Muslim Holy Observances
Hijri Year (Islamic New Year)
Hijri Year, or the Islamic New Year, takes place on the first of Muharram, which is the first month of the Islamic calendar and noted in the Quran as one of four sanctified months in the year. Hijri Year commemorates the migration (hijra) of Muharram and his followers in the year 622 CE from Mecca to Medina, where they established the first Muslim community.
While the day is a public holiday in many Muslim countries and traditions vary among Muslim denominations and cultures, most people observe the day quietly with prayer and family time, focusing on reflection and gratitude.
Ashura, the 10th day of the Islamic month of Muharram, is considered the most significant day in the sacred month. Many Muslims fast and pray on Ashura and the day before or after; although fasting is not mandatory, it has significant meaning for the community. However, Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims observe Ashura for different reasons. Sunni Muslims celebrate the day in remembrance of Moses’s victory over Pharaoh, and Shia Muslims consider this a day of mourning for the martyred Husayn Ibn Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.
According to Shia beliefs, Husayn Ibn Ali refused to accept the reign of Yazid, the newly appointed Umayyad caliph. Believing the clan’s rule to be illegitimate, Husayn revolted, leading to an attack by Yazid’s army at the Battle of Karbala. There, on the 10th Muharram, Husayn was beheaded and his family imprisoned in Damascus. Some Shias fast for the entire month, and may practice chest beating and self flagellation on Ashura, in solidarity with Husayn’s suffering.
While Sunni Muslims also have these accounts and recount them through poetry and eulogies, mourning did not become part of the tradition. Instead, similar to Yom Kippur in Judaism, Ashura is a day of reflection and gratitude for Moses and the Israelites’ escape from Pharaoh when God led them through a path in the Red Sea.
Mawlid al-Nabi is the anniversary of the birth of Prophet Muhammad. Although Mawlid al-Nabi is always on the same day of the Islamic calendar, the date on the Gregorian calendar varies from year to year, since the Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar and the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar. This difference means Mawlid al-Nabi moves in the Gregorian calendar approximately 11 days every year. The date of Mawlid al-Nabi may also vary from country to country depending on whether the moon has been sighted or not.
This is the night occurring between 14th and 15th day of Shaban (the month preceding Ramadan.) Traditions of Prophet Muhammad show that it is a meritorious night in which the people of the earth are attended by special Divine Mercy.
On the Night of 15th Shaban, after Maghrib or Isha prayer it is traditional practice to read Surah Yasin and make special supplications for good health, protection from calamities and increased Iman.
According to tradition this night has special blessings that are directed towards the faithful. Therefore, as much as possible, this night should be spent in worship and total submission to Allah Almighty. Also, fasting is recommended on the day immediately following this Night, i.e. the 15th day of Shaban. Source: http://www.islamicity.com/Articles/articles.asp?ref=IC0409-2468
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Every day during this month, Muslims around the world spend the daylight hours in a complete fast, abstaining from food, drink, and other physical needs during the daylight hours. As a time to purify the soul, refocus attention on God, and practice self-sacrifice, Ramadan is much more than just not eating and drinking.
Muslims are called upon to use this month to re-evaluate their lives in light of Islamic guidance, to make peace with those who have wronged them, strengthen ties with family and friends, do away with bad habits — essentially to clean up their lives, thoughts, and feelings. The Arabic word for “fasting” (sawm) literally means “to refrain” – and it means not only refraining from food and drink, but from evil actions, thoughts, and words.
During Ramadan, every part of the body must be restrained. The tongue must be restrained from backbiting and gossip. The eyes must restrain themselves from looking at unlawful things. The hand must not touch or take anything that does not belong to it. The ears must refrain from listening to idle talk or obscene words. The feet must refrain from going to sinful places. In such a way, every part of the body observes the fast.
Therefore, fasting is not merely physical, but is rather the total commitment of the person’s body and soul to the spirit of the fast. Ramadan is a time to practice self-restraint; a time to cleanse the body and soul from impurities and re-focus one’s self on the worship of God.
