THE FIRST BOOK ON THE MEELAD SHAREEF
Ibn Khallikan wrote in the biographical sketch of Hafiz Abu al-Khattab Ibn Dihyah: "He was one of the pious Ulama and famous scholars. He travelled from Morocco to Syria and Iraq. In the year 654 A.H. he passed through the area of Irbil, where he saw that its ruler, the eminent Sultan Muzaffar al-Din Ibn Zainal-Din arranged for celebrating the Birthday of the Prophet. So he wrote the book `Kitab al-Tanwir fi Mawlid al-Bashir al-Nadhir` for the Sultan and himself read it out to him.I myself heard the book read out in six sittings at the Sultan`s place in 625 A.H."
AL-FAKIHANI`S ESSAY REJECTING THE MEELAD SHAREEF
Sheikh Tajuddin Umar Ibn Ali al-Khumi al-Iskandari, well known as al-Fakihani, has claimed that the Milad Shareef is a reprehensible Bid`ah (innovation). In this regard, he wrote an essay entitled "al-Mawrid fi-l-Kalam ala-l-Mawlid" (The origin in Discussion about the Birthday of the Prophet).
Al-Fakihani has stated that the Meelad Shareef is an innovation invented by useless and idle people, who are slaves of their stomachs and on whom the lower desires of the Nafs predominate.Further, having explained the different kinds of rules he stated that it is neither Wajib, nor Mandub, since neither did the Shari`ah demand it nor did the Sahabah, the Tabi`un and the Ulama of the early generations celebrate it. In this connection we say, as stated earlier, that it was a just Sultan who was an Alim who started the Meelad Shareef with the objective of obtaining nearness to Allah. There were many Ulama and pious people with him, yet none of them deemed it reprehensible. On the contrary, Ibn Dihyah (such an eminent Alim of that time) liked the celebration of the Milad Shareef, and wrote a book for the Sultan on this subject (as mentioned earlier). These were all Ulama of the earlier generations who liked the Meelad Shareef, who supported and confirmed it and did not criticise or refute it. (This is itself a self-evident proof that al-Fakihani`s allegations are wrong).
Then there remains his statement that the Meelad Shareef is not even Mandub in reality, which the Shari`ah has demanded. In this regard our submission is that the demand of the Shari`ah is known sometimes through a Nass (an explicit textual statement in the Quran or in the Hadith literature) and sometimes through Qiyas (analogical deduction). For the Meelad Shareef, although no Nass is to be found, yet from those two bases in the Sunnah which are mentioned further on, Qiyas can definitely be made (i.e., when Qiyas is applied on those two bases the commendability – being Mandub – of the Milad Shareef can be realised). DIFFERENT CATEGORIES OF BID`AH (INNOVATION)
His statement that the Meelad Shareef can also not be Mubah because the Ijma` of the followers of Islam is that anything that is a Bid`ah (innovation) in religion cannot be Mubah, is one that is not accepted. This is because Bid`ah (innovations) are not classified only as Haraam or Makruh, but they can also be Mubah as well as Mandub or Wajib.
Imam al-Nawawi (radi Allahu anhu) says in "Tahdhib al-Asma wal Lugat": "Bid`ah in the Shari`ah is the invention of that which was not there in the period of the Messenger of Allah, and it is divided into two categories, Hasanah (or good) and Qabihah (or evil)."
Shaikh Izzuddin Ibn Abd al-Salaam (radi Allahu anhu) writes in "al-Qawa`id": "Bid`ah is divided into Wajib, Haraam, Mandub, Makruh and Mubah. And the way to know to which category it belongs is to examine it together with the laws of Shari`ah. If it falls with those laws that deal with what is Wajib, then it is Wajib; if with those laws that deal with what is Haraam, then it is Haraam; if with the laws dealing with what is Mandub, then Mandub; if the laws dealing with what is Makruh, then Makruh; if with the laws dealing with what is Mubah, then Mubah".
After this he went on to give examples of the five kinds of Bid`ah and wrote: "As for Bid`ah that is Mandub, its examples are the setting up of inns and educational institutions and very good action which was not there in the first age. Among the latter are Tarawih, discussion on the intricacies of Tasawwuf and debates. And among these is the convening of assemblies for deduction of laws in connection with problems providing that the motive thereof is to seek the pleasure of Allah Ta`ala".
Al-Baihaqi (radi Allahu anhu) in "Manaqib al-Shafi`i" has transmitted with his isnad (chain of narrators) from Imam al-Shafi`i (radi Allahu anhu) himself, that he said: "The new things that are brought about are of two kinds. One kind is that which is brought about, inconsistent with something in the Quran or the Sunnah or with some Athar or some Ijma`. This is the category of Bid`ah Dalalah (heretic innovation). The second kind is that which is brought about from good things which are not inconsistent with any of the above".
Umar (radi Allahu anhu) did say about standing in prayer in the month of Ramadaan, "What a good Bid`ah this is!" meaning that this is a new thing which was not there before and being a new thing it does not contradict anything that went before. THE BID`AH THAT IS MANDUB
This refutes al-Fakihani`s statement that the Milad Shareef cannot also be Mubah. But on the contrary it is a Bid`ah that is Makruh.This is because the Meelad Shareef is of that category of new matters which involve no inconsistency with anything in the Quran or the Sunnah, or with any Athar or Ijma`. Thus, this is not blameworthy (i.e. from the point of view of the Shari`ah, there is no evil in it), as in the statement of Imam al-Shafi`i (radi Allahu anhu) and it is a good action which, even though (in its present form) was not done in the first age, was brought about afterwards.&
The invitation to partake of food and drink in which there is no sin, is an act of goodness for sure. Therefore, in connection with the Meelad Shareef, that assembly in which someone, out of his lawfully earned wealth, invites his family, relatives and friends to partake of food and drink in which there is no action against the Shari`ah – that assembly is a Bid`ah (innovation) that is Mandub (commendable), as is clear from the above quoted statements of Shaikh Izzuddin Ibn Abd al-Salam (radi Allahu anhu). HARAAM AND MAKRUH THINGS
In connection with the second manner al-Fakihani has described and criticised, his criticism is in itself correct. There is no doubt that the assembly (mahfil) is Haraam where men, women, youths and little boys are freely mixed, and which there is dancing and music, with musical instruments in busy use, or where women assemble separately and sing in raised voices. But this does not mean that to arrange for the Meelad Shareef has been deemed Haraam. On the contrary, in the above instances the reason for their being Haraam is not assembling to celebrate the Meelad Shareef but is due to those things which are Haraam in the Shari`ah and have become mixed with the blessed assembly. (And if these things are not indulged in, then the Meelad Shareef would be as assembly for remembering Muhammad Mustafa - sallal laahu alaihi wasallam - and would thus be full of goodness and blessings).