Indonesia is one of the largest nations with a majority-Muslim population in Asia. Religion is very important in Indonesia, and this can be understood from the first principle of the state: "Pancasila", which means "belief in the one and only God." Although there are many religions that are practiced in the country, Islam has the highest percentage, with 86% of the population.1 For this reason, the Indonesian government has given great importance to religious activities, with the Mawlid celebration being one of the most important events. This day is declared a public holiday throughout the country. All government offices and most shops are closed, and no newspapers are published. Among the Muslim community, there is great excitement and a huge rush to finish preparations for the celebration of the birth of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The Mawlid ceremonies in Indonesia are usually attended by thousands of people throughout Java. In recent years, the Mawlid ceremonies have been held in the Istiqlal Mosque and have been attended by the president of Indonesia. (1)
During these ceremonies Muslims come together and hold special prayers to thank Allah for sending the Prophet as His messenger. Lectures about Prophet and his life are given in the mosques and community centers. After congregational prayers, guests are offered sweets and in some places they are given perfume.
In Banda Ache, which is one of the special territories of Indonesia, the inhabitants celebrate this blessed day for a hundred days. According to historical records, this tradition dates back to the time when the Ottoman Empire had close relationships with the Sultanate of Ache. During the rule of Sultan Selim II, the sultan of Ache asks for help from the Ottoman ruler and offered to pay a yearly tax in return for protection from the Ottomans against invaders. Sultan Selim II refused this suggestion, but asked them to celebrate the birthday of Prophet Muhammad with the money they had raised for the tax. After many years, the Sultanate of Ache realized that the amount of tax they suggested was such a large amount that they could not spend it easily. Thus, Ache continued to celebrate the Mawlid for a hundred days and this tradition has remained alive in Banda Ache. During this period of a hundred days in Ache, a rich man or the people of the district meet the expenses of a meal to be prepared for the inhabitants. Everyone attends the Mawlid ceremony and greets each other either in the mosques or the houses where the meal is given and hymns are sung. After a ceremony called kenduri, which is the name for special occasions and the celebration of the birth of Prophet Muhammad, bukulah is distributed to everybody. Bukulah is a package in which boiled rice is wrapped in banana leaves. People dress in their best clothes and children receive money or gifts from their elders.
Apart from the traditional ceremonies, various activities ranging from circumcision ceremonies to running or other types of races are held in Islamic boarding schools in Indonesia. People focus on reciting poetry or singing songs about the life of Prophet Muhammad and some of the important events in the history of the prophecy are recited as poetry.
Malaysia is another large country in this the region which celebrates the Mawlid, although there is some controversy about the celebrations. Some scholars argue that the Mawlid should not be celebrated, while others suggest that celebrating the Mawlid is a positive contribution to Islamic practices.
We can clearly observe the integration of Islamic practices with the traditions and customs in China as well. Chinese Muslims celebrate the Mawlid as one of the most important Islamic festivals in the country. In other countries, Mawlid is a day when Muslims come together to celebrate the birth of Prophet Muhammad and to commemorate him by reciting the Holy Quran and narrating the story of his life. However, Chinese Muslims celebrate the birth of Prophet Muhammad on any day in March, not just on March 12. In addition to this, they also commemorate the anniversary of the death of their ancestors, reciting the Holy Quran and slaughtering sheep or cattle to provide food for a joint feast to express their condolences to one another. In fact, they celebrate this festival as the Anniversary of the Prophet's Death. Sometimes there are several thousand Chinese Muslims who come together for this Mawlid ceremony. (2)