Rabiul-Awwal, Mawlid, Deoband and Hanafi fiqh

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Rabiul-Awwal: Shaykhul-Islam Mufti Taqi Usmani

From Superstitions into Light

Rabi’ul-Awwal is the most significant month in the Islamic history, because humanity has been blessed in this month by the birth of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam.

Before the birth of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, not only the Arabian peninsula, but also the so-called civilized nations of Rome and Persia were drowned in the darkness of ignorance, superstitions, oppression and unrest. The Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, came with the eternal truth of Tawhid (Oneness of Allah), the only faith which provides a firm basis for the real concepts of knowledge, equity and peace. It was this faith which delivered humanity from ignorance and superstitions and spread the light of true knowledge all over the world.

Islamic Celebrations

Thus the birth of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, was the most significant and the most remarkable event in human history. Had there been room in Islamic teachings for the celebration of birthdays or anniversaries, the birthday of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, would have undoubtedly deserved it more than the birthday of any other person. But that is against the nature of Islamic teachings. That is why, unlike Judaism, Christianity, and Hinduism, there are very few festivals in Islam, which provides for only two Eids (Eidul-fitr and Eidul-Adha) during the whole year. The dates of these two Eids do not correspond to the birthday of any of the outstanding persons of Islamic history, nor can their origin be attributed to any particular event of history that had happened in these dates.

Both of these two Eids have been prescribed for paying gratitude to Allah on some happy events that take place every year. The first event is the completion of the fasts of Ramadan and the second event is the completion of Hajj, another form of worship regarded as one of the five pillars of Islam.

The manner prescribed for the celebration of these two Eids (festivals) is also different from non-Islamic festivals. There are no formal processions, illumination or other activities showing formal happiness. On the contrary, there are congregational prayers and informal mutual visits to each other, which can give real happiness instead of its symbols only.

No Birthdays

On the other hand, Islam has not prescribed any festival for the birthday of any person, however great or significant he may be. The prophets of Allah are the persons of the highest status amongst all human beings. But the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, or his noble companions never observed the birthday or anniversary of any of them. Even the birthday of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, which was the most happy day for the whole mankind was never celebrated by the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, himself, nor by his blessed Companions.

The Companions of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, remained alive after him for about a century, but despite their unparalleled and profound love towards the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, they never celebrated the birthday or the death anniversary of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. Instead, they devoted their lives for promoting the cause of Islam, for bringing his teachings into practice, for conveying his message to the four corners of the world and for establishing the Islamic order in every walk of life.

The Origins of Christmas

In fact, commemorating the birth of a distinguished person has never been prescribed by any religion attributing itself to divine revelation. It was originally a custom prevalent in pagan communities only. Even Christmas, the famous Christian feast commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ finds no mention in the Bible or in the early Christian writings. It was only in the 4th century after the ascension of Jesus Christ that Christmas was recognized as a regular Christian feast. To quote the Collier’s Encyclopedia:

“It is impossible to determine the exact date of the birth of Christ, either from the evidence of the gospels, or from any sound tradition. During the first three centuries of the Christian era there was considerable opposition in the Church to the pagan custom of celebrating birthdays, although there is some indication that a purely religious commemoration of the birth of Christ was included in the feast of Epiphany. Clement of Alexandria mentions the existence of the feast in Egypt about the year A.D. 200 and we have some evidence that it was observed on various dates in scattered areas. After the triumph of Constantine, the Church at Rome assigned December 25 as the date for the celebration of the feast, possibly about A.D. 320 or 353. By the end of the fourth century the whole Christian world was celebrating Christmas on that day, with the exception of the Eastern Churches, where it was celebrated on January 6. The choice of December 25 was probably influenced by the fact that on this day the Romans celebrated the Mithraic feast of the Sun-god, and that the Saturnalia also came at this time.” (Collier’s Encyclopedia 1984 ed, v. 6, p. 403).

