Mawlid (Arabic: مَولِد النَّبِي mawlidu n-nabiyyi, “Birth of the Prophet”, 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 on the 12th day of Rabi’ al-awwal, the third month in the Islamic calendar. The Ottomans declared it an official holiday in 1588. 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 is derived from the Arabic root word (Arabic: ولد), meaning to give birth, bear a child, descendant. In contemporary usage, Mawlid refers to the observance of the birthday of Muhammad.
Traditionally, many Indian Sub continent Sunni and most of the Shia scholars have approved celebration of Mawlid, while the many other Sunni scholars and the Ahmadiyya oppose the celebration.
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, whilst the Salafists say it is an improper innovation and forbid its celebration. One leader of Ahl al-Hadith, Ibn Taymiyya forbade Mawlid celebration as it is not in any of the Haditn nor the Quran itself, unlike the other two Muslim celebrations.
Mawlid is celebrated in most predominantly Islamic countries, and in other countries that have a significant Muslim populatiion, such as India, the United Kingdom, Russia and Canada. In most Arabian countries – i.e. Kuwait, Qatar, U.A.E, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain – it is not an official public holiday. Participation in the ritual celebration of popular Islamic holidays is seen as an expression of the Islamic revival. There is no one clear motive for people celebrating Mawlid, for the celebration itself appears to have sacred and profane elements.
Often organized in some countries by the Sufi orders, 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. A general Mawlid appears as “a chaotic, incoherent spectacle, where numerous events happen simultaneously,all held together only by the common festive time and space”. These celebrations are often considered an expression of the Sufi concept of the pre-existence of Muhammad. However,the main significance of these festivities is expression of love for the Prophet.
Islamic Unity Week
Most Shia scholars believe the 17th day of Rabi’ al-awwal is the birthday of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, and most Sunni scholars believe that it is the 12th day of Rabi’ al-awwal. This issue led to assigning these days (12-17 Rabi’ al-awwal) as Unity Week by Islamic Republic of Iran to respect both viewpoints. So scholars and followers of these two sects emphasize on common ground against the common enemies.
Following, the International Islamic Unity Conference is hosted each year on this week, and scholars of the Islamic world from various countries gather together in Tehran with the aim of promoting intra-Islamic dialogue.