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Home / Seasonal Reminders / Mawlid / Articles / The Birth-Date of the Prophet and the History of the Mawlid – Part II of III

The Birth-Date of the Prophet and the History of the Mawlid – Part II of III

This article was originally posted on Muslim Matters.

It is unanimously agreed upon, by historians, legal specialists and theologians of all groups, that the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) himself never commanded his followers to celebrate his birthday, nor was this practice known for the first few centuries of Islām. Therefore, the question arises as to how this practice was instituted and who were the first group to think of the idea of celebrating the birthday of the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam).

The Origin of the Mawlid 

The first mention ever made of the mawlid celebrations in any historical work comes in the writings of Jamāl al-Dīn Ibn al-Ma’mūn, who died 587 AH/1192 CE. His father was the Grand Vizier for the Fatimid Caliph al-Amir (ruled 494-524 /1101-1130). Although the work of Ibn al-Ma’mūn is now lost, many parts of it were quoted by later scholars, in particular the most famous medieval historian of Egypt, al-Maqrīzi (d. 845/1442) in his monumental Mawā’īal-i’tibār fī khiaMir wa-l-amār (shortened to the Khia). Al-Maqrīzi’s book is the standard source of information for Fatimid and early Mamlūk Egypt. What makes this work stand out above many others is not only its comprehensiveness, but also the fact that al-Maqrīzī quotes from many earlier references that are now lost, and also takes great care to cite his source, a practice very rare for the time.

Al-Maqrīzī relies upon the work of Ibn al-Ma’mūn for information regarding the social, political and religious policies of the Fatimids during the early part of the sixth century, which was the period that Ibn al-Ma’mūn’s father worked for the Fatimid Caliph. Due to the high position that his father enjoyed, Ibn al-Ma’mūn provided many details that outside historians could not possibly have been privy to.

Before proceeding, it is important to point out some facts regarding the Fatimid dynasty. This dynasty had established itself as a rival dynasty to the Abbasids in Baghdad. They had conquered Egypt in 358/969, and established the modern city of Cairo. They claimed descent from the Family of the Prophet (a claim that all others deemed to be fabricated), and followed the Sevener Branch of Shi’ite Islām, also known as ‘Ismailism’. Their beliefs and customs were so different from other branches of Islām that all Sunnis and even many other non-Ismaili Shi’ite groups deemed them outside the fold of the religion. The Ismailis had reinterpreted the five pillars of Islām to such a level that they would not conform to the regular rituals that other Muslims are accustomed to (such as the five daily prayers). The intellectual (and at times even biological) descendants of the Fatimid caliphs in our times are many. In particular, the Ismaili Aga Khan Imams and the Bohri Imams both trace their direct lineage to the Fatimid caliphs, and the group known as the Druze also are an offshoot of the Fatimid dynasty. It was this dynasty that first initiated the celebration of the mawlid.

To return to our topic, Al-Maqrizi, in his Khia, quotes Ibn al-Ma’mūn as follows, writing about the events of the year 517:

Next, the month of Rabī’ al-Awwal arrived, and we shall begin [the events of this month] by mentioning the thing for which it has become famous, namely, the birthday of the Master of the first and last, Muḥammad, on the thirteen [sic.] day. And by way of charity, the Caliph presented 6000 dirhams from the fund of najāwa [an Ismailite tithe], and from the dar al-fitra he presented 40 dishes of pastry, and from the chambers of the trustees and caretakers of the mausoleums that lie between the Hill and Qarafa, where the Al al-Bayt lie, he gave sugar, almonds, honey, and sesame oil [as a gift] to each mausoleum. And [his Vizier] took charge of distributing 400 pounds (ratl) of sweets, and 1000 pounds of bread.

The wording of the paragraph clearly suggests that the mawlid was a clearly established practiced by this time.

Another early source that mentions the mawlid is the work of Ibn al-Ṭuwayr (d. 617/1220), in his work Nuzhat al-Muqlatayn fī Akhbārt al-Dawlatayn. Ibn al-Ṭuwayr worked as a secretary for the Fatimid dynasty, and witnessed the change of power from the Fatimids to the Ayyubids, at the hand of Salaḥ al-Dīn al-Ayyūbi, which occurred 567/1071. His skills were so appreciated that he ended up working for the government of Ṣalāh al-Dīn as well. Ibn al-Ṭuwayr also describes the pageantry and pomp associated with the mawlid. He describes in detail [1]  the large amounts of foods that were distributed on this day, especially around the famous mausoleums of Cairo (some of which would have been considered by the Fatimids as being those of their Imams). The focus of the pageantry, of course, was the palace of the Caliph, and only the elite would get to attend. The celebrations of the day worked their way up to the appearance of the Caliph (who was the living imām for the Ismailites) from a palace window, his face covered in a turban. He himself would not deign to speak – rather, his private attendants would signal to the audience that the Caliph had returned their greetings and seen their love for him. From the courtyard pavilion various reciters and preachers would address the audience, finally culminating in the address of the khatib of the Azhar masjid (which of course, at that time, was the epitome of Ismaili academics).

