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Although the celebration of Mawlids, whether religious or of Awliaa Alah El Salheen, is considered heresy, the Mawlids in Egypt are among the most important manifestations that reflect the traditional folk culture alongside the religious aspect of these celebrations.
Celebrating Mawlids in Egypt
Manifestations of joy and celebrations spread in the streets and neighborhoods, particularly in Egyptian villages, and the markets are filled with sweets as a manifestation of celebrating Mawlids, Mawlids are divided into “religious”, such as Mawlid al-Nabawi, the night of Isra and Mi’raj, and the 15th Night of Sha`ban according to the Hijri calendar), and into Mawlids of “Awliaa Alah El Salheen”, such as Mawlid Al-Hussein, and Mawlid Al-Sayeda Zainab, most of those who celebrate these Mawlids are Sufis.
The manifestations of the celebration of Mawlid al-Nabawi begin from the beginning of the month of Rabi’ al-Awwal until its end according to the Hijri calendar, the actual celebration for the Sunnis is on (12th of Rabi’ al-Awwal), while for the Shiites it is on (17th of Rabi’ al-Awwal). The so-called Mawlid sweets are spread in the markets, such as sweets made of sugar in the form of (a bride) or (a horse), and sesameya, fuliya, hummusya and others, which People buy for themselves or as a gift for others. Groups of people spread out, whether walking in the streets or in Gatherings of Dhikr, chanting poems praising the Prophet Muhammad, may God’s blessings and peace be upon him, and mentioning his merits or characteristics.
Mawlid Al-Hussein, may God be pleased with him, is celebrated twice every year, the first on the anniversary of his birth on (3 Sha’ban) according to the Hijri calendar, and the second on the anniversary of the arrival of his head to Cairo (the last week of the month of Rabi’ al-Thani), and most of those who celebrate the anniversary of his birth are from the Shiite sect. The grandson of the Messenger, Imam Hussein bin Ali bin Abi Talib, was martyred in the battle of Karbala, which shocked the Muslims, and it is said that his head was cut off by Shamr ibn Dhi al-Jawshan and remained in Ashkelon for about 500 years until Ibn Badr al-Din al-Jamali went and brought the head to Egypt in 548 AH. Celebrations of his birth take place in the Gamaleya area in Cairo, where the Al-Hussein Mosque is located, Sufis and the Shiite sect gather to visit his shrine inside the mosque and recite Surah Al-Fatihah, supplications and poems of praise.
Mawlid Al-Sayeda Zainab
Al-Sayeda Zainab, the daughter of Ali ibn Abi Talib, the daughter of Fatima al-Zahra, may God be pleased with her, the sister of Al-Hassan and Al-Hussein, and the granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad, may God’s blessings and peace be upon him. The Egyptians call her “the mother of the disabled” because she used to help the elderly and the needy, and she is called the “chief of the court” and “Aqeela Bani Hashim”, she came to Egypt in 61 AH after the battle of Karbala and the martyrdom of Al-Hussein bin Ali bin Abi Talib, accompanied by his son and daughters (Ali, Fatima, and Sakina). The anniversary of her birth is celebrated on the last Tuesday of the month of Rajab, according to the Hijri calender every year, in her mosque, “Al-Sayeda Zainab Mosque” which is also located in “Al-Sayeda Zainab neighborhood”. The rituals of celebration last for about a week, as people from all parts of Egypt gather to supplicate in front of her tomb, in which it is believed that she was buried, and to pray in front of this shrine, in addition to holding gatherings of Dhikr in the neighborhood.
Mawlid Al-Sayeda Nafisa
Al-Sayeda Nafisa bint Al-Hassan bin Zaid bin Al-Hassan bin Ali bin Abi Talib, during her stay in Egypt, she used to teach people, one of the stories about her, which made people bless her, that one of the women asked her to live with her, and she agreed, during her stay there, a Jewish neighbor came to them, leaving her daughter with her for some time, and this girl was disabled, while Al-Sayeda Nafisa was performing ablution to go to prayer, the girl was watching her, until the girl was able to crawl, and as soon as she began to imitate her and wash her feet, her inability was removed, which amazed everyone, it even caused many Jews to convert to Islam at the time. When Al-Sayeda Nafisa passed away, she was buried in Egypt, her husband did not agree to that, but he changed his mind after he saw the Prophet Muhammad in a dream ordering him to fulfill the Egyptians’ request and return to them their money that they had given her as a request to be buried in the land of Egypt, and indeed she was buried in the land of Egypt. Preparations are being made to celebrate her birth by setting up tents in the neighborhood for dhikr sessions, supplications, hanging decorations, the arrival of delegations of Egyptians for blessings and celebration, and distributing meat of slaughtered animal throughout the whole week to the poor and needy.