World Bulletin / News Desk
Sudanese Muslims begin celebrating the birthday of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, nearly two weeks before the actual date of the Al-Mawlid al-Nabawi (Prophet's birthday).
Festivities traditionally begin on the first day of Rabie al-Awal, the third month of the Islamic lunar calendar, and culminate on the 12th day of the month – the date of the Prophet's birthday, which this year falls on Monday.
During this period, Sudanese Muslims flock to richly-decorated public squares in which special areas are designated for each Sufi order to celebrate the occasion in its own unique way.
"During the twelve days of celebrations, we, like other Sufi orders, organize Halqat Ziker [collective supplication sessions] and Madeeh [praise of the Prophet]," Jaafar Farah, spokesman for the Al-Sammaniya al-Garibiya Sufi order, told Anadolu Agency.
"We offer a series of lectures on the Prophet's life, delivered by leading Muslim scholars, to highlight Prophet Muhammad's spiritual and ethical teachings," he added.
Farah said his order's program also included collective Quran recitations and prayers, along with a number of other spiritual activities.
"We also have a medical clinic that provides free health services for visitors during the celebrations," he noted.
Sufis see the annual Mawlid celebration as a show of love for the Prophet and a sign of gratitude to God for his gift to Muslims in particular and human beings in general.
"If people around the world celebrate their nations' independence day, shouldn't Muslims have the right to celebrate and show their joy on this great day when the Prophet was born?" Farah asked.
For the first time, a special tent has been allocated by the Omdurman municipality for the Sudanese Women's Union.
"In the past, we used to only watch without really participating," event organizer Intisar Ali told AA. "This time, however, women will participate by having their own activities, including Madeeh and religious lectures."
The Salafist Ansar al-Sunna group, by contrast, believes that celebration of the Prophet's birthday is Bidaa ("reprehensible innovation"), which Prophet Muhammad himself never did in his lifetime and never commanded Muslims to do.
"Celebrating the Mawild is Bidaa; it has no basis in Islam," senior group leader Abdullah al-Faki told AA.
Sudanese authorities have allocated a special area nearby in which Salafists might express their point of view.
"We were located here, in the Omdurman locality premises, by the authorities," said al-Faki, standing only a few meters from a packed public square.
Salafists used a loud sound-system to make their voices heard, drawing the attention of passersby.
"They first tried to stop us from coming, but we proved that we have the right to express our viewpoint and deliver the Prophet's message," said al-Faki.
The authorities first allocated a special area for the Salafists last year in hopes of preventing a repeat of 2012 clashes sparked by disputes between Sufis and Salafists over the legitimacy of the annual celebration.
"Our approach isn't confrontational; it's based on dialogue," insisted al-Faki. "We don't bear any hostility toward anyone."
Farah, for his part, stressed that Sufis did not harbor any animosity toward Salafists or any other groups.
"Sufism is characterized by tolerance, which makes everyone live in peace," he said. "Sufism creates a cohesive fabric for the community."
Away from the religious dispute, hundreds of ordinary Muslims – who adhere to neither camp – descended on Omdurman's Al-Khalifa Square on Monday to celebrate the Prophet's birthday.
Many watched the Madeeh with their children and bought Mawlid sweets made especially for the occasion.
Khalid Omar, who considers himself a "moderate" Muslim, said he was largely indifferent to the Sufi-Salafist quarrel.
"I come here every year to celebrate the Mawlid," Omar told AA. "It's not a big deal for me to look for religious references in the celebration."
The occasion also represents a big day for local confectioners.
"Mawlid celebrations are a major season, just like the two main Muslim religious festivals," Mohamed al-Khidir, owner of a sweets shop in the square, told AA.
"We have our own factory for sweets," al-Khidir noted. "We start preparing for the celebrations three months before the Mawlid."
"But we aren't only here to sell goods," he added, "we're also here to celebrate."Last Mod: 13 Ocak 2014, 16:53