Jumuah khutbah delivered by Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider on 9 January 2015 at Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Center, Ottery, Cape Town

In last week’s jumuah we provided our understanding of the definition of bid’ah (innovation) and said that in principle the problem with bid’ah in deen/religion is that:

1. It is in contradiction with Tauheed of Allah, more specifically Tauheed of Legislation as only Allah has the right to establish a Law in Deen and thus anyone who legislates something in Deen out of his own is contradicting Tauheed. On this basis we said we do not accept the notion of “good bid’ah” and “bad bid’ah” as bid’ah itself contradicts Tauheed.

2. Bid’ah results in attributing something to Allah which is not His and thus results in attributing a lie and defaming Allah which is something highly condemned in Quran.

3. Quran claims that the deen has been complete and perfected already in the time of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) (Surah Mai-da verse 3). On the basis of this nobody has the right to add something to the deen of Allah as this action would result in claiming that the deen is incomplete.

Three Major components of Bid’ah

The 3 elements which make up the definition of bid’ah (as discussed last week are):

1. Starting something new that has no past precedent that one attributes to Deen/Religion (thus all innovations which are not ascribed to deen are not bid’ah by definition)

2. The act has no background/root in Quran and Sunnah, neither in a GENERAL sense, nor in a SPECIFIC sense.

3. The act should be propagated so that it becomes established. So if you start something new and attribute it to deen which has no root in deen and only practice it on a personal level without promoting it, such an action is HARAAM, but is NOT termed bid’ah.

It’s critical to understand all these technical nuances to appreciate the conclusion we will draw in today’s khutbah.

Does celebration of Mouludun Nabi (sawa) fit the definition of bid’ah?

1. Celebration of Mouludun Nabi (sawa) is indeed something new which was not celebrated by Prophet (sawa), or his companions or the first 3 generations of Muslims and according to historical records some say it was started by the Fatimids (Shia rulers of Egypt) in the 6th century or some say it was started by a ruler of Irbil called Muzaffar.

Furthermore it is attributed to deen as well as we celebrate it as an Islamic activity and believe there is reward in doing so.

But it is critical to note that the aspect that is attributed to Deen is the principle of celebrating the birth of Prophet Muhammad (sawa). The further details of the manner of celebration are not regarded as Deen by any one.

The manner of celebrating is based on cultural practices in different parts of the world. So if in Cape Town there is a practice of cutting “rampies” during Moulud celebrations, then that is a cultural practice. Nobody says cutting “rampies” is part of Quran and Sunnah!! Or in countries like Pakistan where they light the streets in a special manner, it once again is a cultural practice which itself is not attributed to deen. In the case of the 2 Eids, traditions and practices differ according to different cultures (outside of the specific recommended acts of prayers, takbir, etc).

So Mouludun Nabi (sawa) celebrations does meet the first element of the definition of bid’ah and it appears problematic at this point.

2. Though Milad is something new as a practice, it DOES have a basis and is rooted in Quran and Sunnah.

A scholar claimed the other day on a radio program that there is no requirement to Love Prophet Muhammad (sawa) other than to follow him. Statements like these are so extreme and baseless that even the founders of Salafi/Wahhabi thought like Ibn Taymiyya were not inclined to express such extreme views.

Surah Taubah Verse 24 firmly establishes the necessity to Love Prophet Muhammad (sawa) besides the Love of Allah, wherein it says:

قُلْ إِن كَانَ ءَابَآؤُكُمْ وَأَبْنَآؤُكُمْ وَإِخْوَانُكُمْ وَأَزْوَاجُكُمْ وَعَشِيرَتُكُمْ وَأَمْوَالٌ اقْتَرَفْتُمُوهَا وَتِجَارَةٌ تَخْشَوْنَ كَسَادَهَا وَمَسَاكِنُ تَرْضَوْنَهَا أَحَبَّ إِلَيْكُم مِنَ اللّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَجِهَادٍ فِي سَبِيلِهِ فَتَرَبَّصُوا حَتَّى يَأْتِيَ اللّهُ بِأَمْرِهِ

“Say (O Muhammad): If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your relatives, wealth which you have obtained, commerce wherein you fear decline, and dwellings with which you are pleased are more beloved to you than ALLAH AND HIS MESSENGER and Jihad in His cause, then wait until Allah executes His command.”

