Eid Milad-Un-Nabi in Iran: Significance and traditions for celebration - Exclusive interview with Cultural Attaché to Algeria
The Iranian Cultural Attaché in Algeria highlights the celebrations held in Iran to commemorate the birth anniversary of Prophet Muhammad (p.), stressing the notion of Islamic unity.
His Excellency, the Cultural Attaché of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, Sayyed Jalal Miraghaee gave an interview to Al Mayadeen on the Iranian traditions on Prophet Muhammad's birth anniversary. You, dear readers, will embark on a special journey into the celebrations, rituals, and traditional dishes associated with this occasion.
- First of all, welcome to this interview. It is a pure pleasure meeting you again.
Thank you. It’s really a great honor to be with you today.
- Pure pleasure, your Excellency. We would like to seize the opportunity to extend to Your Excellency, to the Iranian people, and to the Muslims everywhere our warm wishes and special greetings on the auspicious occasion of the blessed birth anniversary of Prophet Muhammad (p.). May Allah grant you all health and well-being and bless us all with stability and security. As we know, festivals are all about happiness and harmony, however, they bear a message. What is the significance of Eid Milad-Un-Nabi?
To start, I would like to offer my best wishes with the advent of Al-Mawlid and Unity Week. So, on behalf of the Iranian people and the Iranian Diplomatic Mission here in Algiers, I would like to extend my warmest wishes to all the Muslims, for a happy Mawlid.
On these auspicious days, millions of Muslims worldwide, including Iranians and Algerians, celebrate, in full swing, the annual commemoration of Al-Mawlid Al-Nabawi during the month of Rabi I; the third month of the Muslim calendar.
I’m delighted to celebrate the Mawlid in Algeria. I’ve been touched by the warm hospitality of our Algerian brothers.
'Mawlid' is derived from Arabic and means 'birth'. However, in contemporary usage, it is commonly referred to as the birth anniversary of Prophet Hazrat Muhammad ibn Abdullah ibn Abdul Muttalib. Also commonly known as 'Jashn-E-Milad-Un-Nabi' (PBUH) or ‘Mawlid al-Nabi al-Sharif’, Shias commemorate and honor the birth of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on the 17th of the month, while Sunnis observe it on the 12th of the month. As you know, the Islamic calendar is based on lunar cycles, hence, the date in the Gregorian calendar will vary each year. The Mawlid is purely a religious occasion and is marked as a gazetted public holiday.
Milad-e-Nabi has been an annual event of pride and joy for Iran, where Muslims from all sects and ethnic communities commemorate, on an enormous scale, this auspicious occasion and recall the life and teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and rejuvenate their practice of faith, peace, and harmony. Eid is an occasion to recall the teachings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and share them with children and younger ones. So, in the future, they can also transfer all these stories and Hadiths to future generations. It also offers the opportunity to refresh the soul with faith.
- Iran, a country of plural identities, civilizational links, and cultural depths, is known for past customs that have been practiced for generations to celebrate the Mawlid; how do our fellow Iranian people get ready for the celebration?
Interestingly, there are a number of age-honored traditions and practices related to the Mawlid. Although there are many similarities among these celebrations in the Muslim world, each country and culture has its own unique traditions and delicacies for the occasion.
In Iran, cities are illuminated with profound respect. Electric lights twinkle across the cities for many days before the celebration. Mosques, buildings, markets, and streets are decorated and illuminated with colorful lights and buntings.
Iranians also celebrate by decorating their houses with colorful lights and green flags to show their immeasurable love for the Prophet. They feast, for many days, with friends and relatives and give charitable gifts to the poor.
On the night of the birthday of the Prophet (PBUH), Iranians dive into the festive fervor with enthusiasm. They congratulate each other by meeting face-to-face or sending beautiful gifts, text messages, images, voice notes, and sharing videos on their devices.
Movies on the Prophet (PBUH) are screened, free of charge, in cinema halls, as well as mobile ones, recording a large influx of Iranians. In previous years, the featured movie “Muhammad: The Messenger of God” directed by Majid Majidi was screened. Parents, for their part, narrate stories of the Prophet's life to their kids. People also engage in singing salutations and hymns in the praise of Prophet Muhammad followed by large street processions. They also hold activities like marches, parades, and night-long prayer gatherings.
Charity is an essential part of this festival, and as they say, charity begins at home. Ladies come together to prepare a lavish meal for the night of the Mawlid, which is later served to the poor and the deprived.
For its part, the International Festival of the Prophet of Kindness, with the presence of foreign and domestic groups, hosts performances of folk music groups. Musicians from Kurdistan, Sistan and Baluchestan, Lorestan, Khorasan, Bushehr, Gilan, Golestan, and Khuzestan provinces, as well as bands from Turkey, Azerbaijan, India, Syria, and Iraq usually perform in selected cultural centers.
Officially, Iranian leader Ayatollah Khamenei and the President of the Republic address their greetings on the festive occasion to the Iranians and Muslim Ummah.
- Which rituals are practiced on Eid Milad-Un-Nabi day?
Several ceremonies are held to mark the auspicious occasion during the Week of Islamic Unity: workshops in calligraphy, music, narration, poetry, illustration, painting, caricature, wood carving, mosaic, pottery, ceramics, and doll manufacturing are held. Artistic programs along with the performances of tribal music are on the display. Flowers are distributed to the people.
