A Historical analysis of date of birth & death of Prophet Muhammad

A Historical analysis of date of Birth and Death of Prophet Muhammad (sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam)

In the name of Allah, indeed all praise is due to Allah and may peace and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah.

Allah says in the Quran:

“Muhammad (sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam) is no more than a Messenger, and indeed (many) Messengers have passed away before him. If he dies or is killed, will you then turn back on your heels (as disbelievers)? And he who turns back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to Allah, and Allah will give reward to those who are grateful.” [Quran 3:144]

The Prophet (sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam) informed us that some of the Muslims will begin to follow the ways of the non-Muslims. He (sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam) said:

“Surely, you will follow the ways of those nations who were before you, so much so that even if they entered a hole of a lizard, you would enter it.”

They said, “O Messenger of Allah, do you mean to say that we will follow the Jews and the Christians?”

He replied, “Whom else [other than them]?”   [Narrated by Abu Sa’eed; collected by Bukhaaree & Muslim]

Out of their love for Jesus (Eesa), the Christians innovated into their religion by specifying the 25th of December as his birthday and celebrating it, even though there is no origin to it.

Unfortunately Muslims came later, and out of their love of the Prophet Muhammad (sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam) they specified 12th Rabee’ al-Awwal as his birthday (Mawlid), which also does not have an origin. The Prophet (sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam) as well as his companions never took this as a day of celebration.

This innovation, Mawlid an-Nabawi, is not only not legislated but even historically incorrect. It cannot be established for certain that the birthday of the Prophet was 12th Rabee’ al-Awwal. The scholars greatly differed over the actual date of the birth of the Prophet (sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam). By the permission of Allah, this article will outline some of these opinions and therefore establish the historic invalidity of specifying the 12th of Rabee’ al-Awwal as the date of his birth.

The biographers and historians differed concerning the day and month of the birth of the Prophet (sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam). This is something for which there is good reason, as it was not known what status this newborn would achieve; his situation was like that of any other newborn. Hence no one can state with certainty the date of his birth (sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam).

Among the matters on which there is a strong consensus with regard to his birth (sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam) is the definition of the year and the day. 

With regard to the Year: 

It was the Year of the Elephant. Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) said: 

“There is no difference of opinion concerning the fact that he (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) was born in Makkah, and that his birth was in the Year of the Elephant.” [Zaad al-Ma‘aad fi Hadiy Khayr al-‘Ibaad, 1/76]

Muhammad ibn Yoosuf as-Saalihi (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “Ibn Ishaaq (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “(It was) the Year of the Elephant.”

Ibn Katheer said: “This is the well-known view of the majority.” 

Ibraaheem ibn al-Mundhir al-Hizaami, the Shaykh of al-Bukhaari, said: “This is the opinion concerning which none of the scholars has any doubt. Khaleefah ibn Khayyaat, Ibn al-Jazzaar, Ibn Dihyah, Ibn al-Jawzi and Ibn al-Qayyim went further and narrated that there was consensus on this matter.””

[Subul al-Huda wa’r-Rashaad fi Seerat Khayr al-‘Ibaad, 1/334, 335]

Dr. Akram Diya’ al-‘Umari (may Allah guide him) said: 

“In fact the reports that say otherwise all have flawed isnaads; they suggest that he was born ten years, or twenty-three years, or forty years, after the Year of the Elephant. But the majority of scholars are of the view that he was born in the Year of the Elephant. This is supported by the modern study undertaken by both Muslim and Orientalist researchers who stated that the Year of the Elephant corresponds to the year 570 CE or 571 CE.” [As-Seerah an-Nabawiyyah as-Saheehah, 1/97]

With regard to the Day: 

It was a Monday. He (sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam) was born on a Monday, his mission began on a Monday and he died on a Monday. 

It was narrated that Abu Qataadah al-Ansaari (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “The Prophet (sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam) was asked about fasting on Mondays and he said: “That is a day on which I was born and on it my mission began – or Revelation came to me.”” [Narrated by Muslim, 1162.]

Ibn Katheer (may Allah have mercy on him) said:Those who say that he was born on Friday 17th Rabee’ al-Awwal were mistaken.”

This was narrated by al-Haafiz Ibn Dihyah from what he read of the book I’laam ar-Wara bi A’laam al-Huda by one of the Shi’ah. Then Ibn Dihyan stated why it was da’eef (weak), and it deserves to be classed as da’eef because it is contrary to the text. [As-Seerah an-Nabawiyyah, 1/199]

With regard to the point on which there is scholarly disagreement, that has to do with defining the month and the day of the month. We have come across many opinions concerning that, including the below. 

The difference of opinion with regards to the Mawlid [1]

1) 1st of Rabee’ al-Awwal: Mentioned by Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Munhad [in It’haaf al-Waraa].

