Photo by Christina Santucci
By Rebecca Henely

A Jackson Heights imam has started a campaign to make April 26, the birthday of the Prophet Mohammad, a national holiday.

Mohd Qayyoom, head of the Muhammadi Community Center, at 37-46 72nd St., said he believes having a national celebration for the prophet’s birthday would enable the growing Muslim population in America to have an annual celebration and would foster a spirit of cooperation with those of other faiths.

“We’ll give the message of peace, we’ll give the message of interfaith harmony,” Qayyoom said.

Since the Islamic calendar is lunar, Muslim holidays are never held at the same time in the Gregorian calendar, which is solar-based. Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting, can be held in the summer one year but take place in the winter years later.

When the Prophet Mohammad’s birthday should be celebrated in the Islamic calendar differs depending on the denomination. Sunni Muslims observe the holiday on the 12th of the Islamic month Rabi’ al-awwal, while Shi’ites observe it on the 17th.

But the historical birthday of Mohammad is April 26, 570. Qayyoom said holding a national celebration on that day will allow American Muslims to celebrate at the same time every year.

“We want one day, an annual holiday like Christmas,” he said.

While Qayyoom plans to formally announce his campaign April 22 at the second planned Interfaith Harmony and World Peace event in Jackson Heights, he said he is already starting it. He said he has contacted Jackson Heights’ elected officials and plans to reach out to leaders of other faiths.

“Everywhere I’m talking, they’re welcoming it,” Qayyoom said.

One of Qayyoom’s primary focus has been fighting and speaking out against terrorism. He said if Muslims have a holiday when they can hold parades and games every year and their non-Muslim neighbors can celebrate, it can bring an understanding between the peoples.

“Prophet Muhammad said, ‘I am not the prophet of only Muslims. I am the prophet of all human beings,’” he said.

Qayyoom said he has planned for this campaign to be a long one, but he hopes it will give the Muslim population in America a voice.

“I think it will work,” Qayyoom said. “It will take a little time.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.



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