Celebrating the Prophet’s Birthday ﷺ

by The Albaani Blog


لا بركة في الجهل
“There is no blessing in ignorance.”

The PDF: Celebrating the Prophet’s Birthday.

The Imaam said: Celebrating the noble birthday of the Prophet ﷺ, is it good or evil?

Questioner: [It is] good.

Al-Albaani: Okay.  This good—were the Prophet ﷺ and his Companions ignorant of it?

Questioner: No.

Al-Albaani: I am not satisfied now with you [just] saying no.  Rather it is obligatory upon you to proceed and say, “It is impossible for this good—if it is good—or any other such good to be hidden from the Prophet ﷺ and his Companions specifically since we do not know Islaam except by way of Muhammad ﷺ,” so how do we know some good which he did not?!  This is impossible.

Questioner: Establishing the celebration of the Prophetic birthday is a revival of his remembrance ﷺ and in that is honour for him.

Al-Albaani: This philosophising is something we are acquainted with.  We hear it from many people and have read it in their books, but when the Prophet ﷺ called people did he call them to all of Islaam or to Tawhid?

Questioner: Tawhid.

Al-Albaani: The first thing he called them to was Tawhid, after that the prayers were made compulsory, after that fasting, then Hajj and so on.  Therefore, you [too] should proceed, step by step, according to this prescribed Sunnah.

We have now agreed that it is impossible that there can be some good with us which the Prophet ﷺ did not know, [since] we have come to know all good through him ﷺ. No two people will differ about this and no two rams will strike horns over it, and I believe that whoever doubts this then he is not a Muslim.  From the sayings of the Prophet ﷺ that support this is, “I have not left anything which will bring you closer to Allaah except that I have ordered you with it. [Reported by at-Tabaraani, authentic, refer to Asl Sifatis-Salaatin-Nabee, vol. 3, p. 942]

So if celebrating his birthday was good and was something which would bring us closer to Allaah then it is imperative that the Prophet ﷺ should have directed us to it.

Correct or not?

I do not want you to agree with me without being totally convinced about every letter I say.  And you have total freedom to say, “Please, I am not convinced with this point.”  So is there anything that you are not convinced with so far or are you with me?

Questioner: With you totally.

Al-Albaani: May Allaah reward you with good.  So [the Prophet ﷺ said], “I have not left anything which will bring you closer to Allaah except that I have ordered you with it.

We say to all those who claim that it is permissible to hold this celebration, “According to you this celebration is good, therefore either the Prophet ﷺ directed us to it or he did not direct us to it.” So if they say, “He directed us to it.” We say, “Bring your proof if you are truthful.”  And they will never ever find a way to be able to do that.  And we have read the writings of [the Sufi Muhammad ibn] Al-’Alawi [Al-Maaliki, see here for a refutation of him in Arabic] and others regarding this and they do not use as proof anything except the saying that, “This is a good innovation! [bidah hasanah]  This is a good innovation!”

All people, whether it is those who celebrate the birthday or those who denounce this celebration—all of them agree that this celebration was not present in the time of the Prophet ﷺ nor the time of the Noble Companions and nor the time of the eminent scholars.

But those who allow this celebration say, “And what is there that happens in this celebration?  It is a remembrance of the Prophet ﷺ and the sending of salutations upon him and so on!”

So we say, “If it was good they would have preceded us in it.”  You know the saying of the Prophet ﷺ, The best of people is my generation then the ones who follow them then the ones who follow them, this hadith is reported in the two Sahihs.

His generation ﷺ is the one he and his Companions lived in, then the ones who followed them are the Taabieen and those who followed them are the Atbaaut-Taabieen, there is also no disagreement about this.  So can you imagine that there is any good which we could have preceded them in, in both knowledge and action?  Is that possible?

Questioner: As for knowledge, if the Prophet ﷺ had said to anyone in his time that the Earth spins …

Al-Albaani: I’m sorry.  I would prefer you do not sidetrack.  Since I asked you about two things: knowledge and action …  and in reality, what you just said has benefitted me—since naturally when referring to knowledge I am referring to religious [sharee] knowledge not medicine, for example.