2) 2nd of Rabee’ al-Awwal: Mentioned by Ibn Sa’d [in Tabaqaat], Ibn Katheer [in Bidaayah wa an-Nihaayah] and Zarqaanee [in Sharh al-Mawaahab]. 

Ibn Katheer (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “It was said that he was born on the second of the month. This was stated by Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr in al-Isti’aab, and was narrated by al-Waaqidi from Abu Ma’shar Nujayh ibn ‘Abd ar-Rahmaan al-Madani.” [As-Seerah an-Nabawiyyah, 1/199]

3) 8th of Rabee’ al-Awwal: Mentioned by Ibn Abdil Barr [in al-Isti’aab], Ibn Hajr al-Haythami [in Sharh Matn al-Hamziyah] and al-Qastalaanee [in al-Mawaahab al-ladaniyyah].

Ibn Katheer (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “It was said that he was born on the eighth of the month. This was narrated by al-Humaydi from Ibn Hazm, and was narrated by Maalik, ‘Aqeel, Yoonus ibn Yazeed and others from az-Zuhri from Muhammad ibn Jubayr ibn Mut’im. Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr narrated that the historians regarded it as saheeh; it was stated definitively by al-Haafiz al-Kabeer Muhammad ibn Moosa al-Khawaarizmi, and was regarded as most likely to be correct by al-Haafiz Abu’l-Khattaan ibn Dihyah in his book at-Tanweer fi Mawlid al-Basheer an-Nadheer.” [As-Seerah an-Nabawiyyah, 1/199]

4) 9th Rabee’ al-Awwal: Mentioned by Shiblee an-Nu’maani [in Seerah anNabi], Sayyid Sulayman al-Masufooree [in Rahmat al-‘aalameen] and also Safee ar-Rahmaan al-Mubaarakfooree in [Raheeq al-Makhtoom / The Sealed Nectar]

5) 10th Rabee’ al-Awwal: Mentioned by Al-Waaqidee [in Taareekh], Ibn Katheer [in al-Bidaayah wa an-Nihaayah] and Ibn Sa’d [in Tabaqaat]

Ibn Katheer (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “It was said that he was born on the tenth of the month. This was narrated by Ibn Dihyah in his book, and was narrated by Ibn ‘Asaakir from Abu Ja’far al-Baaqir. It was also narrated by Mujaalid from ash-Sha’bi.” [As-Seerah an-Nabawiyyah, 1/199]

6) 11th Rabee’ al-Awwal: Mentioned by Ibn al-Jawzee [in al-Muntadham]

7) 12th Rabee’ al-Awwal: Mentioned by Ibn Hishaam [in Seerah an-Nabawiyyah], Ibn Hibbaan [in ath-Thiqaat] and al-Bayhaqi [in Dalaail an-Nubuwwah]

Ibn Katheer (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “It was said that he was born on the twelfth of the month. This was stated by Ibn Ishaaq. It was narrated by Ibn Abi Shaybah in his Musannaf from ‘Affaan from Sa’eed ibn Meena’ that Jaabir and Ibn ‘Abbaas said: The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) was born in the Year of the Elephant on Monday 12th Rabee’ al-Awwal; on Monday his mission began, on Monday he was taken up to heaven, on Monday he migrated, and on Monday he died. This is the well-known opinion according to the majority. And Allah knows best.” [As-Seerah an-Nabawiyyah, 1/199]

8) 17th Rabee’ al-Awwal: Mentioned by Ibn Dahiyyah by some of the Shia scholars [in al-Bidaayah wa an-Nihaayah]

9) 18th Rabee’ al-Awwal: Mentioned by Ibn Katheer, he said this is the opinion of the Majority [in al-Bidaayah wa an-Nihaayah] and also Muhammad Husayn Haykal, he narrated it from Ibn Ishaaq [in Hayaat Muhammad]

10) The first Monday of Rabee’ al-Awwal: Mentioned by Ibn AbdulBarr [in al-Isti’aab] and Ibn Sayyid an-Naas [in ‘Uyoon al-Athar]

11) 18th Ramadhan: Mentioned by Ibn Kalby and also Zubayr ibn Bakkaar [narrated by Ibn Hajar in Fath al-Baaree]; also mentioned by Ibn Asaakir [Tareekh ad-Dimishq]

12) Before the Year of the Elephant by 15 years: Mentioned by Kalby, upon the authority of Abu Saalih, upon the authority of Ibn Abbaas

13) There are ten years between his birth and the Year of the Elephant: Mentioned by Ya’qoob al-‘Atamy, upon the authority of Ja’far ibn Abee al-Mugheerah…

14) The month of Muharram: Mentioned by Haykal [in Hayaat Muhammad]

15) The month of Safar: Mentioned by al-Qastalaanee [in al-mawaahib] and Muhammad Hussayn Haykal [in Hayaat Muhammad]

16) The month of Rajab: Mentioned by Muhammad Husyan Haykal [in Hayaat Muhammad]

17) Rabee’ al-Aakhar: Mentioned by al-Qastalaanee [in al-Mawaahib]

18) The day of the Elephant: Mentioned by Hajaaj ibn Muhammad upon the authority of Ibn Abbaas [in Seerah Nabawiyyah of adh-Dhahabee]

Conclusion

Eighteen different opinions have been mentioned above, some stronger than others, which demonstrates the historical inaccuracy in specifying the Mawlid an-Nabawi on the 12th Rabee’ al-Awwal.

