Meelad-un-Nabi or Moulood-un-Nabi or Mawlid is the Birth Celebration of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam).
Some people have declared Meelad-un-Nabi to be Haraam and an evil Bid'at because they say that the celebration of birthdays and anniversaries have no connection with Islam as this is an exclusive custom of the Kuffaar. They say: "in upholding these innovatory customs, Muslims are in fact imitating the Kuffaar and this our Nabi (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) has strictly forbidden".
What takes place in a Meelad celebration? In such a celebration a session of Naath (Poems in praise of Rasoolullah - sallal laalhu alaihi wasallam) recitals take place, people are fed, and a sincere effort is made to fill the hearts of Muslims with the love of Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam). The miracles, excellences and the character of Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) are mentioned in Meelad gatherings. The Meelad functions presents one with one of the best means of learning about Rasoolullahs (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) life.
The gatherings of Meelad-un-Nabi are a great means for calling people towards Allah Ta'ala. To mention the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) in the month of his birth should be increased so that the people could arrange gatherings and congregations to refresh the memories of the Nabawi period.
It is a requirement of the Holy Quran to show respect on the Meelad of Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam). Allah Ta'ala says: "In the bounty of Allah Almighty and His Mercy, in that, let them rejoice, that is better than the wealth they accumulate". (Surah Yunus: 58) Almighty Allah had ordered us to rejoice on His Mercy and Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) is the greatest Mercy of Allah Taala to all the Worlds.
In the time of Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam), the period of the Sahabah and in the period of the Tabi'in, Meelad was not celebrated as it is done in the present form. But the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam), Sahabah or Tabi'in did not prohibit it as well. This is an accepted principle of Shari'ah that the performance of something is proof of Jawaaz (permissibility), and not doing it is NOT the proof of its prohibition.
The Meelad celebration is not compulsory. It is Mustahab (recommended). Imam Jalaaluddin Suyuti (radi Allahu anhu) said that it is Mustahab for us to celebrate Meelad of the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) as to thank Allah. (Ruhul Bayaan)
All the Ulema and Muslims of all the countries have regarded Meelad as Mustahab (recommended). According to the Hadith of Sayyiduna Ibn Masood (radi Allahu anhu), whichever deed is regarded as good by Muslims is good by Almighty Allah as well, and whichever deed is regarded as evil by Muslims is evil by Almighty Allah as well. Imam Ahmed (radi Allahu anhu) has narrated this Hadith Shareef.
Although the present form of Meelad is a Bid'ah (innovation) (Bidah Hasanah or Good Innovation), but the origin of Meelad is found in the time of Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam). Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) himself made mention of his own Meelad by saying, "I am the Du'a of my father Sayyiduna Ebrahim (alaihis salaam), I am the good tidings of 'Isa (alaihis salaam), and I am the son of the two slaughtered ones (Sayyiduna Ismail - alaihis salaam and Sayyiduna Abdullah - radi Allahu anhu)."
The Holy Prophets (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) uncle and an arch enemy of Islam, Abu Lahab, set his slave Thuwaiba free being happy for the Meelad of Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam). Abu Lahab's punishment is made light every Monday as a reward of his act, i.e. of expressing happiness for the birth of the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam). (Bukhari Shareef)
When the assembly of Zikr of the beloved Rasool (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) takes place, a Muslim is happy and joyful, therefore, he invites people to partake in the food provided, he gives charity and distributes sweatmeats. To feed people after an important or virtuous deed is the practice of the Sahaba.
It is Sunnah to commemorate happiness. Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) was asked about fasting on a Monday. He replied, "I was born on that day and Wahi (Revelation) began upon me on that day." (Mishkat) It is now proven that to keep fast on a Monday is Sunnah because Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) was born on that day.
Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) used to respect the day of his own Meelad. He used to thank Allah Ta'ala for that great favour. He used to fast in order to respect that day.
Meelad celebration causes the recitation of Durood and Salaam. Durood and Salaam are required by Shari'ah.
When certain of the Sahabah used to recite the praises of Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) in poetry form, Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) used to rejoice and reward those Sahabah. In the Meelad function, the character and virtues of Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) are explained and his praises are recited in poetry and prose form.
To mention the miracles and character of Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) leads towards love and the completion of Iman with him, which is required by the Shari'ah.
Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) expressed the virtues of Jummah (Friday) by saying that Sayyiduna Adam (alaihis salaam) was born on that day. Therefore, imagine the virtue of that day when Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) was born!
Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) said that anyone who invented a good deed and people later practiced upon it, they will be rewarded. Meelad is a good deed.
Allah Ta'ala says in the Holy Quran: "And all that We relate to you of the tiding of the Messengers is for the purpose of strengthening your heart therewith". (Surah Hud: 20) We are in need of strengthening our hearts with the mentioning of Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) and other Prophets (alaihihimus salaam) and the Meelad gives us this opportunity.
