The Obligation of Adhering to the Sunnah and a Caution against Innovation

 All praise be to Allah who completed the religion for us,

 perfected the blessing on us and chose Islam as our religion. May the blessings and peace be upon His servant and Apostle, who called upon people to obey his Lord and cautioned against extravagance, innovation and disobedience; And may Allah bless his posterity, his companions and those who follow his footsteps till the Day of Judgment.

I have reviewed with the article published in the first page of the weekly magazine “Idaarat” of the Kanpur, Industrial city of Utter Pradesh in India. The writer alleges that the creed of the Salaf (Early adherents to Islam) does not agree with the Sunnah. By this, the writer aims at creating division amongst Ahl-us-Sunnah[1] and encouraging innovations and superstitions. This attitude, no doubt, is most abominable and dangerous, and it aims at offending the Religion of Islam and spreading innovations and deviations from the truth. Furthermore, the article concentrates clearly on the subject of celebrating the Prophet’s birthday  as an excuse to discuss the creed of others. Therefore, I consider it necessary to enlighten the People on this subject. So seeking help of Allah, I say [the following]:

 It is not permissible to celebrate the birthday of the Apostle (ﷺ‬), or anyone else.

 In fact, this act must be prevented, as it is an innovation in the religion. The Apostle of Allah (ﷺ‬) neither celebrated it, nor did he commanded others to do so, whether in his commemoration, in any of the previous Prophets, in his daughters, his wives, or his other relatives. The Khulafaa´-ur-Raashidoon, the Sahaabah, and the Tabi‘oon who rightly followed them did not celebrate this event, nor did any of the Muslim scholars in the centuries before.

They knew the Sunnah of the Prophet  best, they loved him more, and followed the Shari‘a better than those who came after them. If celebrating his birthday was a good deed, they would have done it.

 We are commanded to follow and forbidden to innovate.

This is because of the perfection of the Islamic religion and the Sufficiency of what Allah and His Messenger have given us and are accepted by Ahl-al-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah- The Muslim community of the companions and those who followed them in the best way.

 It is related to the prophet  that he said:

“He who innovates something in this matter of ours that is not of it, will have it rejected.” (Transmitted by Al-Bukhari and Muslim).

 According to Muslim who reported:

“Whoever does an act which is not in agreement with our matter, will have it rejected.”

  In another tradition the Prophet said:

“You must keep to my Sunnah and of the Sunnah of the rightly-guided Caliphs, cling to it firmly... Beware of newly invented matters, for every new matter is an innovation and every innovation is misleading.”

 He used to say in every Friday sermon:

“The best discourse is the Book of Allah and the best guidance is the guidance of Muhammad the Apostle of Allah, and the worst matter is that of innovation and every innovation is misleading.”

Thus, these traditions contain a strong caution against innovations and a warning that such an act is a deviation from the right course. The Prophet  warned the people of the gravity of these innovations and of their bad consequences. There are many traditions adduced in this connection.

 And the Almighty has said:

“...And whatsoever the messenger (Muhammad ﷺ‬) gives you, take it, and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain ( from it)...” (59:7)

 Allah, Most High said:

“And let those who oppose the Messenger’s (ﷺ‬) commandment (i.e. his Sunnah: legal way, orders, acts of worship, statements, etc.), (from among the sects) beware, lest some Fitnah (disbelief, trials, afflictions, earthquakes, killing, overpowered by a tyrant, etc.) befall them of a painful torment be inflicted on them.” (24:63)

Allah, the Almighty said.

“Indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad, ﷺ‬) you have a good example to follow for him who hopes in (the Meeting with) Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much.” (33:21)

And Allah the Almighty said:

“And the first to embrace Islam of the Muhajiroon (those who migrated from Makkah to al-Madinah) and the Ansar (the citizens of al-Madinah who helped and gave aid to the Muhajiroon) and also who followed them exactly (in Faith). Allah is well-pleased with them as they are well-pleased with Him. He has prepared for them Gardens under which rivers flow (Paradise), to dwell therein forever. That is the supreme success.” (9:100)

And Allah, the Almighty said:

“This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.” (5:3)

 This verse decisively indicates that the Almighty Allah has completed the religion for this Ummah, and has showered His blessings on them.

