Malaysian Sunni Muslims in a Mawlid procession in capital Putrajaya, 2013.
Also called Eid al-Mawlid an-Nabawī (المولد النبوي), Havliye, Donba, Gani[1]
Observed by Adherents of mainstream Sunni Islam, Shia Islam and various other Islamic denominations except a few such as Wahhabism/Salafism etc.
Type Islamic, cultural
Significance Traditional commemoration of the birth of Muhammad
Observances fasting, public processions, religious singing, family and other social gatherings, decoration of streets and homes
Date 12th day of Rabi' al-awwal (Sunni Islam), 17th day of Rabi' al-awwal (Shia Islam)
2016 date sunset, 11 December – nightfall, 12 December (Sunnis)
sunset, 16 December – nightfall, 17 December (Shias)
Frequency Annual
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Mawlid (Arabic: مَولِد النَّبِي mawlidu n-nabiyyi, "Birth of the Prophet", sometimes simply called in colloquial Arabic مولد mawlid, mevlid, mevlit, mulud among other vernacular pronunciations; sometimes ميلاد mīlād) is the observance of the birthday of the Islamic prophet Muhammad which is celebrated often on the 12th day of Rabi' al-awwal, the third month in the Islamic calendar.[2] The 12th Day of Rabi' al-awwall is the most popular date from a list of many dates that are reported as the birth date.

The origin of Mawlid observance reportedly dates back to the period of the early four Rashidun Caliphs of Islam.[1][3] The Ottomans declared it an official holiday in 1588.[4] The term Mawlid is also used in some parts of the world, such as Egypt, as a generic term for the birthday celebrations of other historical religious figures such as Sufi saints.[5]

Most denominations of Islam approve of the commemoration of Muhammad's birthday;[6][7] however, some denominations including Wahhabism/Salafism, Deobandism and the Ahmadiyya (Qadiyani) disapprove its commemoration, considering it an unnecessary religious innovation (bid'ah or bidat).[8] Mawlid is recognized as a national holiday in most of the Muslim-majority countries of the world except Saudi Arabia and Qatar which are officially Wahhabi/Salafi.[9][10][11]

Etymology and alternative names

Mawlid an-Nabawi celebrations in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Mawlid is derived from the Arabic root word (Arabic: ولد), meaning to give birth, bear a child, descendant.[12] In contemporary usage, Mawlid refers to the observance of the birthday of Muhammad.[2]

Along with being referred to as the celebration of the birth of Muhammad, the term Mawlid also refers to the 'text especially composed for and recited at Muhammad's nativity celebration' or "a text recited or sung on that day".[13] Other terms used for this event include:


The date of Muhammad's birth is a matter of contention since the exact date is unknown and is not definitively recorded in the Islamic traditions.[14][15][16][17] The issue of the correct date of the Mawlid is recorded by Ibn Khallikan as constituting the first proven disagreement concerning the celebration.[18] Among the most recognisable dates, Sunni Muslims believe the date to have been on the twelfth of Rabi' al-awwal, whereas Shi'a Muslims believe the date to have been on the seventeenth.


Mawlid an-Nabi procession at Boulac Avenue in 1904 at Cairo, Egypt.
The Garebeg festival celebrating Mawlid in Yogyakarta, Java Island, Indonesia.

In early days of Islam, observation of Muhammad's birth as a holy day was usually arranged privately and later there was an increased number of visitors to the Mawlid house that was open for the whole day specifically for this celebration.[19] This celebration was introduced into the city Sabta by Abu 'l'Abbas al-Azafi as a way of strengthening the Muslim community and to counteract Christian festivals.[20]

The early celebrations, included elements of Sufic influence, with animal sacrifices and torchlight processions along with public sermons and a feast.[6][21] The celebrations occurred during the day, in contrast to modern day observances, with the ruler playing a key role in the ceremonies.[22] Emphasis was given to the Ahl al-Bayt with presentation of sermons and recitations of the Qur'an.

