Mawlid Al-Nabi Celebrations in Arab World

The anniversary of the Prophet’s birthday witnesses every year, despite the different ways of celebration, the similarity of the spirit and the atmosphere of tranquility and peace
Kashmiri Muslims converge on the Hazratbal shrine on the eve of the festival of Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi in Srinagar.—AFP

Decorations and lights, sweets and popular foods, recitations of poetry and litanies, flags and candlelight processions in many Arab cities and villages, from Morocco to the East, people celebrate the Mawlid every year, in several ways.

The 12th of the Islamic month Rabi’ Al-Awwal coincides with the anniversary of the Prophet’s birthday, which is commemorated by many Muslims around the world in different ways.

Mawlid’s celebrations include festivals, prayer services, recitations of poetry and litanies, as well as religious gatherings. Mawlid’s celebrations are a longstanding historical and cultural event, through which the devout express their love for the Prophet. Even if the celebrations vary, the spirit is similar and shares an atmosphere of tranquility and peace that spreads with the sounds of tambourines and praises.

The term “Mawlid” is also used in some parts of the world, such as Egypt, as a generic term for the birthday celebrations of other historical religious figures such as Sufi saints.

Festivals of Mawlid Al-Nabawi are associated with Sufi strains of Islam as they are marked with poems and songs that honor the Prophet. A famous 13th-century poem, "Qasida Burda," is often read in praise of the Prophet and the mercy he has brought.

The history of this celebration goes back to the early days of Islam when some of the Tabi'un began to hold sessions in which poetry and songs composed to honor Muhammad were recited and sung to the crowds. It has been said that the first Muslim ruler to officially celebrate the birth of Muhammad in an impressive ceremony was Muzaffar Al-Din Gökböri (d. 630/1233). The Ottomans declared it an official holiday in 1588, known as Mevlid Kandil.

Every country has its own rituals in celebrating the Prophet’s birthday, and if Muslims in many countries differ over the permissibility of celebrating this anniversary or not, the manifestations of the celebration do not disappear and are witnessed by those who visit these countries and also reach those who have not visited them through social media in which pictures of celebrations have spread today.

The traditional sweets known as “Halawat al-Mawlid” seen at Egypt's streets as part of Mawlid al-Nabi celebration


Egyptian families are keen to prepare the most delicious popular foods with the purchase of traditional sweets made of sugar-coated sesame, pistachio, and almond nuts. The Mawlid doll and the sultan on a horse are made of sugar and nuts decorated with colored paper.

Lighting Candles in Iraq

Candles are lit, sweets are distributed, and songs are read in praise of the Prophet in Iraq. Families are also keen to go to mosques on this day.

Buying New Clothes and Praising the Prophet in Morocco

Morocco celebrates the anniversary of the birth of the Prophet, by holding religious lessons on the honorable biography of the Prophet, with chanting, and some Sufi families are keen to gather to recite the Qur’an and praise the Prophet, and Moroccan families are also keen to buy new clothes and prepare popular dishes such as couscous with chicken.

Decorating The Streets in Syria

Syrian families are keen to go to mosques, decorate the streets with lights and flags, hold dhikr circles, praise the Prophet, recite the Qur’an, distribute sweets, and buy new clothes for children.

Lighting the Clock of the Great Mosque of Mecca in Saudi Arabia

The Saudis celebrate by lighting 16 light beams in the clock tower in the Great Mosque of Mecca, religious sermons, and families are keen to visit each other and prepare delicious food.

Reciting Qur'an and Hadiths in Algeria

Algeria celebrates spreading Sufi orders and chants in the streets with preparing popular foods such as rosta, holding dhikr circles in mosques, in addition to reading the Qur’an and the honorable hadiths of the Prophet, while organizing a march known as Al-Zari in the streets of Algeria.

Preparing Sweets and Visiting Family in Palestine

Palestinian families visit each other and prepare sweets such as kunafa, while holding dhikr circles in mosques to celebrate the Prophet's birthday.

A man sells traditional doll toys and sweets for children to celebrate the birthday of Prophet Mohamed, which will fall next week, in a makeshift tent in Cairo, December 30, 2014 – REUTERS / Mohamed Abd El Ghany

The Tale of the Mawlid Doll and the Knight Doll

The tradition of the Mawlid doll and the ‘sultan on a horse’ originated from the time of the Fatimid ruler El Hakim Ba’amrUllah. However, the specific origin of the doll has been subject to much debate; everyone seems to have a different theory of how it came to be.

The majority believes that in one such Mawlid celebration, Ba’amrUllah, went out in a procession on the Prophet's birthday, as a soldier astride a horse, with one of his wives walking along his side, who was wearing a stunning white dress with a jasmine flower crown on her head, and then the candy makers made a cake in the form of the ruler and his wife, who were symbolized by the bride of the birth (or Mawlid Doll) and the knight on the horse, and this custom has remained until now.

Celebrating the birth of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is a means for Muslims to connect themselves to the life, message, and character of the “Best of Creation”, as he is known. In a time when extremists are acting in a hateful manner opposing the virtue and teachings of the Prophet, Mawlid Al-Nabi is needed more than ever to instill a love for God’s final messenger and to spread the excellent character and virtue that he was sent by God to teach.


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