A similar description of the origin of Christmas is found in-the Encyclopedia Britannica with some more details. Its following passage will throw more light on the point:

“Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church, and before the 5th century there was no general consensus of opinion as to when it should come in the calendar, whether on Jan. 6, March 25 or Dec. 25. The earliest identification of Dec. 25 with the birthday of Christ is in a passage, otherwise unknown and probably spurious, of the philos of Antioch (c.180), preserved in Latin by the Magdeburyg centuriators (i, 3, 118), to the effect that the Gauls contended that since they celebrated the birth of Lord on Dec. 25, so they ought to celebrate the resurrection on March 25. A passage, almost certainly interpolated, in ‘Hippelates’ (c. 202) commentary on Daniel iv, 23, says that Jesus was born at Bethlehem on Wednesday, Dec. 25, in the 42nd year of Augustus, but he mentions no feast, and such a feast, indeed, would conflict with the then orthodox ideas. As late as 245, Origin (hem. viii on Leviticus) repudiated the idea of keeping the birthday of Christ “as if he were a king Pharaoh”. (Britannica, 1953 ed. v. 5, p.642)

These two quotes are more than sufficient to prove the following points:

  1. The commemoration of birthdays was originally a pagan custom, never recognized by a divine scripture or prophetic teaching.
  2. The exact date of the Birth of Sayyidna ‘Isa is unknown and impossible to be ascertained.
  3. The commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ was not a recognized practice in the early centuries of the Christian history.
  4. It was in the 4th or 5th century that it was recognized as a religious feast, and that, too, under the influence of the pagans who worshipped Sun-god.
  5. There was a strong opposition against the commemorating of the birthday by the early Christian scholars like Origin, on the ground that it is originally a custom of pagans and idolaters.

Original Islamic Resources

In original Islamic resources, also we cannot find any instruction about the celebration of birthdays or death anniversaries. Many Companions of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, passed away during his life-time. His beloved wife Sayyidah Khadijah, Radi-Allahu anha, passed away in Makkah. His beloved uncle Sayyidna Hamzah, Radi-Allahu anhu was brutally slaughtered during the battle of Uhud. But the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, never observed their birthday or their death anniversaries, nor did he ever advise his followers to celebrate his own birthday in Rabi’ul-Awwal.

What is Wrong with These Celebrations?

The reason for abstinence from such celebrations is that they divert the attention of people from the real teachings of Islam towards the observance of some formal activities only. Initially, these celebrations may begin with utmost piety and with a bona fide intention to pay homage to a pious person. Yet, the experience shows that the celebration is ultimately mixed up with an element of merrymaking and rejoicing and is generally confused with secular festivals and the secular, and often sinful, activities creep into it gradually.

The Transformation of Christmas

The example of Christmas will again be relevant. This Christian feast was originally innovated to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ and, of course, to remember his teachings. But once the occasion had been recognized as a feast, all the secular elements of public festivals crept in. The following quotation from the Encyclopedia Britannia is worth attention:

“For several centuries Christmas was solely a church anniversary observed by religious services. But as Christianity spread among the people of pagan lands, many of the practices of the winter solstice were blended with those of Christianity because of the liberal ruling of Gregory I, the great, and the cooperation of the missionaries. Thus, Christmas became both religious and secular in its celebration, at times reverent, at others gay.”

Then, what kind of activities have been adopted to celebrate Christmas is mentioned in the next paragraphs of which the following quote is more pertinent here:

“Merrymaking came to have a share in Christmas observance through popular enthusiasm even while emphasis was on the religious phase. … In the wholly decked great halls of the feudal lords, whose hospitality extended to all their friends, tenants and household, was sailing, feasting, singing and games, dancing, masquerading and mummers presenting pantomimes and masques were all part of the festivities.” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1953 v. 5, p. 643)

This is enough to show as to how an apparently innocent feast of reverence was converted into a secular festival where the merrymaking and seeking enjoyment by whatever means took preference over all the religious and spiritual activities.

Being fully aware of this human psychology, Islam has never prescribed, nor encouraged the observance of birthdays and anniversaries, and when such celebrations are observed as a part of the religion, they are totally forbidden.

The Religion is Complete

The Holy Qur’an has clearly pronounced on the occasion of the last Hajj of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam:

“Today, I have completed the teachings of your religion.” [Al-Maida 5:3]

It means that all the teachings of Islam were communicated to the Muslims through the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. No one is allowed after it to add any thing to them as a part of religion. What was not a part of religion during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, can never become part of it. Such additions are termed by the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, as Bid’ah or innovation.

Thus, the observance of the 12th of Rabi’ul-Awwal as a religious feast is not warranted by any verse of the Holy Qur’an or by any teaching of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. Had it been a part of the religion it would have been clearly ordered or practiced by the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, and his blessed companions or, at least, by their immediate pupils. But no example of the celebration of the occasion can be traced out in the early centuries of the Islamic history. It was after many centuries [Albalagh Note: According to Maulana Yusuf Ludhinavi it was in the year 604 A.H.] that some monarchs started observing the 12th of Rabi’ul-Awwal as the birthday of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, without a sound religious basis, and the congregations in the name of Maulood or Milad were held where the history of the birth of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, used to be narrated.

