On the twelfth day of the third month, Rabi’ al-Awwal, many Muslims commemorate the birthday of the ProphetA prophet is one who communicates a divine message or vision, sometimes calling people to repentance or awakening, sometimes predicting future events. Jews, Christians, and Muslims all look to Hebrew prophets, including Abraham and Moses. Muslims believe ... MuhammadThe Prophet Muhammad, known as “the Seal of the Prophets,” was born in the city of Makkah on the Arabian peninsula in 570 C.E. At 40, he began to receive a series of revelations from God through the angel Gabriel. His small group of followers met with.... In many predominantly Muslim countries, Mawlid al-Nabi is a major public holiday. Some Muslims refuse to participate in this observance, feeling it is an innovation which places too much emphasis on the human Prophet and distracts from the true divine source of revelationRevelation is the gift or disclosure of knowledge, insight, or instruction from God to the human. The term is used in the Jewish tradition to refer to the revelation of Torah, the law; in the Islamic tradition to refer to the revelation of the Qur’an, t.... Other Muslims view this festival as a means to teach their communities about the Prophet Muhammad’sThe Prophet Muhammad, known as “the Seal of the Prophets,” was born in the city of Makkah on the Arabian peninsula in 570 C.E. At 40, he began to receive a series of revelations from God through the angel Gabriel. His small group of followers met with... way of life, which all Muslims seek to emulate.
Throughout the world, there are a variety of expressions for the observance of the birth of the Prophet: some celebrations take place simply in private homes; other Muslims decorate their local masjidMasjid (plural masajid) in Arabic means “place of prostration,” or the place where Muslims bow in prayer; in English, this word has become “mosque.” A masjid contains a prayer hall in which there is a mihrab or prayer niche, and a minbar or pulpit... with lights and hold large festive gatherings. Celebrations of Mawlid al-Nabi include sharing food, attending lectures, participating in marches, and reading the Qur’anThe word Qur’an literally means “recitation.” Revealed orally to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel, he recited it to his followers. These recitations collected in written form are arranged in 114 surahs, generally from longest to shortest. Muslims consi... and devotional poetry. In some countries, such as Pakistan, the entire month of Rabi’ al-Awwal is observed as the Prophet’sA prophet is one who communicates a divine message or vision, sometimes calling people to repentance or awakening, sometimes predicting future events. Jews, Christians, and Muslims all look to Hebrew prophets, including Abraham and Moses. Muslims believe ... “birth month.” In Singapore, the observance of Mawlid al-Nabi is a one-day festival which often includes special “birthday parties” for poor children and orphans in addition to the regular prayersPrayer is the vocal or silent address to the Divine. It may consist of fixed words, spontaneous words, or rest in silence with no words at all. Some forms of prayer are accompanied with specific postures or gestures, while others are not. and lectures in local masajid. Azhar Square in Cairo is the site of one of the largest celebrations, with over two million Muslims in attendance.
In 1994, the First International Mawlid al-Nabi Conference was held in Chicago, Illinois, organized by the Peoria-based Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education (NFIE). At the conference, shaykhsThe Arabic term “shaykh” literally means a gray-haired old man. The Persian term “pir” means “elder, master.” Both terms have become titles of respect for a leader with great authority or religious piety. In the context of Sufi orders, the sha... and scholars from around the world argued for both the religious precedence and cultural importance of the celebration of the birth of the Prophet. More than 1,200 people from across North America and from overseas attended this spiritual conference, the theme of which was “Love of GodGod is a term used to refer to the Divine, the Supreme being, Transcendent deity, or Ultimate reality. and His Prophet.” A second conference, “Spiritual Aspects of IslamIslam in Arabic literally means “submitting” or “submission.” One who submits or surrenders his or her will to God is called a Muslim. While the whole of God’s creation is described as being inherently Muslim, human beings must choose whether to...,” was held in 1995. Lectures were presented by eminent scholars and SufiSufism is often called “the heart of Islam,” as its emphasis on the inner life enlivens and supplements the outward practices of ritual and legal obligation. It is not a sect of Islam, but rather a stream of interpretation stressing the interior path,... leaders from around the world; devotional poetry in praise of the Prophet Muhammad was delivered in ArabicClassical Arabic is the language of revelation in Islam as recorded in the Qur’an. Muslims consider every word of the Qur’an to be a direct utterance of God. The Arabic language itself is regarded as perfectly suited as the instrument for God’s comm..., Farsi, Urdu, Kurdish, Bosnian, and English. Planning for the third annual conference in Chicago included efforts to coordinate with other Muslim organizations to hold similar gatherings in major North American cities during the month of Rabi’ al-Awwal. In 2011, the conference was held in Edison, N.J., with corresponding festivals held in London and Pakistan.
The various ethnic groups in the American Muslim community bring their distinct customs to this festival observance. Some Islamic centersAn Islamic center will typically include a mosque, school, and area for social and cultural activities. When a new Islamic center is being organized in the United States, attention is paid to community needs, including a weekend or full-time school, indic... hold special programs for children, where they learn about the character and life of the Prophet, examine the way he dealt with important moral issues and with political and military affairs, how he handled challenges, and how he responded to his enemies and his friends. Children often prepare essays or skits that present important teachings or events in Muhammad’s life. Many Muslims feel that the celebration of the Prophet’s birthday is particularly important in the American context. As one Islamic publication explains: “In our Islamic countries, love of the Prophet…is found everywhere and is encouraged by the society… However here, in the West, no such environment exists and we find ourselves cut off from that connection.”