His Prophet (ﷺ‬) passed away only after he had imparted the complete message of Allah to the Ummah as well as his legislations concerning sayings and deeds. He also stressed that all things invented by people and then attributed to the religion of Islam are innovations and to be rejected, even if their inventors did so in good faith.

It is established that the Companions of the Prophet  and the righteous successors after them warned the people against innovations as they add to Islam and legislate what is not permitted by Allah, in line with the enemies of Allah such as the Jews and the Christians who added to their religion and innovated what was not allowed by Allah. Moreover, to admit innovation is to say that Islam is incomplete and imperfect. Such a belief is not only an evil but contradicts the following verse: “This day, I have perfected your religion for you…” as well as the sayings of the Prophet which warn us against innovations.

To celebrate the birthday of Prophet (ﷺ‬) and others means that the Religion has not been perfected by Allah (I) for this Ummah, and the Apostle (ﷺ‬) did not impart to the people what was necessary regarding their religious duties, till these late ones appeared and invented in the religion what is not permitted by Allah, thinking that this would bring them nearer to Allah.

Undoubtedly, this is a great danger and is tantamount to criticizing Allah the Almighty and the Prophet (ﷺ‬): whereas Allah the Almighty has already completed the religion and perfected His grace, and the Prophet (ﷺ‬) has conveyed the message openly and informed the Ummah of all such ways that will lead them to the Paradise and save them from Hellfire.

According to an authentic Hadith, on the authority of Abdullah bin Amr bin Al-As the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ‬) said:

“Allah Ta’ala (the Almighty) did not send a Prophet but obliged him to lead his people to the best way which is known to him, and warn them against the worst which is known to him.” (Transmitted by Muslim)

It is well-known that our Prophet (ﷺ‬) is the best of all the prophets, the last and the most perfect of them regarding the way he conveyed the message and advised his people.

Had the celebration of the Milaad (birthday of the Prophet ﷺ‬) been an act of the Religion which Allah is pleased and has chosen for His servants, the Prophet (ﷺ‬) would have either explained it to his nation, he would have celebrated it during his life, or his Companions would have done it. As this did not happen, it becomes clear that Islam has no concern with Milaad. On the contrary, it is one of the innovations against which the Prophet has warned his people as mentioned earlier.

A host of scholars have not only rejected the celebration of Milaad but have warned against it in view of the evidences given above.

According to the rule of the Islamic Shari‘a, all matters regarding legalization or prohibition and all disputes among the people, should be referred to the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger (ﷺ‬) in accordance with the saying of Allah:

“O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger (Muhammad ﷺ‬), and those of you (Muslims) who are in authority. And if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger (ﷺ‬) if you believe in Allah and in the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination.” (4:59)

And Allah The Almighty said:

“And in whatsoever you differ, the decision thereof is with Allah (He is the Ruling Judge).” (42:10)

Referring this issue back to the Book of Allah, we find it ordaining upon us to follow the Messenger of Allah  (ﷺ‬) in his Commandments and warns us against what ever he prohibits. Furthermore it tells us that Allah has perfected the religion for the people. So, as long as Milaad is not among the teachings of the Prophet (ﷺ‬), it cannot be a part of the religion which Allah has perfected for us and asked us to adhere to by following the Prophet (ﷺ‬).

Again when we refer this issue back to the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ‬), we do not find either the Prophet (ﷺ‬) or the Companions doing it by themselves or asking others to do it. So it becomes evident that Milaad is not a part of religion, but rather that it is one of innovations and blind imitation of the people of the book, i.e. the Jews and the Christians in their festivals. With this argument in mind, it becomes crystal clear for everyone having the least insight and inclination towards truth and justice, that celebrating any birthday has nothing to do with Islam. It is rather among the innovations which Allah and His Messenger  (ﷺ‬) warned against emphatically.

A wise man must not be deceived by seeing a large number of people doing it throughout the world because the truth is known and recognized by the evidences of Shari‘a and not by the acts of a great number of people.