According to the hypothesis of Nico Kaptein of Leiden University, the Mawlid was initiated by the Fatimids,[23] with Marion Holmes Katz adding "The idea that the celebration of the mawlid originated with the Fatimid dynasty has today been almost universally accepted among both religious polemicists and secular scholars."[24] This Shia origin is frequently noted by those Sunnis who oppose Mawlid.[25] Among Sunnis, the Mawlid celebration emerged in the 12th century,[26] and the first detailed description of a Sunni Mawlid celebration was of one sponsored by emir Gökböri.[27]


A banner with Maulid greetings in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Mawlid an-Nabawi celebrations in Dehli, India.

Among Muslim scholars, the legality of Mawlid "has been the subject of intense debate" and has been described as "perhaps one of the most polemical discussions in Islamic law".[17] Traditionally, most Sunni and nearly all of the Shia scholars have approved of the celebration of Mawlid,[6][7][28][29][30] while Wahhabi and Ahmadiyya[31] scholars oppose the celebration.[32]

Examples of historic Sunni scholars who permitted the Mawlid include the Shafi'i scholar Al-Suyuti (d 911 A.H.) who stated that:

My answer is that the legal status of the observance of the Mawlid-as long as it just consists of a meeting together by the people, a recitation of apposite parts of the Qur'an, the recounting of transmitted accounts of the beginning of (the biography of) the Prophet-may God bless him and grant him peace-and the wonders that took place during his birth, all of which is then followed by a banquet that is served to them and from which they eat-is a good innovation (bid'a hasana), for which one is rewarded because of the esteem shown for the position of the Prophet-may God bless him and grant him peace-that is implicit in it, and because of the expression of joy and happiness on his-may God bless him and grant him peace-noble birth.[33]

The Shafi'i scholar Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (d 852 A.H.) too approved of the Mawlid[34] and states that:

As for what is performed on the day of the Mawlid, one should limit oneself to what expresses thanks to God, such as the things that have already been mentioned: [Qur'anic] recitation, serving food, alms-giving, and recitation of praise [poems] about the Prophet-may God bless him and grant him peace-and asceticism which motivate people to perform good deeds and act in view of the next world.[35]

The Damascene Shafi'i scholar Abu Shama (d 665 A.H.) (who was a teacher of Imam al-Nawawi (d 676 A.H.)) also supports the celebration of the Mawlid[36][37] as does the Maliki scholar Ibn al-Hajj (d 737 A.H.) who spoke positively of the observance of the Mawlid in his book al-Madhkal.[38] Likewise, the Shafi'i Egyptian scholar Ibn Hajar al-Haytami (d. 974 A.H.) was an avid supporter of the Mawlid and wrote a text in praise of it.[39] This was supported and commented on by the Egyptian scholar and former head of Al-Azhar University Ibrahim al-Bajuri[39] and by the Hanafi Syrian Mufti Ibn Abidin.[40] Another Hanafi Mufti Ali al-Qari (d. 1014 A.H.) too supported the celebration of the Mawlid and wrote a text on the subject[41] as did the Moroccan Maliki scholar Muḥammad ibn Jaʿfar al-Kattānī (d. 1345 A.H.).[42] Ibn al-Jazari (d. 833 A.H.), a Syrian Shafi'i scholar considers the celebration of the Mawlid to be a means of gaining Paradise.[43]

In the Muslim world, the majority of Sunni Islamic scholars are in favor of the Mawlid.[44] Examples include the former Grand Mufi of Al-Azhar University Ali Gomaa,[45] Muhammad Alawi al-Maliki[46][47] of Saudi Arabia, Yusuf al-Qaradawi,[48][49] the primary scholar of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, Habib Ali al-Jifri,[50] Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri,[51][52]Muhammad bin Yahya al-Ninowy[52][53] of Syria, Muhammad Ibn Ahmad al-Khazraji, president of the Heritage and History Committee of the United Arab Emirates[54] and Zaid Shakir, all of whom subscribe to Sunni Islam, have given their approval for the observance of Mawlid.

