What does Islam say about Milad?
First and foremost, the tradition isn’t Islamic, as it was performed by pagans, Christians and other religions as a traditional form of worship.
A birthday is an occasion when a person or institution celebrates the anniversary of their birth. Birthdays are celebrated in numerous cultures, often with a gift, party, or rite of passage.
Many religions celebrate the birth of their founders with special holidays. A primary example of this is the Christmas ceremony itself. In the bible, the following verse explains this:
“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)
Thus birthdays are not part of the sunnah of the Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, or of the Caliphs who succeeded him.
Since this is the case, then mawlid is a forbidden innovation, because the Prophet ﷺ has said, “I urge you to follow my sunnah and the way of the rightly-guided Caliphs after me; adhere to it and cling to it firmly. Beware of newly-invented things, for every newly-invented thing is an innovation (bid’ah) and every innovation is a going-astray.” [Narrated by Ahmad, 4/126; at-Tirmidhi no. 2676]
The mawlid ceremony is an innovation introduced after the golden era of Islam (i.e. after the first three centuries of Islam) in order to corrupt the religion.
If a person was to do something for the sake of drawing closer to Allah, but this act of worship was not ordained by the Messenger of Allah ﷺ and was not performed by the Caliphs who succeeded him either, then this action implies that individual performing such is accusing the Messenger of failing to explain the religion to the people with clarity, and that he disbelieves in the words of Allah, as Allah has said in the Qur’an (before the final revelation was given to the Prophet ﷺ): “This day, I have perfected your religion for you.” [Al-Qur’an 5:3]
Celebrating the birthday of the Prophet ﷺ is an imitation of the Christians, because they celebrate the birth of the Messiah, peace be upon him. Thus imitating the kuffar is haram. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ has said, “Whoever imitates a people is one of them.” [Narrated by Ahmad, 2/50; Abu Dawud, 4/314] He also said, “Be different from the mushrikin.” [Narrated by Muslim, 1/222, no. 259]
In addition to being an act of bid’ah, celebrating the birthday of the Prophet ﷺ is also a means of unnecessary worship that leads to exaggeration and excess in venerating him. If observed carefully, some these deviated innovators even go as far as calling upon the prophet ﷺ (making du’a’ to him) and seeking help from him, instead of calling upon Allah! They ask him for support, and sing qasidah (odes) of shirk as a means of praising him.
The Prophet ﷺ forbade going to extremes in praising him, as he said, “Do not extol as the Christians extolled the son of Maryam. For I am just His slave, so say, the slave of Allah and His Messenger,” [Narrated by al-Bukhari, 4/142, no. 3445; al-Fath, 6/551]
The commentary for this hadith is as follows – “do not exaggerate in praising me as the Christians exaggerated in praising the Messiah and venerated him until they worshipped him instead of Allah.”
Allah forbade them to do that when he said (interpretation of the meaning), “O people of the Scripture (Christians)! Do not exceed the limits in your religion, nor say of Allah aught but the truth. The Messiah ‘Isa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary), was (no more than) a Messenger of Allah and His Word, (“Be!” — and he was) which He bestowed on Maryam (Mary) and a spirit (Ruh) created by Him.“ [Al-Qur’an 4:171]
Our Prophet ﷺ forbade us to exaggerate concerning him lest the same thing happen to us as happened to them, so he said, “Beware of exaggeration, for those who came before you were destroyed because of exaggeration.” [Narrated by an-Nasa’i, 5/268; classed as sahih by al-Albani in Sahih Sunan al-Nasa’i, no. 2863]
Observing the innovation of the Prophet’s birthday gives pathway to other acts of bid’ah and distracts the individual from following the actual acts of sunnah.
Hence you find that the innovators are very active when it comes to bid’ah and (as a result of this) are very lazy when it comes to adhering to the hadith; they show repulsion towards it and regard those who follow it as enemies.
The innovators within themselves have split into various groups, with each group commemorating the anniversary of a particular Imam’s birth, such as the births of al-Badawi, Ibn ‘Arabi, al-Dasuqi and al-Shadhili. No sooner do they end the celebration of one birthday but they start the celebration of another.
This results in exaggeration concerning these dead people and others, and in calling upon them instead of Allah, believing that they can bring benefit and cause harm, until they deviate from the religion of Allah and go back to the religion of the people of the jahiliyyah of whom Allah says (interpretation of the meaning), “And they worship besides Allah things that harm them not, nor profit them, and they say:
‘These are our intercessors with Allah’,” [Al-Qur’an 10:18] and “And those who take awliya’ (protectors, helpers, lords, gods) besides Him (say): ‘We worship them only that they may bring us near to Allah’.” [Al-Qur’an 39:3]