Mawlid (Eid Milad an Nabi) (Turkish:Mevlid) (Qur'anic مَوْلِدُ آلنَبِيِّ mawlidu n-nabiyyi, “Birth of the Prophet”, Standard Arabic: مولد النبي mawlid an-nabī, sometimes simply called in colloquial Arabic مولد , mawlid, múlid, mulud, milad among other vernacular pronunciations) is a term used to refer to the observance of the birthday of the Islamic prophet Muhammad which occurs in Rabi' al-awwal, the third month in the Islamic calendar. The origins of the observance can be traced back to the Fatimid dynasty in eleventh century Egypt, four centuries after the death of Muhammad, as a Shia ruling class festival.

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 (ولد), meaning to give birth, bear a child, descendant. In contemporary usage, Mawlid refers to the observance of the birthday of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Other terms used for this event include:

  • Mawlid an-Nabī (pl. al-Mawālid) - The Birth of the Prophet (Arabic)
  • Milād an-Nabī - The Birth of the Prophet (Arabic / Urdu)
  • Mevlid Serif - The Blessed Birth (Turkish)
  • Mawlūd Sharīf - The Blessed Birth (Urdu)
  • Zadruz-e Payambar-e Akram - The birth of the great/blessed Prophet (Persian)
  • Eid al-Mawlid an-Nabawī - Festival of the birth of the Prophet (Arabic)
  • Eid-e-Milād-un-Nabī - Festival of the birth of the Prophet (Urdu)
  • Mawlid En-Nabaoui - Algerian (North Africa)
  • Yawm an-Nabī - The Day of the Prophet (Arabic)
  • Maulidur-Rasūl - The Birth of the Messenger of Allah (Bahasa Malaysia / Malay)
  • Maulidi - Swahili (East Africa)


Mawlid falls in the month of Rabi' al-awwal in the Islamic calendar. Shias observe the event on the 17th of the month, coinciding with the birth date of their sixth Imam, Ja'far al-Sadiq, while Sunnis observe it on the 12th of the month. As the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, the corresponding date in the Gregorian calendar varies each year. The following table gives a list of dates showing the date Mawlid will be observed. In 2007, Mawlid fell on March 31 for the Sunnis or April 5 for the Shi’as.

Approximate dates for Mawlid, 2008-2013
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 earliest accounts for the observance of Mawlid can be found in eighth-century Mecca, when the house in which Muhammad was born was transformed into a place of prayer by Al-Khayzuran (mother of Harun al-Rashid, the fifth and most famous Abbasid caliph). Public celebrations of the birth of Muhammad did not occur until four centuries after his death. It was originally a festival of the Shia ruling class, not attended by the common people, with the first official Mawlid celebrations occurring in Egypt towards the end of the eleventh century. The Fatimids, who were descendants of Muhammad through his daughter Fatimah, celebrated the birth of Muhammad as well as his daughter Fatimah, her husband Ali, and the ruling Fatimid caliph. The early celebrations included elements of Christian and 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 Fatimid 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 event also featured the award of gifts to officials in order to bolster support for the ruling caliph.

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.

Legality of Mawlid

Islamic scholars are divided on whether observing Mawlid is permissible in Islam. Some see it as a praiseworthy event and positive development, while others say it is an improper innovation and forbid its celebration.

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.

Other uses of the term

In some countries, such as Egypt and Sudan, Mawlid is used as a generic term for the celebration of birthdays of local Sufi saints and not only restricted to the observance of the birth of Muhammad. Around 3,000 Mawlid celebrations are held each year and attended by tens of thousands of people. These festivals attract an international audience, with the largest one in Egypt attracting up to three million people honouring Ahmed el-Bedawi, a local 13th Century Sufi saint.

See also



  • Schussman, Aviva "The Legitimacy and Nature of Mawid al-Nabi: (Analysis of a Fatwa)". Islamic Law and Society Vol. 5 (No. 2): pp. 214–234.
  • Kaptein, N.J.G. Muhammad's Birthday Festival: Early history in the Central Muslim Lands and Development in the Muslim West until the 10th/16th Century. Leiden: Brill.
  • Mawlid. In Encyclopædia Britannica Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. .
  • Mawlid (a.), or Mawlud. In Encyclopedia of Islam Brill. ISSN 1573-3912. .
  • Mawlid. In Encyclopedia of Islam Brill. .

Further reading

  • Malik, Aftab Ahmed The Broken Chain: Reflections Upon the Neglect of a Tradition. Amal Press.

External links

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