Sunni Muslims observe the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday on the 12th day of the Islamic month of Rabi’ al-Awwal, while Shi’a Muslims mark it on the 17th. Muhammad is believed to be the last prophet.
What Do People Do?
There are mixed beliefs on how one observes Muhammad’s birthday. Some see the Prophet’s birthday as an event worthy of praise. Others view the celebration of birthdays as contradictory to Islamic law. Both sides cite the Hadith (narrations originating from the words and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad) and events from Muhammad’s life to support their views.
Mawlid, or Milad, is celebrated with large street parades in some countries. Homes and mosques are also decorated. Some people donate food and other goods for charity on or around this day. Others listen to their children read out poems about events that occurred in the Prophet Muhammad’s life. Mawlid is celebrated in this way in many communities across the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, or Australia.
However, many Muslims also do not participate in celebrations on this day. Instead, they may mark the occasion by spending more time to read the Koran. Muhammad is said to have been born on a Monday and some scholars see fasting during the hours of daylight on Mondays as another way to celebrate his birth.
Mawlid is a public holiday in many Islamic countries but not in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. Many schools, stores, businesses and organizations are open. Islamic schools, stores, businesses and organizations may be closed for part or all of the day. Public transit systems usually operate to their regular schedule.
Muhammad was born in Mecca, now in Saudi Arabia, in the year 570 of the Gregorian calendar. The precise date of his birth is unclear. However, Sunni Muslims observe Muhammad’s birthday on the 12th day of the Islamic month of Rabi’ al-awwal, while Shi’a Muslims mark it on the 17th day of this month. The 17th day of Rabi’ al-awwal commemorates the birth of the sixth Shi’a iman, Ja’far al-Sadiq.
The word Mawlid, or Milad, depending on the method of transliteration used, comes from the Arabic word for birth and usually refers to the anniversary of Muhammad’s birth. This observance is also known as Mevlid Serif in Turkish, Mawlūd Sharīf in Urdu and Maulidur-Rasūl in Malay.