Maulidur Rasul celebrations in Pahang and Malaysia, and in fact for Muslims all over the world, are held every 12th day of the month of Rabiul Awal of the Islamic calendar.
Maulidur Rasul ("Prophet’s birthday") refers to the birthday of Prophet Mohamed [peace be upon him ("pbuh")], the last of the prophets sent to mankind, according to the Muslim holy book of Al-Quran.
The Islamic or Muslim calendar (also called the "Hijri" calendar) is based on the lunar system of 354 days unlike the western (Gregorian) calendar which is based on the solar system of 365 days.
And so the date of the Maulidur Rasul changes every year under the Gregorian calendar.
This religious celebration in Pahang, as in the whole of Malaysia, is held on quite a big scale, considering that more than half of the Malaysian population constitutes Muslims.
By commemorating the birthday of Prophet Mohamed (pbuh), Muslims are reminded of the Prophet’s way of life and the true teachings of God (Allah) as embodied in the Al-Quran, which is for the good of the global community, for all mankind. And in this way also their love for Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) is enhanced.
The celebration will renew and strengthen the faith and kinship of the Muslims in their religion, and to foster greater friendship ("ukhwah") with everyone whether Muslims or non-Muslims.
Maulidur Rasul celebration is like the celebration by fellow Christians of Christmas, which is the birthday of Jesus Christ (pbuh). Jesus Christ (pbuh) is also one of the revered prophets of Islam.
Early in the morning, at mosques and musollahs after the compulsory dawn prayers, we will find some Muslims sitting together and reciting verses from the holy book of Al-Quran.
After that we will hear the recitations of the "tahlil" and songs of praises and goodwill, known as "salawat and salam", to Prophet Mohamed (pbuh).
After about an hour or so of the Al-Quran and religious recitations, they will all go for a good breakfast that have already been prepared at the dining table.
And after breakfast, it’s time to go to the designated place (stadium, field or town hall) in town where the official Maulidur Rasul ceremony and events will be held.
A mosque is known as "masjid" in Malay. A smaller version of the mosque, generally known as "musollah" in Arabic, and normally found further away from the mosque and at little communes, is known as "surau" in Malay.
The mosques and suraus are where the daily five-times-a-day congregational prayers of the Muslims are held. The main difference between a mosque and a surau is that the compulsory afternoon Friday congregational prayers of Muslims can only be held at the mosque.
So in Malaysia, suraus are not permitted to do the Friday afternoon congregational prayers unless they are upgraded and have received special authorization by the government authorities.
Mosques and suraus are not just places of prayer. They are also places where religious aspects of customs and traditions are carried out, such as the important akad nikah (marriage contract) ceremony for Muslim or Malay weddings.
Also, the compounds of mosques and suraus are usually places for the slaughter of cows and goats and their meat distribution, during the festival of Aidil Adha (Hajj celebrations) as well as for other Malay traditional practices, such as circumcision ceremonies for young boys.
As a place of worship which must be kept clean, no shoes or footwear are allowed inside a mosque or surau, and visitors and worshippers must be decently dressed and covered in the proper attire based on Islamic teachings.
As in all the states of Malaysia, in Pahang the celebrations at the state level are usually held at the capital, Kuantan., although sometimes it is rotated and held at other towns in the state.
Various programs and religious events are organized for the celebration.
It is normal for HRH the Sultan of Pahang, or in his absence, the Crown Prince, to officiate at the state level of the Maulidur Rasul opening ceremony. Stadium Darul Makmur, at Jalan Bukit Sekilau, is usually the focal point for the activities in Kuantan.
Similar events are also held at other districts and towns, but they are on a much smaller scale. There, the District officer, or the Member of Parliament or other dignitaries in the respective town will normally be invited to officiate the Maulidur Rasul ceremony.
Normal programs at Maulidur Rasul celebrations in Pahang and elsewhere in Malaysia, usually start with a doa (prayer) to ask for Divine guidance to ensure success of the celebrations.
Then there will be speeches by the organizers and dignitaries after which HRH the Sultan will be invited to officially open the Maulidur Rasul celebrations in Pahang.
When officially opened, the program normally starts with a reading or recitation ("tilawah") of the Al-Quran by a famed Al-Quran reader called qari (male) or qariah (female), and it sometimes include a recitation by a child qari or qariah.
This is followed by singing of religious songs (or "nasheed" in Malay) by religious groups or choir, including the rhythmic and melodious marhaban, qasidah, and berzanji. Pantomimes and pantodrama on religious events are also sometimes performed.
A short lecture ("tazkirah") or talk by a noted religious personality, is also included as part of the program, usually on a topic associated with the life and times of the Prophet Mohamed (pbuh).
The highlight of the celebrations will be the presentation of awards to selected personalities as recognition for their immense contributions to the community and society.
After the programs and events at the stadium or community hall are completed, then HRH the Sultan of Pahang, accompanied by the other state dignitaries, will lead a procession of all participants and spectators, and they will walk around town according to the designated routes.
The procession is accompanied by a "kompang" group to add music to the religious songs sung. Some placards and banners are also carried during the procession.
And during the procession, the usual praises or "salawat" to the Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) is continuously uttered by all. In the small districts and towns, the procession around town sometimes include going to each house in the vicinity to enjoin the occupants, if they are not already, to follow the procession.
The procession normally ends at the original starting point and it usually arrives back before the sun gets hot at mid-afternoon.
With the celebrations being over, before dispersing, packed food and drinks are then distributed to all participants, who will either eat their lunch there, or take the food back home.
Well, I hope this brief information on the Maulidur Rasul celebrations in Pahang will help to foster further understanding and knowledge on one of the festivals and celebrations in the state of Pahang and Malaysia.
Follow me now to other delights, cultures, adventures and pleasures you can find in delightful Pahang.
And as always...