It is commonly believed that prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was born in Mecca (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) on the "12th day of Rabi-ul-Awwal", equivalent to Monday April 20, 571 A.D. This day is celebrated by Muslims and is generally accepted to have been "invented" later in Islamic tradition, around the 12th or 13th Century.
A detailed explanation of the origin of this date can be found here:
"It seems that the tendency to celebrate the memory of Muhammad's birthday on a larger and more festive scale emerged first in Egypt during the Fatimid Era (969-1171). This is logical, for the Fatimids claim to be the Prophet's decendants through his daughter Fatima. The Egyptian historian Maqrizi (d.1442) basing his account on Fatimid sources. It was apparently an occasion in which mainly scholars and the religious establishment participated. They listened to sermons, and sweets, particularly honey, the Prophet's favorite, were distributed; the poor received alms."
"The first comprehensive work about the Prophet's birth, as far as one knows, was composed by the Andalusian author Ibn Dihya, who had participated in the festive maulid in Arbela in 1207. Written in prose with a concluding poetical economium , his work has the characteristic title Kitab at-tanwir fi maulid as-siraj al-munir (The Book of Illumination about the Birth of the Luminous Lamp), in which the light-mysticism associated with Muhammad is evident. Two Hanabilites, Ibn al-Jauzi and, a century and half later, Ibn Kathir, devoted treatises to the maulid. Poetical works about this important event were also composed relatively early."
This gives us the date but not the hour. Astrodatabank provides a horoscope (rated XX) for this traditional birth date, Monday, April 20 571, and the reference is:
Manly Hall in the NAJ 1933 states "recorded" at ... 1:25:35 AM LMT. Rao gives the same data as "reproduced from the writings of Professor B. Suryanarian."...
Since Astrodatabank never checks references and depends on what others say, we have no way of knowing what these "writings" might be. It would be nice to know what are the original sources of this horoscope...
This date shows a close conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in early Scorpio, and fits perfectly in the medieval astrological doctrine of Jupiter/Saturn conjunctions. The conjunction of 571 is the beginning of a major or "grand" triplicity shift according to the chronology of Masha'allah: <<The advent of a major prophet, an event most portentous of all, is heralded by the completion of a cycle of shifts through all four triplicities.>> (page vi of E. S. Kenedy and David Pingree "The Astrological History of Masha'Allah", Harvard Univ. Press, 1971). It wouldn't be unreasonable to assume, then, that this date was fabricated.
But Masha'allah, one of the first extant authors to adopt this doctrine and explain its details, uses a very different date for Muhammed's birth, when Jupiter and Saturn were separated by 17 degrees. There is a reference to Masha'allah date in Astrodatabank, however almost everything in it is wrong:
(NOTE: in the following quote, the date is given as February 9 first, February 7 later. The time "3 p.m." does not appear in the original paragraph at all nor in Biruni's account. Anushirwan is spelled "Anushirwaf". "1 Favardin" is quoted as "Pavardin", and the years, 574 and 575, should be 571 and 572.)
Ruth Dewey gives February 9, 575 AD N.S., 3:00 PM from "The Astrological History of Masha'Allah," translated by Kennedy and Pingree, Harvard University Press, 1971, p.127, "Date recorded by Biruni as being Monday, the Khur (eleventh) of the month Dai in the year 41 of Anushirwaf. At the beginning of the 7th hour, with the Sun in the liver of heaven and the ASC in Cancer. Pavardin of the 41st year of Anushirwaf according to the calendar was May 3, 574 AD, and therefore the day was February 7, 575, which was indeed a Monday. this date is from Arabic astrology in the 8th century."
compare this with what is really written in the book by Kenedy and Pingree (p127):
Masha'allah´s Date of the Prophet's Birth.
This date is recorded in his "Chronology" (*) by Biruni as being Monday, the day of Khur (11) of the month Dai in the year 41 of Anushirwan at the beginning of the seventh hour with the Sun in "the liver of heaven" and the Ascendant in Cancer. 1 Favardin of the 41st year of Anushirwan according to Masha'allah's calendar was 3 May 571; and therefore 11 Dai, the day of the Prophet's birth, was 7 February 572, which was indeed a Monday. The Sun was then in Aquarius, and would have been setting if Cancer had been in the Ascendant. This passage in Biruni confirms our previous assertions regarding the "zij" used by Masha'allah and its calendar.
(*) "Documenta Islamica Inedita", ed. J. Fück (Akademie Verlag, Berlin, 1952), pp.95-96
Masha'allah was a a Jewish astrologer from Baghdad who flourished in the middle of the 8th century and apparently participated in the calculations that led to the astrological founding of Bhagdad in 762 AD. Kenedy and Pingree give here a reference to Al-Biruni (973-1048) in his book "Al-Athar al-Baqiyah'an al-Qorun al-Khaliya" (The Chronology of Ancient Nations), written in about AD 1000. Biruni mentions Masha'allah's horoscope of Muhammed, using the calendrical system of Masha'allah himself.
