When was Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him was born? Is it on 12th Rabi al-Awwal as popularly circulated, believed and commemorated?
What does the research of historians say about this? Is 12th Rabi al-Awwal a genuine date for his birth?
When was Prophet's date of death?
Why are the popular dates popular?
Date of Birth
From the very beginning, historians and writers of Seerah have differed on the date of birth of Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم. There are disagreements even for the ‘year’ of birth of Prophet Muhammadصلى الله عليه وسلم so, naturally we have different views regarding his ‘month’ of birth and ‘date’ of birth. Considering the fact that a wide majority of the historians have mentioned the ‘month’ to be Rabi ul awwal, one can safely assume that the month was Rabi ul awwal. Furthermore, it is proven from Authentic Narrations that his ‘day’ of birth was ‘Monday’.
Abu Qatada Ansari رضى الله عنه reported that Allah's Messenger صلى االه عليه وسلمwas asked about fasting on Monday, whereupon he said: It is (the day) when I was born and revelation was sent down to me.
(Sahih Al Bukhari – Kitab As Sawm)
The different views regarding the date of birth are:
2nd Rabi ul Awwal: Ibn Abd al-Barr
5th Rabi ul Awwal: Ameer ud din
8th Rabi ul Awwal: Ibn al Qayyim, ibn e Hazm, Az Zuhri , Ibn e Dihya
9th Rabi ul Awwal : Muhammad Suleman Mansurpuri, Mubarakpuri , Shibli Nomani, Mahmud Pasha Falaki, Akbar Shah Najeeb Abadi, Moeen ud din Ahmed Nadvi, Abul Kalam Azad
12th Rabi ul Awwal: Tabari, ibn e Khuldoon , Dr hameedullah , ibn e hisham, ‘Allama Abu’l-Hasan ‘Ali ibn Muhammad al- Mawardi, ibn e ishaaq
10th Rabi ul Awwal: Abul Fida, Abu Jaafar al Baaqir, Al Waqadi , Al Sha’bi– 10
17th Rabi ul Awwal: Shia view; and they also believe that it was Friday
22nd Rabi ul Awwal: Also attributed to ibn e Hazm
10th Muharram: Abdul Qadir Jilani
Now, how can one find the true date out of the numerous opinions? The only sure-shot information that we have is that it was the Monday and the month Rabi ul Awwal. Few biographers of the Seerah have mentioned that a person named Mahmud Pasha Falki proved through astronomical calculations that the Monday falls on 9th Rabi ul Awwal in the year when Rasulullah was born. People who have written biographies in the past century have accepted his research and they normally quote the date of birth to be 9th Rabi ul Awwal. Furthermore, Allama Qastalani writes that the people of Zaych are in agreement that the eighth of Rabi ul Awwal was the Monday.
The presence of such disagreements on the exact day of his birth proves that birthdays were not important to the Arabs. Arabs were very well known for their great memorization skills. They used know the lineage of their families and other Arabs by heart; they used to know hundreds of verses of poetry by heart, a great feat of memorization. Documentation wasn’t very common. Hence, it is very difficult to conclude when exactly Rasulullah was born.
Why we cannot find the Exact Date Even from Astronomical Calculations
The pagan Arabs would play with the calendar and amend it according to their wishes; which is referred to as Nasi. The pagan Arabs practiced Nasi in two ways.
1- Whenever it suited them, they would declare a prohibited month to be an ordinary month in which fighting, robbery and murder in retaliation were lawful for them. Then they would declare an ordinary month to be a prohibited month instead of this month in order to make up for the deficiency caused in the number of the prohibited months. Earlier writers of Seerah like Ibn e Hisham and commentators like Mujahid quoted that one year the Arab made Muharram as Halal, and they would consider Safar to be sacred (Haram), and the next year they’ll take Muharram to be sacred. They did so because three sacred months Dhul-Hijj, Dhul-Q’ada and Muharram were consecutive. `Abd al-Raĥmān ibn Zayd ibn Aslam, another leading commentator says that they would make two Safar one year and two Muharram next year.
2- The other way of Nasi was the addition of a month in order to harmonize the lunar year to the solar year so that the Hajj should always fall in the same season and they should be saved from the botheration and inconveniences that are experienced by its observance according to the lunar year. Due to the lunar calendar, the months shifted 11 days earlier each successive year, thus the people wished to perform the hajj (pilgrimage) ceremony - which coincided with different seasons - not on certain days of Dhu al-Hijjah, but on other days and months when the weather was mild and trade environment was suitable. In order to ensure this, they used the nasi (adjustment) method. So, the way out was to add a month after every three years. In this way Haj was observed for 36 years on dates other than the actual dates. Then in the thirty seventh year it was again observed on the 9th and 10th of Zil-Hajjah, as they should have actually fallen according to the lunar calendar. It so happened that on the occasion when the Holy Prophet performed Hujjatul-Wida' (Farewell Haj). These dates by rotation coincided with the actual dates of Haj according to the lunar calendar
Abu Bakra reported that (in the Farewell Address) Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) said: Time has completed a cycle and come to the state of the day when Allah created the heavens and the earth. The year is constituted of twelve months, of which four are sacred; three of them consecutive, viz. Dhu'l-Qa'da, Dhu'l- Hijja and Muharram, and also Rajab the month of Mudar which comes between Jumada and Sha'ban.
(Sahih Muslim - Al-Kitab Al-Qasama wa'l-Muharaba wa'l-Qisas wa'l-Diyat)
Qur’an also mentions this act of delaying months in Surah At Tawbah.
