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EID AL-MILAD AL-NABI

Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

The month of Rabi I has an immortal significance in the whole of human history. In this month that Blessed Being made his auspicious appearance from the person of Amina who diverted totally the very stream of the human history; who uplifted humanity from the lowest pit of degradation and rose it to the zenith of glory and grandeur; who heralded a new message of peace and prosperity for the suffering mankind. He emancipated the human race from those fetters in which it had been lying shackled for centuries. He relieved humanity of those heavy burdens under which it had been groaning for ages. The whole world was groping in the dark and gone astray at the time when the Holy Prophet was born. This was the deplorable time through which he passed till he attained the age of forty and then he emerged from the Cave of Hira with a recipe of alchemy that transformed man's destiny with the Light of Divine Guidance. Eid al-milad, the birth anniversary of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) comes with blessings and benedictions on it wake, not for the Muslims alone, but for the whole of the universe, whatever amount of love and sincerity be displayed to welcome this auspicious day, would not commensurate with its sanctity just for the reason that it is the birthday of the Greatest of all the great prophets of the world. A scrupulous survey will reveal that Eid al-milad is the source of all other happy festivals.

In general, the Prophet's birthday is called maulid, a word that also often denotes the festivities held on this day, i.e., 12th Rabi al-Awwal. An alternative term is milad meaning birthday or anniversary, and the passive participle maulud, from the root w-l-d, is also used maulud (Turkish mevlut or mevlud and mulud in Maghrib).

The most important festival initiated by the Fatimid regime was the mawlid al-nabi (Prophet's Nativity). The Fatimids had a privilege to commemorate it for the first time in state level in Islam. According to Encyclopaedia of Quran (London, 2002, 2:206), "The celebration of mawlid might have begun with the Shi'ite Fatimid celebration of the birthdays of the Prophet, Ali, Fatima and the reigning Imam. N. Kaptein has demonstrated that the mawlid al-nabi introduced in Egypt under the Fatimids, certainly by the 6th/12th century." Annemarie Schimmel writes in And Muhammad is His Messenger (Lahore, 1987, p. 145, 147) that, "It seems that the tendency to celebrate the memory of Muhammad's birthday on a larger and more festive scale emerged first in Egypt during the Fatimid era (969-1171). This is logical, for the Fatimids claimed to be the Prophet's descendants through his daughter Fatima. The Egyptian historian Makrizi (d. 1442) describes one such celebration held in 1122, basing his account on Fatimid sources. It was apparently an occasion in which mainly scholars and religious establishment participated. They listened to sermons, and sweets, particularly honey, the Prophet's favorite, were distributed; the poor received alms.... In Egypt, the tradition of maulid was continued from Fatimid days by all subsequent dynasties." According to The Encyclopaedia of Religion (London, 1987, 7:455), "The joyful celebration of Muhammad's birthday began comparatively early; it was introduced on a larger scale in Fatimid Egypt, where the rulers, descendants of Muhammad's daughter Fatimah, remembered the birthday of their ancestor by inviting scholars and distributing sweets and money, a feature that has remained common. Ever since, the pious have felt that celebration of the Mawlid have a special blessings power (barakah)."

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