Some Barelwīs allege that Mawlānā Rashīd Aḥmad Gangohī is guilty of blasphemy for comparing the Mawlid to the festival of Kanhaiya Janam (play-acting the birth of Kanhaiya). For example, Munawwar Ateeq Rizvi wrote in 2010: “The blasphemous comments of the scholars of Deoband include… that the mawlid was like the Hindu festival of Kunhya Janam… (in…Baraheen Qaatiah)!”
This is based on a fatwā of Mawlānā Gangohī, which is reproduced in full in Barāhīn Qāṭi‘ah.
A translation of the substantive parts of the fatwā is given below. One will notice the whole fatwā is regarding qiyām (the ritual standing at the mention of the Prophetic birth), which many of the ignorant believed to be obligatory (wājib). Moreover, the comparison to the Hindu festival of play-acting the birth of Kanhaiya was made with respect to a particular belief or defence for this ritual standing. Namely, that some believe that when the Prophet’s blessed soul came from the world of souls into the present world, as a mark of respect we ought to stand, and they are re-enacting that event, and thus standing out of respect! Mawlānā Gangohī says to re-enact the Prophetic birth and behave as though it is happening at the time of the re-enaction is similar to how Hindus behave when play-acting the birth of Kanhaiya; and this has no basis in Sharī‘ah, and is in fact impermissible.
One can see how the Barelwi allegation that Mawlānā Gangohī compared the Mawlid itself to the Hindu festival of Kanhaiya Janam is completely dishonest. Firstly, the comparison was not made with respect to the Mawlid but with respect to the ritual standing (qiyām). Furthermore, it was not made with respect to the qiyām per se, but with respect to a particular belief associated with the qiyām held by some ignorant people. The relevant parts of the fatwā are translated below, and the paragraph in reference is highlighted in bold.
The standing which is in vogue in the majlis mawlūd sharīf out of respect for the mention of the birth of Haḍrat Muḥammad Muṣṭafā (Allāh bless him and grant him peace), which takes place in this time, is it correct to consider this standing necessary or not? And if it is not necessary, will the one who gives fatwā of it being necessary be sinful or not? And if sinful, at which level?
To stand up at the time of mentioning the birth is not established anywhere in the three generations. Although the conducts and states of the revered master of the world, and the mention of the states by way of admonition, teaching, revision and narration, in those generations, occurred countless time, yet it is not established in any narration that at the time of mentioning the birth that anyone ever stood, or that anywhere the master of the world (upon him peace) in any way described it as being recommended or an etiquette. Whether some stood for the respected pride of the world himself (upon him blessing and peace), this is outside the discussion, and to make an analogy with this is mere ignorance. The discussion is over the habitual practice of the fools of our time at the mention of his birth. Where is this established? This has never been established.
Firstly, this is sufficient proof of their innovation being baseless. As there has been so much extremism in this, such that the common ignoramuses have started to regard it as necessary, and censure the one who doesn’t do it, it has become an abomination and wicked innovation. This is an innovated affair. If the commoners begin to think something established as permissible to be necessary, that too is impermissible and an abomination. It is narrated from ‘Abdullāh ibn Mas‘ūd (may Allah – Exalted is He – be pleased with him) that he said: “Let not one of you make for Shayṭān any part of salāh, viewing that it is a duty on him that he does not turn except to his right. Indeed, I had seen the Messenger of Allah (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) frequently turning to his left (agreed upon).” ‘Alī al-Qārī said in the commentary of this hadīth: “The one who persists on a desirable matter and makes it a firm resolve, and does not act on a dispensation, the Shayṭān has acquired from him deviation, so what of the one who persists on innovation and abomination?!” It states in Fatāwā ‘Ālamgīriyyah: “What is done after the ṣalāh is makrūh because the ignorant people believe it to be sunnah or wajib and every permissible act leading to this is makrūh.”
