From the Arab Lands to the Malabar Coast: The Arabic mawlid as a Literary Genre and a Traveling Text


  • Ines Weinrich



mawlid, mawlūd, Muslim ritual, Sharaf al-anām (Sharrafa l-anām), Manqūṣ (Manqoos) Mawlid, Malabar, Arabic Cosmopolis


This article explores the potential of literary-liturgical texts in tracing developments in intra-religious contacts. It deals with mawlid, which is both a literary genre and a devotional practice. By the thirteenth century, mawlid was established in various parts of the Muslim world as an annual feast and a public practice to commemorate the birthday of the prophet Muḥammad. One element of such festivities was the liturgical reading of a literary composition centring on the prophet’s birth and early life, in most cases simply termed mawlid. The article focusses on the intra-religious transcultural transfer of mawlid writing, namely from the Arab world to Muslim communities on the Malabar Coast, the western coast of South India. In analysing such a transfer, I identify texts and people that travelled between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean and examine the literary practices. The findings indicate that there is plausibility for dating the first Arabic mawlid compositions from Malabar to the early sixteenth century. I show how a mawlid text supposedly composed in thirteenth-century Andalusia and circulating as far as Yemen served as a genre model for the presumed first Arabic mawlid composition in Malabar. Furthermore, the social context of the Malabar composition draws on a transformation in the function of mawlid readings, which were, in the late fifteenth century, no longer limited to commemorating the birth anniversary. Finally, the mawlid’s aesthetic features and performance practices allowed a new experience of Arabic and reflect the rise of Muslim educational institutions and a growing Muslim population in the coastal towns of Malabar.




How to Cite

Weinrich, I. (2022). From the Arab Lands to the Malabar Coast: The Arabic mawlid as a Literary Genre and a Traveling Text. Entangled Religions, 11(5).