by Aleemuddin and Ahmed Khan,
Founder, The Rahnuma Daily
RIYADH (Rahnuma): MBS’s Vision2030 has brought about significant sweeping reforms in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. These reforms include an increase in freedoms for women and men, and a relaxation in the official interpretation of Sunnism.
Some of the greatest reforms in the Kingdom are cultural. 2019 saw a unprecedented rise in government support for cultural and entertainment programs.
Under Vision2030, KSA has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on entertainment programs throughout the Kingdom in an aim to drive an influx of tourists to the country, and decrease dependence on oil revenues.
In December 2019, the General Entertainment Authority in the KSA approved MDL Beast, the largest music festival of its kind in the history of the region. A total number of more than half a million people attended the program.
The General Entertainment Authority was set up by the Saudi Royals as part of the Kingdom’s Vision2030 reforms. Turki AlAlShikh, a Saudi Royal Court Advisor currently serves as Chairman of the Kingdom’s General Entertainment Authority.
In a surprising move welcomed by hundreds of millions of Muslims throughout the Muslim world, AlAlShikh wished Muslims on Mawlid Al-Nabi (Milad un-Nabi), a bold move, likely never been done before in the modern history of the KSA by such a high level official.
Prior to the MBS led Vision2030 reforms, rigid religious interpretations prevented the recognition of Mawlid Al-Nabi in the Kingdom on religious grounds, disregarding the cultural and civilizational impact of the Prophet Muhammad’s birth on both the world, but especially the Arabian Peninsula. Among the titles of the Prophet Muhammad (salutations and blessings be upon him) is the Pride of the Arabs, ‘Izz Al Arab, and while most people around the world see Mawlid as a religious celebration, other countries see it as a national identity celebration, no different to a country’s national day.
Hence, Muslims in India, and in virtually all of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) commemorate Mawlid each year as a national holiday.
In India, Milad un-Nabi is an official holiday and each year the President of India wishes Indian Muslims on the occasion.
Except for Qatar and the KSA, all regional governments commemorate Mawlid as a national holiday as well.
The comments by AlAlShikh indicate a significant shift by Saudi authorities which is being welcome by Indian Muslims and Muslims around the world. Each year 7.5 million number of foreign tourists visit Makkah and Medina for Umrah.
The annual Hajj is host to around 3 million number of pilgrims each year and this amounts to about 6 billion USD in revenue for the KSA. Whereas both Haj and Umrah pilgrimage add an estimated $12 billion a year to KSA’s GDP, which is about 20% of KSA’s non-oil GDP and 7% of total GDP.
If the Vision2030 reforms include a month for Mawlid on cultural not necessarily religious grounds, the potential for revenue and tourism to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during the month of Rabi Al Awwal would be paradigm shifting.
Currently there are 1.8 billion Muslims in the world, the vast majority of whom recognize the Mawlid as an important holiday. Tourist attractions and programs in the Holy City of Madinah during the month of the Mawlid would attract potentially millions of additional visitors and tourists each year to the Kingdom and thereby would also help boost its economy.
Whether KSA decides to include recognition of Mawlid as a cultural festival and holiday or not, what remains is Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world with the Prophet Muhammad’s name on its flag, because the Prophet Muhammad is an Arabian.
The Tweet of Turki AlAlShikh is welcomed with gratitude and appreciation all over the world and particularly in India by the majority of its 200 million Muslims, regardless of what direction the Vision2030 reforms take the Kingdom towards pertaining to this holiday.
Ahmed Khan is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief & Publisher of The Rahnuma Daily (theRahnuma.com), the online English daily edition of The Rahnuma-E-Deccan Daily (ReDD), India’s oldest Urdu daily print newspaper established in 1921. More than 81.1 million Indians identify Urdu as their language, and as per the annual INA (Indian Newspapers Association) report, ReDD ranks among the top 5 most widely circulated and read Urdu daily print newspapers throughout India. Ahmed resides in Hyderabad at his maternal ancestral home and can be contacted at, email@example.com