Egyptian Muslims Celebrate the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad

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Sun, 2022-10-16
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Last weekend (Oct. 6th - 8th) was a long holiday weekend in Egypt. Thursday was Armed Forces Day, a national holiday that mainly commemorates Egypt’s surprise military advance against Israeli forces in the Sinai peninsula in the 1973 war. On Saturday, many Egyptians also celebrated the birth of the Prophet Muḥammad. Historically, most Muslims have held that the Prophet’s original birth date fell on the 12th day of Rabīʿ al-Awwal, the third month of the year according to the Islamic lunar calendar. In 2022, that date corresponded to October 8th according to the Gregorian calendar. In the streets of Cairo, many banners congratulated Egyptians on both holidays.

The Grand Imam Dr. Aḥmad al-Ṭayyib noted that “it is good fortune that the celebration of the Prophet’s birth coincidences with the anniversary of October war victory,” during an official celebration of the Prophet’s birth at the al-Manara Center in New Cairo. 

ceremony held by the Ministry of Religious Endowments (Awqaf) at the al-Manara Center on the anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad's birth.


The celebration of the Prophet’s birthday is usually referred to as al-mawlid al-nabawī or mawlid al-nabī. Observance of this holiday can vary dramatically from person to person. Some Egyptians may partake in special rituals and gatherings to celebrate the day, others may give small gifts or sweets to family and friends, while still others may not observe the day in any obvious way. If a person is visiting Egypt during this holiday, they will notice shops and street vendors selling sweets for the holiday are very common. A friend of Dialogue Across Borders, Shaykh Abdullah Misra [ʿAbd Allāh Misrā], who has observed mawlid celebrations in several countries and contexts around the world suggests that there is no one uniform ritual or practice that one should expect from these celebrations. He notes that in more scholarly contexts, the Prophet’s birthday may be celebrated by lectures on his life or miracles. Sufi orders may gather to use traditional litanies to speak blessings and praise over the Prophet. At the same time, many others throughout Muslim-majority countries may contribute somehow to an atmosphere of celebration though gifts, lanterns, songs, and alms for the poor. Although most of these celebrations take place during the month of Rabīʿ al-Awwal, a mawlid for the Prophet can also occur at other times in the year.


Ḥizb al-Ḥurriya al-Miṣrī, an Egyptian political partiy, congratulates Egyptians on the anniversary of the birth of the Prophet and the October war victory. Many such banners could be seen throughout the streets of Cairo.


Over the centuries, there have been Muslim scholars who expressed concern over these festivities, arguing that they represent innovations that are not found in authentic scriptural sources. Today, such views are mainly associated with the Wahhabi [Wahhābī] movement centered in Saudi Arabia and those influenced by it. These views represent a minority position in the modern Islamic world.


For additional coverage of the Prophet’s mawlid in Egypt past and present, please see here and here.


At Dialogue Across Borderswe hope that the Prophet’s mawlid was a joyful and meaningful holiday for all those who celebrated.


With best wishes,


October 16, 2022


Matthew Anderson


Dialogue Across Borders