O people! Fear Allah the Almighty and know that the greatest favour He has ever conferred upon His servants is sending them Prophets as warners and bearers of glad tidings. Allah sent these prophets with scriptures so that He would judge between people in their disputes. The most effective and esteemed message of all of these was that of the Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, whom Allah sent to guide all of mankind – and to seal prophethood.
Allah sent Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, after a break in the series of His messengers, when people were in dire need of His guidance. It was through him that Allah guided people after they were astray; united them after their disunity; and sufficed them after they were needy. They thus became brothers and supported the religion of Allah, due to his grace and bounty. It was due to this that nations submitted to this religion and its adherents became a luminous series in the annals of history.
Due to the wholeheartedness of the early Muslims with regard to the comprehensive implementation of Allah’s laws in personal issues, financial transactions, and social and community affairs in accordance with the precepts laid down by this religions guide and leader, Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, it naturally followed that they would be victorious in all their undertakings.
However, when the Muslims deviated from the correct path, the order and stability which they enjoyed collapsed, turning the Muslim nation into groups of disputing factions, whose enemies held as insignificant.
This nation will never regain its past power and dignity, nor will it re-live its glorious history, until and unless its people return to their religion and practice it in word as well as in deed, in compliance with the methodology of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and his companions, may Allah be pleased with them.
As a consequence of the comprehensive implementation of the religion of Islam, no devotional act or religious ceremonies can be initiated into it unless it has a basis in the conduct of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. Mankind have been commanded by Allah to do no more than the following: to worship Allah alone; to offer him sincere devotion; and to be true in faith. Thus, whoever attempts to worship Allah with any act that He has not prescribed will have that act rejected by Him. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “He who performs any deed which is not according to what we are upon (i.e., the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and his companions) then it is rejected.” Such acts are held as innovations in the sight of the lawgiver and every innovation is misguidance.
Among the innovations introduced into this religion is the celebration of the birthday of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, which is celebrated in the month of Rabee’ Al-Awwal. People gather in the mosques or stay within their homes on the twelfth night of that month and send salutations upon the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, with innovated phrases as well as reciting laudatory poems and prose which concern him. These poems and prose are excessively commendatory and exceed the limits that were defined by the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam,. Some people even spend their nights cooking certain types of food, to be served on this occasion. Thus, they uselessly spend their time and money in matters that are not prescribed either by Allah or His Messenger, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam,, nor were practiced by the four rightly-guided caliphs after him, nor any other of the Muslims who were from the first three distinct generations, whose merit was attested to by the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam.
If these innovations were of any benefit, then surely the pious early Muslims would have preceded us in them? If they were meritorious then surely Allah would never have deprived the early Muslims, including the rightly-guided caliphs of them? The fact of the matter is that this practice was first introduced by people who lived during the fourth Hijri century.
Shaykh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, may Allah have mercy upon him, said in his book Iqtidaa’ As-Siraat Al-Mustaqeem Mukhaalafatu Ashaabu Al-Jaheem [The Implication of the Straightforward Way Is to Contradict the Companions of the Fire]: “Some people, due to their imitation of what the Christians do on the claimed birth-date of ‘Eesaa (Jesus), peace be upon him, or because of their love of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, or out of their wish to glorify him, celebrate the Prophet’s birthday. This is despite the fact that there is controversy among the scholars regarding the exact date of his birth. The early Muslims did not practice this, although there was good reason to honour and express their love of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and no preventing factors existed. Thus, if the celebration of the Prophet’s birthday was something meritorious, they would have had a better right to precede us in this, as their love and esteem of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, was far greater than ours. Also, they were far keener to perform good deeds in general than we were.
Loving and esteeming the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, was thus represented by the early Muslims in following his methodology, obeying him, applying his Sunnah inwardly and outwardly, propagating his mission and striving in this cause with their hearts, bodies and tongues.
Most of those who instigate religious innovations are heedless when it comes to the application of the well-known principles that were brought by the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. They are like those who ornament the Qur’an but do not recite it, or recite it but do not follow its teachings.”
O Muslims! The innovation of celebrating the Prophet’s birthday, which is done on the twelfth night of the month of Rabee’ Al-Awwal, has no historical basis. In fact, historians have differed greatly on the actual birth date of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. Some have said that it was on the second of Rabee’ Al-Awwal , others said the eighth, ninth, tenth, twelfth, seventeenth or twenty-second; thus making up seven different opinions. None of these opinions have any evidence which would make them take priority over others.
Moreover, the innovation of celebrating the birthday of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, has no religious basis. Neither the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, nor any of his Companions or the followers did so. In fact, the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “You must hold fast to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the four Rightly-Guided Caliphs – cling to it stubbornly. Beware of innovations, for every innovation is misguidance.” (Abu Daawood, Tirmidhi).
Religious celebrations, festivals and other such occasions which glorify Allah and His Messenger are acts of worship. Only that which Allah has prescribed among these is considered to be from the pure Shari’ah, or Islamic law. None of these events can be taken as a means of devotion to Allah except those that have been sanctioned by Allah and His Messenger, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam.
The Shari’ah already contains the sufficient means with which a believer can glorify the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and show his love to him. So fear Allah, O servants of Allah, and limit yourselves to Allah’s obligations and the Prophet’s Sunnah, to the exclusion of innovations.
Allah the Exalted and Almighty said that which translates as: “And verily this is my Straight Path, so follow it, and follow not (other) paths, for they will separate you away from His Path. This; He has ordained for you that you may become the pious.” (Al An’aam: 153).
[By Shaykh Muhammad Saalih bin al-‘Uthaimeen]