The Mawlid was not accepted by all scholars.[55] Taj al-Din al-Fakihani (d. 1331), an Egyptian Maliki, considered Mawlid to be a blameworthy innovation that was either makruh or haram.[56] This view was shared by fellow Egyptian Maliki Ibn al-Haj al-Abdari, who added that the celebration was never practiced by the Salaf.[57] However Ibn al-Haj affirms the auspicious qualities of the month of the Mawlid in the most effusive terms[58] and considers Muhammad's date of birth as a particularly blessed time of the year.[59] The Maliki scholar Al-Shatibi considered Mawlid an illegitimate innovation.[60] The Andalusian jurist Abu 'Abd Allah al-Haffar (d. 1408) opposed Mawlid, noting that had the Sahaba celebrated it then its exact date would not be a matter of uncertainty.[61]

Ibn Taymiyya's position on the Mawlid has been described as "paradoxical" and "complex" by some academics. He ruled that it was a reprehensible (makrūh) devotional innovation and criticised those who celebrated the Mawlid out of a desire to imitate the Christian celebration of Jesus' birthday.[62][63] At the same time, he recognised that some observe the Prophet's birthday out of a desire to show their love and reverence of the Prophet and thus deserve a great reward for their good intentions.[62][64][65][66]

The Salafi writer Hamid al-Fiqi (d. 1959) criticised Ibn Taymiyya for holding this view and stating that "How can they receive a reward for this when they are opposing the guidance of God's Messenger (pbuh)?".[47]

The Ahmadiyya fall into the group who oppose Mawlid; however, they hold gatherings called jalsa seerat-un-Nabi commemorating the life and legacy of Muhammad oriented towards both Muslim and non-Muslim audiences. These gatherings are not held on any specific date, rather they may be held throughout the year.[67]


Sekaten fair in Indonesia, a week-long celebration of Mawlid.
International Mawlid Conference, Minar-e-Pakistan, Lahore, Pakistan.

Mawlid is celebrated in almost all Islamic countries, and in other countries that have a significant Muslim population, such as India, the United Kingdom, Nepal, Sri Lanka, France, Germany, Italy, Russia[68] and Canada.[69][70][71][72][73][74][75][76][77] The only exceptions are Qatar and Saudi Arabia where it is not an official public holiday and is forbidden.[78][79][80] However, as a result of Wahhabi and other strict traditionalist Muslim influence, since the last decades of the late 20th century there has been a trend to "forbid or discredit" Mawlid (along with similar festivals) in the Sunni Muslim world.[81][82]

Often organized in some countries by the Sufi orders,[13] Mawlid is celebrated in a carnival manner, large street processions are held and homes or mosques are decorated. Charity and food is distributed, and stories about the life of Muhammad are narrated with recitation of poetry by children.[83][84] Scholars and poets celebrate by reciting Qaṣīda al-Burda Sharif, the famous poem by 13th-century Arabic Sufi Busiri. A general Mawlid appears as "a chaotic, incoherent spectacle, where numerous events happen simultaneously,all held together only by the common festive time and space".[85] These celebrations are often considered an expression of the Sufi concept of the pre-existence of Muhammad .[86] However,the main significance of these festivities is expression of love for Muhammad.[85]

During Pakistan's Mawlid the day starts with a 31-gun salute in federal capital and a 21-gun salute at the provincial capitals and religious hymns are sung during the day.[87]

In many parts of Indonesia, the celebration of the Mawlid al-nabi "seems to surpass in importance, liveliness, and splendour" the two official Islamic holidays of Eid ul-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.[88]

In Qayrawan, Tunisia, Muslims sing and chant hymns of praise to Muhammad, welcoming him in honor of his birth.[89] Also, generally in Tunisia, people usually prepare Assidat Zgougou to celebrate the Mawlid.[90]

Among non-Muslim countries, India is noted for its Mawlid festivities.[91] The relics of Muhammad are displayed after the morning prayers in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir at the Hazratbal Shrine, where night-long prayers are also held.[92]

Most Shia scholars believe the 17th day of Rabi' al-awwal is the birthday of the Muhammad, and most Sunni scholars believe that is the 12th day of Rabi' al-awwal. This issue led to assigning these days (12-17 Rabi' al-awwal) as Unity Week by Islamic Republic of Iran to respect both viewpoints. So scholars and followers of these two sects emphasize on common ground against the common enemies, and an International Islamic Unity Conference is hosted each year.[93][94][95][96]

