MAWLID AL NABI MUHAMMAD SAW
Mawlid, also spelled mawlūd or mīlād, in Islam, the birthday of a holy figure, especially the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad (Mawlid al-Nabī). Muhammad’s birthday, arbitrarily fixed by tradition as the 12th day of the month of Rabīʿ al-Awwal—i.e., the day of Muhammad’s death—was not celebrated by the masses of Muslim faithful until about the 13th century. At the end of the 11th century in Egypt, the ruling ShiʿiFāṭimids (descendants of ʿAlī, the fourth caliph and first imam, through his wife Fāṭimah, Muhammad’s daughter) observed four mawlids: those of Muhammad, ʿAlī, Fāṭimah, and the ruling caliph. The festivals, however, were simple processions of court officials, held in daylight hours, that culminated in the recitation of three sermons (khutbahs) in the presence of the caliph.
The mawlid festival quickly spread throughout the Muslim world, partly because of a contemporary corresponding enthusiasm for Sufism (Islamic mysticism), which allowed Islam to become a personal experience. Even in Arabia, where the Prophet’s birthplace and tomb had been simply the sites of pious but not required pilgrimage, the mawlid celebrations took hold. Many Muslim theologians could not accept the new festivities, however, branding them bidʿahs, innovations possibly leading into sin. Modern fundamentalist Muslims such as the Wahhābiyyah still view the mawlid festivities as idolatrous.
Mawlids continue to be celebrated and have been extended to popular saints and the founders of Sufi brotherhoods. The mawlid poems, which relate Muhammad’s life and virtues, are also widely popular outside the times of regular feasts. Mawlids are also recited in commemoration of deceased relatives.
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