Last Saturday, the 11th day of Rabie el-Awal, in the third month of the Islamic calendar of lunar year 1398, worshipers filled the Islamic Center mosque to observe Mawlid Al-Nabi, birthday of the Prophet Mohammed.
The crowd's international flavor was emphasized by cinnamon and citrus odors coming from the basement of the center, where members of the Muslim Women's Society were cooking rice and stew for are Muslim students.
Not an official religious celebration prescribed in the Koran, the prophet's birthday has evolved into a holiday celebrated most lavishly by the eastern Islamic countries. Pakistani Ambassador Sahbzada Yaqub-Khan was guest speaker. The women's corner was bright with tunics of peach and wine, favorite colors of Pakistani women.
Following the Adhan, or call to worship by the muezzin, and the maghrib (after sunset prayer) the crowd was warmed up by a 10-minute Koran recital by Fathy Mady.
Ambassador Yaqub-Khan and Anis Ahmad exhorted the crowd to adopt the virtues of the prophets, that "human man who was the best of all God's creatures."
Dr. Mohammad Rauf, imam of the Islamic Center, told of the prophet's birth: "Forget Washington and America for a moment. Go back 1,400 years to the western coast of Asia and remember the time. . . when (there were) 360 gods, false gods, idols. . . when women and children were sold in the market place as slaves."
Before Mohammed's birth, his grandfather, Abdul Mutadi, had gone on a caravan journey and had not returned, Rauf told the crowd.
Mutadi's son and daughter-in-law Amila spent weeks looking for the old man. On the journey Amila became pregnant. The family was reunited. When the child was born, his grandfather named him Mohammed, saying, "I hope this son will be praised both in Earth and in Heaven," added Rauf. Mohammed was most famous in the first two centuries of Islam (he was born about the year 570 A.D.) for establishing the concept that "there is one God and that God is Allah," a phrase that is frequently repeated in prayer.
Rauf told the crowd at the dinner following the isha (bedtime) prayer closing the service that the "lavish patterns of colorful lights" in some Middle Eastern countries at this time are so beautiful "you don't think you are on Earth."