Is it a bid’ah to celebrate the birthday of our Prophet, Mawlid Qandil?

The word Mawlid includes the meaning “birth”. Qandil means light which is lit in specific days. When these two words are juxtaposed to form “Mawlid Qandil”, what comes to mind is lampions that are lit on the minarets of mosques at the night of the Prophet’s birthday.

Question:

Is it a bid’ah (something which is entered into religion afterwards) to celebrate the birthday of our Prophet, Mawlid Qandil (the Eid Milad an-Nabi)? If it is not, how should we evaluate it? Is there a kind of prayer exclusive to Eid Milad an-Nabi?

Answer:

Imam Suyuti said the following on the issue in summary: “It is a nice bid’ah (innovation) for people to get together for the birthday of the Prophet (pbuh) and to read the Quran, to cite epic poems about his birth and to organize feasts for this reason; because there is a great revering, respect and happiness for his honored birth in this kind of gatherings. And it makes one earn one lots of thawabs.” (see: Suyuti, al-Hawi li’l fatawi, 1/272-shamila).

The word Mawlid includes the meaning “birth”. Qandil means light which is lit in specific days. When these two words are juxtaposed to form “Mawlid Qandil”, what comes to mind is lampions that are lit on the minarets of mosques at the night of the Prophet’s birthday. Muslims celebrate the night which corresponds to the twelfth night of the month of Rabiu’l-awwal with religious ceremonies and pay attention to do it in a different peace and joy. With this aim, people fill the mosques which are ornamented with lampions…

Muslims contemplate this night both for themselves and for their children. When they contemplate it for themselves, they remember prayers, helping the people in the neighborhood and other sorts of charities, and a different feeling of help evokes in them. And on behalf of their children, they become very careful. They resort to options which will enable them to remember this night as a good memory in their minds. For this reason, they buy things that their children will like and make nice conversations/speeches which they will enjoy, so they assure that this night will remain as a sweet memory in their minds.

The first Mawlid ceremony in the Islamic world was organized by Fatimids who ruled Egypt between the years of 910-1171. Those ceremonies were organized in the palace and only statesmen could attend them. Fatimids used to organize mawlid ceremonies also for the birthdays of Hazrat Ali and Fatima.

The first mawlid ceremony in Sunni muslims was organized by Malik Muzafferuddin Gökbörü, who was the brother-in-law of Salahaddin Ayyubi and the chief of Arbil, in Hijri year of 604. Those ceremonies which were organized with long-term preparations were attended by all people. Muzaffaruddin invited Islamic jurisprudents, Sufis, preachers and other scholars from the neighboring regions to Arbil and the ceremonies were gorgeous.

Later, mawlid ceremonies started to be organized in Makkah with some changes. Following Makkah and Madinah, mawlid ceremonies started to be organized everywhere in the Islamic geography with differences and it has continued up to now.

Mawlid was made official for the first time by Murat III in Ottomans in the year of 1588. Ceremonies were organized in the palace in accordance with protocol rules, and previously in Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia) Mosque and later in Sultan Ahmed Mosque and both statesmen and ordinary people attended those ceremonies.

In those ceremonies, muazzins read some Quran first, and following it, preachers preached. Later, a mawlidhan (one who reads epic poems about the Prophet’s birth in ceremonies) came to the lectern and after reading a part from the poem, he came down and received his gift, and then went back to lectern and continued reading. Then the mawlid ceremony ended within the framework of precise rules. (Asim Koksal, Islam Tarihi)

What is the status of Mawlid in our religion?

Being an Islamic tradition invented about 3-4 years after the birth of the Prophet (pbuh), Mawlid is amongst the good innovations. Ibn Hajar, who is an eminent scholar of hadith and Islamic law, narrates the following hadith about the lawfulness of mawlid ceremony:

According to the narration of Ibn Abbas, when the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) migrated to Madinah, he saw that the Jews fasted on the day of Ashura. When he asked them the reason why they fasted, Jews replied:

“This is a great day. Allah saved the people of Moses on this day. He drowned Pharaoh and his people in the sea. And Moses fasted as a thanksgiving for it. For this reason, we fast today.”

Upon this, our Prophet said: “We are closer and more beloved to Moses than you”. From that day on, he fasted and also advised people to fast that day.” (Muslim, Siyam, 127).