Disagreement About the Date

The observance of the 12th of this month as the birthday of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, is not only an innovation having no basis in the Islamic teachings, but the accuracy of this date as the real birthday of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, is also very much doubted. There are different dates suggested in different traditions, and the majority of the authentic scholars is inclined to hold that the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, was born on the 9th of Rabi’ul-Awwal. This difference of opinion is another evidence to prove that the observance of the birthday is not a part of the religion, otherwise its exact date would have been preserved with accuracy.

The life of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, is, no doubt, the most important source of guidance for all the Muslims, and every Muslim is under an obligation to learn and study the events of his life, and to follow the practical example set by him in every sphere of life. The narration of his pious biography (the Seerah) in itself is a pious act, which invites the divine blessings, but the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah have not prescribed a particular time or method for it. This pious act should be performed in all the months and at all the times. The month of Rabi’ul-Awwal has not been designated by the Shariah as a special season for holding such congregations to commemorate the birth or life of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. It is thus an innovation (Bid’ah) to restrict the Seerah meetings to the month of Rabi’ul Awwal only, or to believe that the meetings held in this month are worthy of more reward than the meetings held on any other date during the year. In fact, the Companions of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, used to commemorate the life of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, throughout the year, not only by studying and conveying his message to others, but also by following his way of life and acting upon his teachings in each and every branch of their activities, and this is exactly what a Muslim is required and supposed to do.

By this we do not mean that the Seerah meetings should not be held in the month of Rabi’ul-Awwal. The point is only that they should not be restricted to it, nor should it be believed that the Shariah has laid any kind of emphasis on holding such meetings in this particular month.

Another point that should always be kept in mind while holding such meetings is that they must be in complete conformity with the rules of Shariah. A Muslim is supposed to abide by the rules of Shariah in all his activities. But at least the meetings held in the memory of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, should be free from all the acts forbidden by the Shariah.

Contemporary Seerah Meetings and Shariah

It is often observed, especially in the Western countries, that the people hold the Seerah meetings where men and women sit together without observing the rules of hijab prescribed by the Shariah. The teachings of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, are obviously against such mixed gatherings. How can a Seerah meeting bring fruits where such fundamental teachings of the Shariah are openly violated?

In some meetings the Na’ts (poems) in the memory of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, are recited by the women before the male audience, sometimes with music, which is totally against the instructions of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. It is clearly prohibited by the Shariah to hold such meetings or to participate in them, because it is not only a violation of the Shariah rules, but it is an affront to the sanctity of the Seerah of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam.

All other activities, often practiced on the twelfth of Rabi’ul-Awwal, like holding processions, constructing the mock tombs of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, and illumination of the buildings and the roads are not warranted by any rule of the Shariah. Rather they are based on conscious or unconscious imitation of certain other religions. No example of such activities can be traced out from the earlier Islamic history.

Real Message of Seerah

What is really important with regard to the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, is, first, to follow his teachings, and second to make his pious Seerah available to every Muslim, to preserve it in the hearts of the Muslims from the very childhood, to educate the family members to run their lives according to it and to hold it as the most glorious example of the human conduct the universe has ever witnessed — and all this with utmost love and reverence, not manifested by some formal activities only, but also through actual behavior of following the Sunnah. This cannot be done by merely holding processions and illuminating the walls. This requires constant and consistent efforts and a meaningful program of education and training.

Mawlid, Deoband and Hanafi fiqh: Shaykhul (Maulana) Ashraf Ali Thanwi (RA)

Translated by Hamood Abdul-Aleem

There are three types of mawlid gatherings and the ruling for each is different.

First Type

The first type of gathering is that which does not contain any of the prevalent and customary restrictions (quyud). Neither [does it contain] mubah (permissible) restrictions nor makruh (prohibitively disliked) ones, i.e., it is free from all [sorts of] restrictions. For instance, a few people gathered by coincidence, no one had invited them with any extraordinary effort; rather they were gathered for some other permissible event. In this gathering, either by reading from a book or by delivering a lecture, the blessed event of the birth and the characteristics, habits, miracles and virtues of our Radiant Master (Allah bless him and give him peace), the Lord of the Universe, the Source of Pride for the Prophet Adam (may Allah’s peace be upon him), were narrated based on sound sources.

