting the Mawlid.

Imaam Aboo ‘Abdillah bin Haaj, the Faqeeh of Egypt in his time (d. 737AH) wrote a book called al-Madkhal fee ‘Amal al-Mawlid.

Imaam Muhammad bin ‘Abdillah al-Jazaree ash-Shafi’ee (d 660) wrote a book called at-Ta’reef bil Mawlid ash-Shareef.

Imaam and Haafidh Shams ad-Deen bin Naasir ad-Deen ad-Dimishqee wrote Mawrid al-Saadee fi Mawlid al-Haadee.

Al-Allaamah as-Suyootee also wrote a book called Husn al-Maqsid fi ‘Amal al-Mawlid.

Some of these book clearly describe the prohibition of the innovation of the Mawlid, whilst some of them seek to permit it, despite the fact that all those who authored books on this topic are all in agreement that the Mawlid is an innovation. They admit that there is no direct evidence to support the Mawlid.

Some of them try to use the following evidences[13]:

The Hadeeth where the Prophet [Peace and Blessings of Allaah be upon him] came to al-Madeenah and he found the Jews fasting the Day of ‘Aashooraa, so he asked them about it. They replied by saying, “We are fasting this day because it is the day in which Allaah drowned Fir’awn and saved Moosaa. So we fast out of thanksgiving to Allaah, the Most High (i.e. specifying special acts of worship in thanks to Allaah for the birth of the Prophet).[14]

Ibn Hajar and others also used the Hadeeth in which it states that  the Prophet [Peace and Blessings of Allaah be upon him] gave ‘Aqeeqah for himself after he became a Prophet[15][16].

This Hadeeth is also used by Suyootee also in trying to prove the validity of the Mawlid[17]. However what is strange is that these two scholars are now guilty of supporting innovation[18].

In summary, those who seek to permit the Mawlid have anomalies in their opinion and their arguments, compared to the vast majority who prohibit it. The majority have prohibited whilst those who permit it have only made the exception to celebrations which only entail Dhikr and sharing of communal food between Muslims. However as we have stated above, all paths to mischief must be blocked as a principle agreed to be all scholars. None of the scholars have differed on this point[19].

Even if we were to argue that Mawlid is merely eating and Dhikr, then we know that now the celebrations of the Mawlid are not reduced just to eating and Dhikr. The Mawlid today entails many acts which are prohibited, which would lead to an agreement in its prohibition between the scholars.

This is the answer the question and I think what has been said is sufficient.

However, it is important to expose some of the practices that happen during such events. I have been informed that some laypeople take the Mawlid as an occasion where they supplicate or seek blessings from the deceased or even stones in some cases.

There is no doubt that all of this is disbelief, even worse of those who worship idols. Idol-worshippers (especially at the time of the Prophet)  maintained that they are worshipping Allaah and only worshipped these idols in order to gain closer to Allaah in times of difficulty. However, grave-worshippers worship supplicate and seek the inhabitants of the grave during all measures – in times of difficulty and ease. So what Kufr can equate to this!? What act of criminality is greater? How can they leave al-Qaadir (the All-Able, Allaah) and take their affairs to anything else, and then claim to be a believer? Your Muslim brothers who have practices this have fallen into clear acts of Kufr, and to Allaah we belong and to Him we will return[20].

So may Allaah have Mercy on al-Mahdee ad-Deen al-’Abbaas bin al-Mansoor who put a stop to such practices, as much as he was able.

End of abridged Fatwaa of Aboo ‘Alee Muhammad bin ‘Alee ash-Shawkaanee – may Allaah have Mercy on him.

May the Peace and Blessings of Allaah be upon His Messenger, his family and companions.

Written Rabee’ al-Awwal, 1206 – 1784 Gregorian.

[1] Shaykh Saaleh bin ‘Abdullah al-‘Usaymee [may Allaah Preserve him] said about him: He is the Shaykh, al-Allaamah Aboo ‘Alee Muhammad bin ‘Alee Shawkaanee (1170-1250). He is also known as Shaykh al-Islaam of Yemen, so if the scholars of Yemen (post 1250AH – 1834 Gregorian) use Shaykh al-Islaam then they are referring to him. He is also known as the Shawkaanee – the Father, as his children were also scholars.

