Mawlid (Qur'anic Arabic: مَوْلِدُ النَبِيِّ mawlidu n-nabiyyi, “Birth of the Prophet” Standard Arabic: مولد النبي mawlid an-nabī, sometimes simply called in colloquial Arabic مولد mawlid, mevlid, mevlit, mulud among other vernacular pronunciations; sometimes ميلاد mīlād) is the observance of the birthday of the Islamic prophet Muhammad which occurs in Rabi' al-awwal, the third month in the Islamic calendar.
The term Mawlid is also used in some parts of the world, such as Egypt, as a generic term for the birthday celebrations of other historical religious figures such as Sufi saints.
Mawlid falls in the month of Rabi' al-awwal in the Islamic calendar. Shias observe the event on the 17th of the month, coinciding with the birth date of their sixth Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq and the Prophet Muhammad while Sunnis observe it on the 12th of the month. As the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, the corresponding date in the Gregorian calendar varies each year.
The basic earliest accounts for the observance of Mawlid can be found in 8th century Mecca, when the house in which Prophet Muhammad was born was transformed into a place of prayer by Al-Khayzuran (mother of Harun al-Rashid, the fifth and most famous Abbasid caliph). Though public celebrations of the birth of Muhammad did not occur until four centuries after his passing away. The oldest Mawlid-text is claimed to be from the 12th century and most likely being of Persian origin.
The early celebrations included elements of Sufic influence, with animal sacrifices and torchlight processions along with public sermons and a feast. The celebrations occurred during the day, in contrast to modern day observances, with the ruler playing a key role in the ceremonies. Emphasis was given to the Ahl al-Bayt with presentation of sermons and recitations of the Qur'an. The event also featured the award of gifts to officials in order to bolster support for the ruling caliph.
Traditionally Sunni and Shia scholars have approved celebration of Mawlid-un-Nabi except Wahabi and Deobandi scholars.
In the Muslim world the majority of Islamic scholars are in favor of Mawlid. They consider observing Mawlid necessary or permissible in Islam, and see it as a praiseworthy event and positive development, while the Salafi minority say it is an improper innovation and forbid its celebration.
Mufti Ali Gomaa, Chief Mufti of the world's oldest and largest Islamic University Al Azhar in Egypt, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the primary scholar of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, Muhammad Alawi al-Maliki, Grand Mufti of Cyprus Nazim Al-Haqqani, Habib Ali al-Jifri of Yemen, Syed Shujaat Ali Qadri, Muhammad Ilyas Qadri the founder of Dawat-e-Islami, Nuh Ha Mim Keller, Grand Mufti of Bosnia Mustafa Cerić, Abdalqadir as-Sufi, Hamza Yusuf, Gibril Haddad, Shaykh Said Afandi al-Chirkawi, Shaykh Hisham Kabbani, Grand Mufti of India Akhtar Raza Khan, Kanthapuram A. P. Aboobacker Musalyar of Markazu Saqafathi Sunniya and Zaid Shakir, all subscribe to Sunni Sufi Islam, and have given their approval for the observance of Mawlid. They suggest that fasting on Mondays is also a way of commemorating Muhammad's birthday.
Scholars and preachers who consider Mawlid to be heresy and forbid its celebration belong to the Wahabi or Deobandi ideologies, they include Abd al-Aziz ibn Abd Allah ibn Baaz, who was the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, the imam of the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia,, Zakir Naik, and Bilal Philips, of the Wahabi / Salafi movement, and Muhammad Taqi Usmani, Muhammad Rafi Usmani and Ebrahim Desai who subscribe to the Deobandi movement. Although all agree that the birth of Muhammad was the most significant event in Islamic history, they point out that the companions of Muhammad and the second and third generation of Muslims did not observe this event.
Mawlid is celebrated in most Muslim countries, and in other countries where Muslims have a presence, such as India, Britain, Russia and Canada. Saudi Arabia is the only Muslim country where Mawlid is not an official public holiday. Participation in the ritual celebration of popular Islamic holidays is seen as an expression of the Islamic revival.
Where Mawlid is celebrated in a carnival manner, large street processions are held and homes or mosques are decorated. Charity and food is distributed, and stories about the life of Muhammad are narrated with recitation of poetry by children. Scholars and poets celebrate by reciting Qaṣīda al-Burda Sharif, the famous poem by 13th century Arabic Sufi Busiri.
During Pakistan's Mawlid celebration, the national flag is hoisted on all public buildings, and a 31-gun salute in Islamabad and a 21-gun salute at the provincial headquarters are fired at dawn. The cinemas shows religious rather than secular films on 11th and 12th Rabi-ul-Awwal.Hundreds of thousands of people gather at Minar-e-Pakistan Lahore between the intervening night of 11th and 12th Rabi' al-awwal for Mawlid celebrations, this is the worlds biggest gathering for Mawlid celebrations.
Among non-Muslim countries, India is noted for its Mawlid festivities. The relics of Muhammad are displayed after the morning prayers in the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir at the Hazratbal Shrine, on the outskirts of Srinagar. Shab-khawani night-long prayers held at the Hazratbal Shrine are attended by thousands.
Other non-Muslim countries noted for its Mawlid festivities are Kenya and Tanzania where it is known as "Maulidi". In Kenya, the most famous place is the coastal island of Lamu and Malindi. In Tanzania the largest celebrations are on the island of Zanzibar.
In many parts of Indonesia, the celebration of the Mawlid al-nabi "seems to surpass in importance, liveliness, and splendour" the two official Islamic holidays of Eid ul-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.
The Indonesian Javanese week-long Sekaten ceremony commemorates Mawlid in the Sultanate of Yogyakarta.
Other uses of the term
In some countries, such as Egypt and Sudan, Mawlid is used as a generic term for the celebration of birthdays of local Sufi saints and not only restricted to the observance of the birth of Muhammad. Around 3,000 Mawlid celebrations are held each year and attended by tens of thousands of people. These festivals attract an international audience, with the largest one in Egypt attracting up to three million people honouring Ahmad al-Badawi, a local 13th century Sufi saint.