The Political and Religious Dynamics of the Mawlid al-nabawī in Mandatory Palestine
The politicization of the Nabī Mūsā festival during the Palestine Mandate is a well-established and publicized fact, yet other Arab Palestinian festivals experienced a similar transformation in the same context. Such was the case of the Mawlid al-nabawī (the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad). The intention of Arab nationalists was that it should evolve into a communal festival for all the Palestinian Arabs. However, for mainly denominational, geographical and political reasons, the attempt met with varied success throughout the territory of the Palestine Mandate. Attendance at public festivities remained decidedly Muslim in character. Repeated appeals for Christian participation were to little avail. Yet the attempts to include Christian Arabs in the festival throw light on the Arab nationalist ideologies in Palestine at the time – from that point of view, the celebrations linked to the birth of the Prophet Muhammad stand out as an axiological inspiration, regardless of denominational boundaries. In 1937, the political mobilization on the occasion of the Mawlid al-nabawī reached a peak but, even then, attendance was greatest in Gaza and Acre, places where the festival was traditionally important. Furthermore, the degree of mobilization, varying as it did from place to place, seems to be a reﬂection of the inﬂuence of the main Arab Palestinian factions, whose rivalry was reaching a climax in the late 1930s.
Keywords: Middle East-history, Mandatory Palestine, Mawlid al-nabawi