I can say that a doctor here is more knowledgeable than Ibn Sina was in his time, because he came generations later, and he has had much much more experience and practice, but this does not prove his virtue before Allaah and nor does it put him before the generations that were given witness to [in the above mentioned hadith].  But it does prove his virtue in the knowledge [i.e., field of expertise] which he knows.  And [in our current discussion] we are speaking about legislative [sharee] knowledge, may Allaah bless you.  So we must pay attention to this.

When I say to you, “Do you believe that it is possible that we can be more knowledgeable?” I am referring to religious [sharee] knowledge not knowledge gained through experience like geography, astronomy, chemistry or physics.  Suppose, for example, in this time there is a disbeliever in Allaah and His Messenger ﷺ but he is the most knowledgeable of all people in these sciences, will that bring him closer to Allaah?

Questioner: No.

Al-Albaani: Thus we are not talking now about knowledge in those fields but about that knowledge by which we want to get closer to Allaah, the Blessed and Most High.  And a short while ago we were talking about the celebration of the birthday of the Prophet ﷺ. So the question now returns, and I hope that I will obtain a clear answer without any side-tracking again.

So I say: do you believe, with what you have been given of intellect and understanding, that it is possible for us—and we are at the end of time—to be more knowledgeable than the Companions and the students of the Companions [Taabieen] and the Mujtahid Imaams in religious [sharee] knowledge, and that we can be faster in doing good actions and getting closer to Allaah than these righteous predecessors?

Questioner: By religious knowledge do you mean exegesis [tafsir] of the Quraan?

Al-Albaani: They are more knowledgeable than us regarding tafsir of the Quraan, they are more knowledgeable than us regarding explanations of the sayings of the Prophet ﷺ—at the end of the day they are more knowledgeable than us regarding the entire Shariah of Islaam.

Questioner: Regarding tafsir of the Quraan, maybe in this time it is more than in the time of the Prophet ﷺ. For example, the Quranic aayah:

وَتَرَى ٱلۡجِبَالَ تَحۡسَبُهَا جَامِدَةٗ وَهِيَ تَمُرُّ مَرَّ ٱلسَّحَابِۚ صُنۡعَ ٱللَّهِ ٱلَّذِيٓ أَتۡقَنَ كُلَّ شَيۡءٍۚ إِنَّهُۥ خَبِيرُۢ بِمَا تَفۡعَلُونَ

And you will see the mountains and think them solid, but they shall pass away as the passing away of the clouds. The Work of Allaah, Who perfected all things. Verily! He is Well-Acquainted with what you do. [Naml: 27:88]

If the Prophet ﷺ had said to anyone in his time that the Earth spins on its axis would anyone have believed him?  No one would have believed him.

Al-Albaani: So, no offense, [but] you want us to record another sidetrack against you?  O my brother, I am asking about knowledge on the whole, not a part of that knowledge, we are asking a general question.

Islaam as a whole, who is more knowledgeable about it?

Questioner: Of course, the Prophet ﷺ and his Companions.

Al-Albaani: This is what we want from you, may Allaah bless you.  As for the tafsir you are referring to, it has no connection to action.  It has a connection with pondering and understanding.  And we have already spoken with you about the previous aayah and we have established for you that those who quote this aayah as a proof that the Earth spins are mistaken.  Because the aayah is referring to the Day of Judgement:

يَوۡمَ تُبَدَّلُ ٱلۡأَرۡضُ غَيۡرَ ٱلۡأَرۡضِ وَٱلسَّمَٰوَٰتُۖ وَبَرَزُواْ لِلَّهِ ٱلۡوَٰحِدِ ٱلۡقَهَّارِ

On the Day when the earth will be changed to another earth and so will be the heavens, and they will appear before Allaah, the One, the Irresistible. [Ibrahim: 14:48]

In any case, we are not talking about this subject.  For argument’s sake, let me agree with you that there could be a man from those who came after who has more scientific knowledge or more knowledge of the natural sciences than a Companion or a student of the Companion and so on.  But this has no connection to righteous actions.  Since today, for example, the disbelievers are more knowledgeable than us in astronomy and its like,

but what do they benefit from that?  Nothing.  So we do not want to delve into this thing now.  We want to talk about that which will bring us closer to Allaah.  We now want to talk about the noble birthday of the Prophet ﷺ.

