The Mawlid celebrations in Africa are quite different from those celebrated in the Middle East or Asia. Even the name of the celebrations differs according to the country or region of the continent. For instance, in Sudan the Mawlid celebrations are called Havliye, in Mali it is Donba (as "The Big Day"), in Nigeria it is Gani-gani-rite de passages, in Togo fête des couteaux. (1) In many African countries, the Mawlid is celebrated enthusiastically, with many newspapers and journals publishing special editions for this day. The origin of Mawlid celebrations in Africa dates back to the period of the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs. (2) Even more interestingly, African Muslims have always combined their own customs, rituals and traditions with religious celebrations, resulting in a very colorful and enriched celebration of Islamic culture.
In Senegal, for instance, the Mawlid celebrations are one of the most important opportunities for coming together in the capital Dakar, or in Tivavuan or Kaolack. In Kaolack, the Mawlid celebrations became popular under the Sheikh of Ticaniyya, Ibrahima Niass. On this important day many visitors come to the city from other regions of West Africa. (3)
Mali is another country where Mawlid celebrations are held. On this blessed day, Muslims gather in mosques in order to hold congregational prayers and sing hymns. In Timbuktu, a historical city in Mali, Muslims fast on the eve of Mawlid and read religious texts. In Djenne, a historical Mali city, and in many other cities, artisans, farmers, workers and merchants recite poems in praise of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). (4)
In the region that lies between Niger and Benue in Nigeria, the Mawlid celebrations continue for seven days. While the day is declared to be holiday, competitions of Quran recitation are organized in the schools, Islamic texts are translated into the local languages and sketches reenacting some parts of the Prophet's life and important events in Islamic history are preformed. In North Africa, it is an important tradition for everybody to participate in reading the Quran and Mawlid texts together as a chorus. (5)
In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Muslims, who make up around 40% of the estimated population of 80 million, the Mawlid is celebrated in a fabulous manner. The Ethiopian Muslims prepare for the celebration of Mawlid days before. On the Mawlid, after praying and listening to the imam, Ethiopian Muslims sacrifice animals and distribute a part of the meat to the poor. They then observe this day with their Christian neighbors. Many Muslims invite their Christian neighbors to their homes where they eat Ethiopian traditional food. Gifts are presented on the day. Colorful processions are held and there is dancing, singing, and great feasts. (6)
Kenya, in particular Lamu Island, is one of the most important regions of Africa to host a grand Mawlid celebration. Since 1990, the National Museums of Kenya have been sponsoring the gala in Lamu and swimming competitions, dhow races, henna competitions, tug-of war competitions, and donkey races are organized for the Mawlid celebrations.
1. Ahmet KAVAS, "Afrika'da Mevlid Uygulamalari", Diyanet Ilmi Dergi, Peygamberimiz Hz. Muhammed Ozel Sayisi, p. 559.
2. "Ibid., p. 560.
3. Ibid., p. 564.
4. "Ibid., p. 570.
5. Ibid., p. 571.