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The true meaning of celebrating Prophet Muhammad’s birthday

Mawlid celebration in Bangladesh
Mawlid celebration in Bangladesh
Shahina Bashir

Muslims in many parts of the world are getting ready to celebrate the Prophet Muhammad’s (peace and blessings be on him) birthday with great pomp and grandeur. The day, which is called Mawlid or Milad, falls on January 14, this year. He was born on 12th of Rabiul Awwal, the third month of the Islamic calendar. In many Islamic countries, Milad is a national holiday and it is celebrated as a day equivalent to the two Muslim festivals, Eidul Fitr and Eidul Adha. For this reason it is also called “Eid-e-Miladinnabi”.

Celebrations of this day include colorful processions, wearing of new clothes, getting together for meals with friends and families, gathering at mosques for prayers and lectures, decorating buildings with colored lights, and broadcasting of special programs on television.

Though the Muslims across the world have been celebrating Prophet Muhammad’s birthday for many centuries, it was never an occasion observed during the time of the Prophet himself or soon after his death. Saudi Arabia, whose citizens are mostly Wahabbis, do not celebrate this day and consider it an innovation which has taken the form of worship not recorded in the Qur’an or the traditions and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community also refrains from taking part in this celebration.

The true commemoration of the birth and life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him) is not reflected in the lavish processions and festivities. On the contrary for a Muslim to truly celebrate the birth of the beloved of God is to follow his teachings and emulate his lifestyle. He indeed is the pathway to the Creator. God Himself commanded Prophet Muhammad to “Say, if you love God, follow me, (then) will God love you and forgive you your faults. And God is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful” (3:32). Unfortunately, many Muslims have forgotten what the Prophet taught and have instead resorted to malign his name by spreading disorder in the land and justifying their actions by attributing them to the teachings of Islam and its Prophet.

Let’s celebrate the life of Prophet Muhammad by reading his biographies and reflecting upon his character. Let’s learn from him how to achieve nearness to God. Let’s celebrate the greatest gift to mankind by showing compassion and kindness toward our fellow human beings and the creatures of God.