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Question: Is it permissible for Muslims to celebrate in the Masjid with dhikr and readings from the Seerah (Biography) of Prophet (r) on the night of the 12th of Rabee'-ul-Awwal, especially on the Prophet's birthday without making it a day of Eid? There is some differing between us as to whether it's Bid'ah Hasanah (good innovation) or not.
Answer: It's not from the way of Muslims to gather to celebrate the Prophet's birthday on the night of the 12th of Rabee'-ul-Awwal or any other night. Likewise, it is not from the way of Muslims to gather for any birthday celebration of any one, including the Prophet (p.b.u.h.). And this affair of celebrating and gathering for the birthday of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) is an innovation and a newly introduced matter in the Religion. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) never celebrated his birthday during his lifetime. And he was the one who communicated the Religion to us and legislated its legislation (for us) with Allaah's authority. This affair of celebrating the Prophet's birthday was not practiced by the rightly guided Khaleefahs or his Companions nor by those who preceded them in righteousness because they knew it was an innovation.
The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said:
"He who innovates something in this affair of ours (i.e. Sunnah) that is not part of it, will have it rejected." (Bukhaari and Muslim)
And in another version of the Hadeeth:
"He who does an act which is not in agreement with our affair (i.e. religion), will have it rejected."
This celebrating of the Prophet's birthday is not from his practice but rather it is something that was introduced into the Religion by the later generations of Muslims and so it is to be rejected.
The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) would say in his Friday khutbah (sermon):
"To Proceed. Surely the best speech is the Book of Allaah and the best of all guidance is the guidance of Muhammad. And the worst of all affairs are newly invented things and every newly invented thing is an innovation and every innovation is astray." (Sahih Muslim)
It is also recorded by an-Nasa'i with a good chain of narration with the addition: