In today’s society, we have become accustomed to the traditions of the country that we live in. In the UK a prominent question on the mind of many Muslims is whether we should partake in national celebrations such as Mother’s Day. Is Mother’s Day an innovation that is forbidden within Islam? The ‘Halal or Haram’ team have come together with The Suyuti Institute to explore this issue from various angles.
The aim of this article is:
• To look at the history and origins of the concept behind Mother’s Day
• To explore why some Muslims use the term ‘Bid’ah’ for certain practices
• To offer a definition and explanation of the term ‘innovation’ (Bid’ah)
• To highlight the rank of a mother in Islam
• To conclude whether or not it is permissible to celebrate Mother’s Day in Islam
History of Mother’s Day
Mother’s Day was founded in 1908 in the USA by a lady named Anna Jarvis following a memorial that she held for the passing of her mother. Anna wanted a significant day to be recognised as a holiday to encourage people to take time out to celebrate love for their mother. Mother’s Day became nationalised and quickly became recognised world-wide throughout the 1920’s.
In South Asia as well as some European countries like Germany, this day is known as ‘Women’s Day’. The Jewish community also celebrate it as Women’s Day and additionally draw attention to significant women throughout history. Christians refer to it as ‘Mothering Day’, whereas, some more traditional (Catholics) further specify by calling it ‘Virgin Mary Day’. Within Hindu tradition the concept is known as ‘Mata Tirtha Aunshi’ which is a celebration that lasts two weeks. Alternatively, in the Arab world the celebration is extended beyond the mother and is referred to as ‘Family Day’.
However, nine years after the first official Mother’s Day in the USA, commercialisation of the holiday became so rampant that Anna Jarvis herself became a major opponent of what the holiday had become. She spent her wealth and the rest of her life fighting against what she saw as an abuse of the celebration. Anna was not a religious woman but what was her view on Mother’s Day?
“A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.” (Anna Jarvis)
Anna’s statement suggests that Mother’s Day should not be the only day when a mother should be remembered, and that material gifts alone do not express enough gratitude.
Why some Muslims use the term ‘Bid’ah’
Having understood the rationale behind the origins of the celebration, the question at the forefront now is: why do some Muslims currently believe that following a practice such as Mother’s Day would be a non-permissible act? Why are some Muslims exclaiming ‘Bid’ah!’ at many practices that they see? To understand this further it is necessary to look at three Hadiths which Muslims refer to and base these beliefs on:
1) Imam Bukhari (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “You will surely follow the ways, steps, or traditions of those who came before you, span by span and yard by yard (very closely) even if they entered a lizard’s hole you will enter it.”. The companions asked, “Oh Prophet, you mean the Jews and Christians?” So he (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) answered, “who else!”
2) Imam Trimidhi and Abu Dawud reported that the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said “he who imitates others is not one of us. Do not imitate either the Jews or the Christians.”
3) Imam Abu-Dawud narrated that the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said “If one imitates another nation he will be from them”.
Thus, based on these Hadiths, some Muslims would suggest that celebrating Mother’s Day is Bid’ah within the fold of Islam because they interpret it as a practice originating from the Christians or Jews. However, to explore how a concept like Mother’s Day may be referred to as Bid’ah in Islam, we must first explore what the concept of Bid’ah actually means.
Definition and explanation of Bid’ah
‘Bid’ah’ in literal terms means ‘innovation’. More specifically, it refers to carrying out actions which displease Allah and His messenger, the Prophet Muhammad (May Allah bless him and grant him peace).
Imam Nawawi states that in Islam there are two kinds of Bid’ah: Bid’ah Say’iah and Bid’ah Hasana. If something new that comes to light that opposes the Qur’an and Sunnah then it is said to be Bid’ah Say’iah. However, if the matter in question is not going against the Shari’ah (Islamic Law), then it is said to be Bid’ah Hasana (Tahzeeb al Asma wal lughaat).
Hafidh ibn Rajjab refers to Bid’ah as new things that have no basis in the Qur’an or Sunnah. If a new practice does have evidence from the Qur’an or Sunnah it will not be Bid’ah Shari’ah, it will be Bid’ah Logaviyya (linguistic).
Examples of Biddah Hasana
To invent Usool Tafseer (Principles of Commentary of The Holy Qur’an), Usool Fiqh (Principles of Islamic Sacred Law)
An example of Bid’ah Hasana from Hadith:
Imam Bukhari narrates that Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) ordered for the Taraweeh prayer (supplications made during the month of Ramadan) to be offered in congregation. When the people of that time acted upon this guidance, Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) stated that this is a good Bid’ah (Bukhari Kitab-us Taraweeh); Therefore, this is an example of Bid’ah Hasana which indicates two further points:
1) After the time of the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace] anything new that was initiated but was not against his Sunnah or the Qur’an is called Bid’ah Hasana.
