Mawlid, Mawlid an-Nabi ash-Sharif or Eid Milad un Nabi (Arbic: المولد النبوي, romanized: mawlid an-nabawī. ‘Birth of the Prophet’, sometimes simply called in colloquialمولد, mawlid, mevlid, mevlit, mulud, among other vernacular pronunciations; sometimes ميلاد, mīlād) is the observance of the birthday of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad which is commemorated in Rabi’al-awwal,the third month in the Islamic calender. 12th Rabi’ al-awwal is the accepted date among most of the Sunni scholars, while most Shia scholars regard 17th Rabi’ al-awwal as the accepted date, though not all Shias consider it to be this date. It is also called Maouloud in West Africa.
The history of this celebration goes back to the early days of Islam when some of the Tabi’un began to hold sessions in which poetry and songs composed to honour Muhammad were recited and sung to the crowds. It has been said that the first Muslim ruler to officially celebrate the birth of Muhammad in an impressive ceremony was Muzaffar al-Din Gokbori (d. 630/1233). The Ottamans declared it an official holiday in 1588, known as Mevlid Kandil. 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.
Mawlid is derived from the Arabic root word ولد, meaning to give birth, bear a child, descendant. In contemporary usage, Mawlid refers to the observance of the birthday of Muhammad.
Along with being referred to as the celebration of the birth of Muhammad, the term Mawlid refers to the ‘text especially composed for and recited at Muhammad’s nativity celebration’ or “a text recited or sung on that day”
In early days of Islam, observation of Muhammad’s birth as a holy day was usually arranged privately and later was an increased number of visitors to the Mawlid house that was open for the whole day specifically for this celebration.
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 exact origins of the Mawlid is difficult to trace. According to Muhammad in History, Thought, and Culture: An Encyclopedia of the Prophet of God, the significance of the event was established when Muhammad fasted on Monday, citing the reason for this was his birth on that day, and when Umar took into consideration Muhammad’s birth as a possible starting time for the Islamic calendar.[According to Festivals in World Religions, the Mawlid was first introduced by the Abbasids in Baghdad. It has been suggested that the Mawlid was first formalized by Al-Khayzuran of the Abbasids. Ibn jubayr , in 1183, writes that Muhammad’s birthday was celebrated every Monday of Rabi’ al-awwal at his birthplace, which had been converted into a place of devotion under the Abbasids.
According to the hypothesis of Nico Kaptein of Leiden University, the Mawlid was initiated by the Fatimids . It has been stated, “The idea that the celebration of the mawlid originated with the Fatimid dynasty has today been almost universally accepted among both religious polemicists and secular scholars.”Annemarie Schimmel also says that the tendency to celebrate the memory of the Prophet’s birthday on a larger and more festive scale emerged first in Egypt during the Fatimids. The Egyptian historian Maqrizi (d. 1442) describes one such celebration held in 1122 as an occasion in which mainly scholars and religious establishment participated. They listened to sermons, distributed sweets, particularly honey, the Prophet’s favourite and the poor received alms.This Shia origin is frequently noted by those Sunnis who oppose Mawlid. According to Enyclopaedia Britannica, however, what the Fatimids did was simply a procession of court officials, which did not involve the public but was restricted to the court of the Fatimid caliph. Therefore, it has been concluded that the first Mawlid celebration which was a public festival was started by Sunnis in 1207 by Muzaffar al-Din Gokburi.
It has been suggested that the celebration was introduced into the city Ceuta by Abu al-Abbas al-Azafi as a way of strengthening the Muslim community and to counteract Christian festivals.
Start of a public holiday:
In 1207, Muzaffar al-Din Gokburi started the first annual public festival of the Mawlid in Erbil (modern day Iraq ). Gökböri was the brother-in-law of Saladin and soon the festival began to spread across the Muslim world.] Since Saladin and Gokburi were both Sufis the festival became increasingly popular among Sufi devotees which remains so till this day.
Mawlid is celebrated in almost all Islamic countries, and in other countries that have a significant Muslim population, such as Ethiopia, India, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, France, Germany, Italy, Iraq, Iran, Maldives, Morocco, Jordan, Libya, Russia and Canada. The only exceptions are Qatar and Saudi Arabia where it is not an official public holiday and is forbidden. However, In the last decades of the late 20th century there has been a trend to “forbid or discredit” Mawlid in the Sunni Muslim world.
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 Qasida 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 Muhammad.
The first Sunni mawlid celebration that we have a detailed description of was sponsored by Muzaffar al-Din Kokburi and included the slaughtering of thousands of animals for a banquet which is believed to have cost 300,000 dirhams. The presence of guests and the distribution of monetary gifts at mawlid festivals had an important social function as they symbolized “concretizing ties of patronage and dramatizing the benevolence of the ruler” and also held religious significance, as “issues of spending and feeding were pivotal both to the religious and social function of the celebration.” Early fatwas and criticisms of the mawlid have taken issue with the “possibility of coerced giving” as hosts often took monetary contributions from their guests for festival costs.