Ibni Hajar says the following on the issue: “As it is comprehended from that hadith, it is very appropriate to give thanks to Allah, on this day, at the night of mawlid. However, it is necessary to pay attention to introduce mawlid ceremony on the right time, that is, the birthday of the Prophet.” (al-Hawi fi’l Fatawa , 1/190).

There are mawlids (epic poems about the Prophet) in various languages that are recited in order to commemorate the birth of the Prophet and to send compliments to him, in Islamic countries today. Poems such as “Banad Suad, Burdah and Hamziyya” in Arabic language are mawlids. And in Turkish, there are mawlids more than twenty. However, the most preferred and most cited one of them is the book of mawlid named “Vasilatu’n Najat” written by late Suleyman Çelebi in 1409. Mawlid ceremonies, which were organized only on the birthday of the Prophet in earlier times, were repeated later in all holy nights, they have especially become more widespread in our country day by day and started to be read for several reasons such as death, disease and many more. Although some scholars opposed to mawlid, considering it an innovation, Badiuzzaman adjusted the matter to our day, as we have stated above, as follows:

“The recitation of the Prophet’s ‘Mawlid’ and its section about his Ascension is a most beneficial and fine custom and admirable Islamic practice. It is a pleasant, shining, and agreeable means of fellowship in Islamic social life; gratifying and pleasurable instruction in the truths of belief; and an effective and stimulating way of demonstrating and encouraging the lights of belief and love of God and love for the Prophet.” (Nursi, The Letters, p. 281-285).

How should we spend holy nights?

There are some important means of deserving forgiveness and intercession, earning thawabs, advancing in religion, being safe from troubles and problems and gaining Allah’s content, which can be –and necessary to be- applied in holy nights. It will be useful to remember some of them in short and with the list below in general:

1. One should read the Quran and listen to the ones who read. There should be Quran-citing invitations held in appropriate places. The feelings of love, respect and loyalty for the words of Allah, i.e. the Quran should be renewed and strengthened.

2. One should send compliments (salawat) to the Prophet and renew his/her awareness of being one of his followers, and hope for his intercession.

3. One should perform qada and nafilah (supererogatory) prayers. If there are prayers exclusive to that night, they can be performed as well. Holy nights should be spent with prayers and with consciousness of kindness in prayers, in accordance with their essence.

4. One should meditate; “Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going to? What does Allah expect from me?” are the main issues which one should contemplate, besides other important matters.

5. One should make an account and revision of her/his past and outline the plan and program of the present and the future.

6. One should repent her/his sins sincerely and should regret and turn to the Lord, considering that night as the last chance.

7. One should perform invocations (dhikr) and supplications to Allah.

8. Believers should make amends with and forgive each other, and assure their content with others.

9. Resentful and offended people should be reconciled; people should be pleased, and sorrowful faces should be given a smile.

10. One should pray for the good of himself and for other Muslim brothers and sisters mentioning their names.

11. One should ask the news of those who have got rights over himself and the necessities of moral quality of fidelity and gratefulness should be fulfilled.

12. One should visit the poor, orphans, the sick and the elderly people and please them with love, compassion, respect, gifts and charity.

13. Verses, hadiths about that night and comments of them should be read from the books about them individually or in groups.

14. Religious meetings, panels and conversations should be organized, ;advices of preachers should be listened; poems should be recited and a different feeling should be evoked in hearts with religious songs and hymns.

15. Prayers of maghrib, isha’a and fajr should be performed in groups in mosques, at holy nights.

16. Tombs of the Companions, scholars and saints should be visited and they should be pleased, and supplications should be made to Allah in the spiritual atmosphere of their tombs.

17. One should visit their dead relatives’, friends’ and ancestors’ graves, which is a requirement of faith brotherhood.

18. One should wish their elderly people, masters, parents, friends and other acquaintances blessed holy nights, by visiting them in person or by phoning, faxing and e-mailing to them.

19. If possible, one should fast the day before the holy nights.

There is not an exclusive way of praying for holy nights. Holy nights can be spent with prayers (salat), reading the Quran, supplications and other kinds of worship… Some special prayers performed at holy nights are not present in sunnah; and they are not based on a notable narration either. Nevertheless, it does not mean that “it is makrooh to perform prayers at those nights”. There are many narrations encouraging tahajjud and nafilah prayers. Of course, it is more virtuous to perform them at holy nights.” (Canan, Kutub-u Sitte, 3/289).

Moreover, it is unobjectionable to perform prayers which are said to be exclusive to holy nights additionally; it makes one earn thawabs.

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