Is Celebrating Muhammad's Birthday Bid`ah?
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
First of all, we would like to stress that Muslims all over the world should seize the opportunity of the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) to introduce his life to all of humanity. Lessons can be drawn from the Prophet's life, and he is a model role from whom all people can learn. In this regard, we should stress that it is not bid`ah (an innovation) to celebrate the Prophet's birthday as some may claim.
Bid`ah in the Arabic language refers to a practice that occurs when someone invents a practice for which there is no precedent.
In Islamic terminology, it refers to innovations in worship for which there is no precedent in Islam.
In this regard, I should make clear that it is not bid`ah to express our love for the Prophet of mercy (peace and blessings be upon him) as long as we are not introducing new forms of worship while doing so. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) allowed certain things or events associated with him during his time to be commemorated, and Muslims used to express their love freely without any inhibition. They would even show their love for him by using the leftover water from the Prophet's wudu'.
Thus, we have enough evidence to prove that we are allowed to express our love and to commemorate the event of the Prophet's birth.
Commemorating the Prophet's birthday would only fall into the category of bid`ah, or innovation, if we were to innovate forms of worship that were not initially prescribed in the religion.
We have precedents in the life of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), as well in the life of his pious predecessors, to commemorate the things or events associated with the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Didn't they commemorate the Prophet's entry to Madinah with singing and expressions of joy; didn't they commemorate the event of Hijrah by making it the basis of the Islamic calendar; and didn't they compose poems in praise of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)? The companions also commemorated the relics of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) by cherishing them dearly as expressions of their love for their Messenger.
Nations commemorate historical moments in order to foster their unity and sense of who they are. Can there be any event in Islamic history that is more significant for Muslims than the birth, mission, and life of the Messenger of Allah? How then, can we say that we cannot commemorate it in a fitting manner, when we do so in respect to all kinds of events in the life of our nation, political party, or institution. Ameen.
Allah Almighty knows best.
[Ahmad Kutty, A senior lecturer and an Islamic Scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada Via Islam Online]