Nasi (Postponing of the sacred month) is only an addition in unbelief, wherewith those who disbelieve are led astray, violating it one year and keeping it sacred another, that they may agree in the number (of months) that Allah has made sacred, and thus violate what Allah has made sacred; the evil of their doings is made fair-seeming to them; and Allah does not guide the unbelieving people.
(Surah At Tawbah 9:37)
Moreover, before the annunciation of prophet-hood, there was not any official calendar in force in the Arab land. The Arabs were accustomed to changing and altering the months as they pleased, and hence, sometimes they would make thirteen and fourteen months in one year. It is mentioned in Diya’ al-Qur’an that in a lunar year one extra intercalary month would be added to the existing twelve months. It is quite clear that before the annunciation of prophethood, such additions were made, however, we can never know in which specific year or years additions were made. (Diya’ al-Ummat, Justice Shaykh Muhammad Karam Shah al- Azhari (ra), Diya’ al-Qur’an, volume 1, page 202, note 60.)
Conclusion about Date of Birth
Considering the above mentioned facts, we can never be sure about the date of birth of Prophet Muhammad. The exact birthdate of the Prophet Muhammad has always been the subject of dispute amongst classical scholars. Nothing authentic has been reported in the standard source books of tradition, and this fact in itself shows that it was not held in the significance that later authorities did. The astronomical researches are invalid considering the practice of Nasi. Thus it can be concluded that we cannot know for sure about the exact date of his birth, we only know of the day, which was Monday.
Why 12th Rabiulawwal is famous?
1- The two famous books authors of Seerah Ibn e Hisham and Ibn e Ishaaq both have mentioned it to be 12th Rabi ul Awwal.
2- Perhaps those who decided to start milad took this day: This also explains why Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, writing before the conception of the mawlid in the fifth century of the hijrah, stated that the most common opinion amongst historians was in fact the 8th of Rabīʿ al-Awwal, and yet Ibn Kathīr, writing three centuries later, after the mawlid had been introduced as a public festival, stated that the 12th of Rabīʿ al-Awwal was the most common opinion. Earlier historians like Ibn e S’ad didn’t even put 12 Rabi ul Awwal in the list of candidates for Birthday of Prophet Muhammad. In the earlier days 8th Rabi ul Awwal used to be accepted as the date of Birth.
Date of Death
What we know for sure is that day of his death was ‘Monday’, as for the date we have different narrations. The famous one is 12th rabiulawwal.
Narrated Hisham's father: Aisha said, "I went to Abu Bakr (during his fatal illness) and he asked me, 'In how many garments was the Prophet shrouded?' She replied, 'In three Sahuliya pieces of white cloth of cotton, and there was neither a shirt nor a turban among them.' Abu Bakr further asked her, 'On which day did the Prophet die?' She replied, 'He died on Monday.' He asked, 'What is today?' She replied, 'Today is Monday.' He added, 'I hope I shall die sometime between this morning and tonight.' Then he looked at a garment that he was wearing during his illness and it had some stains of saffron. Then he said, 'Wash this garment of mine and add two more garments and shroud me in them.' I said, 'This is worn out.' He said, 'A living person has more right to wear new clothes than a dead one; the shroud is only for the body's pus.' He did not die till it was the night of Tuesday and was buried before the morning."
(Bukhari – Kitab al Janaiz)
13th Rabi ul Awwal: Muhammad Suleman Mansurpure
12th Rabi ul Awwal: Mubarakpuri
2nd Rabi ul Awwal: Ibn e Hajr
1st Rabi ul Awwal: Ibn e Jareer
28th Safar: Sh’ia Historians (They also mention the day to be Monday)
From the books of Hadith we can be sure that the year Prophet Muhammad died:
9th Dhil Hijjah was Friday (Bukhari – Prophetic Commentary on the Qur’an)
“….It was Friday and the Prophet was standing at 'Arafat (i.e. the Day of Hajj)"
(Narrated by Umar bin Al-Khattab)
We have four possibilities:
1- If Dhil Hijjah, Muharram and Safar all were of 30 days, Rabi ul Awwal starts on Wednesday and Mondays fall on 6th, 13th and so on.
2- If Dhil Hijjah, Muharram and Safar all were of 29 days, Rabi ul Awwal starts on Sunday and Mondays fall on 2nd, 9th, 16th and so on.
3- If any two months were of 29 days and one of 30 days, Rabi ul Awwal starts on Monday and Mondays fall on 1st, 8th, 15th and so on.
4- If any two months were of 30 days and one of 29 days, Rabi ul Awwal starts on Monday and Mondays fall on 7th, 14th and so on.
As for 28th Safar:
1- If Dhil Hijjah and Muharram are 30 days it is Sunday.
2- If Dhil HIjjah and Muharram are 29 days it is Friday
3- If one is 29 and the other is 30 it is Saturday.
You can verify the results on Microsoft Excel.
Hence, the view of Ibn e Hajr (2nd Rabi ul Awwal) , view of Ibn e Jareer (1st Rabi ul Awwal) and Suleman Mansurpuri (13th Rabi ul Awwal) are the only possibilities and the common views of 12th Rabi ul Awwal and 28th Safar have been proven to be incorrect.
May Allah Make Us follow the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad and His Rightly Guided Companions. Ameen.
Authored by Muhammad Awais Tahir (Credit: Islam & Psycology). The author can be contacted at, Muhammad.Awais.Tahir (at) gmail.com