During this narration, if the need was felt to enjoin good actions and discuss religious rulings and one proceeded in doing so without hesitation or this gathering was held to listen to a religious discourse and within it these blessed events and virtues were narrated, then this is the type [of mawlid] that is permissible without any objection. Moreover, it is sunnah and mustahabb (recommended).

The Honorable Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) narrated his personal events and virtues in a similar way and later his Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) narrated them, the chain of which continues through the hadith scholars of present with the blessings of Allah Most High and it will continue until the end of time. [This section (First type) is the original (edited) translation by the respected Shaykh Dr. Hanif Kamal, a khalifah of Shaykh al-Islam Mufti Taqi Usmani, which was initially published on the now defunct Basair blog]

Second Type

The second type of gathering is that which contains unlawful restrictions, which in their essence are detestable and sinful. For instance, the relating of fabricated narrations that did not occur; the recitation of odes by charming and sweet-voiced young boys; the spending of unlawful money [earned] from bribes or usury on this [gathering]; exceeding what is necessary by extravagantly lighting, carpeting and decorating the venue; making an extraordinary effort to gather people, the likes of which is not even made for congregational salah or a lecture; insulting and dishonoring Allah Most High or the Prophets (may Allah’s peace be upon them) explicitly or implicitly in prose and poetry; missing salah in congregation or missing it altogether due to attending this gathering or if due to it little time for performing salah remains or a strong possibility of this happening exists; the chief organizer of the event is holding it to boast and gain popularity; considering the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) omnipresent (hadir wa nadir) in the gathering, or the existence of any other unlawful action of these types (above). This is the type [of mawlid] which is mostly rampant among the masses and the ignorant ones, and is considered completely impermissible and sinful in Shari’ah.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “Whoever tells lies about me, let him take his place in Hellfire.” It was narrated that Sayyiduna Hafsa ibn ‘Asim (may Allah be pleased with her) said: “The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: ‘It is sufficient for a man to be considered a liar to speak of everything that he hears’” (Muslim). It is understood from these hadiths that great care should be practiced when relating narrations. To narrate hadiths without knowledge and research is a sin and it is especially a great misfortune when one wrongly attributes an action to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).

Sayyiduna Jabir (may Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “Music grows hypocrisy in the heart as water grows herbage” (Sunan al-Bayhaqi). It is understood from this hadith that singing is blameworthy, especially where the possibility of fitna (temptation) exists such as the singing of an attractive woman.

Sayyiduna Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give peace) said: “Allah the Exalted is Pure and He only accepts that which is pure. Allah has indeed commanded the believers with what He has commanded the Messengers, He said, ‘O (you) Messengers! Eat of all things pure, and do righteous deeds,’ (23:51) and, ‘O you who believe! Eat of the lawful things that We have provided you’ (2:172). Then he mentioned a case of the man who sets out on a long journey, his hair becomes ruffled and his face is covered with dust and he raises his hand towards heaven and supplicates, ‘O Lord, O Lord’, while his food is unlawful and his drink is unlawful and his sustenance is unlawful, how would the supplication of such a person find acceptance?” (Muslim). From this hadith it is understood that no matter how sincere one is in worship, unlawful wealth renders it worthless. Moreover, the sin which remains upon this person for spending unlawful wealth is separate.

Allah Most High says in the Qur’an: “Do not be extravagant” (7:31) and He says: “Surely, squanderers are brothers of Satan, and Satan is very ungrateful to his Lord” (17:27). Any expenditure without a lawful objective is included in this (extravagance and squandering), regardless if it is [spent on] lighting or other formalities.

On the issue of dress and unlawful appearance, the hadiths which have been narrated are mentioned in the first chapter [of the book Islah al-Rusum]. There is no need to repeat them here.

Sayyiduna Hudhayfah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “By Him in Whose hands is my life (Allah the Almighty), necessarily you should enjoin good and forbid evil, or else Allah will certainly send chastisement upon you. And then you will pray but your supplications will not be accepted.” (Al-Tirmidhi)

[Imam Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him) relates from] Sayyiduna Hasan (may Allah be pleased with him), who said: “‘Uthman ibn Abi al-‘As (may Allah be pleased with him) was invited to a circumcision, but he declined the invitation. Asked why, he answered: ‘In the days of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) we did not go to circumcisions and we were not invited’” (Musnad Imam Ahmad, 4/217). It is understood from this narration that to invite individuals for an event which is not established from the Sunnah was something a Companion of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) disliked and refused to attend.