Thus, firstly, it has been established that this standing has never been proven in any ḥadīth or athar, whether one that is verbal, practical or based on tacit approval. Thus this matter is itself invented. Secondly, if hypothetically, something did happen, it was nothing like wājib, sunnah or mustaḥabb, because wājib is the practice that is established by decisive evidence and conjectural indication or conjectural evidence and decisive indication, and here in the matter of standing, there is no clear text (naṣṣ) even, neither strong nor weak; and sunnah refers to the ruling in which it is established he (upon him peace) or the righteous caliphs persisted, and since in the matter of standing nothing is established not even once, it cannot even be mustaḥabb and mandūb, let alone sunnah.
The most that can be said of the matter if someone tries very hard is that it is permissible and neutral. But to regard a mubāḥ act as sunnah or wājib will make it an innovation and abomination, as has become clear from the statement of Ibn Mas‘ūd (Allāh be pleased with him) and Mullā Alī Qārī (Allāh have mercy on him) and the narration of ‘Ālamgiriyyah.
Anyhow, to declare this standing necessary is harām, and the one who says so is a fāsiq and perpetrator of major sin because that practice which the lawgiver has forbidden (i.e. introducing a new ritual into religion), he has declared wājib. Thus, it is pure opposition to the bright Sharī‘ah. Allāh (Exalted is He) said: “And whosoever opposes the Messenger after guidance becomes clear to him and follows other than the way of the believers we will turn him to what he has turned and make him roast in hell, evil an abode.”
The upshot is that standing at the time of mentioning the birth either:
- Has the reason that these people take support from some fabricated narration, or adhere to some saying or practice of scholars. It is known that fabrications and the statements and actions of scholars do not establish a ruling and dispensation until a proof of Shar‘īah is found. Thus, in this situation, recommendation etc. is not proven. Whoever by their own judgement considers [a ḥadīth] to be established, even then to consider it obligatory and emphasised is bid‘ah.
- Or it has the reason that the pure soul (upon him peace) came from the world of souls to the world of seeing, so standing is done to honour this. This too is pure foolishness because in this case standing ought to be done at the time of the blessed birth occurring. Which birth is being repeated each day? Thus, this re-enactment of the birth each day is like the Hindus who observe the play-acting (sāng) of the birth of Kanhaiya each year, or like the Rawāfiḍ who recreate [the events of] the martyrdom of the prophetic household each year. Allāh forbid, they have established a play-acting (sāng) of his (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) birth. Just this act is worthy of blame and is ḥarām and wickedness. In fact, these people have exceeded them [the Hindus and Rawāfiḍ]. They do it at a specific date. They have no restrictions. Whenever they want, they create these imagined tales. Such a thing is not observed anywhere in Sharī‘ah, that an imagined matter is established, and is treated as though it is real. Rather, this is forbidden in Sharī‘ah. Thus, based on this reason, this standing would be ḥarām and become a cause of imitating the disbelievers and the wicked.
- Or it has the reason that in the corrupt view of these innovators, the victorious soul [of the Prophet] attends this gathering of evils and sins and illicit activities, and this assembly of wicked people and sinners, and this location of innovations and evils. Allāh forbid! If the belief is that he is ‘Ālim al-Ghayb, this belief itself is shirk. It states in the Qur’ān: “With Him are the keys of the ghayb. None but He knows them.” And: “Had I known the ghayb, I would have amassed good and no evil would afflict me.” Thus, to perform the standing with this belief will itself be shirk.
- Those who do not say he is ‘Ālim al-Ghayb but have a different evidence or proof of attendance, then understand well that in the topic of beliefs it is necessary to have a decisive text. A belief cannot be established based on singular narrations and speculative evidences, let alone weak and fabricated narrations. In the matter of attendance, which decisive narration is there on which this belief can be based? Thus, this belief is pure following of desires and a scheme of the devil. In such a situation, this standing, with this belief, is a major sin.
In brief, this standing in the first situation is bid‘ah and an abomination, and in the second situation is ḥarām and wickedness, and in the third situation is disbelief and in the fourth situation is following desires and a major sin. Thus, in no situation is it licit and permissible.
Barāhīn e Qāṭi’ah, Dārul Ishā‘at, p.151-2