Cape Town celebrates birth of Prophet Muhammad

An audio interview with Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille is on my Youtube account at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-VCg_6ykXk&feature=youtu.be

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Thousands of Muslims are expected to meet in Green Point this weekend to celebrate the birth of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

This global celebration is known in Arabic as Mawlid al-Nabi and organisers of a local gathering, comprising various Muslim groups, said they expected up to 10,000 people to meet at Green Point track for Sunday’s day-time event.

The event’s spokesperson Nabeweya Malick said they intended to “celebrate the life and practice of the Prophet Muhammad through songs of joy, pearls of wisdom and moving odes”. The event’s theme is ‘Mission of Mercy, Message of Love’.

“Its celebrations revive and invigorate one’s sense of connection with the Prophet Muhammad,” said Malick.

Mawlid al-Nabi poster.

Mawlid al-Nabi poster.

The City of Cape Town, which is providing logistical support, is the event partner. The city’s mayor Patricia de Lille said she attended the inaugural mass Mawlid al-Nabi last year.

Former president Kgalema Motlanthe and Western Cape premier Helen Zille also attended last year’s debut mass Mawlid al-Nabi in Green Point.
De Lille said the city government’s support for the event was indicative of Cape Town’s “multi-cultural community”.

“When we grew up and when it’s fasting time the Muslims in street that you live in sent each house a barakat (plate of food or cake). We know about Labarang Hajji (Eid ul-Adha which is an annual celebration marking the holy Hajj pilgrimage),” said De Lille.

“Muslims and Christians grew up side by side… We recognise all religions and culture. This is because of the history of our city. Certainly, one of the pillars of our heritage is the Muslim community.”

De Lille added: “For hundreds of years, Muslims have lived in Cape Town and helped shape this city even in the darkest times for our communities.

“Your steadfast faith, endurance and sense of community helped liberate us from the oppression we knew and continue to help us build the inclusive city we want to enjoy today and that we want to strengthen for our children.”

De Lille also wrote the foreword in a book, Expressing Delight at the Birth of the Light, which outlines arguments for and against Mawlid al-Nabi. It also “clarifies the areas which some may use as justification for their belief or view” with the intent to eliminate confusion on the matter.

The 300-page book is published by the Cape Town-based Madina Institute South Africa and will be launched this weekend.

Fakhruddin Owaisi, who was involved in the book project, said Syrian writer Sheikh Muhammad al-Ninowy who now lives in the US penned the book.

Owaisi said celebrating the prophet’s birthday has “become a controversial issue in some of our communities”.

“Traditional Muslims like the Shafi’is of Cape Town have always celebrated Mawlid al-Nabi. Modern extremist movements such as the Salafi group reject this practice as an innovation and un-Islamic,” said Owaisi.

“Ninowy demonstrates, with full academic prowess, that commemorating the birth of the prophet is permissible in Islam and a beneficial practice, supported by evidences from Qur’an (Islam’s guiding text) and sunnah (lifestyle of the prophet).

“He also proves that the accusation of bidah (innovation) is false and unfounded.”

Muslims community radio station Voice of the Cape conducted a poll among Muslims to reveal whether they supported Mawlid al-Nabi celebrations or not. It found “85% of those who participated felt it should become an annual event, with 12% not in support”.

Malick said Sunday’s public event would also feature “beautiful musical renditions by Islamic cultural choir groups from talented youth from the community”.

“Beyond the confines of the Muslim community, it is undoubtedly a means of drawing the attention of the broader community and will inform about the message of the love that Muslims have for Prophet Muhammad,” said Malick.

Muslims celebrate Prophet Muhammad as their leader and he was born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on the 12th day of the Islamic month, Rabi al-Awwal.

More information about this event is available on the website http://www.mawlidsa.org.

(This article was published in the Weekend Argus weekly regional newspaper in the Western Cape on January 18 2014)

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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