And we had agreed that if it was good then our Pious Predecessors [As-Salaf As-Saalih] and at the head of them the Messenger of Allaah ﷺ would have been more knowledgeable about it than us and faster in acting upon it than us.  Is there any doubt in this?

Questioner: No, there is no doubt about that.

Al-Albaani: Then do not exceed this boundary now [by delving into] matters from experiential knowledge that have no connection with getting closer to Allaah, the Most High, with righteous actions.

This celebration was not present in the time of the Messenger ﷺ—by the agreement of all—so this ‘good’ was not present in the time of the Prophet ﷺ or the Companions or their students or the Imaams!  So how was this good hidden from them?!

We are forced to say either one of two things.

1) They knew this good like we know it even though they are more knowledgeable than us, or
2) they did not know it [and if they did not know it], then how do we know it?

So if [for argument’s sake] we were to say that they knew it—and this statement is closer and better for the ones who uphold the legitimacy of celebrating the birthday—then why didn’t they act upon it?  Are we closer to Allaah [than them]?

Why didn’t a single one of them make a mistake even once—a Companion, or a taabiee or a scholar from them or a worshipper—[why didn’t a single one make a mistake] and act upon this ‘good’!?

Does it enter your mind [that it is possible that] not a single one [of them] acted upon this good even though they were millions in number?!  And they were more knowledgeable than us and better than us and closer to Allaah?!

You know the saying of the Prophet ﷺ, Do not abuse my Companions.  For by the One who has Muhammads souls in His Hands, if one of you were to spend the like of Mount Uhud in gold, it would not equal a mudd of one of them or even half of it. [Reported by Bukhaari and Muslim]

Do you see the extent of the difference between us and them?

Because they strove in the Way of Allaah, the Most High, with the Messenger of Allaah , and they received knowledge from him fresh and new without all of these numerous intermediaries that are between us and him . As he ﷺ indicated in the authentic hadith, Whoever loves to read the Quran ghadan tariyaa then let him read according to the reading of Ibn Umm Abd, [Reported by Ibn Maajah, no. 138, authentic] namely, [by Ibn Umm ’Abd he was referring to] Ibn Mas’ood, [and], Ghadan tariyaa means fresh and new.

It is not possible for us to imagine that these Pious Predecessors and at the head of them the Companions, may Allaah be pleased with them, were ignorant of some good which would bring them closer to Allaah and [that] it is we [and not them] who have come to know it!  And if we say they did know like we know, then it is impossible for us to imagine that they neglected this good.

Maybe this has clarified the point that I am talking about, inshaa Allaah?

Questioner: Alhamdulillaah.

Al-Albaani: May Allaah reward you with good.  There is something else.  There are many verses and sayings of the Prophet ﷺ which clarify that Islaam has been completed, and I think this is a reality you are aware of and believe in.  There is no difference between a scholar, a student of knowledge or even a commoner on this point, which is that Islaam has been completed and that it is not like the religion of the Jews and the Christians which changes and is replaced daily.

And I remind you of the saying of Allaah, the Most High:

ٱلۡيَوۡمَ أَكۡمَلۡتُ لَكُمۡ دِينَكُمۡ وَأَتۡمَمۡتُ عَلَيۡكُمۡ نِعۡمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ ٱلۡإِسۡلَٰمَ دِينٗاۚ

This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islaam as your religion. [Maaidah: 5:3]

Now comes the question—and this is from another angle, different to what preceded, to show that celebrating the birthday is not good—and that is that if it were good they would have preceded us in it and they, namely the Pious Predecessors, are more knowledgeable than us and worshipped [Allaah] more than us.

This celebration of the Prophet’s birthday ﷺ if it is good then it is from Islaam.  So we say:  Do all of us, both those who deny this celebration and those who uphold it, are we all in agreement as we were on the previous point, that this celebration was not present in the time of the Prophet ﷺ—are we all [still] in agreement [on this second point?] That this celebration, if it is good, then it is from Islaam and that if it is not good it is not from Islaam?