Furthermore well-known authentic ahadith narrations state “None of you have Imaan/Faith until you love me more than you love your children, your parents and all humanity.”

The Love for Prophet Muhammad (sawa) and his Family is a Quranic Command

Quran categorically commands us in Surah Shura Verse 23

قُلْ لا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ أَجْراً إِلَّا الْمَوَدَّةَ فِي الْقُرْبَی وَمَنْ يَقْتَرِفْ حَسَنَةً نَزِدْ لَهُ فِيهَا حُسْناً إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ شَكُورٌ

“Say I do not ask you any reward for this (message of Islam/complete Risalah) except that you should love my close family”.

If it is a command to love this Family or Ahlul Bait (a.s) as a whole reward or compensation of whole Prophethood, then what about centre and heart of this Family himself?

Are we supposed to express this Love and How?

So though we all agree for the necessity to Love Prophet Muhammad (sawa) (except for a few extremists), some say we should not EXPRESS our Love for Prophet Muhammad (sawa) but focus on following him. The aspect of following him is indeed correct as it is a reflection of our Love for him. This is even true from the point of view of material love. When someone loves a girl you suddenly find that he loves everything that she loves and does everything that she does. But does the focus on following Prophet Muhammad (sawa) as a reflection of our Love for him mean that you are NOT allowed to EXPRESS your love for him by saying things like “O Rasulullah I love you?” This mentality again goes against the Quranic command which says that we should express ourselves regarding the favours and blessings of Allah when, among others, it says in Surah Ad-Duhaa Verse 11:

وَأَمَّا بِنِعْمَةِ رَبِّكَ فَحَدِّثْ

“As for the favour of your Lord, announce it/speak about it/ report it!” So for every blessing we must say “Praise be to Allah”,

so what about the Greatest Blessing of Allah in very existence of  Prophet Muhammad (sawa), how should we not be announcing it and expressing our gratitude for it?

Quran says celebrate Favours of Allah as EID

When the disciples ask Nabie Isa(a.s) to pray that a table of food is sent down from heaven, according to Quran (Surah Ma-ida Verse 114), Prophet Isa (a.s) asked  Allah for this request in following manner:

قَالَ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ اللَّهُمَّ رَبَّنَا أَنزِلْ عَلَيْنَا مَآئِدَةً مِّنَ السَّمَاء تَكُونُ لَنَا عِيداً لِّأَوَّلِنَا وَآخِرِنَا وَآيَةً مِّنكَ وَارْزُقْنَا وَأَنتَ خَيْرُ الرَّازِقِينَ

“Said Jesus the son of Mary: “O Allah our Lord! Send us from heaven a table (of food), that there may be for us – for the first and the last of us – a solemn festival (Eid) and a sign from thee; and provide for our sustenance, for thou art the best Sustainer (of our needs).”

That means that even those from subsequent generations who were not physically present when the blessing of a Table of Food was sent down occurred ALSO celebrate that event purely out of REMEMBERING the occasion of the descent of this blessing from heaven as it was a “sign of Allah”.

So what about the Greatest blessing and sign of Allah that was sent down in the Personality of Prophet Muhammad (sawa), is that not an EID/celebration for all subsequent generations??

Is Praise of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) exaggeration and Ghuluo in Deen as done by Christians about Jesus?

There is an objection that we should not exaggerate our Praise for Prophet Muhammad (sawa). This is once again misunderstanding and mixing two different issues.

Our Praise for Our Beloved Nabie (sawa) reaches to its climax and highest level in his being Abd – servant of Allah. This is not in competition with Tauheed, but rather in completion of Tauheed.

As much as we praise him, we submit more to servitude of Allah. This is completely different than Christians where they elevated Jesus from the Station of Servitude, while we believe that all the greatness of the Prophet is in being a Slave of ALLAH. That is highest level a human being can reach – the station of Servitude. Elevation of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) is elevation of his level of servitude to Allah and that is the meaning of the verse where Almighty Himself says

وَرَفَعْنَا لَكَ ذِكْرَكَ

“And We have elevated your remembrance (O Muhammad)”. (Surah As-Sharh Verse 4).

