Secondary: Festivals of World Religions
Maulid al-Nabi: the Prophet Muhammad's birthday
By Caroline Donne
Date varies from year to year - please check the
REonline Festivals Calendar.
The life of the Prophet Muhammad
This is a festival that was introduced during the tenth century CE. It is not universally celebrated by Muslims.
- A map of the world.
- An OHP/whiteboard on which to write the key words, like prophet, Qur’an, the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.).
- A picture of a Middle Eastern desert
- Ask the students what they know about prophets and elicit the idea that, in religious terms, prophets are messengers and that many believe that they bring important messages from God about how people should live their lives or about significant things that are going to happen.
Go on to explain that the life of a very important prophet is celebrated at this time by Muslims, who live all around the world. The prophet’s name is Muhammad, and because Muslims think of him with great respect and love they always say the words ‘peace be upon him’, whenever they mention his name. They include the initials ‘p.b.u.h.’, whenever they write the Prophet’s name.
- Go on to tell the story.
The Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) was born over 1,400 years ago in a place we now call Saudi Arabia (point to it on the map), in the city of Makkah. He was given the name Muhammad (p.b.u.h.), which means ‘praised’. In many ways he had a sad childhood because his father died before he was born and his mother died when he was six years old. He went to live with his grandfather, who loved and cared for him, but his grandfather died too. Then Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) went to live with his uncle in a large family, and he was loved and cared for there too. As he grew up he worked as a merchant and a trader, travelling across the huge deserts on camels to buy silks and spices in the East and then bringing them back to sell. People trusted him and knew that he was honest.
But as time went on he began to be troubled. He looked at the way people treated one another. He saw arguments and fighting, even murder. The people worshipped all sorts of idols and gods, but this did not make their lives any better or make them kinder to one another. What was the point of life when there was so much suffering and unkindness?
When he was an adult, Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) had a favourite place that he would visit when he was upset by the things around him. It was a quiet place where he could get away and think about things. He could pray to God there. The Prophet’s special place was a cave in a hill called Mount Hira.
One day he heard a voice calling his name. He looked around, but he couldn’t see anyone. He was very frightened and ran home. A few days later he went back to the cave and the same thing happened, only this time the voice told him to ‘read’. Then he saw an angel holding out a parchment to him.
But Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) couldn’t read. He hadn’t been taught how to. He ran home again. Perhaps he was going mad. He told his wife, Kadijah, what had happened. She understood and said that, maybe because Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) was kind and good, God was trying to speak to him.
So Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) went back to the cave many times and each time the angel spoke to him. In the end Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) came to understand that God, or Allah, had chosen him to be his Prophet and was giving him messages through the angel. As Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) heard the messages he thought about them and learnt them.
Then he began to tell people what Allah had told him. He told them that Allah wanted people to give up being cruel and unfair and unkind. He told them that Allah wanted them to give up worshipping their many false idols and worship one God, Allah, instead. Many people believed that Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) was the messenger of Allah and they began to follow him.
Years later Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) told one of his followers about the messages given to him and these were written down. These words became known as the Qur’an, the holy book of Muslims.
There are lots of stories about the Prophet. And at this time of year many Muslims think about his life. They meet together and read from the Qur’an. They hear the stories about the life of the Prophet and they share meals together. In India, Pakistan and Bangladesh Muslims decorate their meeting places with coloured lights and flags. They give sweets to one another.
Focus on the themes
The Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) taught people to believe in one God, Allah. He taught them to be kind to one another, to treat each other as equals and help people who were poor or in need.
Think about the things that concern you when you look around the world. Maybe, like the Prophet, it’s seeing people fighting or having arguments. Maybe, it’s seeing people being unkind to one another.
Time for reflection
Invite the students to think or pray silently about the things that they might see around them that they feel worried about.
Or, think about the ways they can make a difference when they see people in school being unkind or unfair to one another.
The Prophet needed to find somewhere quiet where he could think about what was happening around him and talk to God. Do the students have a special place where they can go when they need to think about things?