World Bulletin/News Desk
Ethiopia’s Muslims on Saturday marked the birthday of Islam’s prophet Muhammad with a major and colorful celebration at the Grand Anwar Mosque, the largest and oldest Islamic house of prayer in the Ethiopian capital.
Similar events were also held in different parts across this country to commemorate the birthday of Islam’s prophet.
The prophet’s birthday is, however, a special day for Ethiopia’s Muslims who always take pride in being the descendants of people who hundreds of years ago gave refuge to some of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad when they escaped persecution in the Arabian Peninsula.
On Saturday, Muslims arrived in large numbers at the mosque, which is located at the heart of the open-air Merkato market, from the early hours of the morning.
Apart from ordinary Ethiopian Muslims, a host of officials of the Islamic affairs councils of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa and Oromia also attended the event, which was market by joy and piety.
The oldest in the whole of Ethiopia, the Grand Anwar Mosque was built in 1922. The Islamic house of prayer boasts a green-colored dome and a towering minaret that never fails to captivate passersby and visitors.
Thousands of people made their presence felt in the fairly spacious compound of the Grand Anwar Mosque.
They sat on rows of white plastic chairs, facing the wide portals of the Mosque. A song in praise of prophet Muhammad was played in the background, while a man carrying a censer kept moving around the place to spread the fragrant smell of the incense burning inside it all through the mosque.
A portable podium was placed for the occasion in the middle of the green pillars supporting the white outer walls and domes that form the pretty spectacular façade of the mosque.
President of the Addis Ababa Islamic Affairs Supreme Council, Ahmed Abdurrahman, said his council had honored its pledge to make the members of the Addis Ababa Muslim community benefit from development.
He called on the members of this community to take the lead in further deepening the culture of coexistence, peace and justice in a country that was selected by prophet Muhammad to be a refuge for his companions in what marked the first Hijra (migration) in the history of Islam.
Abdurrahman said his council had secured from the Addis Ababa City Administration around 185 title deeds for mosques and also received plots of land for the construction of 35 more mosques in the city.
“It will be futile to hamper this path of development,” Abdurrahman said, urging Muslims not to heed rumors propagated by what he described as “extremists.”
Vice-President of the Addis Ababa Islamic Affairs Supreme Council, Sheikh Kedir Mohamoud Aman, meanwhile, said that Muslims needed to express their joy on the day of the prophet’s birth.
“It is also our duty to safeguard the peace and development taking place in Ethiopia at present,” Aman said, calling on Muslims to be politically-engaged and use their voting power to vote government officials in or out.
Sheikh Surajudin Alemu, the chairman of the Sufi Assembly of Ethiopia, said this African country was Sufi at its root.
“The first Muslim refugees came to Ethiopia to flee persecution,” Alemu said. “And they shaped the Sufi teachings that prevailed up to the present,” he added.
Oromia Regional State’s Islamic Affairs Supreme Council President, Sheikh Mohammed Amin, for his part, said prophet Muhammad’s birthday was an occasion on which Muslims should renew their love and reverence for the messenger sent by God to spread the word about the Islamic religion.