Beginning in the 8th c in Mecca, many of the faithful have celebrated the birth of the Prophet Mohammed, by sharing food with the poor. But Islamic scholars do not seem to agree on A--whether to celebrate the Prophet's birthday at all; B--whether to feast or fast.
Centuries of learned discussion still have not pinned down the appropriateness of any birthday party, if you will. The Prophet is said NOT to have celebrated anyone's birthday. ( Jesus of Nazareth likely had little hoopla around his own birthday, right? At the time...)
So, the day, this year February 15, is a not entirely approved Islamic celebratory entity. Apparently Sunnis adopted what was a Shi'ite festival as their own, in the 12th century, and that may have opened a continuing messy theological can of chickpeas...
What to do? Fasting has its place, but is not the least bit celebratory. Parades, typical of the celebrations in many Muslim countries, make one hungry. The solution likely is to share bits of sweets, possibly nibbling one or two, and lie low.
Curiously, the biggest celebrations--festivals, feasting-- of the Prophet's birthday are among the Hindus of northern India.
A good cookie, however, knows no religious boundaries. I found the following recipe for Asbusa ( Egyptian Cookies,) at a website called Cooking with The Bible, a choice that seems utterly correct for this post.
- 2½ cups sugar
- 2 lb. cream of wheat
- ¾ lb. butter
- 16 oz. plain yogurt
- water as needed
- slivered almond halves
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Bring all ingredients to room temperature. In a large bowl, mix the sugar and cream of wheat. Add butter; mix by hand, rubbing the butter, sugar, and cream of wheat between your palms for 10 minutes or more until the mixture is very well blended.
Fold the yogurt into the dough and knead by hand until the dough feels smooth. (If it feels dry, add water 1 Tbsp. at a time so when you hold it in your hands it feels like pie dough.)
Butter a 13″ x 9″ pan and pat the dough into the pan with your hand. With a sharp knife slice the dough in 2″ squares or into diamond shapes. Press one almond half onto the surface of each piece. Bake for 30–40 minutes or until golden brown.
Yield: 12–16 servings