Mawlid texts

Along with being referred to as the celebration of the birth of Muhammad, the term Mawlid also refers to the 'text especially composed for and recited at Muhammad's nativity celebration' or "a text recited or sung on that day".[13] These texts contain stories of the life of Muhammad, or at least some of the following chapters from his life, briefly summarized below:[13]

  1. The Ancestors of Muhammad
  2. The Conception of Muhammad
  3. The Birth of Muhammad
  4. Introduction of Halima
  5. Life of Young Muhammad in Bedouins
  6. Muhammad's orphanhood
  7. Abu Talib's nephew's first caravan trip
  8. Arrangement of Marriage between Muhammad and Khadija
  9. Al-Isra'
  10. Al-Mi'radj, or the Ascension to heaven
  11. Al-Hira, first revelation
  12. The first converts to Islam
  13. The Hijra
  14. Muhammad's death

These text are only part of the ceremonies. There are many different ways that people celebrate Mawlid, depending on where they are from. There appears to be a cultural influence upon what kind of festivities are a part of the Mawlid celebration. In Indonesia, it is common the congregation recite Simthud Durar, especially among Arab Indonesians.

Other uses

Main article: Urs

In some countries, such as Egypt and Sudan, Mawlid is used as a generic term for the celebration of birthdays of local Sufi saints and not only restricted to the observance of the birth of Muhammad.[97] Around 3,000 Mawlid celebrations are held each year. These festivals attract an international audience, with the largest one in Egypt attracting up to three million people honouring Ahmad al-Badawi, a local 13th-century Sufi saint.[5]


