ABUJA - As their country is ravaged by deadly unrest, Nigeria's Muslims have marked the birth of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) with prayers for peace in Africa's most populous nation.
We mark this occasion of the birthday of Prophet Muhammad with mixed feelings, Professor Lakin Akintola, a prominent Muslim rights activist, told OnIslam.net.
While we thank Almighty Allah for enabling many Nigerians to witness the occasion, we are filled with sadness at the thought of avoidable loss of lives through indiscriminate bombing and shooting of innocent Nigerians.
Muslims around the world marked the Prophet's birthday earlier this week.
But the occasion was celebrated by Nigerian Muslims with mixed feelings of joy and sorrow as the country is rocked by attacks by the militant group Boko Haram.
We are in despair over the senseless killing of Nigerians by fellow Nigerians and the sacrilegious invasion of churches, said Akintola.
We cannot be celebrating while fellow Nigerians are weeping over their dead and maimed.
We therefore mourn with our mourning brothers and sisters wherever the bereaved may be. We pray that Allah will give all the affected families the strength to bear their losses.
Marking the occasion, Nigerian authorities declared Monday, February 6, a national holiday.
President Goodluck Jonathan called on Muslims to pray for enduring peace, progress and stability in the country, a call echoed by Nigerian Muslim leaders.
This year's Mauludul-Nabiyyi calls for sober reflections. It calls for prayers for our dear country, Akintola said.
Nigeria today is at the crossroads. The foundation of this country is shaking. We are now exactly where we were in 1967.
We need prayers more than anything else to escape a bloody interregnum as witnessed between 1967 and 1971. Nigeria is living between two wars. We therefore urge all religious groups to pray for peace and tranquility.
The Nigeria Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, the country's highest Muslim body, also echoed a similar call.
As we mark the birthday of the Prophet of Allah, it bears stating here that he stood for human liberation and non-discrimination irrespective of class, race and creed, Dr. Abdul-Lateef Adegbite, the NSCIA scribe, said.
We therefore must unite against the inhuman and purely anti-Islam violent campaign of Boko Haram which hides under Islam to perpetrate violence.
As is now clear, the group is fighting for God knows what as it presses ahead its monstrous campaign that spares nobody, including Muslims. So we call on our brothers and sisters nationwide to join government to route Boko Haram.
Sufi groups in Nigeria, however, are gearing up to hold carnival-like celebrations to mark the Prophet's birthday.
Two leading Sufi groups, the Tijaniyyah and Quadiriyah Brotherhoods, have announced February 18 to flag off this year's grand celebrations.
The annual Maulid presents a yearly opportunity for Muslims to reflect on the essence of the Holy Prophet, especially the mercy that his birth brought to the world, and his mission which is Islam, Khaleefah Hadi Muhammad Awwal, son to the late revered Tijanniyah leader Sheikh Muhammad Awwal, told OnIslam.net.
For us Sufis, Maulid is not a bid'ah (innovation). If we celebrate lesser human beings and commemorate national days, why won't we celebrate the birth, life and time of the Prophet of Allah who brought guidance and blessings to humanity?
Nigerian Sufis commence their celebrations of the Prophet's birthday with the recitation of the Burdah nabiyy (a poem that praises the Prophet by well-known Imam Busayri) and Taniyah (another poem by Senegalese Muslim scholar Sheikh Ibrahim Niyas) at the dawn of every days of Rabiul-Awwal (the 3rd month of Islamic calendar).
The recitation ends at the close of the Prophet's month.
Such celebrations sometimes involve group wears (cloths), known in local parlance as aso ebi, by members of the respective brotherhoods.
The Maulid celebrations are often criticized by some Nigerian Muslim groups as The Muslim Congress (TMC) as evil innovation.
The highpoint of the events always feature different lecture sessions centering on the life and times of the Prophet and contemporary issues affecting Muslims, Qur'anic competitions and Dhikri sessions.
Prominent politicians sometimes attend the Sufi celebrations to shore up their image ahead the next poll.
This year it would be 45 years that we, Quadiriyah Abeokuta branch in Southern Nigeria, an offshoot of the Kano headquarters, have been marking the Prophet's birthday, said Khaleefah Abdurahman Al-Bashir, from the Quadiriyah Brotherhood.
We are taking the celebration to the next level. In that sense, we have secured land to build schools and hospital as a way of contributing to the society. That was the spirit of the Holy Prophet.Also, a subcommittee of the Annual Maulid has been mandated to visit some motherless babies' homes to show affection and the love of Islam. We are also visiting prisons and remand centers.