Mawlid al-Nabi, or al-Mawlid al-Nabawi, the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, is commemorated on the twelfth day of the month Rabi’ al-Awwal across the world. Festivals, prayer sessions, recitations of poetry, and religious gatherings are all examples of Islamic traditions held on this day.
Keep reading to know more about this glorious day and how it’s celebrated in the Muslim community.
What is Mawlid al-Nabi?
Mawlid al-Nabi is the day when Muslims all around the world commemorate the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. It comes on the twelfth of Rabi al-Awwal, the third month of the Hijri calendar.
The event is also known informally as Nabid and Mawlid. The name ‘Mawalid’ is derived from the Arabic word for giving birth. In this context, the term alludes to Prophet Muhammad’s devotion.
Prophet Muhammad was born on Monday, the 12th of Rabi al-Awwal in the year 570 at Mecca, a mountain town on western Arabia’s high desert plateau (Saudi Arabia).
Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) held a great position in his community even before prophecy. Hundreds of years after his death in the 7th century in al Madinah, the Muslim community still commemorates the birthday of the prophet, being the ultimate idol for everyone that follows the religion of Islam.
Celebrating Mawlid al-Nabi Through History
Al-Mawlid was not widely observed by the Muslim faithful until the 13th century. The reigning Shii Fatimids observed four mawlids towards the end of the 11th century in Egypt: those of Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), Ali, Fatima, and the ruling caliph.
The festivals, on the other hand, were modest processions of court officials that culminated in the recital of three sermons (khutbahs) in the presence of the caliph.
Though public commemorations of Muhammad’s birth did not take place until four centuries after his death. The earliest Mawlid-text is said to be from the 12th century and to be of Persian origin.
Sunnis, the majority of Muslims, consider a mawlid celebration that occurred in 1207 to be the first mawlid holiday. Muzaffar al-Din Gökburi, the Ayyubid sultan Saladin’s brother-in-law, planned the event in Erbil, near Mosul (Iraq). Formally, it is similar to the contemporary mawlid.
The actual day of Muhammad’s birth was preceded by a month of celebration. Musicians, jugglers, and other performers drew visitors from as far away as Baghdad and Nusaybin, Turkey.
Muslim intellectuals, jurists, mystics, and poets began to arrive up to two months in advance. A huge number of camels, sheep, and cows were slaughtered two days before the official mawlid. A torchlight procession traveled through town on the eve of Mawlid.
The devout and soldiers gathered in front of a specially built pulpit on the morning of the mawlid to hear the speech. The religious dignitaries were then given special garments, and everyone in attendance was invited to a feast at the prince’s expense.
How Is al-Mawled al-Nabawi Celebrated Today?
Mawlid un-Nabi is now an official holiday in 47 Muslim nations, ranging from the Middle East to Africa and Malaysia. Egypt’s celebrations are still the greatest in the Middle East, and Sufi Muslims remain the most devoted to this festival.
Some Muslims refuse to observe this day because they believe it is an invention (Bida’a) that focuses too much attention on the Prophet as a human being and distracts from the actual divine source of revelation.
Some Sunni Islam sects, such as Wahhabi and Salafi, do not observe Mawlid, therefore it is not a holiday in some countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar. This means that al-Masjid an-Nabawi, the prophetic mosque in Saudi Arabia, isn’t decorated for the day.
Other Muslims consider this event as a way to teach their communities about the life of Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), which all Muslims aspire to achieve. Mawlid al-Nabi is a prominent public holiday in several Muslim countries.
The commemoration of the Prophet’s birth takes several forms across the world: some Muslims illuminate the largest mosques in the world with lights and conduct huge festive gatherings; others just celebrate in private homes with simple decorations.
Mawlid is often celebrated in a carnival-like manner by Sufi groups in various countries. This includes massive street processions and residences or mosques illuminated. Charity and food are provided, and children recite poetry while telling stories about Muhammad’s life.
Mawlid al-Nabi celebrations include sharing food, listening to lectures on the Prophet’s life and qualities, Salawat prayer services, marching, and reading the Quran, litanies, and religious poetry.
Food plays an essential role in the festivities. Desserts such as baklava, rice pudding, and semolina porridge are found in many nations throughout the world. Honey is the preferred sweetener. Tharid, or Tharida, is a meat and vegetable soup served over crispy bread that is said to be Prophet Mohammad’s (Peace Be Upon Him) favorite meal.
While it originated in the Arabian Peninsula, the meat, spices, and vegetables used might differ from area to region, resulting in a savory, spicy, or sweet dinner.
Different Muslim Countries Celebrations
Some nations, like Pakistan, commemorate the whole month of Rabi’ al-Awwal as the Prophet’s “birth month.”
Mawlid al-Nabi is celebrated in Singapore as a one-day holiday that typically involves special “birthday parties” for impoverished children and orphans in addition to regular prayers and lectures in mosques throughout the world.
In Egypt, the celebrations are deeply ingrained in the country’s history. Since Fatimid rule, public squares have been adorned, tents for Sufi chanting have been constructed, and unique Mawlid sweets have been created. Azhar Square in Cairo holds one of the largest celebrations today, with over two million Muslims in attendance.
When Is Mawlid Nabawi Celebrated in 2021?
Mawlid Nabawi comes on Monday, the 18th of October 2021. Because the Islamic calendar is based on lunar cycles, the Gregorian calendar date will change each year. Shias celebrate the occasion on the 17th of Rabi al-Awwal, whereas Sunnis celebrate it on the 12th.
The Sunni and Shia sects of Islam mark the day in distinct ways. The Shia faith believes that the Prophet Muhammad picked Hazrat Ali as his successor on the 12th of Rabi al-Awwal. The Sunni community prays throughout the month and does not observe mourning on this day.
What Should I Do on Mawlid Nabawi?
You may find yourself wondering, as a Muslim, what should I do on this day?
It doesn’t matter if you belong to Sunni or Shia Muslims, it’s always a good idea to remember the Prophet’s life lessons on Mawlid Nabawi and send salutations (Salawat) to him.
If your beliefs don’t stop you from enjoying the local community celebrations, it’s also a good idea to visit your local mosque and take part in these celebrations. It can foster your sense of community and get you closer to your Muslim peers.