Muslims across the world will celebrate Milad ul Nabi this week, – the festival which marks the Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad.
Although Muhammad’s exact date of birth is unknown, Muslims still observe Milad ul Nabi s an important festival. In a sense, this is similar to Christians celebrating Christmas on 25th December even though it is unknown when Jesus was born. According to the western calendar, Muhammad was born around 570 CE. He died on 8th June 632. Shi’a Muslims will celebrate on 10th November and Sunni Muslims on 15th November.
The celebration of Prophet’s birthday is believed to have its origins in the 8th century when the Prophet Muhammad’s birth house was converted into a house of prayer. Originally, the festival was celebrated only by Shi’a Muslims. It was somewhere in the 12th century that the Sunni Muslims adopted this festival, although with a different date. It is now a public holiday in most Muslim countries.
In the UK, the most visible tradition associated with Milad ul Nabi are the processions held in some cities. These usually feature speeches by religious leaders about the life of Muhammad. While these events can have an openly celebratory character, they do take on a more subdued mood in some Muslim communities. This is because it is believed that this day marks not only the birth but also the death of Muhammad.
Muslim parents may tell their children about the life and work of Muhammad, focusing on his teachings and his importance as the founder of the Islamic faith. While some Muslims in the UK fast during daylight hours, some families hold Milad ul Nabi feasts. It is common to recite special prayers, salutations, poems, or songs on this day to honour Muhammad. Some Muslims also mark Milad ul Nabi by donating to charity. Many Muslim businesses close on the day of the celebrations.