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The Birth-Date of the Prophet and the History of the Mawlid

This article was originally posted on Muslim Matters.

This article comprises of three parts. In part one, the various opinions regarding the birth-date of the beloved Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) are mentioned. In part two, the history of celebrating this day will be documented.

The Date of the Prophet’s Birth

It is a commonly held belief that the birth-date of the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) is the 12th of Rabīʿ al-Awwal, in the ‘Year of the Elephant’, which is the year that the Abyssinian Emperor Abraha attacked the Kaʿbah with an army of elephants. However, most Muslims are unaware that there has always been great controversy over the precise date of the Prophet’s (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) birth, and it is quite possible that the 12th of Rabīʿ al-Awwal is not in fact the strongest opinion on the matter.

There is no narration in the famous ‘Six Books’ of ḥadīth that specifies when the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) was born. Rather, the only narration that exists specifies the day he was born, and not the date. Abū Qatāda narrates that a Bedouin came to the Prophet and asked him about fasting on Monday, to which the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) replied, “That is the day I was born on, and the day that the revelation began”. [1]  Therefore, the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) was born on Monday. But Monday of which month, and which year? For that, we need to turn to other sources. Again, no standard source book of ḥadīth mentions any precise date. However, there is a tradition of disputed authenticity, in the Sunan of al-Bayhaqī [2] states that Suwayd b. Ghafla narrated, “The Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) and I were born in the same year, the ‘Year of the Elephant.’” Certain other evidences also indicate that he was born this year. Hence, from the extended books of ḥadīth, two pieces of information can be gleaned: that he was born on a Monday (and this is confirmed), and that he was born in the ‘Year of the Elephant’ (and this is most likely correct).

When we turn to books of history, a number of dates regarding the birth of the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) are found. Ibn Isḥāq (d. 150 AH), the earliest and most authoritative biographer of the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam), states, without any isnād or other reference, that the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) was born on Monday, the 12th of Rabīʿ al-Awwal, in the ‘Year of the Elephant’. Between Ibn Isḥāq and the birth of the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) lies almost two centuries, so some more proof is needed before this date is settled on.

Another extremely important early source, Ibn Saʿd (d. 230 AH) in his abaqāt, mentions the opinion of a few early authorities regarding the date of his birth. In order, they are:

1) Monday, 10th of Rabīʿ al-Awwal, the ‘Year of the Elephant’.

2) Monday, 2nd of Rabīʿ al-Awwal.

3) Monday, no precise date.

4) The ‘Year of the Elephant’, no precise date.

It is interesting to note that Ibn Saʿd, one of the most respected historians of early Islam, does not even list the date of the 12th of Rabīʿ al-Awwal as a possible candidate. Of course the last two opinions are correct and do not clash with any specific date, but by quoting earlier authorities who only gave this information, it can be noted that the precise birth date of the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) was not known to them, hence they only gave the information they knew.

Ibn Kathīr (d. 774), the famous medieval historian, also lists many opinions in his monumental al-Bidāya wa-l-nihāyah regarding the birth-date of the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam). He states that the majority of scholars believed that the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) was born in the month of Rabīʿ al-Awwal, but differed regarding the precise day of the month. Some of these opinions are:

 

To read the full article click here  This article was originally posted on Muslim Matters.

 


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About Shaikh Yasir Qadhi

30 comments

  1. Aussie Muslim

    The issue is simple, but not as the simple minded intend. Celebrate the birth of the Prophet.saws, spread his love and praise, and don’t spread a bida Protestant version of Islam.

  2. The Prophet s.A.w also didn’t assemble a mushaf or pray taraweeh over 29 or 30 nights in Ramadan as we know today. The “qulli bidatin dalala” hadith is likely the most misunderstood hadith in the religion.

    Bida hasana people. Look it up.

  3. AA, it’s so interesting people just like to have fun and food by celebrating prophet’s birthday once a year. Why not fast every Monday to celebrate his birth like he use to do. But no there is no fun in fasting :). We claim we love prophet and then innovate instead of following Sunnah.