From this we can ascertain that invitation is proof of [making] extraordinary effort. If the Shari’ah does not place extraordinary importance on a matter, to make extraordinary effort for it is inventing in the religion. For this reason, when Sayyiduna ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both) saw people gathered for duha (forenoon) prayer in the mosque, he declared it an innovation (bid’ah). Based on this, the fuqaha (jurists) consider supererogatory (nafl) prayer in congregation makruh [The term makruh, throughout this article, is referring to makruh tahrimi (prohibitively disliked, highly reprehensible). In Hanafi fiqh, the ruling for makruh tahrimi and haram is the same, i.e., both are sinful.].

No explanation is needed on [the obviousness of] the kufr (disbelief) and blameworthiness of insulting Allah Most High, the Prophets or the Angels. Which Muslim denies this [act of kufr]? Despite this, many ignorant poets are involved in it. It is not permissible to compose such poetry nor is it permissible to read or listen to it.

Similarly, it is obvious that missing congregational prayer or wasting time is impermissible because the means (dhari’ah) to a sin is also a sin. It is because of this the prohibition for having conversations after ‘isha prayer is related in a hadith. The reason — mentioned in the hadith commentaries for this prohibition — is due to the hindrance it may cause in [waking up for] tahajjud or morning (fajr) prayers.

Similarly, everyone is aware of the prohibition of ostentation and vanity because that which leads to haram (a prohibited act) is also haram. It is mentioned in a hadith that [Sayyiduna ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:] “He who wears the clothing of fame in this world will be dressed in humiliating clothes on the Day of Judgment” (Abu Dawud). In another hadith, Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “Verily, even a little ostentation (riya’) is shirk” (Ibn Majah).

Omnipresence (being hadir wa nadir) is dependent on knowledge (‘ilm) and power (qudrah), since the knowledge and power of Allah Most High is Most Perfect (kamil), He is omnipresent at all times and in all places. If this belief about the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) or the anbiya’ (prophets) and awliya’ (saints) is based on the understanding that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) has this knowledge and power in essence like the belief of some ignorant individuals then this is shirk. This is even if it (omnipresence of the Prophet) is considered to be less than that of Allah Most High because it is explicitly mentioned in the Qur’an that the mushrikin (polytheists) of Arabia were engaged in shirk. It is also established by the Qur’an that they did not consider their demigods equal to Allah.

If it is believed that Allah Most High informs and gives permission [to the Prophet] then this will not be shirk although [such a belief] without having a basis in the Shar’iah is certainly a sin. This is because everyone knows that lying is prohibited. A lie, just as it is uttered by the tongue, is also present in the heart since that is where it originates. It reaches the tongue [from the heart] such that suspicion (or mistrust) is merely an action of the heart. In relation to this, Allah Most High says in the Qur’an, “O ye who believe! Avoid suspicion as much (as possible), for suspicion in some cases is a sin.” (49:12) and it comes in a hadith that Sayyiduna Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “I warn you of suspicion, for suspicion is the most false form of talk.” (Al-Bukhari)

In short, due to these [above mentioned] unlawful actions this [mawlid] gathering also becomes unlawful. Participating in this gathering is not correct either. Nowadays most gatherings are of this sort. If all of the impermissible actions are not present in them, at least some of them are almost certainly present. A single unlawful action is enough for a gathering to be deemed unlawful, as it is obvious.

Third type

This is the gathering in which neither is there the sort of disengagement and informality that is found in the first type [of mawlid gathering] nor are there any unlawful restrictions like those found in the second type. Even though this gathering does contain restrictions, they are lawful (halal) and permissible (mubah) in their essence, such as [mentioning] authentic and reliable narrations [in the gathering]; the presence of a trustworthy and pious orator;  the absence of opportunities to arouse illicit desires; the spending of lawful and pure (tayyib) wealth on the gathering; the decorations [at this place] do not reach the boundaries of wasteful spending (israf); the attendees of this gathering are dressed in accordance with the Shari’ah although if someone, by chance, does come dressed in violation of the Shari’ah then the speaker, if he has authority to do so, does not refrain from enjoining good and in a similar way, in accordance with the situation, he speaks about other important rulings; if there is recitation of poetry then it is not accompanied with music; the content [of the lecture] does not exceed the limits of the Shari’ah; no exaggeration is employed in informing and inviting people [to the gathering]; no hindrance is created in any compulsory form of worship due to attending this gathering; the intention of the person who organized the event is sincere, i.e., he does it merely to attain blessings and for the love of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace); and if the vocative case (sighah al-nida) is used, it is used with absolute assurance — backed by strong evidence — that the attendees are not deficient in their understanding that they will begin considering the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) to be Omnipresent (Hadir wa Nadir) and the Knower of Unseen (‘Alim al-Ghayb).