According to E.S. Kenedy in the preface (p. viii of the Kenedy and Pingree), Masha'allah died somewhere between AD 809 and 829. Since, according to the authors (page 105), Muhammed died 8 June 632, this means that Masha'allah's mention of the horoscope of Muhammed was made somewhere between 130-150 years after the Prophet's death. In page 113, the authors write: <<we know that Masha'allah died in about 815...>>. With this we have an upper limit for this horoscope of 815-632 = 183 years after the death of Muhammed.
We don't know the sources of Masha'allah for the birth data, but it is not unreasonable to assume that he used older sources available to him, or was repeating what at his time was oral knowledge. Of course the horoscope may have been "invented", but since this is probably the oldest reference to his horoscope known today, I believe it is a valuable historical and astrological reference point.
Masha'allah used the "Zij al-Shah" or "tables of the Shah", so his positions were sidereal based on the Sasanian zero point or ayanamsa. Details of the Sasanian sidereal zero point can be found in my examination of the horoscope of the founding of Baghdad in my site:
Muhamed's traditional place of birth is Mecca (39e49/21n27). Sunrise occurred that day at 6h24m solar time (6h40m40s LMT), so "the seventh hour" described by Biruni is somewhere between approximately 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. LMT, and not close to sunset, as the authors say erroneously. The main reference point (in addition to "the seventh hour") to ascertain the hour is Biruni's mention of the Ascendant in Cancer according to Masha'allah. I use Riyal and the Sasanian ayanamsa and obtain:
7 Feb AD 572:
14h 06m LMT = ASC. 00,04 Cancer
16h 20m LMT = ASC. 29,55 Cancer
(sunset occured at 17h53m LMT)
One can calculate <<the beginning of the 7th hour>> as described by Biruni more accurately. From my last post:
sunrise = 6h41m LMT
sunset = 17h53m LMT
12 "seasonal" hours is then equivalent to 11h12m "equinoctial" hours. 7 hours is equivalent to 6h32m after sunrise, "the seventh hour" being from 13h13m LMT to 14h09m. However, this calculation, though accurate, does not reflect necessarily what Masha'allah had in mind, because he had to be working with tables of rising times which are unknown to us, and which were probably inaccurate or cast for another latitude. Our modern computations will give only a rough approximation to the (innacurate) measurements ancient astrologers were using.
This establishes that the (alleged) birth according to Masha'allah, based on the knowledge available to him about 150 years years after Muhammed died, took place sometime around 2:00 p.m. of 7 February A.D. 572, in Mecca (39e49/21n27).
Keep in mind that using the tropical zodiac will shift the time somewhat.
To summarize, we have:
1-) 7th hour = from 13h13m LMT to 14h09m
2-) Cancer on the Ascendant (sidereal/Sasanian) = from 14h06m to 16h20m LMT
These are only points of reference. It is of course impossible to know what was the degree on the Ascendant according to Masha'allah.
It is clear that the date "12 Rabi' ul-awwal" --20 April 571-- is based on legend and tradition, and came in late (12th century), while the Masha'alla date is of a different order, purely astrological and relatively close (about 150 years) to the death of Muhammed. This obviously is no proof that the date (7 Feb 572) is historically correct, but I think it is an interesting and important reference point astrologically speaking. Altough there are other times traditionally used by Muslims to celebrate the birthday of their Prophet, this one ante-dates all the others by a far margin, and is much closer to the time of Muhammed.
Astrologers tend to think that traditional dates --dates based on legend or myth, without "true" historical foundation-- are worthless. I think this is a mistake. It is the "epiphanical" and imaginative meaning we give to a date what matters, not if the date refers to a "real" physical event. There is (often) nothing physical about the time we choose to do a horary chart, for example, or about many inceptional event charts. "Events" are often purely subjective or fictional, and are non-events for other people.
We have for example the date "December 25, 1 B.C. at midnight in Bethlehem", a date celebrated by all Christendom for 2 millenia, and nobody seems to think that the date is astrologically significant! I confess I have never done any serious work with this chart, probably afraid of being considered an ignorant fool by the whole astrological establishment. This unfortunately is not considered serious work.
On the other hand, besides of course the "chart of Islam" made for 16 July 622 at sunset, which I think is very powerful, we have the date of Muhammed's death (8 June 632), which apparently is indisputable historically speaking. There is no need to speculate on the true date of birth for astrological purposes when we have the true date of death. Unless we are rotten materialists who think Astrology deals only with the physical or the biological, the horoscope of death often offers a better perspective of an individual´s spiritual constitution, especially, as in this case, when the real (and in this case monumental) spiritual legacy they left to the whole of mankind became effective after (or because) they died.
My historical notes on the chart of Islam can be found here.