[2] TN: the very origin of celebrating has many reservations. The Encyclopedia Americana (1991 edition) states: “The ancient world of Egypt, Greece, Rome, and Persia celebrated the birthdays of gods, kings, and nobles.” Authors Ralph and Adelin Linton reveal the underlying reason for this; in their book The Lore of Birthdays, they write: “Mesopotamia and Egypt, the cradles of civilization, were also the first lands in which men remembered and honoured their birthdays. The keeping of birthday records was important in ancient times principally because a birth date was essential for the casting of a horoscope.” So, there is a direct connection between the Pagan practice of birthday celebrations and shirk i.e. astrology (horoscopes and fortune-telling). Even the early Christians deny celebrating birthdays: The World Book Encyclopaedia states: “The early Christians did not celebrate His [Christ’s] birth because they considered the celebration of anyone’s birth to be a pagan custom” [Volume 3, page 416]

[3] TN: Imaam ash-Shawkaanee [may Allaah have Mercy on him] states that the difference between al-Qiyaas and al-Istidlaal is that Qiyaas may be direct analogy or analogy based on the understanding. Whereas al-Istidlaal is purely what the Mujtahid (the scholar) deems to be a realistic derivation. Also, al-Istidlaal has more to do with the overall meaning or reason for a particular ruling whereas al-Qiyaas would be more implicit. [Irshaad al-Fuhool ila Tahqeeq al-Haqq min ‘Ilm al-Usool (Pg. 579)]

[4] Shaykh Saaleh bin ‘Abdullah al-Usaymee [may Allaah Preserve him] explains: the scholars differed on who initially innovated this practice. Some of the scholars said it was innovated by Sultaan al-Muthhafar as Shawkaanee is saying here.

Others said it was his son, and this is the opinion of many of scholars like as-Suyootee in his book on the Mawlid.

Others said it was the ‘Ubaaydiyoon also known as the Faatimids in Egypt (these were a group of Raafidah (Shia) who had despicable beliefs and practices) as stated by Ibn Katheer and adh-Dhahabee. This is the correct opinion as stated by our Shaykh Ismaa’eel al-Ansaaree [may Allaah have Mercy on him].

[5] Imaam Aboo Qaasim Ahmad ash-Shaatibee  [may Allaah have Mercy on him] said, “Innovations are way of inventing something new and ascribing it to the religion. They seek by it to introduce new forms of worship to gain closer to Allaah, the Glorified…such as taking the day of the birth of the Prophet [Peace and Blessings of Allaah be upon him] as a day of worship and celebration and the likes. These innovations are either set in a specific time or in a specific place in which there is no precedence to be found in the Sharee’ah.” [al-‘Itisaam (1/37-39)]

[6] TN: the Prophet [Peace and Blessings of Allaah be upon him] said, “Beware of newly-invented matters, because all innovations (practices into the Sharee’ah) are innovations. Surely, all innovations (practices into the Sharee’ah) are misguidance and every misguidance is in the fire.” [Reported by Muslim (867) and an-Nasaa’ee (1578)]. Imaam Aboo Qaasim Ahmad ash-Shaatibee  [may Allaah have Mercy on him] said, “All acts here have been described as being innovated (thus there is no such thing as a good innovation).” [al-‘Itisaam (2/353)] He also said, “With these evidences, we know that the innovator who practices innovation is a sinner.” [al-‘Itisaam (1/286)]

[7] TN: even if it be a well-respected and firmly grounded scholar, humans are bound to make mistakes and one’s correctness is judged against the proof he brings. Imaam Ibn Munthir said in al-Awsat, “It is not possible for all of the Sunnah to exist in one man (besides the Prophet).” [al-Awsat fee as-Sunnan wa al-Ijmaa’ wa al-Ikhtilaaf (1/469)] Shaykh Muhammad Ameen ash-Shinqeetee said in Adwaa al-Bayaan (adapted from 7/341): that the whole of the Qur’aan and the Sunnah and the meanings within them is gathered in the opinion of their chosen Imaam to follow. Nothing is hidden from its meanings from him. So if he had an opinion on an issue which went against either of the texts from the Qur’aan or the Sunnah, then they defend their blind following by perceiving that his contradictory opinion has been based on his understanding of the texts. Based on this, the texts and all of the correct meanings can be found in the opinions and judgments of this given Imaam. However, this is obviously something false and a clear lie, without any shadow of a doubt. End quote with slight adaptations.

[8] TN: Shaykh al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah [may Allaah have Mercy on him] said, “Changing the religion of Allaah, to the extent that truth and falsehood is not recognised from one another is the state of the Jews, the Christians and all the people who have innovated in to the religion. They have changed the commands and prohibitions of Allaah, changing by it the religion of Allaah.” [Jaami’ ar-Rasaa’il (2/317)]

[9] Ibn al-Qayyim [may Allaah have Mercy on him] said, “The Sharee’ah takes into consideration statements and actions which lead to a greater good or a greater harm. So if the harm is greater, then the act becomes prohibited, this is called سد الذرائع in order to prevent the greater harm. ” [‘Ilaam al-Muwaqi’een (see: 3/135-159)]

[10] TN: the Shaykh came from the Raafidee (Shia) background and up until today Yemen has a large Shia community. Soofees and Shia alike take the Mawlid as an even to celebrate, that’s why it seem as if he has mentioned the wording, “People of the Household of the Prophet”. And Allaah Knows Best.