If the gathering is free from all other types of evils as well but it includes things such as sweets, standing up (qiyam), carpeting, pulpit, incenses and similar things, which in their essence are not unlawful, then this is the type of gathering of extremely cautious individuals which maybe rarely occurs. Thus, this type of gathering is neither absolutely permissible like the first type, nor is it absolutely impermissible like the second type.

On [the issue of] permissibility, there is some detail, which will be mentioned soon. Before these details are discussed, there are certain principles of Islamic law worth mentioning, which will be helpful in understanding the discussion [which follow the principles].

First Principle

To consider an unnecessary action necessary and emphatic in one’s ‘aqidah (belief) or to consistently act upon it with such persistence that it equals or exceeds the amount of effort put into obligatory (fard) or compulsory (wajib) acts — such that it is considered blameworthy to leave this action and the one who leaves it worthy of rebuke — then these two actions are prohibited.  This is because this involves breaking the rulings of Shari’ah. Restricting (taqyid), stipulating (ta’yin), specifying (takhsis), making mandatory (iltizam), delimiting (tahdid), etc. are [all] from the variations of this principle and issue. Allah Most High has said in the Qur’an that whoever exceeds the limits set by Allah Most High is from the oppressors.

Sayyiduna ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “You should not give away a part of your prayer to Satan by thinking that it is necessary to depart [after finishing the prayer] from one’s right side only; I have seen the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) often leave from the left side” ( al-Bukhari). Al-Tibi, the commentator of Mishkat al-Masabih, said that it is learned from this hadith that whoever insists on a mustahabb (recommended) matter and is determined in strictly adhering to it (‘azimah) without ever making exception (rukhsah), i.e., acting upon its opposite, then Satan takes his part in misguiding this person. So, what can be said regarding that person who insists upon a bid’ah or an evil action (i.e., an unlawful belief or action)?

The author of Majma’ said that it is learned from this hadith that sometimes a mandub (recommended) action becomes makruh if it is thought that it will exceed in its rank. Based on this, Hanafi jurists have declared the specifying of surahs in prayer as makruh, regardless if the adherence is in belief or practice. This matter has been clearly mentioned in Fath al-Qadir. [Sayyiduna Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that] the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “Do not single out the night [preceding] Friday among the nights for prayer and do not single out Friday among days for fasting but only when anyone among you is accustomed to fast [on dates] which coincide with this day (Friday).” (Muslim)

Second Principle

A mubah action, in fact even a mustahabb one, becomes unlawful and prohibited due to the joining of an unlawful action with it. For example, going to a dinner party [which one is invited to] is mustahabb, rather it is a sunnah, but the presence of an unlawful action at this gathering will make it prohibited to go there. Similar to this has been mentioned in the hadiths and [books such as] Al-Hidayah, etc. Similarly, performing supererogatory (nafl) prayer is mustahabb, but during makruh times it is prohibited and sinful. It is understood from this that a lawful action becomes unlawful due to its association and affiliation with an unlawful action.

Third Principle

If an unnecessary action of the elect (khawas) causes a defect to be formed in the ‘aqidah of the masses (awam) then this action will become makruh and prohibited for them because saving fellow Muslims from harm is an obligation. It is [incumbent] upon the elect to abandon this action.

