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Milad-un-Nabi and Barawafat

Milad-un-Nabi or Mawlid

Prophet Muhammad (pubh) was born on the twelfth day of Rabi-ul-Awwal, the third month in the Islamic calendar. He was born in 570 C.E. and since the Islamic calendar is 354 days long, the Hijri date is pushed back up to 11 days each year. Muslims celebrate this occasion as Milad-un-Nabi (translated: birth of the prophet) or Mawlid by holding functions and gatherings throughout the month of Rabi Awwal. The origins of the observance of Milad-un-Nabi can be traced back to the Fatimid dynasty in eleventh century Egypt, four centuries after the death of Muhammad, as a Shia ruling class festival. The main thrust of these Milad-un-Nabi gatherings is to remember, observe, discuss and celebrate the advent of the birth and teachings of Prophet Muhammad (pubh). On this day Scholars and Poets recites Qasida al-Burda Sharif in Special gatherings, the famous poem by 13th century Arabic Sufi Busiri. In India, a public holiday is declared to mark this occasion. The holy relic of the Prophet are displayed in Jammu and Kashmir state of India at Hazratbal shrine, on the outskirts of Srinagar, after the morning prayers. 'Shab-khawani' night-long prayers are held at the Hazrat bal shrine Which is attended by thousands of people.

It may be noted here that although the birth of Prophet Muhammad was the most significant event in Islamic history, neither the companions of Prophet Muhammad nor the next generation of Muslims observe this event. Furthermore, the Prophet himself neither advised his followers to observe his birthday nor himself observed the birth or death anniversaries of his family and loved ones, including that of his first wife Khadijah bint Khuwaylid. Thus, Milad-un-Nabi is observed as a festival only in the Indian sub-continent and a few Arab countries like Egypt, while most Islamic countries do not attach any special significance to this day in consonance with the Islamic principles of not celebrating birth or death anniversaries.


The death anniversary of Prophet Muhammad (pubh) also falls on the twelfth day of Rabi-ul-Awwal.  This occasion is also observed in some parts of Indian sub-continent as 'Barawafat'. The word 'barah' stands for the twelve days of the Prophet's sickness. During these days, learned men deliver sermons in mosques, focusing on the life and noble deeds of the Prophet. In some parts of India, a ceremony known as sandal rite is performed over the symbolic footprints of the Prophet engraved in stone. A representation of buraq, a horse-like animal on which the Prophet is believed to have ascended to heaven, is kept near the footprints and anointed with sandal paste or scented powder, and the house and casket containing these are elaborately decorated. Elegies or marsiyas are sung in memory of the last days of the Prophet. In Lucknow, the Barawafat is notable for the Madh-e-Sahaba processions taken out by the Sunni Muslims. The procession was banned earlier due to Shia-Sunni clashes but was allowed by the administration after a compromise between leaders of the Shia-Sunni sects in 1999.



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