They are not Islamic Holidays, but Innovations
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
(Friday speech was delivered by Imam Mohamed Baianonie at the Islamic Center of Raleigh, N. C., on March 23, 1990)
Every nation in the world has it’s own holidays and celebrations that are characteristics or landmark of that nation. This has been the case throughout the history of humanity, and it continues to be so in today’s societies.
Of course, there are reasons behind every one of these celebrations. And these reasons may differ from one to another. However, they all originated from either one of the following sources: The divine source or the human source.
The first refers to the revelation from Allah in its two known parts, the Qur’an book of Allah and the sunnah the tradition and saying of prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.), and the second refers to the human made traditions and customs.
It is a sad thing, when we look at the situation of the Muslim nation to see that there is a great mix-up between religious holidays and celebrations that have no Islamic foundation. These unauthentic celebrations were passed through generations of Muslims from the time of deviation from true Islamic beliefs. What makes things worse is that some of these non-religious holidays take on a religious appearance, and sometimes use religious rituals, which made it very hard for the common Muslim to distinguish between what is authentic and what is not. And sometimes, Muslims think that these inauthentic holidays are an essential part of Islam. Like the three common unauthentic holidays practiced widely by Muslims now a days:
- Celebrating the birth of the prophet (S.A.W.).
- Celebrating the journey of the prophet, at night from Mecca to the "Aqsa Mosque" in Jerusalem, and then his ascendance to the 7th heaven.
- Celebrating the night of the middle of "sha’ban", which is the month that proceeds month of "Ramadan".
Lets ask why this controversy has been going on for such a long time?
One can attribute this phenomena to two main reasons:
- The first is the ignorance of Muslims of the essence and purpose of holidays and celebrations in Islam
- The second is the blind imitation of others without examination or supporting evidence
The first reason is that many Muslims have forgotten that holidays in Islam are a form of worship, and they are not like regular days we choose them as we wish or spend them as we like. It is very well known that the acts of worship in Islam are fully described in the revelation, and we are not supposed to invent a new forms of worship. However, due to the absence of clear concept of worship in the minds of many Muslims, unauthentic celebrations have been introduced into our life.
We can tell that a celebration or a holidays is an act of worship in Islam by following and understanding the sayings of prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) Imam An Nesa’i and Ibn Hebban reported an authentic hadith narrated by (Anas) that at the time when the prophet (S.A.W.) came to Madina and saw people have two days in which they celebrate. He said (the prophet) "Allah (S.W.T.) did replace these two holidays with better ones. The day of fiter (after the month of Ramadan) and the day of sacrifice (in the pilgrimage season)".
Thus, the acts of replacement eventually mean a total cancellation of pre-Islamic holiday and the introduction of celebrations that are acts of worship.
These acts of worship can be observed in many Islamic holidays and celebrations some examples are the gathering of Muslims for Eid prayer and the following speech, forbidding fasting in these days, raising the voice with "Allah Akbar" and giving animal sacrifices in the day of sacrifice and above all, the determination of the days of Eid by sighting the crescent of the new month. All these and many other things tell us that the acts of celebration are acts of worship and that the holidays are days of worship. That’s why Muslim scholars say that Muslims participation in the non-Muslims celebrations is prohibited because it is an act of worshipping Allah according to the methods of Unbelievers.
The second reason behind the mix-up in Muslim holidays, is the blind imitation of others without knowledge and evidence considered to be a disease that effect nations and individuals when ignorance and innovations spread widely and knowledge and sunnah demolish. This, in fact, is a serious problem because it introduced in the religion of Islam many things that are not a part of it, and in some cases, they are not allowed by the religion, because many Muslims practice them without close examination of their religious validity, these acts later on, became a habit unknowingly mixed with other religious rituals, or sometimes Muslims carry on the habits and traditions they learned from their parents and other Muslim figures in their countries, and these habits are mostly treated as if they were from the revelation of Allah (S.W.T).
It needs to be clear in our minds that such practices are only a sign of deviation from the path of Islam, because it violates the principle of judging all kinds of acts according to the Islamic laws. The sources of legislation and the tools of weighing other issues in Islam are well defined and must be fully implemented when ever we come across a new practice or a foreign act, otherwise, we would become like previous nations which took their rabbis and monks a source of legislation with Allah or without Him.
Allah (S.W.T.) warned us not to be like the people who claim to be believers but they refuse to accept judgment from Allah and his Messenger in their life matters. In surat An-Nuor, (verse 47 & 48), what can be translated as, "They say we believe in Allah and in the messenger and we obey, but even after that, some of them turn away, they are not really believers. When they are summoned to Allah and his Messenger in order that he may judge between them, behold, some of them decline (to come)."
