Muslims from the Sufi or the Barelvi school of thought celebrate the birth anniversary of the last Prophet of Islam, Prophet Muhammad, as Eid Milad-un-Nabi or Eid-e-Milad which is also called Nabid and Mawlid in colloquial Arabic. The festival is celebrated by the Sufi and Barelvi sect during Rabi’ al-awwal, the third month in the Islamic calendar.
The moon for the beginning of the month of Rabi’ al-awwal began in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and other parts of the subcontinent region was sighted on October 18 this year. As per the gregorian calendar, October 19th was the first date of Rabi ul Awwal.
Date of Eid-e-Milad 2020:
For the uninitiated, the Islamic calendar or lunar calendar differs from the Gregorian calendar on the basis of the crescent moon sighting. Those from the Sunni community of Muslms, who celebrate Eid-e-Milad, mark it on the 12th day of Rabi’ al-awwal whereas the Shia community celebrates it on the 17th of Rabi’ al-awwal. This year, Eid-e-Milad will be celebrated on October 29 in Saudi Arabia and on October 30 in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and other parts of the subcontinent region.
History and significance
The origin of celebrating Prophet Muhammad’s birthday can be traced back to the early four Rashidun Caliphs of Islam and the idea of marking this day was first initiated by the Fatimids. Some Muslims believe that Prophet Muhammad was born in Mecca on the twelfth day of Rabi’ al-awwal in 570 CE.
Though the word “Mawlid” means to give birth or bear a child in colloquial Arabic, Eid-e-Milad is also mourned by some because it is also believed to be the death anniversary of the Prophet. First celebrated as an official festival in Egypt, the celebrations of Eid-e-Milad became more popular during the 11th century.
At that time, only the then ruling tribe of the Shia Muslims in the region could celebrate the festival instead of the general public. Eid-e-Milad began to be celebrated by Syria, Morocco, Turkey and Spain only in the 12th century and soon some Sunni Muslim sects too started celebrating the day.
Since it began in Egypt, the earlier celebrations were marked by Muslims offering prayers after which the ruling clan gave speeches and narrated verses from the Holy Quran followed by a large public feast. People of the ruling clan were honoured as they were believed to be Caliphs, which were considered to be representatives of Muhammad.
Later, as the practices got modified under heavy Sufi influence, the celebrations were marked with animal sacrifices, public discourses, night time torchlight processions and a public banquet. In current times, Eid-e-Milad is celebrated by Muslims wearing new clothes, offering prayers and exchanging greetings.
They get together at a mosque or at a dargah and start their day with a morning prayer followed by a procession carried out from the mosques to the town and back. Children are narrated stories of Prophet Muhammad’s life and preachings as mentioned in the Holy Quran, community meals are organized, donations are made towards the needy and poor people, friends and family are invited to be a part of the festivities and social gatherings wherein they have night-long prayers are held.
With the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic this year, it is still unclear whether Juloos-e-Mohammadi, which is the procession taken out on the 12th of Rabi’ al-awwal to commemorate the Prophet, will take place. Juloos-e-Mohammadi is scheduled to take place on October 30 this year and a day before the procession, homes and localities are decorated and lit as a part of Jashan-e-Chiraaga.
Even though Eid-e-Milad and its traditions are widely followed in India and other countries, many different sections of the Muslim community believe that the birthday celebrations of the Prophet has no place in Islamic culture. Since evidences found in the Holy Quran and Sunnah prove that celebrating any event other than Eid al-Fitr and Eid-e-Adha is a kind of biddah or innovation in religion, Muslims from Salafi and Wahhabi schools of thought do not mark the tradition of festivities.
They believe that the observance of Eid-e-Milad or Mawlid is an innovation or act of biddat since it was not even celebrated during the era of Prophet Mohammad himself and his appointed successors.