And the day this aayah was revealed:

ٱلۡيَوۡمَ أَكۡمَلۡتُ لَكُمۡ دِينَكُمۡ
This day, I have perfected your religion for you …”

[The day it was revealed] there was no celebration of the Prophetic birthday.  So is it part of the religion according to you?!

I want you to be totally frank with me.  And do not think that I am from the Shaikhs who silence the students or even the common folk, saying, “Be quiet!  You do not know, you do not know!”  No, you are totally free, as though you are talking to a person like yourself or even less than you in age and knowledge.  If you are not convinced then say, “I am not convinced.”

So now, if the celebration is something good then it is from Islaam and if it is not good then it is not from Islaam.  When we agree that the celebration of the birthday was not present when the aforementioned aayah was revealed, then it is very logical [to say] that it is not from Islaam.

And I will confirm what I am saying with more from the Imaam of the place of Hijra [i.e., Madinah] Imaam Maalik ibn Anas, who said, “Whoever introduces an innovation into Islaam …” note how he said a single innovation not innovations, “… holding it as something good then he has assumed that Muhammad ﷺ betrayed Prophethood.” And this is a very dangerous affair—what is you proof O Imaam [Maalik]! Imaam Maalik said, “Read, if you wish, the saying of Allaah, the Most High:

ٱلۡيَوۡمَ أَكۡمَلۡتُ لَكُمۡ دِينَكُمۡ وَأَتۡمَمۡتُ عَلَيۡكُمۡ نِعۡمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ ٱلۡإِسۡلَٰمَ دِينٗاۚ

This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islaam as your religion. [Maaidah: 5:3]

So what was not religion that day is not religion today.”  End of his words.

When did Imaam Maalik say this?  In the second century after the hijrah—one of the generations that had been testified for as having good!  So what about now in the fourteenth century?

This is speech that should be written in gold.  But we are heedless of the Book of Allaah, the Most High, and the sayings of the Messenger of Allaah ﷺ and the sayings of the Imaams that we presume we are following, how very far, how very far [indeed].  And the difference between us and them in following [Islaam] is like the difference between the East and the West.

This is the Imaam of the place to which the Prophet ﷺ migrated saying in a clear Arabic tongue, “So what was not religion that day is not religion today.”

Today celebrating the Prophetic birthday is [regarded as] religion, and if it were not then this dispute would not be taking place between scholars clinging to the Sunnah and defending [the religion] against innovations.

How can this be religion when it was not present in the time of the Prophet ﷺ nor in the time of the Companions nor in the time of the Taabieen [and] nor in the time of the followers of the Taabieen?!

Imaam Maalik is from the followers of the Taabieen and he is from those mentioned in the hadith, The best of generations is my generation then those who follow them then those who follow them, [and he is saying], “So what was not religion that day is not religion today.  And the last of this nation will not be rectified except with that which rectified the first of it.”

What was the first of this nation rectified with?  By innovating matters into the religion and trying to get closer to Allaah, the Most High, with things that the Prophet ﷺ did not do?!

The Prophet ﷺ said, “I have not left anything that will bring you closer to Allaah except that I have ordered you with it.

Why didn’t Allaah’s Messenger ﷺ order us to celebrate his birthday?  This is a question and it has an answer.  There is [in fact] a [different] celebration of the prophetic birthday contrary to this unlegislated celebration. This legislated celebration was present in the time of Allaah’s Messenger ﷺ as opposed to the unlegislated one, along with the huge difference which also exists between the two.

The first of those differences is that the legislated celebration [which will soon be mentioned] is worship which is agreed upon by all of the Muslims.  Secondly, the legislated celebration reoccurs once every single week whereas their unlegislated celebration only occurs once a year.

These are the two distinguishing matters between the two birthday celebrations—namely, that the first is worship and reoccurs every week as opposed to the unlegislated one which is neither worship and nor does it reoccur every week.

And I am not just saying anything on a whim for which Allaah has revealed no authority.  Rather I will relay a saying of the Prophet ﷺ to you which is reported in Sahih Muslim, may Allaah have mercy upon him: from Abu Qatada Al-Ansari who said, “A man came to the Messenger ﷺ and said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah!  What do you say about the fast of Monday?’  So he said, ‘That is the day on which I was born.  And the Quraan was revealed to me on it.’” [Reported by Abu Dawud, no. 2097, authentic, and others]

What is the meaning of this?  It is as though he ﷺ is saying: How can you ask me about it when Allaah brought me out to life on that day and also sent down revelation to me on it?  Namely, it is befitting that you fast on Mondays as thanks to Allaah, the Most High, for creating me on that day and for sending down revelation to me on it.