 Allah (I) says regarding the Jews and the Christians:

“And they say, ‘None shall enter Paradise unless he be a Jew or a Christian.’ These are their own desires. Say (Muhammad ﷺ‬) ‘Produce your proof if you are truthful.’ ” (2:111)

And the Almighty also said:

“And if you obey most of those on earth, they will mislead you far away from Allah’s Path. They follow nothing but conjectures, and they do nothing but lie.” (6:116)

Most of these innovations, in addition to their innovatory nature, also do not usually escape from a number of other evils, such as mixed gatherings of men and women, songs accompanied by musical instruments. drinking intoxicants, narcotics and the like. They may also involve the worst thing i.e. the Greater Shirk, through showing exaggeration in the Messenger of Allah  and other saints and through praying to him, invoking his help or believing that he knows what is hidden and all similar claims which render a believer as an infidel. It is authentically reported that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ‬) has said:

“Beware of extravagance in the Religion; it has caused the people before you to perish.”

He also said:

“Do not lavish praise on me as the Christians did with the son of Maryam. I am just a bondman. So Simply say: ‘The bondman of Allah and His Messenger.” (Transmitted by Bukhari)

It is curious to note that a great many people participate most actively in these celebrations and defend them vehemently, while they sit back from attending the obligatory forms of worship such as daily and Friday prayers. They are not even ashamed of this, nor do they realize that they are committing a great evil.

Undoubtedly, this shows the weakness of their faith, their short-sightedness, and the deeply ingrained rust on their hearts because of sins and disobedience. We ask Allah’s protection for us and for all the Muslims.

It is even more astonishing to note that some people believe that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ‬) is present at Milaad. Consequently they stand to greet and Welcome him. That is not only a sheer lie but a worst form of ignorance, as the Prophet (ﷺ‬) shall neither come out of his grave before the Day of Resurrection, nor shall he meet the people or attend their meetings. Instead, he shall remain in his grave till the Day of Resurrection while his soul rests at the highest of the high with his Lord in the most exalted and highest place.

Allah (I) says:

“After that, surely, you will die. Then (again), you will be resurrected on the Day of Resurection.” (23:15-16)

The Prophet  (ﷺ‬) said:

“I am the first one to rise from the grave on the Resurrection Day, I will be the first intercessor, and the first one whose intercession is to be accepted.”

The aforesaid evidences from the Qur`an and Hadith prove beyond doubt that the dead people will come out of their graves only on the Day of Resurrection. All the scholars of Islam agree upon this. A Muslim should be aware of these things and must not be easily misled by the innovations and the superstitions created by the ignorant people with no authority from Allah at all.

As for offering the blessings and greetings (Salaat and Salam) to the Prophet (ﷺ‬), they are among the most preferred and virtuous deeds, in accordance with the saying of Allah:

“Indeed, Allah confers blessing upon the Prophet, and His angels [as well ask him to do so]. O you who have believed, ask [Allah to confer] blessing upon him and ask [Allah to grant him] peace. (33:56)

The Prophet (ﷺ‬) said:

“Whosoever sends blessings on me one time, Allah sends blessings on him ten times.”

 It is prescribed on all times, particularly at the end of each prayer.

 It is held obligatory at last Tashshahud of each prayer by most of the scholars. It is strongly required at a number of occasions such as immediately after Adhaan, at the mention of the name of the Prophet (ﷺ‬), during the day of Friday and the night preceding it according to a host of Ahadith.

This is what I wanted to emphasize regarding this issue. I hope it will satisfy everyone whom Allah has shown the light.

How sad it is to see some devoted Muslims, known for their strength of faith and love for the Prophet (ﷺ‬) organizing such innovatory celebrations.

Let us ask such people: “Tell us, if you belong to Ahl-us-Sunnah and follow the Prophet (ﷺ‬), whether he himself or one of his Companions or their Successors did this or is it no more than a blind following of the enemies of Islam from among the Jews and the Christians and the like?”

The love of the Prophet (ﷺ‬) is not reflected by the celebration on his birthday, but by obeying him, believing in his teachings, keeping away from what he prohibited and by worshipping Allah in the way he prescribed for us.

It is also reflected through offering Salaat and Salam to him from time to time, particularly at the mention of his name and during prayers.

