The festivities on Rabi-ul-Awal 12 in Islamabad were bigger this year than ever before
The festivities on Rabi-ul-Awal 12 in Islamabad and its adjoining areas were unprecedented this year. Traditionally, it is a public holiday. Everyone celebrates it differently.
This year, Prime Minister Imran Khan showed special enthusiasm for the event, nudging the entire government machinery into action at a scale that had never been witnessed earlier.
The festive gatherings this year fell into two categories: traditional and government supported.
Milad gatherigs and rallies are held in Sectors G-9 and I-8 on a large scale besides smaller events across the city. Large public gatherings also emerge at the Bari Imam shrine every year without fail.
Shah Allah Ditta and Bhara Kahu too have well attended milad events on the outskirts of the city.
Despite the many events happening all over the twin cities, milad rallies in Rawalpindi remain unrivalled. These are the main attraction even for people in Islamabad. Khayaban-i-Sir Syed is the hub of festivities. The entire Raja Bazaar and Murree Road are embellished with lights and decorations.
The main procession on Tuesday were organised by the Jamaat Islamabad Trust, same as every year. This concluded the one at Milad Park.
Dr Mufti Muhammad Zafar Iqbal Jalali is the organiser of the traditional procession. He told The News on Sunday, “Rabi-ul-Awal 12 is the day when we hold celebrations to show our love for the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).”
The celebrations begin shortly after the Fajr prayers. People from different walks of life participate in the procession. Student wings of some political parties are always prominent.
Amir Baloch, one of the organisers for traditional milad activities in Islamabad, told The News on Sunday his group had set up drinks and food stalls in various sectors of Islamabad. “In the Blue Area, our teams distributed food at a number of places as people recited naats,” he said.
Zeeshan Naqvi, a former deputy mayor of the city, is the organiser of the main milad procession in Shah Allah Ditta. “Since morning, people had started gathering at the main mosque. Notable figures from the area were in attendance. By mid-day, we had started our procession. We went to the main bazaar. Food and drinks were distributed along the way,” he said.
Shah Allah Ditta has a very rich history. It houses archeological remains from the age of Buddha.
Wah Cantt and Taxila have processions on a similar scale. In Wah Cantt, the procession was well-organised.
Zainul Islam is one of many commuters who live in Taxila and work in Islamabad. He told The News on Sunday that the procession in Wah Cantt is well-organised due to the involvement of the Cantonment Board authorities. “Wah Cantt procession started from Milad Chowk in the morning and concluded at Anwaar Chowk at Asr prayers,” he said.
The milad procession in Taxila boasts a diverse following. People from both Shia and Sunni communities join it. Allama Sajid Naqvi and his group have never missed an opportunity to recite naats at the procession in Raja Bazaar, Rawalpindi. “The public appreciates our skills and our devotion. We are all brothers in faith. This is the essence of Eid Miladun-Nabi,” he says.
Despite events happening all over the twin cities, milad rallies in Rawalpindi remain unrivalled. These are the main attraction even for people in Islamabad. Khayaban-i-Sir Syed is the hub of festivities. All of Raja Bazaar and Murree Road are embellished with lights and decorations.
The history of milad processions in Rawalpindi is rich. It goes all the way back to the British era.
Asad Chaudhry, a journalist with a background in student politics, is seriously engaged in the organisation of milad programmes. He tells The News on Sunday that followers of his Barelvi school are the main participants when it comes to celebrating Rabi-ul-Awal 12 festivities. In Rawalpindi, they can be seen following one of the two main stakeholders. “One group is spiritual leaders or pirs and the second group is seminaries and seminary teachers,” he says.
Eid Gah Sharif in Rawalpindi is an established institution for celebrating the day. Several events are held at this Khanqah in Khayaban-i-Sir Syed.
Asad says that apart from Rabi-ul-Awal 12, a big programme is held at this Khanqah on the twelfth of every month. It is called the Barhwein Sharif.
According to the solar calendar, April 22 is the date of birth of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). Eid Gah Sharif organises celebratory activities on this date as well.
Asad says that three big seminaries in the city attract most of the followers from the Barelvi school in Rawalpindi. These are led by Syed Haseemuddin Shah, Syed Riaz Hussain Shah (also the khateeb at Ittefaq Masjid and Syed Ziaudin Shah. All these seminaries hold major events in Rawalpindi every year.
On a governmental level, Islamabad lagged behind other cities in terms of involvement and arrangement of high-profile events.
The Capital Development Authority (CDA) and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration encouraged traders and other influential groups in the city to take part in milad celebrations.
As a result, the Blue Area, starting from Khyber Plaza to D Chowk, was lit up. The housing societies, including but not limited to Naval Anchorage, made special lighting arrangements. Garment shops, especially in F-8 Markaz, offered big discounts.
Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Muhammad Hamza Shafqaat pointed out that all the main roads had been lit up and special programmes were arranged at all Panah Gahs and Langar Khanas.
He said Darood Sharif sessions were arranged at more than 100 mosques in Islamabad and Faisal Mosque was decorated to celebrate the Eid Milad.
For the first time in history, a Qawali music event was held at D Chowk on October 17. The next day, a similar event took place at Lake View Park.
Despite a valiant effort, there were issues with government-organised events as they remained mired in protocol and hierarchical hurdles. The biggest cake was reportedly cut in Islamabad at a programme arranged by the CDA but very few people knew about it due to the exclusive nature of these events.
Announcements were made that all residents should look towards Margalla Hills to watch ‘the largest sky lantern show’. The event was a lot less impressive than anticipated. A photographer on the scene told The News on Sunday that 25-30 big lanterns were released in the sky. He said some weddings he had been to had had a bigger impact.
The events were organised on the order of Prime Minister Imran Khan who said that it will also be a means to counter the rising Islamophobia. The prime minister himself presided over milad gatherings in Islamabad in which the president and cabinet members were present in addition to heads of various state departments.
Dr Zafar Iqbal, an award-winning researcher on Islamophobia, said the level of state involvement in celebrating Rabi-ul-Awal 12 had the potential to curb Islamophobia.
Dr Iqbal also said that love for the Prophet (peace be upon him) is in the nature of all Muslims and that the celebrations being held in a Muslim society are less likely to impact Islamophobia in other countries.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has formed a Rehmatul lil Alameen Authority to counter Islamophobia. He said such forums were helpful in highlighting Seerat, which is good. “But if you ask me if such deeds could counter Islamophobia, as is being projected, my answer is negative. Some people in the West are spreading negativity about Islam and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). There’s a plethora of research by celebrated scholars to malign Islam,” Prof Iqbal says.
“No attempt is made on our part to understand this process. We conveniently reduce ourselves to increasing the frequency of events that celebrate Islam in Pakistan rather than making an effort to counter harmful perceptions” he concludes.
The writer teaches development support communication at IIUI.