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On February 15th and February 20th there is the religious holy day Mawlid.

The birthday of the prophet Muhammad is known in Qur’anic Arabic as Mawlid. Mawlid is celebrated by all Muslims during the third month of the Islamic calendar. However, the Sunni and the Shi’a celebrate his birthday five days apart, with the Sunni celebrating on the 12th  day, and the Shi’a on the 17th day of the month. This year (2011), Mawlid is in February, although, like other religions with their own calendars, it moves around during the Gregorian year’s months.

Mawlid was celebrated back in the 8th century in Mecca when Muhammad’s house became a holy place of prayer and worship. Mawlid was later spread to Morocco in the 12th Century CE and then across the Islamic world shortly after.

There’s a divide among Islamic scholars as to whether Mawlid should be celebrated. Some schools of thought have decided that as long as the celebrations are legal in sharia (Islamic Law), then, basically, no harm, no foul. Others, however, consider the celebration forbidden, although they agree that the birth of their Prophet is important. This latter school of thought points out that the second and third generations of Muslims didn’t celebrate the birth date, and thus, while historically important, it should not be considered holy.

The celebration of Mawlid is a carnival with street parties and buildings such as mosques and homes are decorated. Charity, stories of Muhammad’s life, and poems are all parts of the celebrating.

Interestingly, Saudi Arabia is the only Muslim country where Mawlid is not a public holiday, even though it is celebrated in some non-Muslim countries such as India and Britain.

To learn more on Mawlid, its legal history, and celebration styles, click on over to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mawlid.

~ Gretchen

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