Moreover, buses and subways give free-of-charge services on the day, and all cultural, sporting, and artistic centers give citizens services with a 50% discount. The day is also marked with public and family gatherings. Families gather and prepare a feast, which is then served to the guests and is also meant to be donated to the poor.
Additionally, people wear green ribbons or green items of clothing and carry green flags or banners with texts highlighting the importance of this great day. The green color is a symbol of Islam and paradise. Mass gatherings are recorded in Vali-e-Asr square in Tehran calling for Muslim Unity.
In some provinces, the day starts with a gun salute and drumming. Processions are taken out and poems are recited in remembrance of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
As for foreigners, authorities organize tours for the guests of Iran, especially non-Muslims, to get them acquainted with the Islamic culture. High-profile religious and political dignitaries participate in these tours.
Al-Mustafa (PBUH) Science and Technology Foundation, for its part, awards, biennially, its $500,000 prize, Medal, and Diploma to Muslim researchers and pioneers of scientific and technological cooperation and development in the world. In 2016, a science journal called the prize the Muslim Nobel.
- What about the must-try Milad’s dishes and sweets in Iran?
As each country is distinguished by its local cuisine, ten food exhibitions, along with a black tent of Iranian ethnic groups in 10 places in Tehran, are open. Besides, six caravans of flowers move in six directions across Tehran for 6 days. Booths, in all provinces, are set up on most streets, offering sweet drinks to passers-by for free to add more sweetness to the bonds of love and affection on this day.
Different kinds of scrumptious dishes and delicacies are prepared, among which desserts have special importance. Households prepare food, known as Nazri, as a way of almsgiving. The preparation and the partaking of this food are considered a privilege by believers. Other lip-smacking recipes are on the menu, such as; Sheer Khurma. In Persian, 'Sheer' means Milk and 'Khurma' means dates, which means 'milk cooked with dates' in English. The recipe is a must-make. Generally speaking, women make sure to set a table, consisting of lip-smacking appetizers, mind-blowing main courses, and last but not the least, amazingly delicious sweets. Later, tea is served with nuts and sweets.
- What about religious celebrations?
On the eve of the joyous occasion, celebratory fireworks light the skies of the holy city of Mashhad. The Holy Shrine of Imam Reza (A.S.), along with other Shrines, is decorated with lights and flowers to mark the occasion. Up to 25,000 flowers, including 17,000 chrysanthemum bushes and 8,000 branches of fresh flowers, are used.
Prophet Muhammad's birthday is celebrated with religious congregations and recitals of verses from the Holy Quran. People assemble at the mosques or Husseineyahs to offer prayers and litanies for the unity of the Muslim Ummah, participate in processions, and listen to devotional poetry of the Prophet. These rituals as considered a symbol of self-purification.
Communal meals are also offered in mosques. Street processions and functions are also held. Besides, various exhibitions feature photos of various mosques in holy cities.
Millions of Iranians visit the shrine of Imam Rida (A.S.) in the holy city of Mashhad. Others flee to the city of Shiraz to celebrate this joyous celebration in the shrine of Sayyid Ahmad bin Musa al-Kadhim, and in the town of Ray, south of Tehran, visitors head to the immaculate shrine of Sayyid Abd al-Azim al-Hasani. noting that this festival coincides with another national holiday, the birthday of Imam Jafar As-Sadiq (A.S.).
The Iranian televisions and radios broadcast special programs on the life of Muhammad (PBUH). During the Islamic Week of Unity, programs stress the need for Muslim nations to be vigilant against the conspiracies of enemies. Special conferences and religious events are held nationwide to pay respect to the last messenger whose teachings are the beacon guiding the whole of mankind.
I would like to refer to a very important aspect of the celebrations. Imam Khomeini, and then Ayatollah Khamenei, both as humble servants of the Prophet (PBUH), have always regarded Islamic unity to be paramount. For this reason, the late Imam strove to foster Islamic unity to serve the best interests of the Islamic World and defeat the vicious plots of the neocolonialists.
Following the interval of the dates of the celebration of the Mawlid, the leader of the Islamic Revolution Imam Khomeini announced the Islamic Unity Week from Rabi' I 12 to 17. This period was named, by Imam Khomeini, as "the Week of Unity between Shi'a and Sunnis", during which the International Islamic Unity Conference is held annually. From 1990 to 1994, Islamic Advertisement Organization had been in charge of holding the conference, but after the establishment of the World Forum for Proximity of Islamic Schools of Thought by the order of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, this Forum became responsible for this mission.
The goal of the conference, attended by scholars and thinkers from around the world, is to present practical solutions to achieve Islamic unity.
- Your Excellency, any last word!
Celebrating the birth of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is an auspicious occasion for Muslims to connect themselves to the life, message, teachings, and character of the Best of God's Creations. In a time when extremists are acting in a hateful manner opposing the virtues and teachings of the Prophet, Mawlid Al-Nabi is needed more than ever to instill a love for God’s final messenger and to spread the excellent character and virtue that he was sent by God to teach. And, even if the celebrations vary from one country to another, the spirit is similar and shares an atmosphere of tranquility and peace that spreads with the sounds of tambourines and praises.
- Your Excellency, the Cultural Attaché of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, thank you so much, indeed, for your time, and my thanks are also due to our readers.
You are most welcome. Wish you all a blessed Mawlid! May the love and blessings of the Prophet (PBUH) bring your life positivity and happiness…