Mawlid al-Nabi

By: Aarushi Nohria and Varsha Jawahar

Mawlid al-Nabi will next occur on the sunset of January 2 - 3, 2015. The holiday will start at 4:23 on January 2 and end at 4:24 the next day, relative to Boston time. On the Muslim calendar, it will be on the 12th day for Sunni Muslims, or the 17th day, for Shi'a Muslims during the month of Rabīʿ al Awwal.

The History

Mawlid al-Nabi is a meaningful festival for many Muslims. The term “Mawlid” means birthday of a holy figure, and the term “al-Nabi” means prophet; Mawlid al-Nabi is the celebration of the birthday of Prophet Muhammad. Mawlid al-Nabi is celebrated around the world, despite the fact that Prophet Muhammad actually urged his followers not to make a big deal out of his birthday.That is why Mawlid al-Nabi was first celebrated hundreds of years after the prophet's birth in the year 570. It first took took place in the 13th century, Egypt, and spread quickly throughout the Islamic world. The actual date of Prophet Muhammad’s birthday is unknown. Most scholars of Islam generally agree on the fact that the Prophet Muhammad actually died on the 12th day of Rabīʿ al Awwal, so Muslims may be celebrating the birth of the Prophet on the date of his death.

The Customs and Traditions

Participants of Mawlid al-Nabi perform many rituals in honor of Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. First, during the daylight hours on Monday, some scholars fast because this is said to be the time when Muhammad was born. Also, the streets of many Muslim countries are filled by large parades passing through. Many homes and mosques are decorated in honor of the significant holiday. In these homes, believers read poems and other literature about Prophet Muhammad’s life, while others recreate the events that took place during his life. Most Islamic schools, stores and businesses are closed for a part of the day. Children, as well as elders, use the day off to become educated on Sirah, the life story of the Prophet. Although there are many celebrations, many Muslims do not take part in the festivities, but instead spend more time reading the Quran. In addition, people donate food and money to charity because of the Islamic belief, Zakat. Although there are different ways of celebrating, Mawlid al-Nabi is a very important event for many Muslims.

Did You Know?

  • Some Muslims perceive Mawlid Al-Nabi as an event of great importance, while others view the birthday as meaningless. It is a Muslim belief that any new practice, or additional ritual is an alteration, or bid'ah, and must be rejected. Since Mawlid al-Nabi is not in the Quran, many consider it to be against Islamic law. The most prominent Muslim branch against Mawlid al-Nabi (currently) are the followers of Wahhabi Islam (from Saudi Arabia). The most prominent branch of Islam that advocates for the celebrations of Mawlid al-Nabi are the Sufis, through whom the practice became universal.

Works Cited

  • Morris, Neil. Islam. Columbus, OH: Peter Bedrick, 2002. Print.