“Jashn-e Eid-e Milad un-Nabi” reads a banner on a street in Karachi, Pakistan, on February 5, 2012.
Photograph by Noman Baig
Muslims across the world mark the occasion of Prophet Mohammad's birthday (also known as Maulud, Maulid or Milad-un-Nabi), on the 12th of Rabi-ul Awwal (3rd month of Islamic calendar) with much celebration and verve. However, this occasion has also been declared an unlawful innovation by many orthodox Muslims who believe in a puritanical and iconoclastic form of Islam devoid of all cultural practices, especially festivals and rituals that involve veneration of images or the use of music. But despite this opposition, Muslim neighbourhoods in India and Pakistan not only continue to celebrate the occasion, in the recent years they seem to have expanded their use of iconography, media and the popular culture of devotional gaze, as one can see in this photograph. With the coming of better design and printing quality, it is possible to create life-size or sometimes even larger models of shrines and other devotional icons. Besides the images of Mecca and Medina shrines in this frame, worth noting is a replica of Na’lain Mubarak or the holy footware of the Prophet (Right-middle, in green), which the visitors watch with respect and devotion.
In India, a vibrant and colourful expansion of such festivals is being reported by some as to signify a political awakening of the community in the recent years. It seems that while the members of the more orthodox sect, Deobandis, declared the celebration of Milad unlawful, the Muslims belonging to a more Sufi-culture based faith doubled their spirit of celebration this year to oppose the orthodox stand.
(Text by Noman Baig and Yousuf Saeed)
Also see the following news items:
Deoband Issues Fatwa against Birthday Celebrations (Outlook magazine)
'Sufi' group rejects Deoband fatwa against celebrating Prophet's birthday