And this is similar to the fast of the Jews on the day of Aashoora, and maybe you know that before the obligation to fast the month of Ramadaan fasting on the day of Aashoora was the obligation on the Muslims.  And there occurs in some sayings of the Prophet ﷺ that when he migrated to Madinah he found the Jews fasting the Day of Aashoora.  So he asked them about that and they replied saying that this is the day that Allaah saved Moses and his people from Pharaoh, so we fast on it as thanks to Allaah.  So he ﷺ said, “We have more right to Moses than you. [Reported by Bukhaari and Muslim]

So he fasted that day and ordered fasting on it so it became obligatory until Allaah sent down His Saying:

شَهۡرُ رَمَضَانَ ٱلَّذِيٓ أُنزِلَ فِيهِ ٱلۡقُرۡءَانُ هُدٗى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَٰتٖ مِّنَ ٱلۡهُدَىٰ وَٱلۡفُرۡقَانِۚفَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ ٱلشَّهۡرَ فَلۡيَصُمۡهُۖ

The month of Ramadaan in which was revealed the Quraan, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong). So whoever of you sights (the crescent on the first night of) the month (of Ramadaan i.e. is present at his home), he must observe fasts. [Baqarah: 2:185]

Thereafter fasting on the Day of Aashoora became a Sunnah and the obligation was abrogated.  The proof [taken] from this is that the Prophet ﷺ participated with the Jews in fasting the Day of Aashoora as thanks to Allaah, the Most High, that He saved Moses from Pharaoh.  So the door of thanks has also been opened for us by fasting on Mondays because it was the day on which Allaah’s Messenger ﷺ was born and it was the day when revelation came down upon him.

Now I ask you: these people who celebrate the [unlegislated] birthday which we know has no good in it—I know that a lot of these people fast on Mondays just as they fast on Thursdays.  But do you see most of the Muslims fasting on Mondays?

No, they do not fast on Mondays, however most of the Muslims celebrate the Prophetic birthday once every year!  Isn’t this a reversal of the reality?  The saying of Allaah, the Most High, to the Jews is true regarding these people:

أَتَسۡتَبۡدِلُونَ ٱلَّذِي هُوَ أَدۡنَىٰ بِٱلَّذِي هُوَ خَيۡرٌۚ

Would you exchange that which is better for that which is lower? [Baqarah: 2:61]

This is good—i.e., fasting which is agreed upon by all of the Muslims—fasting on Mondays.  Yet, in spite of that, most of the Muslims do not fast it.  So now we turn our attention to the ones who do fast it [and ask]:

Do they know the secret behind fasting on that day?  No, they don’t know.

So where are the scholars who defend the [unlegislated] celebration—why don’t they tell the people that fasting on Mondays is the legislated celebration of the birthday and encourage them regarding it instead of defending the celebration that has not been prescribed?!

And Allaah, the Most High, spoke the truth:

أَتَسۡتَبۡدِلُونَ ٱلَّذِي هُوَ أَدۡنَىٰ بِٱلَّذِي هُوَ خَيۡرٌۚ

Would you exchange that which is better for that which is lower? [Baqarah: 2:61]

And His Messenger ﷺ spoke the truth when he said, “Indeed you will follow the ways of those nations who came before you, span by span and cubit by cubit (i.e., inch by inch) so much so that even if they entered a hole of a lizard, you would follow them. [Reported by Bukhaari and Muslim] And in another narration, “… so much so that if there was someone from them who would have intercourse with his mother in the middle of the road there would be someone from you who would do that also. [Reported by ad-Dawlaabi and Haakim, declared hasan by al-Bazzaar and al-Albaani agreed with him, see Silsilah, no. 1348]

So we have followed the way of the Jews.  We exchanged that which was good for that which was base—we exchanged the celebration of the birthday which occurs once a year and has no basis [in the religion] with that which was good, which is the celebration every Monday. And that is a legislated celebration which you perform by fasting while bearing in mind the secret behind it which is that you fast it as thanks to Allaah, the Most High, that He created the Messenger of Allaah ﷺ on that day and sent down revelation on it.

