What do people do?
There are mixed beliefs on how one observes Muhammed's birthday. Some people see the Prophet's birthday as an event worthy of praise. Others view the celebration of birthdays as contradictory to Islamic law. Both sides cite the Hadith (narrations originating from the words and deeds of the Prophet Muhammed) and events from Muhammed's life to support their views.
Mawlid, or Milad, is celebrated with large street parades in some countries. Homes and mosques are also decorated. Some people donate food and other goods for charity on or around this day. Others listen to their children read out poems about events that occurred in the Prophet Muhammed's life. Mawlid is celebrated in this way in many communities across the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, or Australia.
However, many Muslims also do not participate in celebrations on this day. Instead, they may mark the occasion by spending more time to read the Koran. Muhammed is said to have been born on a Monday and some scholars see fasting during the hours of daylight on Mondays as another way to celebrate his birth.
Mawlid is a public holiday in many Islamic countries but not in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. Many schools, stores, businesses and organizations are open. Islamic schools, stores, businesses and organizations may be closed for part of or all of the day. Public transit systems usually operate to their regular schedule.
Muhammed was born in Mecca, now in Saudi Arabia, in the year 570 of the Gregorian calendar. The precise date of his birth is unclear. However, Sunni Muslims observe Muhammed's birthday on the 12th day of the Islamic month of Rabi' al-awwal, while Shi'a Muslims mark it on the 17th day of this month. The 17th day of Rabi' al-awwal commemorates the birth of the sixth Shi'a iman, Ja'far al-Sadiq.
The term Mawlid is used in Egypt and Sudan to refer to the birthdays of both Muhammed and local Sufi saints. The birthdays of about 3000 Sufi saints are marked or celebrated. Some of these birthdays are large celebrations that attract visitors from various countries. One of the most notable of these is the celebration of Ahmed el-Bedawi's birthday. Ahmed el-Bedawi lived about 700 years ago and is believed to be buried under the Mosque of Sheikh el-Said Ahmed el-Bedawi. The site attracts millions of visitors, including those who sleep in the mosque and in tents on the streets surrounding it.
The word Mawlid, or Milad, depending on the method of transliteration used, comes from the Arabic word for birth and usually refers to the anniversary of Muhammed's birth. This observance is also known as Mevlid Serif in Turkish, Mawlūd Sharīf in Urdu and Maulidur-Rasūl in Malay.