by Qays Arthur
By: Qays Arthur
“In Sharh Usul al-Bazdawi of al-allama al-Akmal: ‘the majority of our colleagues (among the Hanafis) and the majority of the Shafi’is have said that matters which admit of permissibility or prohibition in the Sharia before its transmission remain permissible, and that is the basic presumption regarding them… so they deemed permissibility the basis, and prohibition is by demonstrating negation…’” Rad al-Muhtar, Imam Ibn AbidinIt has become quite common, especially in Rabi’ al-Awwal, to hear the question, “Did the Sahaba celebrate Mawlid?” It has even become a source of doubt for some due to the sheer frequency with which it is asked and, at times, the caliber of those asking it.
Yet unless it is being asked simply out of idle curiosity, it is not a fair and honest question. In the context of a discussion about the Mawlid where proponents are expected to justify it, this question is what in logic is known as the fallacy of many questions which is defined as “the rhetorical trick of asking a question that cannot be answered without admitting a presupposition that may be false”. The most well known example of that fallacy is the question, “Do you still beat your wife?” That question cannot be answered without admitting that one used to beat one’s wife, and more fundamentally that one has a wife neither of which may be true of the one being questioned.
Similarly the question, “Did the Sahaba celebrate Mawlid?“cannot be answered without admitting that their having done so is of legal relevance to the legitimacy of the act. And that assumes more fundamentally that it is being claimed that the Mawlid is something legislated in the Sharia (mashru’) like the prayer of gratitude for example.
Well the fact of the matter is that no scholar claims that Mawlid is legislated in the Sharia. People only claim that it is a good deed, like walking an old lady across the street; or collecting the Quran into bound books; or making Thursdays and Fridays weekends, which agrees with generally accepted principles in the Sharia without contradicting others. We should understand that that is why pro-Mawlid writings cite the type of evidence they cite: general examples of new good things done by Sahaba and early Muslims and general verses that encourage remembrance, celebration, and veneration of our master Muhammad (Allah bless him and grant him peace).
That approach is consistent with the well established principle of Jurisprudence, indicated in the quote at the beginning of this note, that “the basis regarding matters is permissibility unless there is evidence to the contrary” which the vast majority of the jurists have agreed upon.
Therefore when someone makes the claim that something is merely good and doesn’t contradict the Sharia then it is upon he who differs to show what in the Sharia is being contradicted making the proposed good deed illegitimate.
And so the question shouldn’t be, “Did the Sahaba celebrate Mawlid?”, rather it should be, “Is there any indication from the Sahaba that celebrating the birth of the Messenger of God (Allah bless him and grant him peace) is a bad thing?”
And I think we all know the answer to that quite legitimate question.