ALGIERS- 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 Mawlid al-Nabawi’s traditions in Iran. You, dear readers, will embark on a special journey of Mawlid al-Nabawi celebrations, its observance, and the food associated with it.
• 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 Mawlid al-Nabawi. May Allah grant you all health and well-being and bless us with stability and security. As we know, festivals are all about happiness and harmony, however, they bear a message behind. What is the significance of Eid Milad-Un-Nabi?
• At the outset, I would like to offer my best wishes with the advent of 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 Mawlid al-Nabawi during the month of Rabiulawal; the third month of the Muslim calendar.
I’m delighted to celebrate 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 observance of the birthday of Prophet Hazrat Mohammad ibn Abdullah ibn Abdul Muttalib. Also commonly known as ‘Jashn-E-Milad un Nabi (s.a.w.w.)’ or ‘Mawlid al-Nabi al-Sharif’, Shias commemorate and honor the birth of the Prophet Mohamed (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. Mawlid is purely a religious festival and is marked as a public gazetted 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 reflect on the life and teachings of Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) and refresh 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 future, they can also transfer all these stories and hadiths to the future generations. It, also, affords 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 Mawlid; how do the brotherly Iranian people get ready for the celebration?
• Interestingly, there are a number of age-honored traditions and practices related to 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 and delicacy. Electric lights are twinkled 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 fervour with enthusiasm. They congratulate each other by meeting face-to-face or sending beautiful gifs, text messages, images, voice notes, and sharing videos on their devices.
Movies on the Prophet (PBUH) are screened, free of charge, in cinemas halls as well as mobile ones, recording a large influx of Iranians. In the 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 Mohammed followed by large street processions. They also hold activities like marches, parades, and night long prayers meetings.
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 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, host 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 centres.
Officially, Iran’s Supreme 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 practised on Eid Milad-Un-Nabi day?
• Several ceremonies are held to mark the auspicious occasion. workshops of calligraphy, music, narration, poetry, illustration, painting, caricature, wood carving, mosaic, pottery, ceramics, and doll making run during the Week of Islamic Unity. Artistic programs along with the performances of tribal music are on the display. Flowers are distributed to the people.
Also, buses and subways give free-of-charge services on the day, and all cultural, sporting, and artistic centres give citizens services with 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, carry green flags or banners with texts highlighting the importance of this great day. The green colour 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 drumings. Processions are taken out and poems are recited in the remembrance of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
As for foreigners, the 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.
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, 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 of Tehran, are open. Besides, six flower caravans move in six directions across Tehran for 6 days. Booths, in all provinces, are set up on most streets, offering sweet drinks to passers 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 a 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 course, and last but not the least, amazingly delicious sweet. Later, tea is served with nuts and sweets.
• What about religious celebrations ?
• On the eve of the joyous occasion, celebratory fireworks lit the skies of the holy city of Mashhad. The Holy Shrine of Imam Reza (A.S), along with other Shrines, are 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 Qur’an. People assemble at the mosques or Husseineyah to offer prayers and litanies for the unity of Muslim Ummah, participate in processions and listen to devotional poetry of the Prophet. These rituals as considered as a symbol of self-purification.
Communal meals are also offered in mosques. Street processions and functions are also held. Besides, various exhibitions are featured in with 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 (A.S).
Noting that this festival falls on the same date as another national holiday, the birthday of Imam Jafar 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 for the whole mankind.
I would like to refer to a very imprtant aspect of the celebrations. Imam Khomeini, and after him 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 Mawlid, the founder of Islamic Revolution Imam Khomeini announced the Islamic Unity Week from Rabi’ al-Awwal 12 till 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 1990-1994, Islamic Advertisement Organization had been in charge of holding of 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 the world, is presenting 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 Creation. In a time when extremists are acting in a hateful manner opposing the virtue 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 in your life positivity and happiness….