    • Very well said, in few words explains everything.
      JazakaAllah Khairan

    • LAILAM OOZEER

      CONGRATULATION
      WELL SAID
      FULLY AGREED
      WE CLAIM TO LOVE HIM SO WHY NOT FAST EVERY MONDAY AND THURSDAY
      JUST LIKE HE DID WITH ALL THE BLESSING
      IM DIABETIC ON INSULINE ONCE IN THE EVENING
      ALLAHAMDULLAH IM BLESSED BY ALLAH SWT TO DO THAT AND PRAY THAT ALLAH SWT ACCEPT MY DEEDS
      AND FORGIVE ME
      AMEEN

  4. Watch the above YouTube video explaining the permissibility of Mawlidh iA.

  5. The Prophet SAW said the best of people after will be of the first three generations after him. Therefore when it comes to matters of worship we look at the generation of the prophet saw and then if it is not found there to look in the generation after that and after that. This is part of the preservation of worship in Islam. It is not a discussion of whether things such as internet or tv is bidaah

  6. My Query is if Ibn Ishaq was such a big historian and knowing the science of transmission of ahadith with chains. How could he make the date of birth declared without any reference? It begs the question of methodology of transmission of knowledge

  7. Y all the fuss ? Whether the Prophet SAW was born on whichever date let us celebrate his birth , the greatest benefactor of mankind!
    Those who feel it shdnt b celebrated shd do and practise what they believe !
    What’s meant by celebration ? A celebration by Muslims has always .bn different . We celebrate by reading extracts from the seera of the Prophet SAW ,by reading durood or salawat abundantly ,by reminding others as to y we love this personality SAW – the one who personified al-Qran Majeed ! Y wd that b wrong ?
    To read qasaid in praise of Rasulullah SAW…y wd that b wrong ?
    But shd u feel uncomfortable to do so follow urge heart and respect others who feel differently !
    In conclusion the Prophet SAW fasted on Mondays .cz he was born on a Monday ! He remembered the day he was born by fasting ! Celebration in any acceptable moral form shd b encouraged !There r so any aspects of the the life of Muhammad Mustapha SAW that we take for granted or completely oblivious of !

    Let us take this opportunity to remind each other of the great personality of Nabi e Kareem SAW then to bicker abt trivial issues that creates more heartache n sorrow amongst the believers ! Islam has a great code of conduct that governs our every action. Our beloved Prophet SAW has left the greatest legacy …let us celebrate thereby”finding” each other n smooth over all our differences ! I LOVE MY PROPHET SAW AND WISH I COULD DO SO MUCH MORE FOR HIM IN ORDER TO PLEASE MY RABB !
    Allahuma salli ala Muhammad wa ala ali wa salam !

  8. No doubt Allah swa states that his servants should celebrate the blessing bestowed on us by Allah. Oh foolish people the prophet sallahu alaihi Wasalaam is the greatest and bestest blessing sent by Allah. He sallahu alaihi Wasalaam is a mercy to the worlds, through him Allah blessed us and he is the one who is granted intersession for us. Quran is recited, islamic knowledge is learnt on mawlids so where is the bad in that. If anything ur rejoicing at a blessing of Allah swa and thanking him and showing grateful ness and honour and respect to the best of his creation. Finally those who argue the companions never did this. Firstly they do not know every single hathith to make such remarks and secondly there’s a lot of permissible things we do which the companions never did. They never ate burgers, sat in cars or planes, they never used internet. As long as something doesn’t go against the religion it’s ok and if it’s something with good intention then that’s what u will be rewarded for. We are not following the Christians becoz they claim Jesus is the son of god. Astagfirulla we do not claim this, we say clearly what the prophet sallahu alaihi Wasalaam has taught us. To conclude those who are ( in today’s day and age) true lovers find ways and excuses to express their love for their prophet sallahu alaihi Wasalaam. It’s sad that others who claim they are lovers are busy finding ways to prove such acts to be biddah. lighten up and use the senses of ur heart, u will be guided inshaAllah!

