WASHINGTON, January 23, 2014 — Historians believe that approximately 1,444 years ago, last week, Islam’s Prophet Muhammad was born in the city of Makkah, in current day Saudi Arabia. His father, Abdullah, passed away before he was born; his mother, Aminah, also passed away while Muhammad was a young child. Soon afterwards, Islam’s Prophet was raised by his paternal uncle, Abu Talib for the remainder of his youth.
When Muhammad reached the 40 years of age, he began publicly preaching the message of Islam. Now “there are about 1.6 billion Muslims, or 23% of the world’s population, making Islam the second-largest religion,” according to the Pew Research Center.
In an annual show of Intrafaith unity, the Prophet’s birthday, (called ‘Milad un Nabi’ or the ‘Mawlid’) was celebrated in a weeklong festival in several dozen Muslim countries, by both the Sunni and Shiite sects. (The Salafi sect forbids any such celebration, however experts believe that the sect comprises less than 2-3% of Muslims worldwide.)
Sunni Muslims believe the holiday falls on the 12th day of the Islamic month of “Rabi Awwal”, whereas Shiite Muslims believe if falls on the 17th day. In an effort to avoid tensions, many countries declare the entire week of the two dates as “Unity Week” and host celebrations for the duration. “Unity Week” celebrations take place in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Nigeria, and several other Muslim countries.
In the United States, the Islamic Society of North America, mostly following Sunni Islam, says the birthday fell on January 13th, 2014; and the Council of Shia Muslim Scholars in North America announced January 19th, 2014 for the same holiday. Mosques across the United States followed the international traditional of weeklong celebrations, including a mosque in Maryland called the Idara e Jaferia.
In Pakistan, at the “National Peace Convention” held in the country’s capital, Islamabad, leaders of both sects told Pakistan’s “The News” media outlet a month beforehand “that Sunnis and Shias would hold the historic celebrations of Eid Miladun Nabi … jointly. They vowed to fight anti-Islam and anti-Pakistan forces through a peaceful struggle.”
A large celebratory parade was held January 12, 2014 in several Pakistani cities. Around the world, a similar parade took place on January 19th in Dallas, TX.
Muslim countries typically close government offices and treat the occasion as a national holiday.
Sir William Muir, an early 19th century historian, wrote in 1877 a book called the “Life of Mohammed.” While Muir was praised for his grasp of Arabic grammar, he was criticized for his apparent strong bias against the founder of Islam that appeared in his writings.
Regardless of his antipathy towards Prophet Muhammad, Muir did write the following:
“When Muhammad was twenty years old, a war broke out between Quraysh, his tribe, and the tribe of Hawazin. Though he was present in the campaigns of this war, he did not take any part in fighting. He did not kill or wound anyone, thus showing at this early period, his hatred of bloodshed…
“A few years later, Muhammad was admitted as a member into the League of the Virtuous. As mentioned earlier, this League had pledged itself to protect the weak, to oppose the tyrants and the oppressors, and to put an end to exploitation in all forms.
“It is noteworthy that it was the clan of Banu Hashim, to which Muhammad, the future prophet belonged, which inaugurated the League of the Virtuous. Was it a mere coincidence? There is no way to answer this question. But by their demarche, the Banu Hashim had declared war upon iniquity and injustice. They made it clear that they would not connive at the crimes of the strong against the weak; nor would they acquiesce in the exploitation of the poor by the Quraysh of Makkah.
“Not many years later, Muhammad was to launch a program for the reconstruction of human society the economic component of which would comprehend precisely the destruction of exploitation. He would take the “privileges” of the Quraysh, and their “right” to exploit the poor and the weak, away from them.”
The holiday has a different name in almost every language, and Wikipedia lists quite a few of them. Ironically, the same article states that Saudi Arabia is the only Muslim country in the world that does not allow any celebrations for the birth of Prophet Muhammad.
- Mawlûd – Birth of the Prophet (Arabic)
- Mawlid an-Nabī (pl. al-Mawālid) – The Birth of the Prophet (Arabic)
- Milād an-Nabī – The Birth of the Prophet (Urdu)
- Mevlid-i Şerif – The Blessed Birth / Mevlüt – The Name (Turkish)
- Mevlud/Mevlid – The Blessed Birth (Bosnian)
- Mevlydi – The Blessed Birth (Albanian)
- Mawlūd-e Sharīf – The Blessed Birth (Dari/Urdu)
- Milād-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 Echarif – The Blessed Birth of the Prophet (Algerian)
- el Mūled (en-Nabawi)/Mūled en-Nabi – The birth (of the prophet)/Birth of the prophet (Egyptian Arabic)
- Yawm an-Nabī – The Day of the Prophet (Arabic)
- Maulidur-Rasūl – The Birth of the Messenger of Allah (Malay)
- Mulud – The Birth (Javanese)
- Maulid Nabi – The Birth of the Prophet (Indonesian)
- Maulud Nabi – The Birth of the Prophet (Malaysian)
- Maulidi – (Swahili)
- Eid E Meeladun Nabi – The Birth of the Prophet (Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, South India)