Question: Is it permissible for Muslims to celebrate the Prophet’s Birthday in the mosque or elsewhere in order to remember his life (ﷺ) on the 12th of Rabīʿ Al-Awwal without turning the day into a holiday, like ʿEid? We are in disagreement over it. Some say it is a good innovation and some say it is a bad one.
Answer: It is not permissible for Muslims to organise celebrations for the birthday of the Prophet (ﷺ) on the night of the 12th Rabīʿ Al-Awwal, nor on any other night. Neither is it permissible for them to organise celebrations for any other person’s birthday. Celebrating birthdays is an innovation in the religion because the Prophet (ﷺ) did not celebrate his own birthday at any time in his life, and he was the conveyor of this Religion and the one who carried out the rulings conveyed to him from his Lord (ﷻ). He did not command others to celebrate it, neither the righteous Caliphs, nor the rest of his Companions (Allah be pleased with them)―and none of the successive generation known as the Tābiʿīn celebrated his birthday, nor those who followed them from the well-known Imāms. They were the best of mankind, the closest to the Prophet in terms of following his example and in their love of him. Allāh’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “The best of mankind is my generation, then those who follow them, and then those who follow them.” (Al-Bukhārī) So, we say it is a forbidden innovation known as a bidʿah―and the Messenger (ﷺ) stated, “Whoever innovates into this affair of ours that which is not from it, will have it rejected.” (Al-Bukhārī). And in a variant wording, he stated, “Whoever performs a deed which is not from this affair of ours, will have it rejected.” (Muslim). So, whether one initiates a new act of worship or merely imitates an innovated act in worship, it is rejected by Allāh since it is not in conformity with the revealed texts. Acts of worship can only be done based only upon revelation contained in the Qur’ān and Prophetic Sunnah―one is not allowed to introduce new acts of worship into the Religion. And this is due to the fact that our religion has been completed and perfected, as Allāh has said, “This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed my favour upon you and I am pleased with Islam as your religion.” (Qur’ān 5:3).
That which has been completed and perfected by the Lord of the worlds requires no further perfection, completion or addition. Allāh (ﷻ) prohibited any legislation or worship to be added to His Religion, “Or have they partners alongside Allāh who have legislated for them from the Religion that which Allāh has not ordained.” (Qur’ān 42:21) So, celebrating the birthday of the Prophet (ﷺ) is a newly invented religious act, which does not conform with the texts of the Qur’ān and Sunnah. It was innovated into Islam centuries after the passing away of Allāh’s Messenger (ﷺ). The Prophet (ﷺ) used to say during his Friday sermon, “Verily, the best speech is the Book of Allāh, and the best guidance is the guidance of Muhammad, and the worst of all affairs are the newly invented matters (in religion), and every innovation is misguidance. And every misguidance is in the Fire.” (Muslim and An-Nasā’ī). If celebrating the Prophet’s birthday had been legislated, the earlier generations would have been the first to celebrate it, since they were the best of generations and the closest to the noble Prophet and the most beloved to him from mankind. The Companions of the Prophet would have been the first to enact the celebration had it been legislated or seen to be something good―and they would have called others to it, and the knowledge of it would have been present in their authentically reported statements and actions. Yet this celebration was unknown to the first three generations of noble believers, and is rejected by religious texts. So, Muslims should keep away from these newly-innovated celebrations and rituals because they do not bring you closer to Allāh, nor increase you in goodness. In these times we find certain Muslim sects gathering in the streets or in mosques and houses making dhikr and distributing sweets and gifts in celebration of the Prophet’s birthday (ﷺ). All of this is forbidden, regardless of how beautiful it may seem.