2) To initiate something new in Islam (i.e. it does not already exist) but it does not conflict with the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), then this will be known as the Sunnah of Umar (may Allah be pleased with him).
Further examples of Bid’ah Hasana that have been accepted by the whole Ummah:
• The use of punctuation in The Holy Qur’an
• The name of a Surah (Division in The Holy Qur’an)
• A Mihrab (a semi-circular niche in a wall that indicates the direction in which to pray) in a Mosque
• A Minaret (tall spire used to announce the call to prayer) in a Mosque
• Taqleed (i.e. ‘to follow’) one of the four Schools of thought (these are: Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbali)
• Fixing congregational prayer times in accordance with the 24-hour clock
The Rank of a mother in Islam
Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) reported, once the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) was asked “to whom should one be good to?” He replied, “Your mother.” He was asked the same question a second time, and he replied, “Your mother.” He was asked the same question for a third time and he replied,” Your mother.” He was asked the same question a fourth time and he replied,” Your father.” This indicates that in Islam the significance and elevation of a mother is three times before that of a father.
Abdullah ibn Amr (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated, a man went to the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) after migrating from Makkah to Madinah in order to pledge his allegiance to the Prophet. However, the man had left his parents in tears. The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said to the man, “go back to them and make them as happy as you have made them sad”.
This man had come to the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) to take an oath of allegiance with him upon migrating; meaning his intentions were auspicious and virtuous in nature. However, this man’s parents were not pleased with his separation from them, as migrating was not a compulsory requirement at that time. The man’s parents became restless at the thought of his journey and wept in sadness because of it. When the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) became aware of this he instructed the man to return to his parents and make them happy just as he had made them weep. This example indicates the merit of parents and the significance of kindness, love and time that we should give them. It also suggests it may be sinful to do something which causes our parents sadness.
Hazarat Mu’adh (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “good news to those who are good to their parents, good will increase the length of their lives” (Al-Bukhaari, 707).
Abu Qataadah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him with peace) said, “sometimes I stand in prayer, intending to make it lengthy, then I hear a child crying, so I make my prayer brief because I do not want to cause hardship to his mother.”
Sayyidina Uwais al Qarni (may Allah be pleased with him) was a resident of Yemen. The Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him with peace) referred to him as the best of the Tabi’een (the successors) and he said, “Get him to pray for your forgiveness”. Sayyidina Uwais al Qarni had embraced Islam at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him with peace) but he was unable to present himself before the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) as he was busy looking after his mother. Thus, he remained deprived of the honour of the Prophet Muhammad’s (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) company and companionship. This evidence suggests that the conduct of Sayyidina Uwais al Qarni was ideal in the Prophet Muhammad’s eyes (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) as he was mindful of his mother and consequently achieved a very high ranking. Furthermore, the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “Uwais has his mother, he has treated her kindly. If Uwais claims (anything) on Allah then Allah will surely let him have what he claims.”
Is it permissible to celebrate Mother’s Day in Islam?
In conclusion, evidence suggests that celebrating Mother’s Day is not Bid’ah as the concept behind this innovation was not taken from the ‘People of the Book’. In fact, Mother’s Day was created by a non-religious lady who simply wanted to dedicate a public holiday specifically to mothers so that people would be encouraged to spend time with their mothers. Therefore, the concept does not originate from the Jews or the Christians. Islam teaches us that the rewards associated with the good deeds of giving time to your mother are endless, as evidenced in this article with references to various Hadiths. One may spend their whole life serving their mother but will still not be able to repay the debt accumulated from her selfless love. So, whilst it is not technically incorrect to celebrate Mother’s Day, let’s not lower the position of our mothers by only acknowledging her for one day alone out of 365, as Anna Jarvis quite rightly pointed out. Let everyday become ‘Mother’s Day’ – a day for a lady who has heaven residing under her feet.
Our final words of wisdom are eloquently encapsulated by Edwin Hubbell Chapin:
“No language can express the power and beauty, and heroism, and majesty of a mother’s love. It shrinks not where man cowers, and grows stronger where man faints, and over wastes of worldly fortunes sends the radiance of its quenchless fidelity like a star”
By Shaykh Asif of Halal or Haram Team