The birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, called میلادِ پَیامبَرِ اکرَم (mīlād-i payāmbar-i akram) in Persian, is being observed today, the 12th of the Hijri month ربيع اول (if you want to be technical about it, the commemoration started at sundown last night, and I guess it’s ended by now in most of the world, but it’s still worth noting). Though not one of the major Islamic holidays, many Muslims do commemorate Muhammad’s birth with decorations and by exchanging small gifts or sweets.
Milad is not a universally celebrated holiday, for a couple of reasons. There’s no historical record of the earliest Muslims celebrating Muhammad’s birthday as a special event; the first widespread Milad celebration doesn’t appear in the record until the 12th century, though there are records of earlier, smaller observances. So for modern self-proclaimed “fundamentalists” the holiday is an innovation and therefore illegitimate. Honoring a historical figure’s birthday also comes too close to revering or worshiping that person for those arch-conservative groups, which would make it an example of the most serious sin in any monotheistic faith. So you’re not likely to find any sanctioned Milad celebrations in Saudi Arabia, or being organized by ISIS. But in most of the Islamic World Milad is treated as an important cultural marker if not an especially religious one, more Presidents Day than Christmas. This blog is certainly not in the business of litigating inter-Islamic religious debates, so I’m not here to comment on Milad’s legitimacy, but this does offer us a chance to explore a little vocabulary.
- prophet: پیامبر (payāmbar) or نبی (nabī)
- prophethood: نبوت (nubuwwat) or پیامبری (payāmbarī)
- birthday: میلاد (mīlād) or زادروز (zādrūz)
- to be born: متولد شدن (mutawallid shudan, “to become born”) or به دنیا آمدن (bih dunyā āmadan, “to come into the world”)