Scholars of Islam, as-salamu `alaykum. My question is, there’s still a handful of Muslims around the world who regard celebrating the occasion of Al-Israa’ and Al-Mi`raj as an act of innovation (bid`ah). Of course, we didn’t hear the Prophet celebrate his own birthday or the blessed Journey (Al-Israa’ and Al-Mi`raj). What’s your comment on this?
Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
Dear brother in Islam, thanks a lot for your question which reflects your care to have a clear view of the teachings of Islam. Allah commands Muslims to refer to people of knowledge to get themselves well-acquainted with the teachings of Islam as well as all aspects of life.
No doubt that Al-Israa’ and Al-Mi`raj is a unique and very important occasion and we all need to be reminded about it whenever its date arrives. Not only that, but we also need to keep in touch with our important historical events in order to derive fruitful lessons from them while moving forward.
Celebrating historical events and occasions such as Al-Israa’ and Al-Mi`raj should not be considered as a totally forbidden innovation. It is true that such celebrations are innovations but not all innovations are considered prohibited.
In response to your question, Dr. Sano Koutoub Moustapha, professor of fiqh and its principles, International Islamic University, Malaysia, states:
Dear brother, thank you for your question.
I do believe that celebrating historical events and occasions such as the Mawlid (Prophet’s birthday) and Al-Israa’ should not be considered as a totally forbidden innovation. It is true that these celebrations are innovations but not all innovations are considered prohibited or forbidden.
Thus, there are so many innovations which took place after the death of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) such as compilation of the Qur'an, and the second call for Prayer on Friday.
Furthermore, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said: "Whoever innovates something good he will be rewarded for it and the rewards of whoever follows him in that innovation. The same thing goes to whoever innovates something bad, he will be sinful of it and the sin of whoever follows him in that matter."
Accordingly, one shouldn't take the general statement in other hadith which says all innovations are acts of straying but we should restrict that general statement to the specific statement in this hadith—meaning that innovations are considered prohibited when they are sinful, not when they are good.
In light of this aspect of understanding the divine texts from the Qur'an and the Sunnah, I shall conclude that the legal ruling of celebrating any auspicious Islamic occasion such as the Mawlid and Al-Israa' has been done in the context of its relevance to the maslahah or interest of Islam. In other words, if the celebration is found in a place and time leading to bringing a clear interest to Islam, it should be then considered as a good innovation. For instance, these occasions could be used as means to correct or send a message to the masses or to educate the younger generation and bring them more awareness about the importance of these occasions and the necessity of benefiting from them in the current life.
However, I shall stress that no sins should be committed in the name of the celebration of these occasions. The sins are forbidden before, after, and within these occasions. All in all, I am appealing to those scholars who prohibit all these celebrations without looking at them in the context of maslahah. They shouldn't take the prophetic statement about the innovation without relating it to other prophetic statements.