Thus the birth of the Holy Prophet was the most significant and the most remarkable event in human history.Had there been room in Islamic teachings for the celebration of birthdays or anniversaries, the birthday of the Holy Prophet, would have undoubtedly deserved it more than the birthday of any other person. But that is against the nature of Islamic teachings.
Rabi-ul-Awwal is the most significant month in the Islamic history, because humanity has been blessed in this month by the birth of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh). Before the birth of the Holy Prophet, not only the Arabian peninsula, but also the so-called civilised nations of Rome and Persia were drowned in the darkness of ignorance, superstitions, oppression and unrest. The Holy Prophet came with the eternal truth of Tawhid (Oneness of Allah), the only faith which provides a firm basis for the real concepts of knowledge, equity and peace. It was this faith which delivered humanity from ignorance and superstitions and spread the light of true knowledge all over the world.
On the other hand, Islam has not prescribed any festival for the birthday of any person, however great or significant he may be. The prophets of Allah are the persons of the highest status amongst all human beings. But the Holy Prophet, or his noble companions never observed the birthday or anniversary of any of them. Even the birthday of the Holy Prophet, which was the most happy day for the whole mankind was never celebrated by the Holy Prophet, himself, nor by his blessed Companions.
The Companions of the Holy Prophet, remained alive after him for about a century, but despite their unparalleled and profound love towards the Holy Prophet, they never celebrated the birthday or the death anniversary of the Holy Prophet. Instead, they devoted their lives for promoting the cause of Islam, for bringing his teachings into practice, for conveying his message to the four corners of the world and for establishing the Islamic order in every place.
The Holy Qur’an has clearly pronounced on the occasion of the last Hajj of the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him): “Today, I have completed the teachings of your religion.” [Al-Maida 5:3]
It means that all the teachings of Islam were communicated to the Muslims through the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet. No one is allowed after it to add any thing to them as a part of religion. What was not a part of religion during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet, can never become part of it. Such additions are termed by the Holy Prophet, as Bid’ah or innovation.
Thus, the observance of the 12th of Rabi’ul-Awwal as a religious feast is not warranted by any verse of the Holy Qur’an or by any teaching of the Holy Prophet.
The observance of the 12th of this month as the birthday of the Holy Prophet, (Pbuh) is not only an innovation having no basis in the Islamic teachings, but the accuracy of this date as the real birthday of the Holy Prophet, is also very much doubted. There are different dates suggested in different traditions, and the majority of the authentic scholars are inclined to hold that the Holy Prophet, (Pbuh), was born on the 9th of Rabi’ul-Awwal. This difference of opinion is another evidence to prove that the observance of the birthday is not a part of the religion, otherwise its exact date would have been preserved with accuracy.
The life of the Holy Prophet is, no doubt, the most important source of guidance for all the Muslims, and every Muslim is under an obligation to learn and study the events of his life, and to follow the practical example set by him in every sphere of life. The narration of his pious biography (the Seerah) in itself is a pious act, which invites the divine blessings, but the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah have not prescribed a particular time or method for it. This pious act should be performed in all the months and at all the times.
The month of Rabi’ul-Awwal has not been designated by the Shariah as a special season for holding such congregations to commemorate the birth or life of the Holy Prophet, (Pbuh). It is thus an innovation (Bid’ah) to restrict the Seerah meetings to the month of Rabi’ul Awwal only, or to believe that the meetings held in this month are worthy of more reward than the meetings held on any other date during the year. In fact, the Companions of the Holy Prophet, used to commemorate the life of the Holy Prophet, throughout the year, not only by studying and conveying his message to others, but also by following his way of life and acting upon his teachings in each and every branch of their activities, and this is exactly what a Muslim is required and supposed to do.
By this we do not mean that the Seerah meetings should not be held in the month of Rabi-ul-Awwal. The point is only that they should not be restricted to it, nor should it be believed that the Shariah has laid any kind of emphasis on holding such meetings in this particular month.
All other activities, often practiced on the twelfth of Rabi-ul-Awwal, like holding processions, constructing the mock tombs of the Holy Prophet, and illumination of the buildings and the roads are not warranted by any rule of the Shariah. Rather they are based on conscious or unconscious imitation of certain other religions. No example of such activities can be traced out from the earlier Islamic history.
What is really important with regard to the Holy Prophet, is first, to follow his teachings, and second to make his pious Seerah available to every Muslim, to preserve it in the hearts of the Muslims from the very childhood, to educate the family members to run their lives according to it and to hold it as the most glorious example of the human conduct the universe has ever witnessed — and all this with utmost love and reverence, not manifested by some formal activities only, but also through actual behavior of following the Sunnah. This cannot be done by merely holding processions and illuminating the walls. This requires constant and consistent efforts and a meaningful program of education and training.