And I will finish my speech by mentioning his saying ﷺ, Allaah refuses to accept the repentance of an innovator. [Reported by Ibn Maajah and Al-Albaani declared it to be weak but there is another hadith which he declared to be authentic with a similar meaning reported by Abush-Shaikh in Taarikh Asbahaan, p. 259, at-Tabaraani in al-Awsat, no. 4360, and others, that the Prophet ﷺ said, “Indeed Allaah has prevented the repentance of the companion of every innovation.” See As-Silisilah, vol. 4, p. 154, no. 1620]

And Allaah, the Most High, says:

يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلرَّسُولُ بَلِّغۡ مَآ أُنزِلَ إِلَيۡكَ مِن رَّبِّكَۖ وَإِن لَّمۡ تَفۡعَلۡ فَمَا بَلَّغۡتَ رِسَالَتَهُۥۚ وَٱللَّهُ يَعۡصِمُكَ مِنَ ٱلنَّاسِۗ

O Messenger! Proclaim (the Message) which has been sent down to you from your Lord. And if you do not, then you have not conveyed His Message. Allaah will protect you from mankind. [Maaidah: 5:67]

And it has been reported in Sahih Muslim that one of the Taabieen came to ’Aaishah, may Allaah be pleased with her

Questioner: Reading the biography of the Prophet ﷺ is that [not] honouring him?

Al-Albaani: Yes.

Questioner: In it is reward, this is goodness from Allaah!

Al-Albaani: All goodness!  But you will not benefit anything from this question.  Therefore I will cut you off with a question: Does anyone prevent you from reading his biography?  I will now ask you another: if there is a legislated form of worship, but the Prophet ﷺ did not sanction a specific time for it and neither did he make a specific form for it, is it then allowed for us to designate—from ourselves—a specific time or a specific form/method?  Do you have an answer?

Questioner: No, I have no answer.

Al-Albaani: Allaah, the Most High, said:

أَمۡ لَهُمۡ شُرَكَٰٓؤُاْ شَرَعُواْ لَهُم مِّنَ ٱلدِّينِ مَا لَمۡ يَأۡذَنۢ بِهِ ٱللَّهُۚ

Or have they partners with Allaah (false gods), who have instituted for them a religion which Allaah has not allowed? [Shuraa: 42:21]

And He, the Most High, also said:

ٱتَّخَذُوٓاْ أَحۡبَارَهُمۡ وَرُهۡبَٰنَهُمۡ أَرۡبَابٗا مِّن دُونِ ٱللَّهِ وَٱلۡمَسِيحَ ٱبۡنَ مَرۡيَمَ وَمَآ أُمِرُوٓاْ إِلَّا لِيَعۡبُدُوٓاْ إِلَٰهٗا وَٰحِدٗاۖ لَّآ إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَۚ سُبۡحَٰنَهُۥ عَمَّا يُشۡرِكُونَ

They have taken their scholars and monks as lords besides Allaah and [also] the Messiah, the son of Mary. And they were not commanded except to worship one God, there is no deity [worthy of worship] except Him. Exalted is He above whatever they associate with Him. [Tawbah: 9:31]

When Adiyy ibn Haatim, may Allaah be pleased with him, heard this—and before he became a Muslim he was a Christian—it was difficult for him so he said, “We never used to worship them.”  So he ﷺ said, “Would they not forbid what Allaah made permissible and so you would make it forbidden; and [would they not] make lawful what Allaah had made forbidden, so you would make it lawful? So he said, “Of course.”  He ﷺ replied, “So that was your worship of them. [Reported by Tirmidhee (3095) and the Shaikh declared it to be hasan]

And this clarifies the danger of innovating in Allaah’s Religion.

Silsilatul-Hudaa wal-Noor, no. 1/94, transcribed with abridgement.

Bukhaari Volume 8, Book 76, Number 437(6065), Muslim (2533) Tirmidhee (3859) Ibn Maajah (2362).