While the crowd was considerably smaller this year, the spirit at the Mass Mawlid 1437 at Athlone stadium was immensely palpable as hundreds spent the public holiday honouring Islam’s foremost individual, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The stadium was a vision of white as scores of men, women and children reflected the simplicity and purity of the Prophet (pbuh), reciting the melodious riwayats of the Mawlid al-Barzanji.
Fittingly held on the Day of Reconciliation – a day that aims to unite South Africans – the moulood is one of the biggest spiritual gatherings in Cape Town. Organised annually by Mawlid SA and supported by the City of Cape Town, the event sees a host of prominent international scholars and qaris united in commemoration of the birth and life of the Nabi (pbuh).
While most of the men and younger crowd settled on the grass in front of the stage, most of the elderly chose comfort and relaxed in the stands as chairs were not allowed on the pitch. But as the centre of the activity heated up, scores of people chose to get closer and moved from the stands to the grass. Some people VOC News spoke to said they had travelled from Mitchells Plain to Bishop Lavis to be present in the harmonious recitation of Cape Town’s finest thikr and nasheed Jamaahs. Some relayed their early childhood memories of attending moulood, and the beautiful traditions associated with it.
“The moulood is important to remind Muslims of the importance of preserving Islam and living up to Islamic ideals. This holy day should always be celebrated. It is a very big day for us celebrating the Nabi. I attended moulood since the age of 16 with the jamaah from Azzavia masjid,” says Latiefah.
“This is an important event as it brings the Muslim community together. I’ve been attending since the moulood was at Green Point Stadium. That’s over 5 years,” says Ruwayda.
“This is my second year at the mass moulood. I come here with my mom and aunts. Moulood is important for the youth to remember the birth of the Prophet (saw),” says Nathierah.
“The mass moulood is celebrated to praise the Nabi (saw) and the Islamic legacy he has contributed to the ummah,” says Salim.
For Gadija Williams of Lavender Hill it was a time to rejoice in the scenic atmosphere of Muslims adorned in white Islamic thoubs and the most beautiful qira’ah. Williams who knows Shaykh Abdurahmaan Alexander personally said she was honoured to see him again after they embarked on a holy pilgrimage of hajj in 2000.
“I’ve been attending moulood since 2005. I enjoy seeing the Muslim community coming together. I mainly came to listen to Shaykh Alexander,” says Williams.
But while the overwhelming response was positive, there was some criticism for the organisation fo the event. Others like Shafiekah Isaacs were disappointed by the time allocation to crowd pleasers like Shaykh Alexander and Sheikh Yaghya Bin Ninowy.
“People come from very far to see these people. These are the people they want to listen to. To allocate 5 minutes to such speakers is ridiculous and disappointing,” says Isaacs.
She expressed her disappointment at the lack of performances by nasheed groups.
“This mass event is about melodious recitations. We want more nasheed,” says Isaacs.
“I’ve been attending the Mass Mawlid ever since it started 3 years ago. We need things like this as it brings the community together. We are here for Shaykh Alexander,” she added.
The City of Cape Town says the event is a true reflection of our country’s democratic values as the nation celebrated the Day of Reconciliation.
“This is an amazing opportunity to promote peace and love allowing all of us to be sterling examples as the Prophet did. It also provides us with an opportunity to come together,” says Mayor of Cape Town Patricia De Lille.
It’s estimated that 6000 people were in attendance. Organisers found the high density of crowds a challenge moving food stall holders to situate their trade outside of the venue and distributing food to the crowd themselves by abandoning the self-serve buffet.
“We made these changes because we had to cater to so many people,” says one of the organisers of the event, Nabeweya Malick.
All logistics had to be passed by the City of Cape Town to ensure the mass event had security, medical aid, transport and access to the venue.
“We want to be prepared to offer a safe environment, respond quickly if someone gets injured or needs to get home,” says Malick.
This year’s programme was lined up with luminaries from the Muslim world including Syrian, Malaysian and Egyptian dignitaries. These included Syrian scholar Shaykh Muhammad bin Yahya and Shaykh Ahmad Naa’ina. VOC