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Moroccans Celebrate Eid el Mawlid en-Nabaoui, the Prophet's Birthday

Eid el Mawlid en-Nabaoui, or the Celebration of the Prophet Muhammed's Birth took place yesterday in Morocco and throughout much of the Sunni Muslim world. It's an official holiday in Morocco, celebrated with street processions and other festivities.

Blogger Agharass writes this day about the first moments of the Prophet's life:

Le Prophète était encore dans le ventre de sa mère Amina quand son père Abdullah Ibn Mouttaleb mourut. Amina donna le jour à Mohammed (SAW), paix et bénédictions sur lui, le 12 de Rabi’-Al-Awwal. Elle envoya dire à Abdul Mouttaleb (grand-père du nouveau-né) qu’il venait d’avoir un garçon. Le vieil homme en fut submergé de joie. Il se hâta pour prendre l’enfant dans ses bras, puis l’emmena à la Ka’ba et le prénomma Mohammad. Ce prénom était déjà connu mais n’était point répandu dans les pays arabes.

The Prophet was still in his mother Amina's belly when his father Abdullah Ibn Mouttaleb died. Amina gave birth to Mohammed (PBUH), peace and blessings be upon him, the 12th of Rabi’-Al-Awwal. She sent word to Abdul Mouttaleb (the newborn's grandfather) that [she] had just given birth to a boy. The old man was overwhelmed with joy. He hurried to take the infant in his arms, then brought him to the Ka'ba and named him Mohammed. This name was known but not in wide use in the Arab countries.

Bensoltana Mohammed, a blogger and student in the northern Moroccan city of Salé, published photos of the Dour Chmaa, or the “Procession of Votive Candles” which took place the day before el Eid and has been celebrated since the thirteenth century; he also included an extract about this parade from the official site of the Ministère des Habous et des Affaires Islamiques [Ministry of Habous and Islamic Affairs].

Le moussem des cierges est l’un des moussems les plus suivis par le peuple marocain qui est fidèle à ses traditions authentiques, qui sont toujours vivantes malgré les mutations de notre temps. A Salé, par exemple, la procession des cierges anime encore les rues de la cité pour le plus grand plaisir des Slaouis qui affectionnent tout particulièrement cette fête, qui reflète la couleur de la vie, dans un envoûtement auquel il serait folie de résister. Une fête annuelle populaire, une fête de couleurs, une fête de chants soufis et de transes, de magies musicales et de ritualités révélatrices de l’âme profonde du peuple marocain.

The moussem [a religious celebration usually involving music] of votive candles is one of the most popular moussems of the Moroccan people, faithful to their authentic traditions which are still alive despite the mutations of our era. In Salé, for example, the processions of votive candles still animates the city's streets, to the great delight of the Slaouis [people from Salé] who hold a particular affection for this holiday which reflects the colors of life, so charming that it would be folly to resist. An annual celebration for all the people, a celebration of colors, a celebreation of sufi chants and transes, of musical magic and rituals that reveal the Moroccan people's deep soul.

La ville de Salé a le sens de l’événement, ses traditions, vivaces, déploient leur allégresse et leurs couleurs. Empreinte de foi et de ferveur, Salé, ville sainte est une cité où le sacré se manifeste à travers le grand nombre de mosquées et de zaouïas que compte la ville. Salé est aussi le berceau de l’importance confrérie de la Chadilia qui a ses adeptes à travers tout le Royaume. C’est là en effet que se trouve le mausolée du quotb Sidi Abdallâh Benhassoun patron de la ville de Salé vénéré par les Slaouis, où se tient chaque année le moussem des cierges à l’occasion de la fête du mouloud qui attire des milliers de pèlerins et draine d’innombrables touristes nationaux et étrangers amateurs de rêverie au pays des corsaires légendaires. Il est de coutume que la ville de Salé organise la procession de ses cierges la veille de la fête du mawlid, qui a lieu le 11 rabii de chaque année.

The city of Salé really knows how to celebrate this holiday, its lively traditions, deploying its gaiety and colors. Imbued with faith and fervor, the holy city of Salé is a city where the sacred manifests itself through the great number of mosques and zaouias [places of worship for sufi brotherhoods] found in the city. Salé is also the cradle of the important Chadilia Brotherhood whose adepts are found throughout the Kingdom. It's also where the mausoleum of Quotb Sidi Abdallah Benhassoun can be found, the city's patron saint, venerated by the Slaouis where the Moussem of Votive Candles takes place each year on the occassion of the mouloud [Celebration of the Prophet's Birth] which draws thousands of pilgrims and national and foreign tourists who enjoy the festivities in the country of the legendary corsairs. Customarily, Salé organizes the votive candle procession the day before the Mawlid holiday, which takes place on the 11th of rabii [rabi'i al-awwal, the third month of the Islamic calendar] every year.

S. Ali, an American Fulbright scholarship student in Tangier writes about her own experience of the day on Move It Or Lose It:

In honor of “Eid Al-Nabi” I spent an hour in a taxi last night trying to find a mosque open late, and even the cab-driver was astounded that we couldn’t find even a one. Since I am currently working through a complex that God is trying to keep me out of His house, this was not the best situation, especially because mosques after hours tend to be where the creepiest people hang out. Not necessarily dangerous, just decidedly creepy. Without entering any of the four mosques we stopped at, I was kissed and hugged and followed and made to recite obscure short surahs to prove that I was not just playing dress up, with my bangs escaping my hijab every chance they got. We ended up finding one light at the end of the tunnel near Mohamed Al-Khamis that was decorated with flashing red and green lights, and half of the women entering were not wearing hijab, and dressed in their fanciest Qaftans and spiky heels. I spotted several obnoxious children roaming free and sulked at their not-being-cows. I declined entry, retreating home to my non-family. This is what holidays tend to be. And anyway, I was taught that we are not supposed to party on the Prophet’s birthday.

As often occurs on important holidays, the Moroccan head of state, King Muhammed VI granted a royal pardon to 566 people, now freed from prison (including the now world-famous Fouad Mourtada).

Samir, who blogs at The View From Fez, describes how the king's presence in Fez to pray and speak at the al-Qaraouine Mosque resulted in a full stop of traffic through the city's medina.

The King was in Fez for the Prophet's Birthday (Id Al-mawlid) and the celebrations and security brought parts of the Medina to a standstill. With Mohammed VI going to the Kerouyine Mosque for evening prayers, people lined the streets as far back as Bab R'Cif. The genuine love of the people for their king was evident as crowds were gathering and the excitement building hours in advance. Trying to get from one end of the vegetable souq to the other, a stroll that usually takes about ten minutes – took almost an hour. Visitors to Morocco must have been counting themselves lucky to see the festivities and witness the streams of people, all in the best outfits, making their way into the Medina. Troops of singers in fine cream djellabas, businessmen in smart Parisian suits, soldiers and police all dressed in their finest.

He also gave details on the royal pardon:

As is usual on these occasions, some 566 people were granted royal pardon on Wednesday on the occasion of Id Al-mawlid , including the commutating of the death penalty to life imprisonment for four convicts. The King granted total pardon to four convicts, while 466 inmates had their sentenced reduced. Another 30 convicts had the remaining of their imprisonment terms annulled or reduced and 10 people had their prison terms annulled, with the maintenance of the fine.

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