  9. why do we need to celebrate prophets birthday
    why all the fuss about a birthday? let’s follow the simple religion that god has sent for us. Our prophet was only a man , a messenger…for all , let’s focus on the real world and move on to greater things that our religion demands from us.

    • Excellent said

    • Please learn to speak respectfully of the Messenger (saaw).

    • Aussie Muslim

      “Only a man” – how disrespectful to the blessed Prophet.saws to call him only a man – he was a pillar amongst men as diamonds are amongst rocks. He was a bright rose amongst shrubs. Have some more respect for the Master of Creation!

      • Bismillah walhamdulillah wassalaat wassalaam ‘alaa rasoolAllah

        Assalaam ‘alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakaatuh

        Allah Himself says:

        قُلْ إِنَّمَا أَنَا بَشَرٌ مِّثْلُكُمْ يُوحَىٰ إِلَيَّ أَنَّمَا إِلَٰهُكُمْ إِلَٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ ۖ فَمَن كَانَ يَرْجُو لِقَاءَ رَبِّهِ فَلْيَعْمَلْ عَمَلًا صَالِحًا وَلَا يُشْرِكْ بِعِبَادَةِ رَبِّهِ أَحَدًا

        Say, “I am only a man like you, to whom has been revealed that your god is one God. So whoever would hope for the meeting with his Lord – let him do righteous work and not associate in the worship of his Lord anyone.”
        [Surah Kahf, ayah 110]

        Allah refers to His Messenger (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) as “…only a man like you, to whom has been revealed that your god is one God”.

        So where is the problem with KJS referring to the Prophet (salAllah ‘alayhi wa sallam) as “only a man, a messenger…”?

        • Assalaamu Alaykum.

          You are absolutely right. Allah Azzawajal does refer to Nabi Kareem Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam as only a man. But you are not Allah Azawajal, nor is KJS. Prophet Sallallhu Alayhi Wasallam is the BEST of creation, so deserves the BEST of Praise. So try having some respect when talking about our Nabi Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam. This so called ” only a man” as you refer to Sallallhu Alayhi Wasallam will be the only ONE on the Day of Judgment who will Intercede for YOU and seek Forgiveness for YOU and help you into Jannah. And the previous comment ” there is more important things in religion and move on to greater things” Astagfirullah. May Allah Azzawajal guide us all, and help us to show respect to our beloved Nabi Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam

  10. Ibn Ishack’s Seerah
    In reality Ibn Ishack’s Seerah of our Prophet (SAW) is nowhere to be found. There exist no copy of his book since very very long… So how can the author mentioned that there is no isnad!!!

    None of the other too had any isnad above apart from the Monday & the year of the elephant. But still with the year of the elephant we find out the author had shed some doubts with his references…

    The fact is that the 12 Rabiy ul Awwal is mentioned in the Seerah Ibn Hishaam (d 218H) who claimed to have copied most from Seerah Ibn Ishack!

  11. What a Joke ?
    Did every thing has to be connected with early Muslims ?
    Why not those claiming that the early muslims doesn’t do this or that didn’t ask themselves here whether the early muslims used to write on the Internet as they are doing now to refute anything concerns about Islam ?
    Did early Muslims used to board a flight to Saudi Arabia, Did they used to watch Sate-lite TVs, Did they used the Mobile phones
    Please give us a Break !

    • Assalamu alaikum,
      If u notice everything you mention such as internet, tv etc all is a means to worship Allah. We take aeroplane to do hajj but we do hajj the way it was established long long time ago. How to worship Allah and respect our prophets is only established by Allah, no one else. We can trust the first three generation because our prophet (saw) told us to do that. Allah told us to follow prophet muhammed (saw) way to worship him. We can only succeed if we worship Allah the way he want us to, but not the way our desires tells us to.