An incident is related in the noble hadith about when the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) made the intention to include the Hatim (round wall near Ka’ba) inside the Ka’ba. [Sayyidatuna ‘A’isha (may Allah be pleased with her) narrated: “I asked the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) whether the round wall (near Ka’ba) was part of the Ka’ba. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) replied in the affirmative. I further said, ‘What is wrong with them, why have they not included it in the building of the Ka’ba?’ He said, ‘Don’t you see that your people (Quraysh) ran short of money (so they could not include it inside the building of Ka’ba)?’ I asked, ‘What about its gate? Why is it so high?’ He replied, ‘Your people did this so as to admit into it whomever they liked and prevent whomever they liked. Were your people not close to the pre-lslamic period of ignorance (i.e. they have recently embraced Islam) and were I not afraid that they would dislike it, surely I would have included the (area of the) wall inside the building of the Ka’ba and I would have lowered its gate to the level of the ground.’” (Al-Bukhari)] Because the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) felt that those who had recently entered Islam might develop unsoundness in their belief or anxiety in their hearts and to include the Hatim in the structure was not something necessary, he [decided to] put off this matter and explicitly mentioned this reason [i.e., his concern about their reaction]. This is even though to include the Hatim inside the structure [of the Ka’ba] was mustahsan (commendable) but to avoid the possibility of causing any harm to the masses, he left a mustahsan act.

In Sunan Ibn Majah, a narration from Sayyiduna ‘Abdullah (may Allah have mercy on him) is mentioned that to provide food to the household of the deceased person on the first day was a sunnah but when people made it a custom, it was abandoned and prohibited. From this it can be observed that in order to preserve the faith of the masses, the elect also abandoned this act.

The act of doing the sajdah (prostration) of thankfulness is mubah according to the hadiths but Hanafi jurists, as mentioned by ‘Allamah Ibn ‘Abidin al-Shami (may Allah have mercy on him),  declared this act to be makruh in case the masses start considering it a desired sunnah. It is mentioned in ‘Alamgiri (Fatawa Hindiyyah) that people used to do this (sajdah) after prayers and it is makruh because ignorant people will begin considering it sunnah and wajib. Any mubah action which comes to this becomes makruh. Although if it is necessary in the Shari’ah, it will not be abandoned rather the corrupt traits which have crept in it will be rectified.

For instance, the act of accompanying the funeral [procession] will not be abandoned due to the association of a makruh action with it such as the presence of a wailing woman; rather the wailing will be prohibited. This is because this (funeral) is something necessary and it will not be abandoned because of a temporary karahah (reprehensibility). This is in contrast to accepting the dinner invitation, which should be refused after [one becomes aware of] the makruh action’s association with it because the dinner party [in itself] is not something necessary [in the religion]. ‘Allamah Ibn ‘Abidin al-Shami has differentiated [between] these issues as well.

Fourth Principle

The ruling from the muftis could vary in regards to an action which contains temporary karahah due to differences in time and place or due to their experiences and observations. This means that it is possible for something to be deemed lawful at one time because at this time there was no reason for it to be considered makruh, while at another point in time, the [same] action was deemed unlawful because the reason for it to be now considered makruh had arisen. It is also possible that permission could be given in one country while in another country it is made prohibited due to the above-mentioned differences.

It is also possible that one mufti at a certain time or [in a certain] situation deems something lawful without knowing that the masses have introduced deficient beliefs and practices in it, while another mufti deems this [same] action unlawful because, given his experience and observation, he has knowledge of what the masses are involved in. In fact, this difference of opinion is in the outward sense, not in the real sense (haqiqi) … many examples of this can be found in the [books of] hadith and fiqh (jurisprudence).

The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) had given women permission to enter the mosque to perform salah. At that time, the possibility of fitnah (temptation) did not exist but when the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) saw the changed condition [of the people], they prohibited this. Similarly, many of the differences between Imam Abu Hanifah (may Allah have mercy on him) and the Sahibayn [Imam Abu Yusuf (d.798 AH) and Imam Muhammad al-Shaybani (d.805 AH)] (may Allah have mercy on them both) are of this kind.

Fifth Principle

If an unlawful action yields benefits and to acquire them is not necessarily required from the perspective of the Shari’ah or there are other ways to obtain such benefits and [this action] is done with the intention of obtaining these benefits or after seeing these benefits the masses are not stopped [from performing this action], then this is not permissible. A mubah [action] performed with a good intention becomes worship (‘ibadah) but sin (ma’siyah) is not mubah, even if it contains thousands of benefits. It is not lawful to commit such an act, nor is it allowed to remain silent on it. This principle is very much self-evident.

For instance, if someone usurps [the wealth of others] and oppresses [people] with the intention of collecting wealth so it can be distributed to the poor and needy. This type of force and oppression can never be considered lawful. This is even if it is hoped that hundreds of thousands of benefits will be obtained from doing this.

After these preliminary comments and principles have been understood, the details of the lawfulness or unlawfulness of the third type [of mawlid gathering] should be heard.

