Celebrating Muhammad's Birthday in Kerala, India
by Muhammad Aslam
With great enthusiasm and joy, the Muslims of Kerala, India, welcomed the first day of the month of Rabi ul-Awwal by the Islamic lunar calendar, which coincided with December 12, 2015, by common reckoning.
Students and other youth, elders, and the rest of the community expressed their happiness by rejoicing in their own ways. Celebrations began with the appearance of the moon of Rabi ul-Awwal in the sky, and colorful and distinctive programs will continue through the end of the month. All the children and youth participate in decorating the minarets of masjids and other buildings, using chains of light-bulbs, while the roads are filled with colored posters and other papers.
The supreme moment comes when all the male populace join in a procession showing ardent love for Prophet Muhammad, whether young or old, rich or poor. Observers of the procession greet the participants with sweets and beverages, adding further charm to the event. Impressively, people adhering to other religions prepare desserts and puddings, transforming the program into a festival for all of humankind. The procession ends with public presentations by the children, usually organized by specific medresas. Students show their skills and excellence in speeches, singing, and stories based on the Prophet's life and teachings. Medresa alumna will contribute as well.
Programs begin with a flag-raising by leading personalities recommended by the authorities. Scouts, youth playing the duff or daf, a large Persian tambourine, and other organizations will add to the liveliness of the gatherings. Students in primary schools will wear distinctive costumes and will carry duffs. The students in Scout performances will be dressed in their uniforms and carry batons. Both sections will add rhythmic exercises to their activities.
Numerous other sessions are also held to attract the interest of the people. Some individuals will make speeches while others will come together to recite Qasidat ul-Burdah, the classic poem in praise of Muhammad, and other works related to the Prophet's nativity. Prophetic hymns in Malayalam, the language of Kerala, have gained a broad audience among lovers of the Prophet throughout the state. Thousands of people gather for Muhammad's Birthday (milad or mawlid) assemblies and conferences. Parents encourage their children to recite salawat (salutations to the Prophet) and award prizes for those who recite the most.
The practice of receiving mawlid hymns in Arabic, commemorating the Prophetic nativity, has attained great favor in Kerala. Numerous different mawlid texts are recited in homes and masjids. On the eve of the 13th of Rabi ul-Awwal, the day believed to be that of the Prophet's nativity, people wake up, put on new clothes and gather in mawlid recitations by masjid congregations. The events will end with the dawn call to prayer (fajr), and after the prayer people will meet for tea and snacks.
The whole Muslim community in Kerala treats the month of Rabi ul-Awwal as bearing special majesty and religiosity. By the end of the month, the soul of each Muslim will be rejuvenated by hymns to the Prophet and salutations upon him.
(Muhammad Aslam is a CIP correspondent in Kerala.)