    • We have to refer to the earlier generations as they r the ones who spent time with the prophet sallalhu alayhi wassalam . In regards to did the sahabas use technology like Internet n so on (lol). That’s just lame.. Technology such as cars etc r advancements in civilisation they r not something which has been added into Islam as being part of the religion. Mawlid is an innovation as no sahabas did this or the prophet sallalhu alayhi wassalam. So why do it now ? R u trying to say that prophet Muhammad sallalhu alayhi wassalam made a mistake n forgot to mention celebrating birthdays ? Biddah is something new added to the religion … Internet n traveling via airplanes isn’t Biddah as we have not added to the religion of Islam .. It’s a development in the way we travel … Lol

    • Chemo..you obviously have not grasped a basic understanding of important concepts of the religion. This can be the only excuse i can offer for your ludicrous line of argument. Apologies not intending to offend but…

    • If you do anything to get reward from Allah, that must come from Quran and hadith. otherwise you can do anything you like as long as there is no prohibition in Islam for doing that.

      For example, you can wear any color clothes, except, saffron, you can slaughter and eat any bird that does not prey, except swift. You can do sunnah, nawafil any time except prohibited times, sun rise and sun set. etc.
      So Mowalid is being done to get reward from Allah, and we do not have any example from Sahabas and tabaeen.
      Once Imam Malik was asked, can we follow any Sahabi blindly, he replied NO, unless his action comes from Prophet (SAS).
      It is very serious issue, one can be out if Islam. Be careful.

  12. the issue is simple
    ALHAMDULILAH OUR DEEN IS SIMPLE WE ARE PROTECTED ROM THE RISK OF INNIVATION BY BEING GIVEN THE GUIDANCE OF THE SUNNAH.DO AS THE PROPHET SAW DID AND ALLOWED AND THAT OBLIGATED IN THE QURAN.THEN FOLLOW THE IJMAA OF THE RIGHTEOUS PREDECESSORS.

    THEY DID NOT CELEBRATE THIS AND WE HAVE NO GUIDLINES TO FOLLOW IT YET I SEE SO MANY PEOPLE ARGUING FOR IT IT SEEMS TO BE DUE TO DESIRE AND AT TIMES PRIDE IN ONES INTERPRETATION,SHEIKH AND/OR FAMILY TRADITIONS.NEITHER MATTER.THE WORST THING IS WHEN SUPPOSED SHIEKHS MISGUIDE PEOPLE AND TELL THEM THIS IS ALLOWED.THEY WILL HAVE TO ANSWER FOR THIS.

    ALSO DIDNT THE PROPHET SAW SAY TO NOT BE LIKE THE CHRISTIANS AND JEWS AND THEY (CHRISTIANS)CELEBRATE PROPHET JESUS’s birthday this is just one of hundred reasons to not celebrate mawlid.THis is derived from sufism.May Allah guide us to the right path ameen.

  13. Can you post the Arabic text where Ibn Ishaq mentioned that he was born in the 12th Rabi Awwal?

  14. yuhibbu
    “Love” is derived from the Hebrew meaning to make “white.”

  15. yuhibbu
    “Love” is derived from the Hebrew meaning to make “white.”

  16. The big question – did the early Muslims celebrate his birthday during the lief of the prophet
    I suspect they did not, so if not then, should we be doing so?

    Is there any hadith or historical facts to prove Muslims celebrated the last prophets birthday during his life?

    • The real question is, is there any hadith or historical facts that say Islam is to be understood in this simple way “did it happen during his life”?

      Or is Islam based on laws and principles, yes principles, established during the Prophet.saws life, so as that compiling the Quran is good, making a new poem in praise of the Prophet.saws today is good, using the internet to inform people about the good message of Islam is good? So as that, we take seriously, the hadith of the Prophet.saws which says “Man sanna sunnah hasana…” – “Whoever establishes a good sunnah will be rewarded for the performance of it thereafter”

      We need to expand our minds and understand our religion from its true inheritors, yes inheritors, those scholars (termed as the “inheritors of the prophets” in a hadith) who have a live unbroken chain of learning back to the Messenger.saws, and not from modern pseudo-scholars who have basically gone against much of what all four madhabs have said on many already sorted items of deen.

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