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About Shaikh Yasir Qadhi


  1. zuhair kamal kidwai

    Jazak Allah…May Allah show us a right path…amen

    ✏ Eid Milad is not in Islamic Shariah, it was later
    introduced by Shia Fatimid in Egypt.
    ✏ Historians differed about the date of birth of Prophet
    SAW. Some said it’s in Ramadan, some in Shabaan and
    Some said its in Rabi ul awal.
    ✏ How can a Muslim rejoice and have party when on 12th
    Rabi al Awal our prophet died?
    ✏ Birthday celebration have pagan roots. Celebrating
    birthdays is not allowed at all.
    ✏ This celebration is neither from Sunnah nor Qur’an.
    Anything that is not part of these two can not be part of
    the Prophet SAW said, “Stick to my sunnah and the sunnah
    of my rightly guided Caliphs, beware of Newly invented
    matters, for every new matter is Bid’ah and every Bid’ah is
    (Tirmizi 2676)”
    ✏ Allah says in [Surah al Maidah 3].
    “This day I have perfected your religion for you.”
    When Islam is perfect and complete then who gave the
    authority to these people to introduce new things in Islam?
    ✏ Celebrating milaad is imitation of Christians and Jews.
    Jews celebrate birthday of Uzair, Christians celebrate
    birthday of Esa AS.
    while the Prophet Saw said, “Whoever imitates a people
    becomes one of them. (Abu Dawood)”
    ✏ Prophet SAW said, “Be different from Mushrikeen. (Sahih
    ✏ Prophet SAW said “Do not exaggerate in praising me.”

  3. Failure to celebrate the maulid of the Prophet s.A.w EVERY-SINGLE-DAY is a failure in being truly Muslim. Not a moment should pass without us rejoicing his existence and the gift it was to us.

  4. Salam Brothers & Sisters in Islam!
    Lets keep it simple. For every question, for every reference the biggest scholar, the biggest Imam in Islam was the Prophet Muhammad,PBUH. The best source of information is the Quran & the book of Sahi Hadees, so If the prophet PBUH didn’t celebrate nor asked to celebrate it after his death + if the Islamic source of books do not mention it, by not mentioning it implies it is outside the boundaries of Islam, there without a question celebration of this event is nothing but an innovation/Bidda.

  5. There is no hadith condemning CHRISTMAS EASTER FATHERS DAY MOTHERS DAY NEW YEARS DAY BIRTHDAY ANNIVERSARY etc……does this mean we are allowed to celebrate these days as well? Copying our neighbours I.e. Christians and Jews ? We have been warned by the prophet saw directly not to follow the Christians and Jews in their practices. Also, we should not be disrespectful to any human being let alone a scholar or knowledgeable person. If u read the prophet saw final speech sermon he clearly mentions that he was going to pass away and warned his ummah to continue on the straight and simple path and not to deviate from it. He also warned against shirk bidah specifically and said he will meet us on day of judgement where Allah swt may grant him intercession for us in sha Allah. Allah swt has said clearly in the Qur’an that THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE UNSEEN AND QADR HAS NOT BEEN GIVEN TO ANY OF HIS CREATION THAT’S WITH ALLAH SWT ALONE….. prophets had powers but only when Allah swt gave and the prophets asked for them for a certain period where they were having difficulty in delivering Allah’s message etc. Munkar and nakeer angels on left right shoulders write our deeds doings nobody else. Plz check. Thanks. I hope I havent made any error in sha Allah with Allah’s help.

  6. Just came back from a charity trip from Syria there were little kids barefoot in the snow some hadn’t eaten a hot meal in months.Turn off your hot water and don’t flush your toilets for 24 hours now imagine a camp with 3000 people in it with 2 toilets. Arguing about Milad puts things in perspective doesn’t it. I’d rather spend my time helping the Ummah of our Beloved Prophet Muhammad Saw and leave the debating of non urgent matters to the scholars as that’s all they are good for these days (not all but the vast majority)

    • Brother if only we had one percent of the umma think this way The world would be entirely different.

      My prayers are with my syrian brothers and sisters ya Allah protect them and their Families and strengthen their Iman. We leave our matters in your hand as You are the All Knowing.


  7. Brother Shafi Chowdhury

    السلام عليكم

    Knowledgeable Articles. Please forward me Part 111.

    جزاكم الله خيرا

  8. Islam (PEACE)

    @ Truth

    You need to look up what Hadith is or better still I’ll explain. HADITH saysings of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) and written down by sahaba. So how is there going to be a hadith condeming the Mawlid when there is no hadith that justifies doing the mawlid. There is alot of hadith’s condeming acts such as celebrating birthdays and other pagan rituals etc.
    So if Prophet Muhammad (saw) wanted his birthday celebrating he would have done it at his time with the best of creation the sahaba (radiatalahum).On that day it is best to keep fast as the prophet did. As you should know it was the same day the prophet (SAW) past away.
    All I say is Ya Allah make this ummah one.
    Allah knows best.

  9. how can theere be a hadith to condemn the celebration of Mawlid as it only started decades after the passing of the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam)?

