Q: Our question is about celebrating the Mawlid (the Prophet’s birthday), is it Bid`ah (innovation in Islam)? I heard in some places and from some scholars that it is a good Bid`ah and Allah knows best, may Allah bless you!
A: Celebrating the birth of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and righteous people is Bid`ah which began in recent centuries, after the best three centuries of Islam: the first, the second and the third centuries after Hijrah. It is one of the Bid`ahs which some people have introduced into Islam out of love for such celebrations, thinking that it is a good thing to do. The correct opinion, according to verifying scholars, is that such celebrations are Bid`ah. All birthday celebrations, including but not limited to celebrating the birthday of the Prophet (peace be upon him), are Bid`ah. Why is this so? Because the Prophet (peace be upon him), his Sahabah (Companions of the Prophet), the Rightly-Guided Caliphs and the early generations of Islam did not do it. Certainly, goodness lies in following their steps and not following the invented practices which succeeding generations introduced into Islam. It is authentically reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Beware of newly-introduced matters (in religion). He (peace be upon him) also said: The most evil of matters are those which are newly-introduced (in religion), and every Bid‘ah is a Dalalah (deviation from the right). Furthermore, he (peace be upon him) said: 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. It means that it will not be accepted from them. Thus, the Prophet (peace be upon him) explained faith in detail and pointed out that newly-introduced matters in Islam are condemned, and no one is allowed to introduce into Islam what Allah has not permitted. Allah, the Almighty, dispraised such acts in His statement: Or have they partners (with Allâh — false gods) who have instituted for them a religion which Allâh has not ordained? Celebrating the birthday of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and that of the righteous is a newly-introduced act not sanctioned by Allah, or His Messenger (peace be upon him), or the Sahabah who are the best people after the Prophets, the most beloved to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the keenest to do goodness; however, they did not celebrate birthdays. Neither Abu Bakr, `Umar, `Uthman, `Aly, the rest of the Ten Companions Given Glad Tidings of Entering Paradise, the rest of the Sahabah, nor the Tabi`un (Followers, the generation after the Companions of the Prophet) ever celebrated such birthdays. According to some historians, this Bid`ah was introduced by the Fatimid Shiites in Egypt during the fourth century. Later, it was practiced towards the end of the sixth century of Hijrah and in the beginning of the seventh century by those who thought that such celebrations are good acts; and thus, practiced them. However, they are innovations in Islam, because they constitute a form of worship which Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) did not legislate. The Messenger (peace be upon him) conveyed all matters clearly and did not conceal anything that Allah legislated. He (peace be upon him) delivered all the Laws that Allah laid down as he was commanded to deliver to the people. Allah (Exalted be He) states: This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islâm as your religion. Therefore, Allah completed and perfected the religion. There is nothing in this divinely-perfected religion called celebration of birthdays. Accordingly, they are condemned Bid`ah that cannot be described as good, since there is nothing in Islam referred to as a good Bid`ah.
All acts of Bid`ah are misguidance and evil. The Prophet (peace be upon him) stated: Every Bid‘ah is a Dalalah (deviation). Hence, it is not permitted for a Muslim to say: “There are good kinds of Bid`ah”, whereas the Messenger (peace be upon him) said that every Bid`ah is misguidance. This is contradiction and opposition to the Messenger (peace be upon him). It was authentically reported that he (peace be upon him) stated: Every Bid‘ah is a Dalalah (deviation). Hence, it is not allowed for us to say a different opinion from that of the Prophet (peace be upon him). It should be noted that there are some practices which have been established by Islam, yet people think that they are Bid`ahs, but they are not; some of these are compiling the Qur’an into one book and transcribing copies of it, and offering Tarawih (special supererogatory night Prayer in Ramadan) in congregation. Such acts are not categorized as Bid`ahs; rather, they have been established and legislated in Islam, and thus, including them under the term “Bid`ah” is baseless. As for what was reported from `Umar that he said regarding Tarawih Prayer: “What a good Bid`ah”, is a reference to the linguistic meaning of the word Bid`ah and has nothing to do with its Islamic perspective. Moreover, the statement of `Umar did not disagree with what the Messenger (peace be upon him) practiced or contradicted it. The statement of the Messenger (peace be upon him) takes priority over all other opinions and claims, as his statement: Every Bid‘ah is a Dalalah (deviation). And: Beware of newly-introduced matters (in religion). The Prophet (peace be upon him) further said in Friday Khutbah (sermon): Ama Ba‘d (Now then), the best of speech is the Book of Allah, the best of guidance is the guidance of Muhammad (peace be upon him), the most evil of matters are those which are newly-introduced (in religion), and every Bid`ah is a Dalalah (deviation from the right). This is the judgment of the Messenger (peace be upon him). This Hadith is reported by Muslim in the Sahih, and thus, it is not for a Muslim to go against what Allah legislated or to be stubborn regarding that which the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) brought from Allah; rather, one should surrender and submit to the Law of Allah and abstain from all Bid`ahs and sins. We ask Allah to guide us all to the right way and straight path!