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Mawlid al-Nabi: An Overview

Tens of millions of Muslims around the globe will celebrate the birthday of Prophet Muhammad on 18 October in a celebration called Mawlid an–Nabi (or milad).

Although the prophet did not mark the occasion, most Muslim countries celebrate it. Some even make it a national holiday.

Many Muslims will decorate their homes and streets to celebrate the day. They also plan to attend communal meals and mosque speeches that recount the life of the prophet.

What is Mawlid al-Nabi? When is it marked?

Mawlid al-Nabi (Arabic for “birthday of prophet”) marks the anniversary of Prophet Muhammad’s birth.

Because of his importance in Islam, some Muslims remember the event. According to the faithful, the Quran is God’s last testament to mankind and was revealed to him by God. He was also believed to be the most important messenger that God sent to humanity.

Participants will mark the occasion by attending special meals at mosques, where they can reflect on the prophet’s teachings.

Mawlid is celebrated on the 12th of Rabi al–Awwal, the 3rd month of Islam’s calendar. This equates to 19 Oct 2021 in the Gregorian calendar.

The Islamic calendar follows the lunar cycle. It is ten to eleven days shorter than the Gregorian calendar. This means that the date of Mawlid changes every year. The 17th day in the month is designated by Shia Muslims.

Sometimes, the celebration is also called Mawlid, Milad or Eid Milad un–Nabi.

What significance does the religion have?

Muslims see the Prophet Muhammad as a role model in ethics and spirituality. Commemorating his life is another way to keep his memory alive in collective Muslim consciousness.

The centrality of the prophet in Islam, and the lack of a religiously-required holiday to commemorate his life, has given the Mawlid a special significance for Muslims.

Muslims will spend Mawlid learning more and looking for ways to improve themselves through his teachings.

Many rituals are performed in a communal setting, where worshippers gather in mosques or community centres.

Are all Muslims able to commemorate the Prophet’s Birthday?

Some Muslims do not celebrate the birthday of the prophet. Some Muslims choose to not celebrate the occasion because it is not required or explained in Islamic teachings. Others believe it’s an unneeded innovation and should not be celebrated.

Others see Mawlid as an opportunity for them to discover more about the prophet’s positive attributes, and his teachings.

Most Muslims in Saudi Arabia and Qatar don’t celebrate this occasion, and it is not a public holiday.

What is the purpose of marking an occasion?

Streets in some Middle East countries are decorated to celebrate the occasion. Food and sweets are given out to the public, and fairs are open to children.

Others will be able to attend lectures or gatherings that will provide information about the life and teachings of the prophet.

Many Muslims will participate in processions that feature drummers and songs performed over loudspeakers. The day is more celebratory among Sufi-inspired Muslims.

What are the best Mawlid foods?

Sweets are an integral part of Mawlid celebrations in Islamic countries. It is not uncommon to see stalls set up with sweetened milks and pastries, as well as eastern sweets (known as halawiyat) for passersby to enjoy for free.

Mawlid sweets are a traditional Middle Eastern treat that includes sesame seeds and caramelised peanuts.

A popular treat that is often distributed on this occasion is Turkish delight and maamoul. These are biscuits stuffed with dates paste or nuts.

Some mosques in Cairo distribute meat-filled sandwiches to worshippers who attend sermons.

Is it a public holiday

Some Muslim majority countries make the prophet’s birthday a public holiday. Egypt announced this year that 21 October would be an official holiday. The day is also recognized as a public holiday in the Middle East and North Africa by states such as Algeria, Bahrain and Kuwait, Kuwait, Kuwait, Yemen, and Iraq.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar do not consider the day a holiday, but individuals may observe the occasion based on their religious beliefs.

Many local religious groups organize marches and gatherings in Western countries with a large Muslim population.