Celebrating the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday in Malaysia

The Prophet Muhammad is a significant figure in Islam, as he is believed to be the last prophet that Allah sent to mankind. As a nation that is over half Muslim, many Malaysians celebrate and commemorate the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. Locally, this is referred to as “Mawlid” or “Maulidur Rasul”, and is marked as a national public holiday.

The Muslim calendar is 354 days long and the Prophet’s birthday is celebrated on a specific date, equating to a different day each year in the Gregorian (or Western) calendar. In 2015, it will be celebrated on the 3rd of January.

History

The history of the celebration of this event started in the Middle East, 400 years after the death of the Prophet. The celebration began as a tribute, and modern day celebrations in Malaysia involve a procession or parade where followers recite praise for Muhammad from passages of the Islamic religious text, the Quran.

There are differing views in the global Islamic community about the need to celebrate this occasion, but most countries including Malaysia do indeed commemorate it.

Malaysia’s celebration

In Malaysia, the Putra Mosque in Putrajaya tends to be the location of the national celebrations and the starting point of the main parade. Government officials, including the Prime Minister, distinguished guests, and religious figures all attend, with plenty of speeches and education aiming to unite the population.

Last year almost 14,000 people from over 150 continents took part in the parade in Putrajaya, which came to 1.7 kilometres long.

There are also official state-level celebrations that are organised in a similar vein. The nation’s mosques (known as ‘masjid’ in Malaysia) are all cleansed for this day and decorated accordingly. Devoted followers of the religion also do the same with their homes.

The day’s events

On this auspicious day in Malaysia, there is a relatively standard order of events. It all begins with a dawn prayer service to kick of proceedings. This consists of prayers, readings, recitals, and songs of praise by Muslims sitting together in mosques all over the country.

Following this service, it is customary to have a large communal breakfast, then get ready and go to the location of one of the many celebratory events nationwide. An opening ceremony is held at various locations for state based celebrations. This is where dignitaries officiate with a speech, followed by the other speeches, readings, and more recitals. Religious figures finish the proceedings off with a lecture, and then notable awards are presented for community service.

Once the opening event has concluded, it’s time for the procession to begin. This involves a set route through the town, with music and often banners on display. The procession ends at its original starting point, where food is then distributed to revelers for their participation.

This occasion is one that is worth experiencing if visiting Malaysia during this time. As always, it is important to always be respectful of the culture when visiting as a tourist. This occasion is celebrated nationally to promote peace, love, and unity, and whilst it is a relatively modern addition to the Islamic faith, it is of great significance to the people of Malaysia. Other than uniting residents and believers, the day is considered to be an important opportunity to educate Malaysia’s children about the Prophet’s life, and instill values and teachings of the Quran, making it a celebration of national cultural importance.