TODAY, Tanzanians join the rest of the world to mark Maulid, the day of the birth of Islam leader. The word Maulid or Milad, depending on the method of transliteration used, comes from the Arabic word for birth and usually refers to the anniversary of Prophet Muhammad's birthday, Peace Be Upon Him (PBUH). This observance is also known as 'Milad Shar' celebrated in the third month of Islamic calendar.
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the founder of Islam was born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia in 570, the year of the Gregorian calendar. Precise date of his birth is unclear, however, Muslims observe Muhammad's birthday on the 12th day of the third month of the Islamic calendar, month of Rabi' al-awwal. All other dates are estimates, since the actual date may vary according to the sighting of the moon for the start of the month which this year falls on 25th January, whereby it is a public holiday in Tanzania.
To commemorate the Maulid, basically it is about gathering of people, reciting parts of the Qu'ran, narrating the history of the Prophet's birth and signs that accompanied it. To celebrate the day, food is served and people are taught that the good practice is to emulate the teachings of the prophet and the one who practises them gets rewarded, because it involves elevating the status of the Prophet and expressing joy for his honourable birth.
At this joyous occasion majority of Muslims spend hours to decorate in the streets, buildings and mosques in their cities with flags bearing the name of their dearest prophet Muhammad (PBUH), as to make an impression of the importance of this birthday as an event worthy of praising. Some Muslims spend this day to visit the sick people in hospitals, help unprivileged persons including the disabled, children, orphans, the needy and destitute.
It is also an act of charity during the month to donate food, soaps and other items as a reflection of yielding to the teachings of the prophet in relation to compassion to human beings. The participation in the ritual celebration of popular Islamic holidays is seen as an expression of the Islamic revival where Maulid is celebrated in large gatherings and processions held. Madrassa pupils are told stories about the life of Muhammad and taught to recite them in form of poetry. Scholars and poets also take part in the celebrations by reciting Qur'an during Maulid Shar? Some Muslims believe in spending more time to read the Qur'an.
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), who was referred to as the Living Qur'an is said to have been born on a Monday and some scholars fast on Mondays as another way to celebrate his birth to show gratitude to Allah. Traditionally Maulid food recipes vary considerably from country to country depending on the local food culture of the area. However, there are some food items that are considered to be favourites of Prophet Muhammad and are prepared according to the old and time tested recipes.
For example, Tharida- A dish consisting of bread crumbled with fingers into a light and savory broth, was considered to be a favourite of the Bedouins inhabiting the Arabian Peninsula during the days of Prophet Muhammad. Another food is Rafis; the traditional recipes of wheat, honey and butter which was considered favourite foods of the Prophet is eaten on the occasion of Milad-un-Nabi (maulid) while camel meat is considered to be the holiest on the occasion in Islamic countries.
At this time whereby Muslims around the world are celebrating the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), it is also the time to teach children. The Prophet believed that a child should be nurtured with belief in God and spiritualism at an early age. The Prophet says: "Learning about God at an early age will help a child to overcome the difficulties of life, not only in their childhood, but also in later adult years." He said the more a child is exposed to a community that observes religion, the easier it will be for that child to understand and accept religion and spiritualism later in their life.
It has been observed that children who grow up in a spiritual environment are more likely to establish healthy relationships with their parents. Islam teaches that children are gifts from the all-compassionate and generous God. They should be loved and cared with perfect compassion and tenderness to ensure their healthy growth. Prophet Muhammad, (PBUH) who was referred to as the "Living Qur'an" by his wife Aisha(AS), is a primary example of how to understand the Islamic concept and how to nurture children's spirituality.
Just as in other aspects of life, Prophet Muhammad serves as an example of how to raise children. Since children are considered weak and powerless, their spirits flourish best when they come to know and experience for themselves their compassionate and power of the creator. Through trust in God and surrender to his guidance, children will be able to conquer fears and challenges throughout their life. A child needs to feel safe and the best way to give them this feeling is to teach them that God is the most merciful and the most compassionate and that he is protecting them from all evils. A child can feel secure in life only through this belief.
Furthermore, teaching a child to be grateful for everything they possess and receive is another vital aspect for healthy spiritual development. A child should be made aware that everything that is given to them ultimately comes from God. In this way, they will grow into a thankful and appreciative person. Showing mercy and love to children has a special place in Prophet Muhammad's teachings. To address the importance of mercy in children's spiritual development, the Prophet stated, "Whoever does not show mercy to his children is not one of us (Muslims)."
Thus Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) taught that as we celebrate his birthday we should practise the teachings of Islam in order to make an impact to our day to day lives.