And in the same surah Allah describes the true believers, "The answer of the believers, when summoned to. Allah and his messenger in order that he may judge between them, are no other than this: they say, we hear and we obey. It is such as these that will attain felicity."
Let us remember the Ayah from surat Al-Ma’edah, (verse 3), which could be translated as, "This day have I perfected your religion for you." Let us also remember that the prophet (S.A.W.) did not die until he conveyed to us the whole message from Allah (S.W.A) through his sayings and actions. We firmly believe that he did not leave out (purposely, or unpurposely) one word of Allah’s message to mankind. The prophet (S.A.W.) himself assured us about this fact when he said, "Everyone of the prophets who were sent by Allah was obligated to guide his nation to the good, to the best of his ability, and to warn them of the evil, to the best of his ability." (Reported by Imam Muslim)
From all of this we see that inventing in the religious matters is not allowed in Islam. That’s why Islam Flatly rejects such inventions. The prophet (S.A.W.) warned us in an authentic hadith reported by Imam Bukhari and Muslim "He who innovates something in our religion that is not part of it, will have it rejected. "And in another narration by Imam Muslim "He who dose an act, which is not in agreement with our religion, will have it rejected.." Also Imam Muslim reported that the prophet (S.A.W.) used to say in his speeches, "The best of the speech is embodied in the Book of Allah, and the best of the guidance is the guidance given by Muhammad. And the most evil affairs are their innovations; and every innovation is straying away from the guidance." Imam-An-Nisa’i added in a good narration, "And every (Dalalah) astray is in the Hell-Fire." Also reported by (As-Habussunan) that one time, the prophet (S.A.W.) was sitting among his companions preaching, and apparently, the speech was emotional. The companions stared to cry and said to the prophet: "It sounds like a farewell speech, please give us advice". He started giving them advice of which he mentioned: "He who will stay alive among you after me will see a lot of misinterpretation, so stick to my tradition and the tradition of the guided Caliphs after me, hold them tight, and beware of the inventions in the religion, because every such invention is a misguidance."
After all of these facts heard we know the three holidays that we mentioned were not specified for us as such neither by the Almighty Allah, nor by his messenger (S.A.W.). Therefore, they are innovations in the religious practices. And by being innovations, they are considered misguidance .
But let’s ask ourselves a simple question: Is celebrating the messenger’s birthday a proof of our love for him? If the answer is "yes" then how come that none of the companions of the prophet or even the guided Caliphs after him celebrated his birthday. They were the most loving and respect to the prophet (S.A.W.); They loved him more than themselves, their wealth, and their families. They showed their true love and respect, however, in a different way. They followed his example in every aspect of their lives. They were sincere through the revelation, This is the true celebration. We can show our love and respect the same way those good companions did.
The same thing can be said about celebrating the journey of the prophet, at night to the Aqsa Mosque. Yes, it is a great miracle that has been authentically transmitted to us as a miracle that indeed took place. But it is only one of many miracles that happened at the time of the prophet (S.A.W.). Why should we single it out of all the others? It is because we want to show our great respect to the prophet? We can do that by carefully following his tradition (sunnah). Or it is because it reminds us about "Al-Aqsa Mosque"? We can do that by returning to the forgotten "obligation" which is "Jihad" or fighting in the cause of Allah (S.W.A) to liberate the imprisoned mosque from the hand of the enemies . "Al-Aqsa mosque" is a very deer place for all Muslims, it was the first Qeblah for the prayer. Omar (R.A.) conquered it, then later when it was occupied, Salahud-Deen liberated it. Now, once again, it is under occupation, awaiting rescue from the Muslims who, for a long time, have given up Jihad in the midst of the absence of true Islamic ruling from the face of this Earth.
And what about the night of the middle of Sha’ban? Some Muslims observe that night and perform special prayers to celebrate it. We should be aware of two things:
- The importance of that night is based on weak, unauthenticated saying of the prophet.
- The significance of the special prayer on that night is not even based on a weak "ahadith" it is a fabrication attributed to the prophet (S.A.W.) . Imam Al-Hafiz Al-Iraqi and Imam An-Nawawi are two of the many scalars who made it clear in their research that this observations and the special prayer associated with it are fabrications and have no basis in the tradition of the prophet (S.A.W.).
In the end we ask Allah to make us of those who listen to the guidance to follow it and see the misguidance and avoid it.