The Legitimacy and Nature of Mawlid al-Nabī: (Analysis of a Fatwã)

In: Islamic Law and Society
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  • 1 Jerusalem

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Abstract

In 1993 Majallat al-Azhar published a fatwā issued in a response to a question regarding the form and religious legitimacy of the celebration of the Prophet Muhammad's birthday. The question was posed against the background of tension between the need and desire of Muslims to celebrate the festival — which is observed yearly almost everywhere in the Muslim world despite the fact that it includes features that resemble the pagan cult of saints, and the hesitancy or negative attitude of Muslim jurists with regard to the festival. In his response, the muftī confers legitimacy upon the festival within constraints defined by the Prophet's sunna. The vagueness of his answer, its lack of legal specifics, and its reliance on sources that contain popular motifs combine to indicate that the fatwā reflects the concession of a scholar to popular religion. Although the fatwā was intended to educate the public to celebrate the festival on a higher religious level, the muftī's approach to the subject seems to be popular rather than scholarly.

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