“And peace on him on the day he was born, and on the day he dies, and on the day he is raised to life”
Holy Qu’ran 19:15
You do not have to be a Christian to know when they celebrate the birth of the Messiah. Although the actual date and even year of the event are uncertain the public holiday and the tidal wave of decorations, present buying, carol singing, feasting and church services let us all know that it is 25th December. The festival is woven into our culture and consciousness.
The birthday of the Prophet Muhammad is much less well known and in most western countries it is not celebrated as a public holiday. Here in the U.K schools stay open, shops and businesses trade, buses run and the vast majority of us remain unaware that nearly 3 million of our fellow countrymen are joining 1.57 billion people around the Islamic world to mark the birth of their Prophet and the coming of the day when the Qu’ran was first revealed to humanity.
The Prophet Muhammad, Abū al-Qāsim Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib ibn Hāshim,was born in Mecca in Saudi Arabia in the year 570 in the Gregorian Calendar. The actual date is unknown but some scholars say that it was a Monday and regard fasting on that day as another way of celebrating his birth.
Like other religions Islam has its sects and differences in opinion, one of which applies to how Eid Milad ul-Nabi, the Birthday of the Prophet, is marked. Some Muslims say that it should not be celebrated at all because the Prophet and his companions specifically warned their followers against doing so because it glorified the Prophet. Others say that although the birthday was not celebrated in the early years of Islam it is a good thing to do as it reminds believers of Muhammad, his life and teaching.
The birthday festival is generally low key as for many Muslims the date also marks the anniversary of the death of the Prophet in 632. On Eid Milad ul-Nabi Muslims will gather together, tell stories about the Prophet’s life, his teachings, his courage and wisdom and how he forgave even his most bitter enemies. Family feasts will be arranged and donations made to charity. In other parts of the world the day is a public holiday. Businesses and other organisations will close, homes and mosques are decorated and there are often large public parades through illuminated streets.
Unless you are a Muslim you probably didn’t realise that Eid Milad ul-Nabi, an event of great blessing for all Islam takes place today, Thursday 24th January, when the chief of all Prophets was born and the Holy Qu’ran revealed. The Shias will mark the event on Tuesday 29th January.
To them all I wish “Happy Eid Milad ul-Nabi”
The most recognised division in Islam is between the Sunni and the Shia and dates back to the time of Muhammad’s death in 632. The Sunni, who now form about 80% of the world’s Muslims, believed that the new leader should be elected from those most capable of doing the job. This was done, and the Prophet’s close friend and advisor, Abu Bakr, became the first Caliph of the Islamic nation. The word “Sunni” in Arabic means “one who follows the traditions of the Prophet.”
Shia Muslims, whose name means ‘a supportive group’, believed that the leadership should stay within the Prophet’s own family or among leaders either nominated by the Prophet or appointed by God Himself. Throughout the history of Islam Shia Muslims have not recognized the authority of elected Muslim leaders. These differences are largely political and in most other respects Sunni and Shias share the same fundamental Islamic beliefs and articles of faith.
– from Martyn Day