There are a number of significant days to celebrate in Islam, but the days that are dedicated solely to the final prophet -- the messenger of God, Muhammad the Prophet -- is the birth week of the Prophet, which is celebrated between April 14-20.
Originally the Holy Birth week was fixed between April 20 and 26, but as these dates created controversy -- some said Holy Birth week overshadowed April 23, Turkey’s National Sovereignty and Children’s Day -- the Religious Affairs Directorate finally moved the week to April 14-20.
The Holy Birth week is celebrated only in Turkey, which introduced the celebration of the weeklong event around 20 years ago. The week of the Holy Birth is widely seen as an opportunity to better understand the Prophet Muhammad and strengthen feelings of solidarity, fraternity and unity in society around a shared love for the Prophet. Religious leaders also view this week and such holy days as an opportunity to tell people about Islam.
Every year a virtue is determined by a committee formed by the Religious Affairs Directorate as the main theme of the Holy Birth week. Last year’s theme was compassion and this year’s is brotherhood.
Faruk Beşer, a theology professor at Sakarya University, speaking with Sunday’s Zaman, explained the meaning of brotherhood and why it has such great significance this year: “Brotherhood can be maintained either by shared blood or by shared values -- more specifically, by faith. The strong bond of brotherhood between people who share the same religion is as important as the bond between brothers of the same family. The former serves familial peace, while the latter serves social peace and social unity.” Especially in such a crucial period in terms of foreign relations, Muslims -- specifically those in the conflict-stricken Arab countries and Syria -- have come to better realize and grasp the importance of fraternity and solidarity, Beşer added.
Islamic scholars, in cooperation with local religious leaders, have organized a variety of activities for Holy Birth week all over the country.
Religious Affairs Directorate High Commission member Hüseyin Kayapınar told Sunday’s Zaman that “these Holy Birth week activities and celebrations produce a spiritual atmosphere around the entire country. This particular week is a great opportunity to tell people about Islam.”
Religious Affairs Directorate President Mehmet Görmez, joining celebrations in Diyarbakır in the first week of April, said we need to understand the Prophet, to talk about him and unite around his love more than ever. “Every creation of God is a brother to His other creations. This is the exact opposite view of ‘man is a wolf to [his fellow] man.’”
Colorful celebrations across Turkey
At celebrations all over the country, which have already begun, roses as a symbol of the Prophet have been distributed, recitations from the Quran have been made. In Kırıkkale’s Yahşihan district, 67 people between the ages of 50 and 86 set a goal to learn how to read the Quran in Arabic before the Holy Birth week. In the first week of April, enjoying their achievement, these 67 Quran enthusiasts were awarded with Qurans and received certificates of appreciation from the Kırıkkale mufti, Bekir Gerek. He said: “This is proof that age does not matter when it comes to learning something new.” The festivities have already begun; last week Turkey saw a wide variety of celebrations. The Nevşehir Provincial Mufti’s Office organized a contest in which participants wrote a letter to the Prophet. The purpose was to allow people to clearly see their feelings toward the Prophet and express them. In the eastern province of Hakkari, where Turkish and Kurdish cultures mingle in harmony, the Holy Birth week was celebrated with hymns in both Turkish and Kurdish. In Ankara, a choir of 35 students, all from different countries, sang hymns about fraternity. In Antalya six whirling dervishes, aged 11 to 14, performed the sema. In Kocaeli a sema included 22 female dervishes and 23 reed flute and percussion instrument performers. Residents in Yozgat came together in the city’s large squares to recite the Quran for seven days.