I have often read in academic literature or heard claims from wahabis that state Maulid celebrations started with Shias seven centuries ago, in Middle Ages or due to the Fatimid rulers since the 13th Century. Are these claims true?
The majority of the scholars of Ahl al-Sunna consider that the Prophet — upon him blessings and peace — instituted the principle of the commemoration of his birthday by emphasizing the fast of the second day of the week (al-ithnayn = Monday) “for I was born on that day,” i.e. in thanksgiving. The asl (principle) is celebration (hence it is a lie that the asl “started with Shias seven centuries ago” or “due to the Fatimids”); the kayfiyya (modality) is fasting; and later modalities, such as feeding the masses, are also sunna by qiyas (analogy). The most famous king to first do so in the Sunni world was al-Muzaffari the king of Irbil (d. 630H).
See my book Mawlid: Celebrating the Birth of the Holy Prophet, particularly Point 16.
Hajj Gibril Haddad