Translated from Suyuti's 'Al-Hawi lil-Fatawi' 2 vols. (Beirut: Dar al-Kitab al-`Arabi, n.d.) 1:251-252.
"Praise be to God and peace be upon those of His servants He has elected. The question has been asked about the celebration of Mawlid al-Nabawi in the month of Rabi` al-awwal: what is the ruling concerning it according to shari`a, and is it praiseworthy or blameworthy, and does the one who practices it obtain reward for it or no?
"I answer that the origin of the celebration of Mawlid, which consists in the gathering of people, the recitation of Qur'an, the narrating of accounts related to the beginnings of the Prophet (s) and the miracles that have been told as taking place upon his birth, and then in the giving of food to the people who eat and leave without adding anything to this, -- *this is one of the praiseworthy innovations* [huwa min al-bida` al-hasana] for the doing of which one obtains reward, because of the respect shown to the greatness of the Prophet (s) and the demonstration of joy and happiness at the news of his noble birth.
"The first to have innovated that practice is the ruler of Irbil, King al-Muzaffar Abu Sa`eed... one of the noblest and most generous kings (to have ruled). He left man good bequests. He is the one who built the Muzaffari mosque on the side of Jabal Qasyun [in Syria; it is said that Judgment Day will take place on that mountain].
"Ibn Kathir said in his 'Tarikh' [History]:
It is enough for now to show the position of Suyuti on celebrating the Mawlid. His entire fatwa is that it is good to celebrate it. He calls it "a praiseworthy innovation" according to Imam Shafi`i's classification of innovations between "good" and "bad."
To name but a few other sources on the same opinion:
Ibn Kathir composed an entire book proving that Mawlid is permissible. So did Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, so did the Shaykh of hadith al-Kattani, and so did Shaykh al-Maliki al-Husayni more recently in 'al-Dhakha'ir', as did Shaykh Hisham Kabbani publish a booklet1 on the subject for English-speaking Muslims
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