Muhammad ibn Yusuf al-Salihi al-Shami (d. 942 AH/1536 CE) records the following opinion from Nasir al-Din al-Mubarak, known as Ibn al-Tabbakh:
If someone spends money (anfaqa al-munfiq) on that night, gathers a group of people to whom he feeds licit things and makes them listen to licit things (at‘amahum ma yajuzu it‘amuhu wa-asma‘ahum ma yajuzu sam‘uhu), and gives the performer who arouses people’s longing for the next world some- thing to wear, all of this out of delight in [the Prophet’s] birth, all of this is permissible and the one who does it will be rewarded if his intention is good. This is not limited to the poor to the exclusion of the rich [i.e., as recipients of food], unless he intends to comfort those who are most needy, in which case the poor yield greater rewards. (1)
The shaykh Nasir al-Din also said, “This is not a sunna, but if one makes expenditures on this day and displays delight out of joy in the entrance of the Prophet into this world,” and performs licit sama‘, this is a good gathering, and anyone who intends that and performs it will be rewarded for it, except that asking people for what they possess for this reason alone, and without necessity and need, is a disapproved request (su’al makruh). The gathering of righteous people (al-sulaha’) simply to eat that food, remember God, and invoke blessings upon the Prophet will multiply good deeds and rewards for them. (2)
al-Mubarak ibn ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn, AbuMuhammad ibn al-Tabbakh (d. 575 AH/ 1178–9 CE) was a Baghdadi Hanbali who settled in Mecca and served as the Hanbali prayer leader in the sanctuary (imam al-hanabila bi’l-haram). He was a distinguished muhaddith, considered the foremost traditionist of Mecca in his time, as well as a faqih. (3)
(1) Muhammad ibn Yusuf al-Salihi al-Shami, Subul al-huda wa’l-rashad fi sirat khayr al-‘ibad, ed. ‘Adil Ahmad ‘Abd al-Mawjud and ‘Ali Muhammad Mu‘awwad, Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiya, 1414 AH/1993 CE, 1:363–4.
(2) Ibid., 1:364.
(3) Ibn al-‘Imad al-Hanbali, Shadharat al-dhahab fi akhbar man dhahab, Beirut: Dar al-Masira, 1399 AH/1979 CE, 4:253.
[Translated by Marion Holmes Katz]
Update: A reader mentioned that Imam Ibn al-Tabbakh here is not the hanbali scholar cited in Ibn al-Imad’s “Shadharat” by Marion Holmes Katz, but instead a shafi scholar who lived 589-689H, as cited in Imam Suyuti’s “Husn al Muhadarah” Vol 1 P 416.