Why is it that Muslims claim and believe celebrating the birthday of Jesus (Christmas) is idolatry, yet they celebrate the birthday of prophet Muhammad (pbuh)?
Celebrating the occasion of the birthday of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is forbidden and is to be rejected for several reasons:
1 – it is not part of the Sunnah of the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) or of the khalifahs=successors who succeeded him. Since this is the case, then it is a forbidden innovation, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
“I urge you to follow my Sunnah and the way of the rightly-guided khalifahs=successors after me; adhere to it and cling to it firmly. Beware of newly-invented things, for every newly-invented thing is an innovation (bid’ah) and every innovation is a going-astray.” (Narrated by Ahmad, 4/126; al-Tirmidhi no. 2676).
Celebrating the Mawlid is an innovation introduced by the Shi’a Faatimids after the three best centuries in order to corrupt the religion of the Muslims. If a person does anything in order to draw closer to Allah which was not done by the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) or enjoined by him.
And was not done by the khalifahs=successors who succeeded him, this action implies that he is accusing the Messenger of not explaining the religion to the people, and that he disbelieves in the words of Allah:
“This day, I have perfected your religion for you” Qur’an [al-Ma’idah 5:3]
because he is adding something extra and claiming that it is a part of the religion, but the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did not bring this.
2 – Celebrating the birthday of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is an imitation of the Christians, because they celebrate the birth of the Messiah (peace be upon him). Imitating them is extremely haram (forbidden). The hadeeth tells us that it is forbidden to imitate the kuffaar, and we are commanded to differ from them.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever imitates a people is one of them” (narrated by Ahmad, 2/50; Abu Dawood, 4/314).
And he said, “Be different from the Mushrikin=Polytheists” (narrated by Muslim, 1/222, no. 259) – especially with regard to things that are the symbols or rituals of their religion.
3 – Besides being bid’ah and an imitation of the Christians, both of which are haram=forbidden, celebrating the birthday of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is also a means that leads to exaggeration and excess in venerating him, which even goes as far as calling upon him (making du’aa’ to him) and seeking his help, instead of calling upon Allah.
As happens now among many of those who observe the bid’ah of the Mawlid=bad innovation of celebrating the birthday of the prophet, when they call upon the Messenger instead of Allah, and ask him for support, and sing qaseedahs (odes) of shirk praising him, like Qaseedat al-Burdah etc.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) forbade going to extremes in praising him, as he said: “Do not extol as the Christians extolled the son of Maryam. For I am just His slave, so say, the slave of Allah and His Messenger” (narrated by al-Bukhari, 4/142, no. 3445; al-Fath, 6/551), i.e., do not exaggerate in praising me as the Christians exaggerated in praising the Messiah and venerated him until they worshipped him instead of Allah. Allah forbade them to do that when he said:
“O people of the Scripture (Christians)! Do not exceed the limits in your religion, nor say of Allah aught but the truth. The Messiah ‘Eesa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary), was (no more than) a Messenger of Allah and His Word, (“Be!” — and he was) which He bestowed on Maryam (Mary) and a spirit (Rooh) created by Him” [al-Nisaa’ 4:171]
Our Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) forbade us to exaggerate concerning him lest the same thing happen to us as happened to them, so he said: “Beware of exaggeration, for those who came before you were destroyed because of exaggeration” (narrated by al-Nasa’i, 5/268; classed as sahih by al-Albani in Sahih Sunan al-Nasa’i, no. 2863).
4 – Observing the innovation of the Prophet’s birthday opens the door to other kinds of bid’ah and being distracted by them from the Sunnah. Hence you find that the innovators are very active when it comes to bid’ah and very lazy when it comes to the Sunnah; they hate it and regard those who follow it as enemies, until their entire religion is innovated anniversaries and Mawlids.
They have split into various groups, each of which commemorates the anniversary of its imam’s birth, such as the births of al-Badawi, Ibn ‘Arabi, al-Dasooqi and al-Shaadhili. No sooner do they end the celebration of one birthday, but they start the celebration of another.
This results in exaggeration concerning these dead people and others, and in calling upon them instead of Allah, believing that they can bring benefit and cause harm, until they deviate from the religion of Allah and go back to the religion of the people of the Jaahiliyyah of whom Allah says:
“And they worship besides Allah things that harm them not, nor profit them, and they say: ‘These are our intercessors with Allah’” Qur’an [Younus 10:18]
“And those who take Awliyaa’ (protectors, helpers, lords, gods) besides Him (say): ‘We worship them only that they may bring us near to Allah’” [al-Zumar 39:3]
In conclusion, celebrating the birthday of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), whatever form it takes, is a reprehensible innovation. The Muslims should put a stop to this and other kinds of bid’ah=bad innovations and occupy themselves with reviving and adhering to the Sunnah.
They should not be deceived by those who promote and defend this bid’ah, for these types of people are more interested in keeping innovations alive than in reviving the Sunnah; they may not even care about the Sunnah at all.
Whoever is like this, it is not permissible to imitate him or follow his example, even if the majority of people are like this. Rather we should follow the example of those who follow the path of the Sunnah, among the righteous salaf and their followers, even if they are few.
Truth is not measured by the men who speak it, rather men are measured by the truth.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever among you lives (for a long time) will see many differences. I urge you to follow my Sunnah and the way of the rightly guided khalifahs=successors who come after me. Hold on to it firmly. Beware of newly-invented matters, for every innovation is a going astray.” (Narrated by Ahmad, 4/126; al-Tirmidhi no. 2676).
So, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) explained to us in this hadeeth what we should do when there are differences of opinion, just as he explained that everything that goes against his Sunnah, be it words or deeds, is a bid’ah, and every bid’ah is a going astray.
If we see that there is no basis for celebrating the birthday of the Prophet, whether in the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) or in the way of the rightly guided khalifahs=successors, then it is one of the newly invented matters, one of the bid’ahs=bad innovations which lead people astray. This principle is what is implied by this hadeeth and is what is indicated by the verse:
“O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger (Muhammad), and those of you (Muslims) who are in authority. (And) if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if you believe in Allah and in the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination” [al-Nisa’ 4:59]
Referring to Allah means referring to His Book and referring to the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) means referring to his Sunnah after he has passed away. The Qur’an and Sunnah are the reference point in cases of dispute.
Where in the Qur’an or Sunnah does it indicate that it is prescribed in Islam to celebrate the Prophet’s birthday? Whoever does that or thinks that it is good must repent to Allah from this and from other kinds of bid’ah. This is the attitude of the Muslim who is seeking the truth.
But whoever is too stubborn and arrogant after proof has been established, then his reckoning will be with his Lord.
We ask Allah to help us adhere to His Book and the Sunnah of His Messenger until the Day when we will meet Him. May Allah grant blessings and peace to our Prophet Muhammad and his family and companions.
Allah knows Best.