Barelwis claim that pious Sunnis originated the practice of Mawlid in Rabi’ al-Awwal. However, historical reality belies this claim. Although it is difficult to determine precisely when the practice of Mawlid in Rabi’ al-Awwal began, it is known for a fact that it was practised by the Shi’ah Fatimids before the Sunnis. Consider the following evidence:
The Sunni historian, Al-Maqrizī (766 – 845), quotes frequently in his al-Khitat from the book of Jamāl al-Dīn Mūsā ibn al-Ma’mūn (d. 588 H/1192 CE) which mainly consists of a chronicle of the years 514-18 H. In the date 517 H, Ibn al-Ma’mūn mentions that on the 13th of Rabī‘ al-Awwal, the Fātimid ruler distributed charity especially at the shrines of the household of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and hosted a celebration of his birth. (Khitat, Maktabah Madbula, 2:216)
Al-Maqrizi also transmits in al-Khitat that Ibn al-Tuwayr (525 – 617) mentions a mawlid that happened on 12th Rabi‘ al-Awwal during the Fātimid reign in Egypt in which charity was distributed, there was Qur’an recital at the Azhar Mosque and a sermon on the Prophetic birth. (Khitat, Maktabah Madbula, 2:217-8) The Fātimid dynasty in Egypt fell at about 560 H.
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All recorded Sunni Mawlids take place after these Fatimid Mawlids. Hence, based on historical verification, it was the Shi’ahs that innovated the celebration of Mawlid in Rabi’ al-Awwal. And it would not be farfetched to suggest that the Shi’ah celebrations inspired the later Sunni celebrations.