See also

Further reading


  1. 1 2 "Mawlid in Africa". Muhammad (pbuh) - Prophet of Islam. Retrieved 2016-02-28.
  2. 1 2 Mawlid.
  3. Ahmet KAVAS, "Afrika'da Mevlid Uygulamalari", Diyanet Ilmi Dergi, Peygamberimiz Hz. Muhammed Ozel Sayisi, p. 560: "The origin of Mawlid celebrations in Africa dates back to the period of the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs"
  4. Shoup, John A. (2007-01-01). Culture and Customs of Jordan. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 35. ISBN 9780313336713.
  5. 1 2 "In pictures: Egypt's biggest moulid". BBC News. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  6. 1 2 3 Schussman, Aviva (1998). "The Legitimacy and Nature of Mawid al-Nabī: (analysis of a Fatwā)". Islamic Law and Society. 5 (2): 214–234. doi:10.1163/1568519982599535.
  7. 1 2 McDowell, Michael; Brown, Nathan Robert (2009-03-03). World Religions At Your Fingertips. Penguin. p. 106. ISBN 9781101014691.
  8. Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid.
  9. March, Luke (24 June 2010). Russia and Islam. Routledge. p. 147. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  10. Merkel, Udo (2015-02-11). Identity Discourses and Communities in International Events, Festivals and Spectacles. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 203. ISBN 9781137394934.
  11. Woodward, Mark (2010-10-28). Java, Indonesia and Islam. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 169. ISBN 9789400700567.
  12. Arabic: قاموس المنجد – Moungued Dictionary (paper), or online: Webster's Arabic English Dictionary Archived 12 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  13. 1 2 3 4 Knappert, J. "The Mawlid". S.O.A.S.
  14. Sanjuán, Alejandro García, ed. (2007). Till God Inherits the Earth: Islamic Pious Endowments in Al-Andalus (9-15th Centuries) (illustrated ed.). BRILL. p. 235. ISBN 9789004153585.
  15. Annemarie Schimmel (1994). Deciphering the signs of God: a phenomenological approach to Islam (illustrated ed.). Edinburgh University Press. p. 69.
  16. Eliade, Mircea, ed. (1987). The Encyclopedia of religion, Volume 9 (illustrated ed.). Macmillan. p. 292. ISBN 9780029098004.
  17. 1 2 Fitzpatrick, Coeli; Walker, Adam Hani, eds. (2014). Muhammad in History, Thought, and Culture: An Encyclopedia of the Prophet of God [2 volumes] (illustrated ed.). ABC-CLIO. p. 368. ISBN 9781610691789.
  18. N. J. G. Kaptein (1993). Muḥammad's Birthday Festival: Early History in the Central Muslim Lands and Development in the Muslim West Until the 10th/16th Century. BRILL. p. 74. ISBN 9789004094529.
  19. Fuchs, H.; Knappert J. (2007). "Mawlid (a.), or Mawlud". In P. Bearman; T. Bianquis; C. E. Bosworth. Encyclopedia of Islam. Brill. ISSN 1573-3912.
  20. "Mawlid". Encyclopedia of Islam, Second Edition. BrillOnline Reference Works.
  21. "Mawlid". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 2007.
  22. Kaptein (1993), p. 30
  23. Katz (2007), p. 2
  24. Katz (2007), p. 3
  25. Katz (2007), p. 113
  26. Katz (2007), p. 50
  27. Katz (2007), p. 67
  28. Katz (2007), p. 169
  30. "Mawlid al-Nabi: Celebrations across the Middle East". Middle East Eye. Retrieved 2016-02-28.
  31. True Commemoration of the blessed life of the Holy Prophet (pbuh)
  32. Kaptein (1993), p. 49
  33. Katz (2007), p. 108
  34. Katz (2007), p. 64
  35. Katz (2007), p. 63
  36. Rapoport, Yosef (2010). Ibn Taymiyya and His Times. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 328. ISBN 9780199402069.
  37. Kaptein (1993), p. 58
  38. 1 2 Spevack, Aaron (2014-09-09). The Archetypal Sunni Scholar: Law, Theology, and Mysticism in the Synthesis of al-Bajuri. SUNY Press. p. 77. ISBN 9781438453729.
  39. Katz (2007), p. 170
  40. Katz (2007), p. 112
  41. Katz, Marion Holmes (2007-05-07). The Birth of The Prophet Muhammad: Devotional Piety in Sunni Islam. Routledge. p. 102. ISBN 9781135983949. there is no doubt that the Prophet's (s) recompense to someone who does something for him will be better, more momentous, more copious, greater and more abundant than [that person's] action, because gifts correspond to the rank of those who give them and presents vary according to their bestowers; it is the custom of kings and dignitaries to recompense small things with the greatest of boons and the most splendid treasures, so what of the master of the kings of this world and the next?
  42. Katz, Marion Holmes (2007-05-07). The Birth of The Prophet Muhammad: Devotional Piety in Sunni Islam. Routledge. p. 109. ISBN 9781135983949. If Abu Lahab, the unbeliever whose condemnation was revealed in the Qur'an, was rewarded (juziya) in hell for his joy on the night of the Prophet's birth, what is the case of a Muslim monotheist of the community of Muhammad the Prophet who delights in his birth and spends all that he can afford for love of him? By my life, his reward (jaza ') from the Beneficent God can only be that He graciously causes him to enter the gardens of bliss!
  43. Katz (2007), p. 169: "In the eighteenth and nineteenth century, the celebration of the Prophet's (s) birthday and the recitation of mawlid texts were ubiquitous practices endorsed by the majority of mainstream Sunni scholars... by the modern period the celebration of the Mawlid was overwhelmingly accepted and practiced at all levels of religious education and authority. Prominent elite scholars continued to contribute to the development of the tradition."