Sayyiduna Imam Shafi'i (alaihir rahmah) said: "Any thing which opposes (or changes) the Quraan, Sunnah, Ijma (consensus) or the sayings of the Sahabah is Bid'ah. Any good deed which is not opposed to them is praiseworthy". (Meelad celebration does not oppose any of them)
As in the practices of Haj, the running between Safa and Marwa are legal in order to refresh the remembrance of pious people. Similarly, the celebration of Meelad-un-Nabi is also legal to refresh the remembrance of Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam).
Sayyiduna Moulana Abdus Sammi' (alaihir rahmah) has counted 73 names of great scholars of Islam who wrote about the validity of Meelad celebrations. (Anwaare Saati'a)
Allama Jalaaluddin Suyuti (alaihir rahmah) writes: "The Shari'ah commanded Aqeeqah on the birth (of a child). This is a way to thank Allah and rejoice, but on the time of death no such commandment has been given. In fact, mourning and grieving is prohibited. The same principle of Shari'ah demands that happiness and the joy should be expressed in Rabi-ul-Awwal on the birth of the beloved Rasool (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) and not grieve on his Wisaal (Departure from this world)". (Husnul Maqsad Fee Amalil Moulid Al Haawi Lil Fatawa)
Imam Suyuti (alaihir rahmah) writes about Meelad: "According to me, gatherings, recitations of the Quran, mentioning incidents of the holy life of Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) and mentioning those signs which appear at the time of his birth are amongst the good innovations in which a person is rewarded because in this there is respect, love and expression of happiness for the arrival of Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam)". (Al Haavi Lil Fataawa)
Imam Qastalaani (alaihir rahmah) writes: "In the month of the birth of Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) Muslims always had assemblies. In the nights of that month they gave charities and expressed happiness. They always increased good deeds in those nights. They always made arrangements to read the Meelad of Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) with the auspicious (hope) that Allah Taala showers His blessings upon them. One of the experienced Barakah (blessing) of Meelad is that the year passes upon them peacefully. May Allah Ta'ala send His Blessings and Favour upon that person who took Meelaad-un-Nabi as Eid, so this Eid should become reason of hardness upon that person who has disease in his heart". (Mawahe bul Le Dunya)
Sayyiduna Sheikh Abdul Haqq Muhaddith Delwi (alaihir rahmah) writes: "All Muslims have always celebrated Meelad functions in the month of Rabi-ul-Awwal. They always gave charities in the nights of that month and expressed their happiness. This is a common practice of Muslims that they particularly make mention of those incidents which are related to the birth of Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam)". (Ma Sabata Bis Sunnah)
Mullah Ali Qari (alaihir rahmah) writes: "Firstly, we see that it is permissible to arrange an assembly of Meelad. It is permissible to participate in that assembly for the purpose of listening to the praises and character of Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam). Inviting people and expressing happiness is permissible. Secondly, we do not say that it is Sunnah to celebrate Meelad on any fixed night. Anyone who believes that it is Sunnah to celebrate Meelad on any fixed night (and not in any other night) is a Bid'ati because the Zikr of Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) is required all the time. Yes, in the month in which Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) was born, has more preference". (Al Mouridur-ravi fil Moulidin Nabi)
Allama Ibn Abedeen Shami (alaihir rahmah) writes: "Every person who is truthful in the love of Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) should express happiness in the month of Rabi-ul-Awwal. He should arrange an assembly for the Meelad of Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) in which the incidents of his birth are explained with correct Ahadith. There is a strong hope from Allah that such a person will be included in the group of pious people with the intercession of Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam)". (Jawahi Rul Bihaar)
We do not fix a particular day or night for the Meelad and believe that Meelad is not Ja'iz (permissable) on any other date. It is our view that whosoever does such an act does so out of ignorance because the love and the relation to the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) demands that one should always mention him continuously.
No Muslim ever regards the Meelad function as being more important than Salaah. Music or Qawwali is not sung at a Meelad. If anyone has Qawwali with music in a Meelad function then he or she should be stopped and told that it is not correct. If Na-Baligh (immature) boys and girls read in Meelad functions, there is nothing wrong with that. Baaligha (mature) girls do not read at all in Meelad functions. If in any function a Baaligha girl reads a Naat in front of the audience, that will not make the Meelad Haraam. Rather, people should be told about the illegitimacy of this act. The reading of Baligh boys in front of an audience is Ja'iz (permissable). There is no proof in Shar'iah against it unconditionally.
Women sit in Meelad gatherings separate from men with necessary Shari' Hijab. The Shari' limit of Hijab for women is that they must cover the whole body besides the face, both hands and feet. Their hair must be covered and the clothes must not be so thin that the colour of the body may be seen. In the light of the Holy Quran, Hadith and Fiqh it is not compulsory for woman to cover the face, hands and feet from a Ghair Mahram. (N.B.: It is Mustahab for women to cover the whole face and not Waajib)