A: There is nothing in Shari`ah (Islamic law) which permits the celebration of birthdays, whether that of the Prophet (peace be upon him) or any other. What we know from the study of purified Shari`ah and from what has been established and confirmed by the verifiers from the people of knowledge is that such birthday celebrations are, undoubtedly, Bid`ah (innovation in religion). The Messenger (peace be upon him), who was the sincerest advisor, the most knowledgeable of Allah’s Law, who delivered Allah’s Message, did not celebrate his birthday or the birthday of any other person. By the same token, none of his Sahabah (Companions of the Prophet), his Rightly-Guided Caliphs or other followers celebrated his birthday. If such celebrations were correct, good or recommended, they would not have been neglected by the Prophet (peace be upon him) or by his Sahabah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) would not have disregarded it; rather, he would have taught his followers and would have done it himself. His Sahabah after him would have practiced this along with his Rightly-Guided Caliphs (may Allah be pleased with them all). The Sahabah not having held such gatherings gives us certainty that such celebrations are not part of Shari`ah. Furthermore, during the best centuries of Islam such celebrations were not conducted, and therefore, it becomes clear that they are Bid`ah. He (peace be upon him) stated: Anyone who introduces anything into this matter of ours (Islam) that is not part of it will have it rejected. And: Anyone who does an action which is not in accordance with this matter of ours (Islam) will have it rejected. There are other Hadiths referring to this meaning.
Based on this, it is known that such celebrations of the Prophet’s birthday during the month of Rabi` Awwal or other days, as well as others birth celebrations of Al-Badawy, Al-Husayn and others are all condemned Bid`ahs which Muslims must reject because Allah has instead gifted us with two great annual celebrations: `Eid-ul-Fitr (the Festival of Breaking the Fast) and `Eid-ul-Adha (the Festival of the Sacrifice). These two festivals are sufficient for Muslims and protect them from inventing new festivals and rejected celebrations. Love of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is not achieved by holding such birthday celebrations, but his love requires following him, acting according to the rules of his legislation, defending it, inviting others to it and being steadfast on it. This is the love of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) states: Say (O Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم to mankind): “If you (really) love Allâh then follow me (i.e. accept Islâmic Monotheism, follow the Qur’ân and the Sunnah), Allâh will love you and forgive you your sins. Thus, the love of Allah and His Messenger is not expressed through birthday celebrations or Bid`ahs, but by obedience to Allah and His Messenger, being upright in Allah’s Legislation and striving in the Cause of Allah by inviting to the Sunnah of the Messenger (peace be upon him), raising it to the highest position, defending it and denying the actions of those who go against it. This is the way of expressing love of the Messenger (peace be upon him). It is also achieved by following his example in words and deeds, and following his path and inviting others to it. This is the true love proved by adherence to Islamic ethics and acting in accordance with Allah’s Legislation (Glorified and Exalted be He). As for the punishment of those holding these celebrations, it is a different issue because it is up to Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He). Bid`ahs and sins are among the reasons for being punished; however, Muslims may deserve punishment for their sins and Allah may forgive them, perhaps because of their ignorance of the ruling regarding these celebrations or because they just imitated those who think it is the right thing to do; or because of righteous actions and good deeds they forwarded for themselves and become a reason for obtaining Allah’s Forgiveness; or because of the Shafa`ah (intercession) of the Prophets, the believers, or children who died at an early age. The point is that sins and Bid`ahs are reasons for punishment and the perpetrator is subject to Allah’s Will (Glorified and Exalted be He). This applies if the Bid`ah committed does not tantamount to Kufr (disbelief).
If the Bid`ah introduced into religion leads to Kufr, such as those involving major Shirk (associating others with Allah in His Divinity or worship), then the perpetrator will abide in Hellfire forever, we seek the refuge with Allah from this! On the other hand, if the Bid`ah does not involve major Shirk, but it is related to subsidiary matters that contradict Shari`ah (Islamic law) such as innovated Salahs (Prayers) or celebrations which do not include or lead to Shirk, then the perpetrator will be subject to Allah’s Will the same as all sins.