In Islam, the birthday of a holy figure, especially Muhammad. His birthday is fixed by tradition as the 12th day of the month of Rabīayn I (actually the day of his death). First celebrated by the Muslim faithful in the 13th century, Muhammad's birthday was preceded by a month of merrymaking, which ended with animal sacrifices and a torchlight procession. The day of the mawlid included a public sermon and a feast. Though mawlid festivities are considered idolatrous by some Islamic fundamentalists, they continue to be widely celebrated throughout the Muslim world and have been extended to popular saints and the founders of Sufi brotherhoods.
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|Gregorian Year|| 12th of Rabi'-ul-Awwal|
| 17th of Rabi'-ul-Awwal|
|2008*||March 20||March 25|
|2009||March 9||March 14|
|2010||February 26||March 3|
|2011||February 15||February 20|
|2012||February 4||February 9|
|2013||January 24||January 29|
|* Confirmed date. All other dates are estimates, since the actual date may vary according to the sighting of the moon for the start of the month.|
The first public celebrations by Sunnis took place in twelfth-century Syria, under the rule of Nur ad-Din. Though there is no firm evidence to indicate the reason for the adoption of the Shi'ite festival by the Sunnis, some theorise the celebrations took hold to counter Christian influence in places such as Spain and Morocco. The practice was briefly halted by the Ayoubides when they came to power, and it became an event confined to family circles It regained status as an official event again in 1207 when it was re-introduced by Muzaffar ad-din, the brother-in-law of Saladin, in Arbil, a town near Mosul, Iraq.
The practice spread throughout the Muslim world, assimilating local customs, to places such as Cairo, where folklore and Sufic practices greatly influenced the celebrations. By 1588 it had spread to the court of Murad III, Sultan of the Ottoman empire. In 1910, it was given official status as a national festival throughout the Ottoman empire. Today it is an official holiday in many parts of the world.
Where 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.
Mawlid is celebrated in most Muslim countries, and in other countries where Muslims have a presence, such as India, Britain, and Canada. and Canada Saudi Arabia is the only Muslim country where Mawlid is not an official public holiday, but some elite Hijazi families have revived the mawlid there. Participation in the ritual celebration of popular Islamic holidays is seen as an expression of the Islamic revival.
Among non-Muslim countries, India is noted for its Mawlid festivities. The relics of the Muhammed are displayed after the morning prayers in the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir at Hazratbal shrine, on the outskirts of Srinagar. Shab-khawani night-long prayers held at the Hazratbal shrine are attended by thousands.
During Pakistan's Mawlid celebration, the national flag is hoisted on all public buildings, and a 31 gun salute in the federal capital and a 21 gun salute at the provincial headquarters are fired at dawn. The cinemas shows religious rather than secular films on 11th and 12th Rabi-ul-Awwal.
A number of Islamic scholars, such as Muhammad Alawi al-Maliki, a well known Maliki scholar from Saudi Arabia who taught in the Sacred Mosque, Gibril Haddad, and Zaid Shakir, all subscribing to the Sufi movement, and Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the primary scholar of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, have given their approval for the observance of Mawlid. They cite hadith where Muhammad recommended fasting on Mondays, as that was the day he was born and also the day prophecy descended on him. They suggest that fasting on Mondays is also a way of commemorating Muhammad's birthday. However, there is division among them on the lawfulness of the methods of the celebrations. Most accept that it is praiseworthy as long as it is not against sharia (i.e. inappropriate mingling of the sexes, consuming forbidden food or drink such as alcohol, playing music etc).
Notable Sunni scholars who consider Mawlid to be 'bid'ah and forbid its celebration include Muhammad Taqi Usmani, a Hanafi scholar from Pakistan who has served as a judge on the Shariah Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and subscribes to the Deobandi movement, and Abd-al-Aziz ibn Abd-Allah ibn Baaz, who was the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia subscribing to the Salafi movement. Although all agree that the birth of Muhammad was the most significant event in Islamic history, they point out that the companions of Muhammad and the next generation of Muslims did not observe this event. Furthermore, they highlight that Muhammad did not observe the birth or death anniversaries of his family and loved ones, including that of his first wife Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, nor did he advise his followers to observe his birthday.