[11] Shaykh Saaleh al-‘Usaymee explained, “This is an important point because some claim that they are not worshipping or introducing something new into the Sharee’ah. However, we say in response that anything which leads to Haraam is Haraam even if it initially something permitted. Therefore, they have no argument here.”

[12] TN: previously translated here:

[13] TN: as preceded, scholars are in agreement that there is no evidence to support the Mawlid thus being an innovation. However, some have sought to draw an analogy (Qiyaas) with other acts of worship. However, the majority of the scholars, especially the Hanfee school are agreed that there can be no analogy in acts of worship. Taaj as-Subkee explains, “It is not possible to make Qiyaas in acts of worship because Qiyaas requires a feature (‘Ilah) in which the analogy is based upon. Acts of worship don’t have this as acts of worship are set by divine instructions.” [see: Sharh al-Mahalla (2/257)]

[14] TN: its origin is reported in al-Bukhaaree (2004) and Musim (1130) on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbaas [may Allaah be Pleased with him and his father].

[15] Reported by at-Tabaraanee in al-Awsat (994, al-Bazaar (2/74) who said it contains a narrator called ‘Abdullah bin al-Muharrar who is very weak.

[16] TN: meaning when he was born, Peace be upon him, his parents/guardians didn’t offer an ‘Aqeeqah for him so when it became legislated in the Sharee’ah, he did it for himself.

[17] N: there is also another evidence that is used in order to seek proof (al-Istidlaal) for the Mawlid. It is reported that Aboo Lahab manumitted Thuwaybah, a wet nurse, due to the birth of the Prophet [Peace and Blessings of Allaah be upon him]. It is said in this reported that Aboo Lahab will receive a lesser punishment in the Hereafter in return for this action. However, Ibn Hajar [may Allaah have Mercy on him] points out that the narration is Mursal (disconnected; without mentioning the Companion in the chain of narration), thus it is weak.  Even if we were to assume that the chain is connected then the narration has no prophetic revelation behind it, rather it reports that Aboo Lahab was seen in a dream with his punishment lessened. It is well known that rulings in the religion cannot be derived from dreams. [see: Fath al-Baaree (9/145-146)] About the fact that this information was passed via a dream, Aboo Zur’ah al-‘Iraaqee said, “If the Shaytaan can take the form of anyone except the Prophet [Peace and Blessings of Allaah be upon him], then it is highly likely that he took the form of Aboo Lahab (who was cursed and doomed to the fire in Surah al-Masad).” [at-Tarh at-Tathreeb (8/215)]

[18] Shaykh Saaleh al-’Usaymee [may Allaah Preserve him] in exposing the evidences brought forward by as-Suyootee and Ibn Hajar [may Allaah have Mercy on them both].

In response we say that the scholars are agreed that there is no Qiyaas in acts of worship. Therefore, acts of worship must be legislated by divine evidence otherwise known as at-Tawqeef.

Also, the very fact that the Prophet [Peace and Blessings of Allaah be upon him] forbade going into extremes in worship, warned against worshipping him and taking his grave as a place of worship, shows that he forbade us from returning to the ways of Jaahiliyyah. If we take these points then we can see that Qiyaas and Istidlaal to say it is prohibited is stronger than Qiyaas and Istidlaal to say it is permitted.

[19] Shaykh Saaleh as-‘Usaymee summarises:

There is a difference of opinion between the scholars which can be summarized by the following:

-Some said it is permitted on the condition that it doesn’t lead to anything that is prohibited in the Sharee’ah (such as grave worship, worshipping of saints, abandoning of the Salaat, music, intoxication, free-mixing between genders etc.) like as-Suyootee.

-Some said it is Makrooh and not Haraam.

-The majority have said it is Haraam and this is the correct opinion based on the evidences. All innovations are prohibited in the religion. Also, small sins lead to big ones, so if one starts off with a meaningless innovation now, undoubtedly it will spiral and be abused. Lastly, the date of the Mawlid has not been agreed upon or set by the scholars. Some said he was born in the beginning of Rabee’ al-Awwal, others said in the middle of the month such as the 10th or 12th and others said he was born in Rajab, a complete separate month altogether! Therefore there is no proof to set the date. All of this shows its falsehood.

[20] Shaykh Saaleh al-‘Usaymee [may Allaah Preserve him] pointed out that this point mentioned here by ash-Shawkaanee is proof that their Taqleed (blind-following) is not only of their so-called perceived pious saints, but also of the people of Shirk. They make up special acts of worship by specifying certain innovated times and places.

For more information on this, one should refer to al-Qawaa’id al-Arba’ by Shaykh Muhammad bin ‘Abdul-Wahaab [may Allaah have Mercy on him]


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