The Wahhabiyyah, as the writer tends to put it, are not new in rejecting all such innovations. Their creed is to hold fast to the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger (ﷺ‬): to follow his footsteps and those of his rightly guided successors: to believe and practice what was propounded by the virtuous predecessors and the Imams of learning and guidance who were capable to issue religious injunction concerning the knowledge of Allah, and His attributes of perfection and dignity as shown in the Glorious Book and the authentic traditions of the Prophet (ﷺ‬) and as wholeheartedly accepted by his companions. The Wahhabiyyah believe in them, the way they are reported without any alteration, personification, or giving example or negation of such attributes. They stick to the way of successors and their followers from among the people of learning, faith and piety. They believe that the foundation of the faith is to bear witness that there is none to be worshipped except Allah and that Muhammad (ﷺ‬) is the Messenger of Allah. To them, this is the root of faith and one of its most exalted branches as well.

They know in accordance with the consensus of the Muslims, that this root requires knowledge, acknowledgement and practice.

It implies that none is to be worshipped except Allah the Almighty. Who has no associates at all. It further implies the negation of worshipping any other except Him. It shows why jinn and mankind were created; why the Messengers were sent and why the Books were revealed.

In addition, ‘Ibadah (worship) is not only complete submission and love but also complete obedience and veneration as well. Islam is the only religion prescribed by Allah and disseminated by the prophets and nothing, save it, is acceptable to Allah whether in the past or the present. The one who submits his will to Allah as well as to someone else beside Him is a Mushrik (polytheist). The same is true for the one who prays to Allah and someone else beside Him. As for the one who does not submit to Him, he is arrogant concerning his duties towards his Creator. Allah the Almighty Says:

“And verily, We have sent among every Ummah (community, nation) a Messenger (proclaiming): ‘Worship Allah (alone), and avoid (or keep away from) Taghoot (all false deities etc).’ ” (16:36)

Thus the creed of the Wahhabiyyah is based upon fulfillment of witnessing that Muhammad (ﷺ‬) is the Messenger of Allah and completely abandoning all innovations, superstitions and whatever goes against the Shari‘a.

This is what Shaikh Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab - may Allah have mercy upon him - believed and invited others to believe. Whoever accredits to him anything contrary to it, does not only lie but commits a great sin and claims what is totally unfounded. He will, no doubt, receive what Allah has promised to all the fabricators of lies.

The Shaikh has shown - through a series of his well-known treatises and scholarly books on the topic of the Declaration of Unity: La ilaha ill-Allah. - that no one deserves worship except Allah the Almighty and that this type of worship should be devoid of all sorts of Shirk (associating partners with Allah) whether big or small. Anyone who is aware of these writings, his way of preaching and calling people to Allah and of the way of his pupils and disciples, can easily find out that his approach was not different from that of our virtuous predecessors, the great Imams of learning and guidance. Indeed, he has propounded what they did throughout their lives concerning the worship of Allah Alone and leaving all innovations and superstitions aside.

It is in no need of any addition after what Allah and His Prophet have ordained and what the Ahl-al-Sunnah wal-Jama‘ah, from among the Companions, the Successors and their followers have already received. To forbid celebrating the birthday of the Prophet (ﷺ‬) due to its innovative nature in addition to the signs of extravagance and Shirk normally associated with it, is not un-Islamic, nor is it or derogatory to the Prophet (ﷺ‬). Instead, it is an act of obedience as the Prophet (ﷺ‬) himself said:

“Beware of the extravagance in matters of religion. Those before you have perished because of extravagance in the matters of religion.”

Again he (ﷺ‬) said:

“Do not lavish praise on me as the Christians did with the son of Maryam. I am but a bondman. So simply say: ‘Slave of Allah and His Messenger.’ ”

This is what I wanted to point out regarding the aforesaid article.

May Allah help us and all the Muslims to understand His religion, to continually confirm us on it, stick to Sunnah and keep away from the innovation. Indeed He is Generous and Kind.

And May Allah Shower His blessings and mercy upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family and his Companions.

[1] Ahl-us-Sunnah and Jamaa‘ah: Those who adhere to the Sunnah – the narrations of the Prophet (ﷺ‬(- and the Jamaa‘ah –the beliefs and methodology of the general body of Sahaabah.