Why a particular Day?

Sometimes a question is raised why a particular day in the year is dedicated for celebrating Moulud and why not any other time. What is special about the 12thor 17th of Rabi-ul Awwal? It has no basis in Quran and Sunnah therefore it is Bid’ah.

First of all Islam advocates the significance of certain days and times and in Quranic terminology these days are called Ayyamullah which is an independent topic to be discussed independently.

However more specifically about the significance of the day of the Birth of Our Nabie (sawa), indeed there is a basis. Imam Muslim narrates in His Sahih that Prophet Muhammad (sawa) was asked about the fast of Monday. He replied yes because “it is the day I was born and the day I was appointed”. Thus Prophet (sawa) himself adored the day of his birth by fasting.

This action of the Prophet (sawa) is actually a call to celebrating his birth WEEKLY!

So Moulud celebrations are in keeping with following the Quranic command of expressing Love to Rasulullah (sawa). Consequently, it does not satisfy the second element of bid’ah and is thus NOT a bid’ah. There is also no need to discuss the third element of bid’ah as the definition of bid’ah has already not been satisfied to this point.

Other common objections to celebrating Mouludun Nabi (sawa)

In addition to the above explanation, there are various other verses in Quran which speak about showing special respect to Prophet Muhammad. In Surah A’raf verse 157 it says:

فَالَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا بِهِ وَعَزَّرُوهُ وَنَصَرُوهُ وَاتَّبَعُوا النُّورَ الَّذِي اُنْزِلَ مَعَهُ اُوْلَئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ

“….those who have faith in him (Muhammad), honour him, assist him, and follow the Light which was sent down with him, it is they who will be successful.”

This reference to “honouring” Prophet Muhammad (sawa) also requires some elaboration (which I do not have time for) however honouring Prophet indeed includes revering him on the days related to him historically.

Holier than thou!

The present day anti-Moulud voice has gone far ahead of their spiritual forefathers like Ibn Taymiyya. This scholar did believe Moulud is a bid’ah, but at the same time he acknowledges that Milad is basically an expression of Love and Respect to Prophet Muhammad (sawa) and does not disagree with this. He says “some people celebrate Moulud either following Christians or showing Love and Respect to Prophet Muhammad (sawa).” He then says something very important “And May Allah reward them due to this Love and Ijtihad (understanding of Love), though it be an incorrect understanding.” In the School of Ahlus Sunnah, if you make ijtihaad and were correct, then you get 2 rewards and if you made ijtihaad and were incorrect, then you still get 1 reward due to having performed ijtihad! And the saying of Ibn Taymiyya is thus in keeping with this principle. But he does say that they will not get reward due to bid’ah itself, but due to showing love to Prophet Muhammad (sawa).

This acknowledgement by Ibn Taymiyya that Moulud is an expression of Love for Prophet Muhammad (sawa) is critical as the modern day objectors have gone to the point of saying we must not express such love and praise and only follow Prophet Muhammad (sawa).

Principal of following SALAF US SALIH (Pious Predecessors)

Ibn Taymiyya, after not being able to deny that Moulud is an expression of Love for Prophet Muhammad (sawa) then goes further to provides another justification for his position and says that the problem with it is that this form of expression of Love was not practiced in time of Prophet Muhammad (sawa), the four Khulafa and the first three pious generations of Muslims who love Prophet Muhammad (sawa) more than us and if they did not do it, then we should not do it.

From this point the argument has moved away from Quran and Sunnah and brings in a new element of the Practice of the Pious Predecessors (especially the first 3 generations of Muslims) being our basis.

For us, in general this argument has no relevance! But the elements making up this argument are the following:

1. The early Muslims were the closest people to Prophet Muhammad (sawa), so their understanding of Shari’ah is the best understanding of Shari’ah. This is presented as a rational argument.

2. Prophet Muhammad (sawa) said “It’s incumbent on you to follow my sunnah and the sunnah of the Khulafa Rashideen.”

The first argument appears to be rational but basically it is actually alluding to not allowing us to apply our mind as the best of people had already applied their mind to understanding deen and no matter how hard we try, we will never be as good as them. This is contrary to the continuous Quranic call for applying one’s mind and has the effect of freezing our thinking processes and causes us to become blind followers of our predecessors. In the School of Ahlul Bait (a.s) we do not believe the past generations were the best, but the best generations are yet to come.  In other words this argument wants to say that Islam is in continuous process of decline.

