"Do Muslims Celebrate the Birthday of
Although not obligatory, the celebration of Muhammad's
birthday, called Mawlid an-Nabi, is nevertheless quite widespread. It
takes place on the 12th day of the third month of the Muslim calendar,
which corresponds to August 8th in 1995. Keep in mind that the Muslim
lunar calendar advances eleven days every year in relation to our solar
calendar, so next year the event will occur at the end of July.
Interestingly, some countries, most notably Saudi Arabia, actually discourage
the celebration of Muhammad's birthday since it is often the occasion
for the excessive veneration of the Prophet. It generally involves an
assembly where lengthy poems are recited in Arabic eulogizing the Prophet,
his birth, his life, and his sufferings, etc. In some places there may
also be a nocturnal torch-light procession. Such veneration conflicts
with Muslim teaching against saint worship.
The veneration of the Prophet is nevertheless still very much a part of
Muslim life. To a large extent, the Muslim religious calendar turns around
key events in his life and mission. In addition to the Prophet's birthday
there is the Muslim New Year's Day, for example, called Ras as-Sana. In
1995 it took place on May 31st. It commemorates what is for Muslims the
turning point of Islamic history: the Hijrah or "emigration." That was
the day Muhammad "emigrated" from Mecca to Medina to take control of the
city; it was there that he established the first Muslim community-state
which grew to become a powerful political force in the world.
Another event celebrated by Muslims is the so-called "Night of the Journey
and the Ascension" which takes place the 27th day of the seventh month
on the Muslim calendar, December 18th in 1995. On the basis of a very
obscure verse in Sura 17 (vs. 1), Muslims believe that Muhammad was taken
on a winged animal from Mecca to al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, and from
there to heaven and then back to Mecca, all on the same night! It is celebrated
by special prayers, and by the recitation the Qur'an or eulogistic poetry.
And then there is the so-called "Night of Power", the night when Muhammad
is believed to have received his first revelation (Surah 97:1f). It is
celebrated on the 27th of the Fast month of Ramadan, corresponding to
February 15th in 1996. Here again it is celebrated by special prayers
and by reading the Qur'an.
But the veneration of Muhammad does not end with these few days in the
calendar. In a very real sense, it is a part of the Muslim's every-day
life. Muslims are taught to follow his "practice," or sunna, in every
thing they do. The books of Tradition, called Hadith, provide endless
details about the way he did everything imaginable, from performing the
ritual prayer to brushing his teeth. Someone has commented that, for one
who they insist was only a man, Muslims venerate Muhammad much more than
Christians have ever venerated Christ, who they believe to be God.
Arab World Ministries
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