The term Mawlid is part of the daily vocabulary of the Muslim population in the Balkans. It is a term that is of great importance meaning due to the fact that it symbolizes the identity of a people who are followers of Islam.
In the dictionaries Mawlid is defined as follows:
- 1. The Dictionary of Foreign Words, by Mikel Ndreca: mevlyd - Ar. Mawlid, Turk. Mevlit - birthday of Muhammad. Religious meaning: 1. religious feast of Muslims on the anniversary of the birth of Muhammad; 2. History of the birth of Muhammad, which combined with legends and which is written in verse, is read in mosques.
- 2. The Dictionary of Oriental Words within Albanian Language, by Tahir N. Dizdari: mevlyd-i, elsewhere mevlid, in Shkodra distorted as nevlyt: birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The rhymed history of the birth and demise of Rasul, which is read in mosques and households on 12 Rabbiul-Awal and during the following days until the end of the month, as well as at other commemorative events.
In addition to the above-mentioned meanings, there are also some others that still exist, like Laylatu'l Mawlid and Mawlidu'n-Nabi. It is very interesting that many Muslims in these parts name their children Mawlid.
Mawlid poems in Albanian have been written by Ali Hafiz Gjoku Ulqinaku, Hafiz Ali Korça, Hafiz Ibrahim Dalliu, H. Zemblaku, Sheyh Ahmed Shkodra, A. ef. Gjakova, Suleyman ef. Elbasani, Hasan Zuko Kamberi etc.
However, the most common Mawlid poem used in Albania is the one written by Suleyman Çelebi, which not only has a rich Ottoman vocabulary, but is read in both Turkish and Albanian.
Mawlid was and still is widely celebrated in Bosnia and Herzegovina and there are many mawlids written in the Bosnian language, for example, the one by Salih ef. Gashevich, Reshad Kadich (whom I personally knew), Hafiz Seyid Zenunovich, Safvet Beg Bashagich etc.
The celebration of mawlid is usually organized in mosques or private homes, with a large gathering of believers; parts of it are read by famous hafiz of the Qur'an in their beautiful voices. It is traditional that there be a talk about the birth and importance of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and sherbet and Turkish delight or other sweets are served, as well as gülap, with a sweet fragrance.
In these countries from the beginning of the 19th century until the emergence of Communism, the mawlid celebrations were held in mosques and performed by the students at the local madrasas; the mawlid was considered to be a holiday for these religious schools. On this occasion cities and towns were decorated and mosques were illuminated; this was the situation in almost all the cities of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo and Sandzak.
With the coming of the Communist regimes this picture changed. Albania suffered the most, since religion was officially banned, and all religious rituals and celebrations were forbidden, even in private homes. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sandzak, Macedonia and Kosovo there was also stagnation in this direction and the celebration of mawlid in mosques moved to private homes. Nevertheless, the tradition of celebrating the mawlid continued until the present time and has now resumed its earlier importance. It must be said that the mawlid in Bosnia and Herzegovina are the most impressive celebrations.
Finally, it should be noted that in addition to being read at the celebration of Prophet Muhammad birthday, the mawlid is also read at other family festivals as well as during the commemoration of recent deaths.
Dr. Ismail Bardhi is the Dean and Professor at the School of Islamic Sciences in Skopje, Macedonia. He received his diploma at the School of the Islamic Sciences in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and completed his doctorate at the University of Ankara, Turkey. He is the author of several publications in his native Albanian language. He has been a leading participant in the dialogue between major churches and religious communities in the Republic of Macedonia.