Eid Milad un-Nabi: Why did Justice Katju reject the petitions?

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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Eid Milad un-Nabi

Eid Milad un Nabi By Justice Markandey Katju
Eid Milad un–Nabi By Justice Markandey Katju

By Justice Markandey Katju

There are two Eids which are celebrated with joy by all Muslims viz Eid ul Fitr, which is celebrated at the end of the Holy Month of Ramzan, and Eid al Adha (also called Bakrid in India) in which an animal is sacrificed, in memory of the sacrifice of a lamb by Prophet Abraham.

However, there is a third Eid called Eid Milad un-Nabi, which is the birthday of Prophet Mohammad, and which is falling tomorrow, 28th September 2023.

About this third Eid there is a controversy among Muslims. The orthodox Muslims known as Salafi or Wahabi are against celebrating it, as they say that this is 'shirk' i.e. giving a companion to God, or deification or worship of someone other than God.

According to such Muslims, celebrating the birthday of the Prophet implies treating the Prophet as a God, and thus there will be two Gods viz Allah and the Prophet, whereas Islam recognises only one God.

On the other hand, the more liberal and tolerant Muslims say that celebrating the birthday of the Prophet is only giving him respect, and not elevating him as a God.

In this connection I may relate a case which came before my court when I was a Judge in the Allahabad High Court.

A petition was filed before me by some Salafi Muslims, and their prayer was that I should prohibit the taking out of a procession in Saharanpur district in UP on the occasion of Eid Milad un-Nabi, which was on the next day.

I asked the learned counsel for the petitioners why I should pass such an order? He replied that celebrating Ed Milad uun-Nabiwas unislamic and offends the religious feelings of the petitioners.

I said that if the petitioners did not wish to celebrate Eid Milad un-Nabi they need not participate in the procession or look at it. But this was a free country, and there was no law prohibiting such processions. I would only enforce the law, not religious feelings.

Saying this I dismissed the petition.

I may relate another incident.

When I was a Judge in the Supreme Court a petition was filed before a bench presided over by me by some orthodox Muslims who prayed that an order should be passed prohibiting any Muslim from saying ''Ya Ali'' or ''Ya Gharib Nawaz'' (Ali was the son-in-law of the Prophet, and Gharib Nawaz is the appellation often attributed to the saint of Ajmer dargah, Moinuddin Chishti).

I asked why we should pass such an order? The counsel replied that saying '' Ya Ali '' or '' Ya Gharib Nawaz '' was shirk, as it treated Ali or Moinuddin Chishti as Gods.

I said that saying it does not violate any law, and the petition was frivolous and without any merit. If the petitioners did not want to say '' Ya Ali '' or ''Ya Gharib Nawaz'' they need not say it, but how can they stop others from saying it in a free country?

Saying this, we dismissed the petition.

(Justice Katju is a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India. These are his personal views.)

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