Wa `alaykum as-salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
In this fatwa:
1- Celebrating the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday is a controversial issue among Muslim scholars.
2- The most correct opinion is that there is nothing wrong with celebrating this occasion. This can happen by acts such as introducing the Prophet and infusing vigor among Muslims as well as non-Muslims to study his biography.
In his response to your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:
There is a heated debate raging in the Muslim community on this issue. One group condemns commemorating anything to do with the Prophet (peace be upon him) as a bad innovation.
Another group often sanctions all kinds of practices, some of them bordering on shirk (polytheism), under the pretext of expression of love of the Prophet. It is best that we keep to the middle path.
Let the words of Imam Hasan Al-Basri serve as a guiding principle for us. He said:
“Religion of Allah stands midway between extreme rigidity and extreme veneration.”
It is rigidity to be obsessed with the letter of the law to such an extent that one neglects the spirit.
There is a room in Islam for expressing our genuine love and reverence toward the Messenger of Allah.
What Did the Companions Do?
Therefore, we may commemorate events of his life as the Prophet’s Companions did as long as we stay clear of excesses.
The sirah tells us that the Companions celebrated Prophet Muhammad’s arrival in Madinah with fanfare and singing.
Anas ibn Malik said,
“I witnessed the arrival of the Prophet in Madinah. I never witnessed a brighter and a happier day. I also witnessed the day of his death. I witnessed no darker or a more inauspicious day!”
He considered the option of using Prophet Muhammad’s birth or Prophetic call for the same and turned them down for practical reasons only.
So, there is nothing wrong in commemorating the event of Prophet Muhammad’s birthday to express our love for the Prophet.
We can use the month of Rabi Al-Awwal to inspire our new generations and educate people of the Prophet’s great life and character.
Several scholars, both the past and the present (such as Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani, Jalal Ad-Din As-Suyuti, Atiyyah Saqr, Abdullah As-Siddiq Al-Ghimari, and Faisal Mawlawi) have ruled:
“We cannot consider the celebration of Prophet Muhammad’s birthday as a bad innovation simply on the ground that it was not practiced in the early times.
There is no harm in instituting new customs in areas other than the strict acts of worship, if there are benefits.
Obvious benefits associated with this commemoration include: Inspiring the new generations and educating the people by the great examples of the Prophet.
Nations celebrate memorable events of their history in order to connect them with their past. No one can deny that for Muslims nothing can be more significant than the coming of the Messenger of Mercy.
It was for this reason that Caliph Umar chose Hijrah to mark the Islamic Calendar after consulting the Companions.
Nowadays, where Islamic consciousness is on a steady decline among Muslims, such a commemoration may go a long way in rekindling the fire of love of the Prophet.
It is ironic that many of those who condemn such a celebration as a bidah, nevertheless, express no qualms in celebrating jubilees of various kinds (silver, gold, or diamond) associated with their institutions, movements, or nations. One fails to see how the former is condemned while the latter is tolerated.”
May Allah grant us rectitude in judgments, and may He inflame our hearts with love of Allah’s Messenger. And may He gather us all under his banner on the Day of Resurrection, amen.
Allah Almighty knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.