In reality, nobody followed this principle in history as ijtihad continued and continues until this very day where ongoing answers to ongoing questions have to be researched from scratch as there are hundreds of issues that never existed at the time of the Salaf/early Muslims. Quran and Sunnah are not confined to the first 3 centuries as Prophet Muhammad (sawa) is a Mercy to the Universe and a Messenger until Day of Judgement.

On the issue of “follow the sunnah of the Khulafa Rashideen” it should be noted that this hadith is not present in Bukhari or Muslim and that the Salafi Scholar, Allamah Albani says “this is a weak hadith.” It is spectacular to see that the anti-Moulud voice basically wants to stop the whole ummah from applying their mind based on a weak hadith!!

Then for argument’s sake the question comes “who are khulafa rashideen?” Prophet Muhammad (sawa) did not speak about 4 or 5 khulafa, he specifically said there will be 12 khulafa after him (as recorded in Bukhari)!

And furthermore the idea that the whole first 3 generations of Muslims were the best is even more illogical as they never agreed with each other and in fact battles took place and lives from both sides were lost. How can these opposing factions become the best example for one to follow who themselves were not united? There are even examples in history where Abdullah ibn Umar, where the very son did not follow the views of his own father.

On the issue of Moulud being following a Christian tradition, it is amazing that this argument is not used in relation to the fast of the Day of Ashura where it is said that Prophet Muhammad (sawa) instructed us to follow a practice that was originally a Jewish practice!

Conclusion on Miladun Nabi (sawa)

We all agree that the Deen of Islam is complete. However our understanding of this Deen CONTINUALLY evolves. As time passes and our intellectual capacity matures, our understanding of deen evolves and we thus do not believe that the best century has already come but that the best century is yet to come!

Of course and beyond any shadow of doubt Bid’ah is an erroneous practice condemned by Quran and Sunnah. However, Miladun Nabi (sawa) celebration is NOT bid’ah but an expression of Love and Respect of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) which has evolved over centuries in term of practises and traditions.

An interesting thought provoking Sahih (Authentic) Hadith establishing a crucial Principal

There is a famous authentic hadith which says “whoever introduces a good practice (sunnah) in Islam, and that practice has been followed after him, then for him is the reward of whoever practiced it after him and one who introduces a bad practice is liable for the punishment of all those who followed it.”

Is this hadith in clear contradiction with the hadith on bid’ah??

Of course not, it is saying that in terms of those GENERAL guidelines and commands in Quran, if one introduces a new practice or culture which is in conformity with those GENERAL Quranic guideline or command, then it is a commendable action for which you will get reward. For example the general command of giving Charity in Islam has evolved from a simple charity to well established institutions and organisations on a very broad spectrum of various applications of Charity. Today, we have huge organised infrastructures like Zakaat Fund, Islamic Relief Agency, Gift of the Givers etc! These are all examples of Sunnatun Hassanah (good practices), though it did not exist in the early history of Islam.

Miladun Nabi (sawa) is the establishment of a Sunnatan Hassanah, it is the establishment of an institution based on the Quranic principle of showing Respect, Love and Honour for Prophet Muhammad (sawa)

A Universal Human Practice

Beside Quranic and Prophetic commands, there is a basic Human nature of Gratitude and appreciation present and celebrated across the all nations. It has nothing to do with Christianity or West etc. Every nation including the flag bearers of Wahhabi Islam celebrate their National Day and Heroes. Why?

Aren’t they supposed to be loyal and committed to their country every day of the year so why a particular day?

Why one day in the year is Mother’s Day celebrated, while every day and in fact every moment we supposed to be conscious about our mothers?

The philosophy is simple that by dedicating one day, we specifically remind ourselves of our responsibilities and refresh our love and commitment to our country, our Heroes, Our Martyrs, and our parents.

Does our Nabie (sawa), our Leader, our Liberator, our Beloved, our Everything, who is dearer to us than anything in this World, not deserve that respect and reverence?

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