    You make no sense….

  10. In maulid all people do is send salutations to our Prophet and ziker and below is a hadith from the prophet

    Reported by Abu Hurairah and Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri (RA): The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “When a group of people assemble for the remembrance of Allah, the angels surround them (with their wings), (Allah’s) mercy envelops them, Sakinah, or tranquillity descends upon them and Allah makes a mention of them before those who are near Him.” [Muslim] This is so incredibly beautiful. Just amazing. May Allah guide us ALL to this position. Join us to say Ameen!

  11. Beautiful article and detailed information. Jazak Allah.

  12. This topic is well researched and I thank the brothers who has contributed to this discussion.
    Our beloved prophet saw is obviously well respected and honored throughout the world and the mention of our Prophet saw name as part of our Shahadah obviously bears testimony to the high status that Allah swt has bestowed upon our beloved prophet. Therefore I agree that there is no Haadith condemning the Mawlid .
    However, in the Muslim countries like UAE, Saudia, Qatar etc. the leaders of the various countries are honored, respected and presented in such a way that in my humble opinion it borders onto a form of worship to the so called (western appointed leaders) of the Arab countries. Surely, this is a worse form of Bida than celebrating a Mawlid to honor our beloved Prophet Saw.

  13. Islamic Jurisprudence Shariah *

  14. Yasir Qadhi, why don’t you debate traditional Sunni Scholars when it comes to this issue? I hear there are a plethora of them wanting to debate you. Please, issue up a challenge as you claim to be a scholar of the Islamic Sciences. Bring your proofs and they will bring theirs, we can let Allah Subhana Wa Ta’ala decide. Rasul’Allah SalAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, is not disconnected, our deeds are displayed to him and this is a Hasan Hadith go look it up when he SalAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam will see you writing this article what will he SalAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam think and feel?. Also, you seem to have not studied Shariah last time I check the roots of Islamic Knowledge are predominantly four. Qur’an Sunnah Ijma and Qiyas and it si through these we derive rulings of the Shariah, Mawlid hence is Jaaizz if it fulfills requisite conditions. Also, Hello, there is no Hadith that condemns the celebration of Mawlid either. Please quit pandering your nonsense.

  15. Use the blessing of ‘thinking’
    Regarding to what brother Yusuf has written, I would argue that scholars get get their verdicts right and sometimes wrong. When using the right methodology and effort they are always rewarded for their verdicts. But, in this case and in general, and I believe this answers Shehzada’s coments too, we always refer to the Prophet sallallahu aleyhi wa selam and his companions radiallahu anhum in seeking guidance and closeness to Allah. Use the gifted mind to ask simply, did the Prophet saws or Sahabah celebrate this day? Did they not know better? The asnwer to this should really satisfy a true seeker of knowledge.
    Secondly, please read PART 1 and we learn how this begun and how did id disseminate. This to further fascilitate the understadning on the matter.
    Finally, there will always be those who really wish to follow that which they desire and their intellect deems as right. If Prophet saws was today around and did not celebrate his brithday, like he didn’t 1400 years ago, you will find those who will do it.
    Let us follow our beloved Rasul saws’s way and we will prosper. If you insist in celebrating then do it by fasting and commemorating the Sunnah and Seera and do not do anything that resembles the non-muslims way of celebrating.
    Allah knows better

  16. bida?
    Many classical scholars have made the mawlid permissable. Jalal ud deen as suyuti one off the top of my head. it has never been an issue in the muslim lands, it only seems to be the salafi movement started in what, 1950? that is so deeply based in knowledge of the salaf, that calls it bida. each to their own. As Churchill said, “history will be kind to us gentlemen, because we will write it”. Such is the position of the Salafi movement in the Sudi Arabian hierarchy. This loaded explanation of the history is just not good enough.

    In the old days, a donkey would be used to transport goods across the land. The purpose, the goal, was to get the goods across the land. The goal was never the donkey. Some deep thought on that may lead us to really understand the sunnah, and what it is to embody it. Big beards, miswak in the top pocket, trousers above ankles, staunch opposition to any new ways of embodying the sunnah, this is what the beloved preached?

    Is it against the values the sunnah represents, to spend extra time in a period blessed by the birth of the prophet saw in remembrance and gatherings?

  17. Mowaalid
    We know that everyday we praise Muhammad PBUH,but on this very auspicious day of His birth,there is no harm if we do some additional programme,speaking on the Grandeur Almighty Allaah gifted Him.Only people of bad faiths will find arguments to dissapprove the Kalimaah Readers Faith.Islaam has got ennemies from outside but from inside too(hypocrites,monaafiks).Shame on you people and Almighty Allaah will judge you.

  18. Shehzada javied malik

    Very well researched. Thankyou for giving us historical background of this widely spread bida. Bui i wpnder why it took so long why scholars did not reject it at outset. Why they let it grow so big that a ordinar muslim sometimes thinks what is right and shat is wrong to celebrate or not to celebrate. It is the duty of muslm scholars to put their put down where they are sure it is a bida. Jazak Allah khairan

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