ET Online Last Updated: Sep 28, 2023
Muslims following the Sufi or Barelvi school of thought are celebrating Eid Milad-un-Nabi, the birth anniversary of Prophet Muhammad. This celebration takes place in the third month of the Islamic calendar. Not all Muslims partake in these celebrations, as some consider it a form of innovation against Quranic teachings. Sunni Muslims celebrate it on the 12th day of Rabi’ al-awwal, while Shia Muslims observe it on the 17th.
Muslims following the Sufi or Barelvi school of thought celebrate the birth anniversary of Prophet Muhammad as Eid Milad-un-Nabi, also known as Eid-e-Milad. This celebration occurs during the third month of the Islamic calendar, Rabi’ al-awwal.
The commencement of Rabi’ al-awwal in countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and other parts of the subcontinent is traditionally determined by the sighting of the crescent moon in October. This year, the moon was sighted on October 18, marking October 19 as the first day of Rabi ul Awwal in the Gregorian calendar.
It’s important to note that not all segments of the Muslim community participate in these celebrations. Some argue that Islamic culture does not permit the celebration of Prophet Mohammad’s birthday, viewing it as a form of innovation (biddah) contrary to the teachings of the Holy Quran and Sunnah.
Muslims following the Salafi and Wahhabi schools of thought share this viewpoint, contending that the celebration of Eid-e-Milad or Mawlid is an innovation, as there is no historical evidence of such celebrations during the era of Prophet Mohammad or his appointed successors.
In the Islamic lunar calendar, Sunni Muslims celebrate Eid-e-Milad on the 12th day of Rabi’ al-awwal, while the Shia community observes it on the 17th of the same month. This year, Eid-e-Milad is celebrated on September 27 in Saudi Arabia and on September 28 in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and other parts of the subcontinent.
The origins of this celebration trace back to the early Rashidun Caliphs, with the concept being introduced by the Fatimids. Some believe that Prophet Muhammad was born in Mecca on the twelfth day of Rabi’ al-awwal in 570 CE. Despite the term “Mawlid” translating to “birth” in colloquial Arabic, some also consider Eid-e-Milad a day of mourning, as it is believed to be the death anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad. Egypt was the first to officially celebrate Eid-e-Milad, and its popularity spread in the 11th century.
Initially, the Shia tribe in Egypt initiated these festivities, which later expanded to Syria, Morocco, Turkey, and Spain during the 12th century. Sunni Muslim sects also adopted these celebrations over time.
Eid-e-Milad holds great significance for Sufi and Barelvi sects, although it is not universally embraced within the broader Muslim community.
The celebrations have evolved over time. In Egypt, early celebrations involved prayers, speeches, Quranic recitations, and a grand public feast. Members of the ruling clan, believed to represent Caliphs of Prophet Muhammad, were honored.
Under the influence of Sufism, the celebrations incorporated animal sacrifices, public discourses, torchlight processions at night, and a communal banquet.
On this day, Muslims don new clothes, engage in prayers, and exchange warm greetings. They gather at mosques or dargahs and start the day with morning prayers. Processions, originating from these places of worship and traversing the towns, feature the narration of stories from the Prophet’s life and teachings as detailed in the Holy Quran. The celebrations also include community meals, charitable donations for the needy, and night-long prayers, highlighting the diverse and rich traditions surrounding Eid Milad-un-Nabi.