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Concerning the Mawlid (Prophet's Birthday Celebration)
  Shaikh ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah on the Mawlid
Author: Shaikh ul-Islam
Article ID : bdh060002  

Ibn Taymiyyah says, "…because the Eeds are legislated laws from amongst the laws, so it is necessary to follow them, and not to innovate them, and the Prophet (sallallaahu `alaihi wasallam) had many lectures, treaties, and great events that happened on a number of (documented) days such as the Day of Badr, Hunain, al-Khandaq, the Conquest of Mecca, the occurrence of his hijrah, his entry to Madeenah…and none of this necessitated that these days be taken as days of Eed. Rather this sort of thing was done by the Christians who took the days in which great events happened to Jesus as eeds, or by the Jews. Indeed the Eed is a legislated law, so what Allaah legislates is followed, otherwise do not innovate in this religion that which is not part of it.

And like this is what some of the people have innovated, either in opposition to the Christian celebration of the birthday of Jesus, or out of love for the Prophet (sallallaahu `alaihi wasallam) and in honour of him. And Allaah will reward them for this love and ijtihaad, but NOT FOR THE BID’AH of taking the day of the birth of the Prophet (sallallaahu `alaihi wasallam) as an eed - this along with the difference of the people as to when he was born. For indeed this (celebration) was not done by the salaf, despite the existence of factors that would necessitate it and the lack of any factors that would prevent them from doing so if it were indeed good. And if this was genuinely good or preferable then the salaf, may Allaah be pleased with them, would have more right to doing so then us, for they had more severe love and honour of the Prophet (sallallaahu `alaihi wasallam) in following him, obeying him, and following his command, and reviving his sunnah inwardly and outwardly, and spreading that which he was sent with, and performing jihaad for this in the heart, with the hand and upon the tongue. So indeed this was the way of the Saabiqeen al-Awwaleen from the Muhajiroon and the Ansaar, and those that followed them in good.

And you will find the majority of these (who celebrate the birthday) in ardent desire of these sort of innovations - alongwith what they have of good intention and ijtihaad for which reward is hoped for - but you would find them feeble in following the command of the Messenger, that which they have been commanded to be eager and vigorous in, indeed they are of the position of one who adorns the Mushaf but does not read what is in it or reads what is in it but does not follow it. Or the position of one who decorates the mosques but does not pray in them, or prays in them rarely…

And know that from the actions are those that have some good in them, due to their including types of good actions and including evil actions such as innovation etc. So this action would be good with respect to what it includes of good and evil with respect to what it contains of turning away from the religion in it’s totality, as is the state of the hypocrites and faasiqeen. This has what has afflicted the majority of the ummah in the later times. So upon you is two manners (of rectification):

  1. that your desire be to follow the sunnah inwardly and outwardly, with respect to yourself specifically and those that follow you, and you enjoin the good and forbid the evil.

  2. that you call the people to the sunnah in accordance to ability, so if you were to see someone doing this (celebration) and he were to not leave it except for an evil greater than it, then do not call him to leaving the evil so that he may perform something more evil than this….[a page omitted in which he explains this principle]

So honouring the mawlid, and taking it as a festive season (mawsam) which some of the people have done, there is a great reward in it due to the good intention and the honouring of the Messenger (sallallaahu `alaihi wasallam) because of what I have previously stated to you - that it is possible that something be good for some of the people and be denounced/considered to be ugly by the strict believer. This is why it was said to Imaam Ahmad about some of the leaders, that he spent 1000 dirhams upon the mushaf or similar to this. So he replied, ‘leave them, for this is better than them spending it on gold (jewellery).’ This despite the fact that the madhhab of Imaam Ahmad was that it is abhorrent to decorate the mushafs, and some of the companions (of Ahmad) interpreted this to mean that the money was spent in renewing the pages and writing. But this is not the intent of Ahmad here, his intention here was that this action had a benefit in it, and it also contained corruption due to which it became abhorrent. But these people, if they did not do this, would have substituted this for a corruption that contained no good whatsoever, for example spending upon one of the books of evil…" [Iqtidaa Siraat al-Mustaqeem 2/618+ my copy has the tahqeeq of Shaykh Naasir al-Aql]

He says in another place of the same book, "there is no doubt that the one who practices these - i.e. the innovated festive seasons - either the mujtahid or muqallid will have the reward for his good intention and the what the action contains of legislated actions, and will be forgiven for what it contains of innovation if his ijtihaad or taqleed contains one of the excuses (that would lift this sin from him)…."

He continues:

"But this does not prevent one from detesting and prohibiting it and to replace it with a legislated action containing no bid'ah.... Just as the Jews and Christians may find benefit in their worship because it is possible that their worship includes an aspect of what is legislated but this does not necessitate that you perform their actions of worship or you report their words because all of the innovations contain evil that outweighs their good, this due to the fact that if their good outweighed the evil then why would the Sharee'ah have disregarded it? So we depend upon the fact that it's sin is greater than it's benefit and this necessitates forbiddance."

He continues:

"And I say: it's sin is removed from some of the people due to the reason of ijtihaad or other than it, as the sin of usury and alcohol (from dates) which has been differed about (by the salaf) is removed from the salaf (who allowed it), then despite this it is necessary to explain it's condition and not to follow those that considered it permissible.... So this is sufficient evidence in explaining that these innovations include corruptions of belief or condition contradicting what the Messenger (sallallaahu `alaihi wasallam) came with, and that what benefit they contain is marjooh (not to be relied upon) and it not correct to use for objection"

He continues:

"As for what they contain - i.e. these innovated festive seasons such as the Mawlid - of benefit then they are opposed by what they contain of the corruption of innovations that outweigh the benefit, alongwith with what has preceded of the corruptions of belief and state - that the hearts become content with it at the expense of a large number of Sunnahs to the extent that you find that the elite and the general masses preserve this in a way that they do not preserve the Taraaweeh's or the five prayers...." mentioning many more cases.[al-Qawl al-Fasl (pg. 102) of Shaykh Ismaa’eel al-Ansaaree]

A number of points can be seen here:

  1. Ibn Taymiyyah regards the mawlid as a bid’ah which the strict believer is not allowed to follow.
  2. he allows it only for those who would leave this bid’ah for a greater bid’ah.
  3. he states that those practising this, either out of taqleed or ijtihaad, will get reward for their good intentions, but they will get no reward for their practising it.
  4. that they will not get the burden of the sin of the innovation if their taqleed of ijtihaad contains the excuses that would lift this from them.

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