The fact that so many different opinions exist, and yet no authentic Hadeeth, also shows that the Prophet (sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam) himself, the noble companions (may Allah be pleased with them), the great Imaams of Hadeeth and early pious scholars attached no importance to this matter.

What appears to us to be the case is that the strongest opinion concerning the birth of the Prophet (sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam) is that he was born between the eighth and the twelfth of Rabee’ al-Awwal.

Some Muslim mathematicians and astronomers have determined that the Monday in question was the ninth of Rabee’ al-Awwal. It may be that this is another opinion, and it has some merit. That corresponds to 20th April 571 CE. This is what the authors of some modern books on Seerah (Prophet’s biography) regard as most likely to be correct, including Professor Muhammad al-Khudari and Safee ar-Rahmaan al-Mubaarakfooree. 

Abu’l-Qaasim as-Suhayli (may Allah have mercy on him) said: The mathematicians say that his birth occurred in the solar month of April, on the twentieth of that month.” [Ar-Rawd al-Unuf, 1/282]

Prof. Muhammad al-Khudari (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “The Egyptian astronomer Mahmoud Basha (d. 1885 CE) who was well-versed in astronomy, geography and mathematics, and wrote several books based on his research stated that it was on the morning of Monday 9th Rabee’ al-Awwal, which corresponds to 20th April 571 CE. That corresponds to the first year following the elephant incident. He was born in the house of Abu Taalib in Shi’ab Banu Haashim.” [Noor al-Yaqeen fi Seerat Sayyid al-Mursaleen (p. 9). See also ar-Raheeq al-Makhtoom (p. 41).]

In regards to the date of Death

In regards to the date of the death of our Prophet Muhammad (sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam), there is no difference of opinion concerning the fact that it occurred on a Monday.

The report narrated from Ibn Qutaybah, saying that it occurred on a Wednesday, is not correct. Perhaps what he meant is that the Prophet (sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam) was buried on Wednesday, which is correct.

With regard to the year of his death, there is no difference of opinion concerning the fact that it was in 11 AH

With regard to the month of his death, there is no difference of opinion concerning the fact that it was in Rabee’ al-Awwal

With regard to the date of his death in that month, there is a difference of opinion among the scholars. 

1) The Majority are of the view that it occurred on 12th Rabee’ al-Awwal.

2) Al-Khawaarizmi was of the view that it occurred on 1st Rabee’ al-Awwal.

3) Ibn al-Kalbi and Abu Makhnaf were of the view that it occurred on 2nd Rabee’ al-Awwal. As-Suhayli was inclined to favour this view and al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar (may Allah have mercy on him) regarded it as most likely to be correct.

The most well-known view is that of the majority, which is that the death of the Prophet (sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam) occurred on 12th Rabee’ al-Awwal 11 AH. [See ar-Rawd al-Unuf by as-Suhayli (4/439, 440); as-Seerah an-Nabawiyyah by Ibn Katheer (4/509); Fath al-Baari by Ibn Hajar (8/130).]

Hence we can see that the stronger opinion for this date of 12th Rabee’ al-Awwal, it is the date of death of our Prophet Muhammad (sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam) and not his birth. And Allah knows best.

We ask Allah to protect us from bid’ah (innovations) and to bless us by helping us to follow. May Allah bless our Prophet Muhammad.

Footnotes

[1] The strength or weakness of each opinion has not been researched, as the objective behind this article is to only demonstrate the difference of opinion regarding the date.

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4 Responses to A Historical analysis of date of birth & death of Prophet Muhammad

  1. MOHAMED says:

    SALAM
    GOOD HISTORICAL RESEARCH.YOU HAVE FORGOTTEN TO PUT BLESSINGS ON THE PROPHETE SAW ON THE TITLE OF YOUR ARTICLE.I LIKE TO READ PREVIOUS COMMENTS OF OTHER ARTICLES PLEASE ADVISE.

  2. […] is nothing in the Quran to say that we should celebrate the Mawlid or birthday of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). The Prophet himself (peace and blessings of Allah be […]

  3. […] course, as in the choice of December 25 for the birth of Christ, there is no historical proof at all that Muhammad was born in the Islamic month of Rabi’ al-awwal and Islamic scholars differ on just […]

  4. […] course, as in the choice of December 25 for the birth of Christ, there is no historical proof at all that Muhammad was born in the Islamic month of Rabi’ al-awwal and Islamic scholars differ on […]

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