  44. Gomaa, Sheikh Ali (2011-01-01). Responding from the Tradition: One Hundred Contemporary Fatwas by the Grand Mufti of Egypt. Fons Vitae. ISBN 9781891785443.
  45. Katz (2007), p. 253
  46. 1 2 Rapoport, Yosef (2010). Ibn Taymiyya and His Times. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 322. ISBN 9780199402069.
  47. Shaykh Qardawi Approves of Celebrating Mawlid. Yusuf Al-Qardawi.
  48. "Shaykh Qardawi Approves of Celebrating Mawlid". Retrieved 2016-03-26.
  50. Tahir-ul-Qadri, Dr Muhammad (2014-05-01). Mawlid Al-nabi: Celebration and Permissibility. Minhaj-UL-Quran Publications. ISBN 9781908229144.
  51. 1 2 "Milad-un-Nabi gets colourful, elaborate - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2016-03-26.
  52. "Mass Moulood celebrated in Green Point | IOL". IOL. Retrieved 2016-06-03.
  53. Katz (2007), p. 203
  54. Bowering, Gerhard; Crone, Patricia; Kadi, Wadad; Stewart, Devin J.; Zaman, Muhammad Qasim; Mirza, Mahan (2012-11-28). The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought. Princeton University Press. p. 335. ISBN 140083855X.
  55. Katz (2007), p. 70
  56. Katz (2007), p. 71
  57. Katz (2007), p. 201
  58. Katz (2007), p. 65
  59. Katz (2007), p. 73
  60. Marion Holmes Katz (2007). The Birth of The Prophet Muhammad: Devotional Piety in Sunni Islam. Routledge. pp. 159–60. ISBN 9781135983949.
  61. 1 2 Marion Holmes Katz (2007). The Birth of The Prophet Muhammad: Devotional Piety in Sunni Islam. Routledge. p. 117. ISBN 9781135983949. The rationale of expressing love for the Prophet was so compelling that it occasionally forced even opponents of the mawlid celebration to qualify their disapproval. Ibn Taymiya remarks that people may celebrate the mawlid either in order to emulate the Christians' celebration of Jesus's birthday, or "out of love (mahabba) and reverence (ta'zim) for the Prophet." Although the first motive is manifestly invalid, Ibn Taymiya acknowledges the latter intention as legitimate; one who acts on this motivation may be rewarded for his love and his effort, although not for the sinful religious innovation in itself.
  62. Rapoport, Yosef (2010). Ibn Taymiyya and His Times. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 324–325. ISBN 9780199402069. At the same time, Ibn Taymiyya recognizes that people observe the mawlid for different reasons and should be recompessed according to their intentions. Some, for example, observe the mawlid out of a desire to imitate the Christian celebration of Jesus's birthday on Christmas. This intention is reprehensible
  63. Islamic Law in Theory: Studies on Jurisprudence in Honor of Bernard Weiss. BRILL. 2014-05-09. ISBN 9789004265196. Not only does Ibn Taymiyyah recognize the pious elements within devotional innovations, but he asserts that sincere practitioners of these innovations merit a reward. As I argue elsewhere, Ibn Taymiyyah's paradoxical position stems from a practical awareness of the way that Muslims of his day engaged in devotional practices. Ibn Taymiyya states that: "There is no doubt that the one who performs these [innovated festivals], either because of his own interpretation and independent reasoning or his being a blind imitator (muqallid) of another, receives a reward for his good purpose and for the aspects of his acts that confirm with the lawful and he is forgiven for those aspects that fall under the scope of the innovated if his independent reasoning or blind obedience is pardonable."
  64. Ahmed, editors, Yossef Rapoport, Shahab (2010). Ibn Taymiyya and his times. Karachi: Oxford University Press. p. 320. ISBN 9780195478341. At the same time he recognized that some observe the Prophet's (s) birthday out of a desire to show their love of the Prophet and thus deserve a great reward for their good intentions.
  65. Woodward, Mark (2010-10-28). Java, Indonesia and Islam. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 170. ISBN 9789400700567. The Mawlid is among the most commonly mentioned examples of praiseworthy innovation. This view is shared even by some of the most strident opponents of most other modalities of popular Islam. Ibn Taymiyyah, the Kurdish reformer who most Indonesian and other Islamists take as their spiritual ancestor and mentor, was subdued in his critique of the Mawlid. His position was that those who performed it with pious intent and out of love for the Prophet Muhammad (s) would be rewarded for their actions, and forgiven any sin from bid'ah that they might incur.
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  • Kaptein, N. J. G. (1993). Muhammad's Birthday Festival: Early History in the Central Muslim Lands and Development in the Muslim West Until the 10th/16th Century. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-09452-9. 
  • Kaptein, N. J. G. (2007). "Mawlid". In P. Bearman; T. Bianquis; C. E. Bosworth; E. van Donzel; W. P. Heinrichs. Encyclopedia of Islam. Brill. 
  • Katz, Marion Holmes (2007). The Birth of The Prophet Muhammad: Devotional Piety in Sunni Islam. Routledge. ISBN 9781135983949. 

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