Concluding remarks

Since these above-mentioned restrictions [of the third type of gathering] are in themselves mubah, there is no defect in their essence, nor will this gathering be considered unlawful and prohibited at any time due to these actions and occurrences. And these actions, in their usual state, will remain mubah if no type of defect arises [due to them]. This ruling is evident from the second principle.

Now, it is worth looking at the fact, whether in our times, if any defect is occurring due to this permissibility. If any defect is seen arising then this gathering should be considered unlawful and prohibited. Knowledge of this issue can be obtained without hindrance merely through experience and observation. There is no need for any argumentation in this [matter].

According to this writer’s experience of many years, it is worth mentioning that without a doubt the vast majority, rather nearly all of the masses (awam), recognize these restrictions (quyud) as necessary, emphasized and essential for the gathering. They act upon [these restrictions] similar to how they practice the requirements of the faith. In fact, they act upon them with much more emphasis. Thus, the amount of effort put into the Friday or congregational prayer is very little when compared to the extraordinary effort that is put into acting upon these restrictions. The amount of unpalatability caused by abandoning these restrictions is never equal to that caused by abandoning obligatory and compulsory acts [of worship]. On the contrary, for one [involved in these activities] to abandon [these restrictions] is inconceivable and putting aside the example of the person who refuses [to participate], even if someone abandons these restrictions, he is taunted and cursed beyond bounds. His opponents resort to causing more trouble and verbal abuse than what unbelievers, innovators or evil-doers would cause.

When the masses have brought the issue to this point, in belief and practice, such that they have elevated the rank [of these actions] beyond the rank of obligatory and compulsory acts, then, without a doubt, due to this persistence and necessitation, these actions become prohibited. This has been established by the first principle.

Since these actions are prohibited, if they are found in a gathering then that gathering also becomes prohibited and unlawful. This has been explained in the second principle. This is despite the fact that there is a learned individual [in this gathering] who does not hold these corrupted beliefs and does not consider these actions emphatically necessary or the person who abandons them blameworthy. Although, in our times, such a quality is rarely found in people, if for instance such a person does attend, then he is saved from the sin of having corrupted his beliefs and practice. However, if his actions gave support to and strengthened the activities of corrupt-minded (in belief and practice) individuals, then, how can this person not be blamed for supporting and propagating their makruh act? This has been discussed in the third principle.

To conclude, wherever the above-mentioned evil practices are not present, even though to expect this from the masses, given their condition, is an extremely remote possibility, but for instance if at any place or time this is the case, then permission will be given. At the same time, it will be necessary in this action to consider these restrictions unnecessary in practice just as they are understood to be unnecessary in belief by repeatedly making it apparent [in practice].

For instance, distributing sweets sometimes, secretly giving cash, produce, or clothes to the poor or sometimes, either due to lack of resources or to merely act upon the rukhsah given in the Shari’ah, nothing is given [to the attendees]. During the course of the lecture, when the blessed virtues and characteristics of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) are mentioned, if one is overcome with emotions and love [for the Prophet] then he could stand up. There is no reason to specify a particular moment for [doing] this. This would be done when one is in the state of being overcome [by emotions] whether this is at the beginning, middle, or end of the lecture and whether it is done once, twice, or four times during the lecture.

When this feeling of being overcome [with emotions] is not present, one should remain sitting. And at times, even though this feeling is present, one could restrain himself to remain sitting. This (standing up) should not be stipulated only for this mawlid gathering and if one is overcome with [similar] emotions at other times after the mention of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), one could occasionally stand up.

By analogy, if the rest of the mubah restrictions are similarly practiced, even though this type of gathering is not narrated from the pious predecessors (salaf), it would not be considered prohibited because it is not against the principles of the Shari’ah. This is the ruling for the third type of gathering with regards to the fatwa (legal verdict).

However, in the best interest of keeping order in the religion, it is necessary to abstain in this regard. This is because this is not from the necessary elements of faith nor is any necessary aspect of the faith dependent upon it. This type of mubah gathering has, in the past, led to [the development of] corrupt traits similar to what can be seen [occurring nowadays] as ignorance is gaining prominence on a daily basis. This is why the dignity of taqwa (piety) is in abstaining. And Allah Most High knows best, His knowledge is Most Perfect and He is Most Wise.

Islah al-Rusum, Section 3, Chapter 1, p. 107-118, Dar al-Isha’at, Karachi