Information gathered from http://islam.about.com
Every year, Muslims observe a month-long fast during the 9th month of the Islamic calendar: Ramadan. Muslims believe that this month is filled with blessings, and it is appropriate to wish them well at the beginning of the month. While friendly words in any language are welcome, there are some traditional or common Arabic greetings that one may use or come across:
- “Ramadan Kareem!” (“Noble (or Generous) Ramadan!”)
- “Ramadan Mubarak!” (“Blessed Ramadan!”)
- “Kul ‘am wa enta bi-khair!” (“May every year find you in good health!”)
“The month of Ramadan is a month of fasting and of trying to grow in our subtlety and sophistication and grow from the essence of our being closer to God and closer to our fellow human beings in the process… It is a month of transformation of the heart…. It is a time of reconnecting to scripture…It is a time of community… of a spirit of generosity and giving.”
Jum’at al-Wada’: The last Friday of the month of Ramadan. Deeds of charity and worship are considered especially meritorious this day. While not a festival, this is a special day for many Muslims.
Jumu’ah (Friday) is the day on which Muslim men are required to attend congregation in lieu of the mid-day prayer. Women may attend, but are not obligated. Evidence of this congregation found in the Qur’an in Verse 9 of Chapter 62 (The Congregation, Friday):
O you who have believed, when [the adhan] is called for the prayer on the day of Jumu’ah [Friday], then proceed to the remembrance of Allah and leave trade. That is better for you, if you only knew.
Though Islam places no specific emphasis on any Friday as a holy day, some Muslims regard this one as the second holiest day of the month of Ramadan and one of the most important days of the year. Source: Wikipedia
Laylat Al Qadr is considered the holiest night of the year for Muslims, and is traditionally celebrated on the 27th day of Ramadan. It is known as the “Night of Power,” and commemorates the night that the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.
Muslims observe this occasion with study, devotional readings, and prayer, as the night’s holiness is believe to make it a very good time for prayers to be answered. Whoever establishes the prayers on the night of Qadr out of sincere faith and hoping to attain Allah’s rewards (not to show off) then all his past sins will be forgiven.
Hadith, Bukhari Vol 1, Book 2:34
Eid al-Fitr, (‘Id al-Fitr), the Breaking of the Fast, celebrates the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting.
Eid al-Fitr falls on the first day of Shawwal, the month which follows Ramadan in the Islamic calendar. It is a time to give in charity to those in need, and celebrate with family and friends the completion of a month of blessings and joy.
Before the day of Eid, during the last few days of Ramadan, each Muslim family gives a determined amount as a donation to the poor. This donation is of actual food — rice, barley, dates, rice, etc. — to ensure that the needy can have a holiday meal and participate in the celebration. This donation is known as sadaqah al-fitr (charity of fast-breaking).
On the day of Eid, Muslims gather early in the morning in outdoor locations or mosques to perform the Eid prayer. This consists of a sermon followed by a short congregational prayer.
After the Eid prayer, Muslims usually scatter to visit various family and friends, give gifts (especially to children), and make phone calls to distant relatives to give well-wishes for the holiday. These activities traditionally continue for three days. In most Muslim countries, the entire 3-day period is an official government/school holiday.
Information provided by http://islam.about.com/od/ramadan/f/eid_fitr.htm
Hajj is a five-day pilgrimage by Muslims to Mecca, Islam’s holiest city—birthplace of the prophet Muhammad and the faith. Each year, Hajj takes place from the 8th to 12th days of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th and last month in the Islamic calendar. The journey is one of the five pillars of Islam and is mandatory for all adult Muslims at least once in their lifetime if they are physically and financially able to.
Each year during Hajj, millions of people gather in Mecca and perform a number of rituals, including walking counterclockwise seven times around the Kaaba, the dark cube-shaped building that Muslims face toward when praying. Other rituals include drinking from the Zamzam Well, throwing rocks at three pillars (symbolically stoning the devil), shaving their heads, and sacrificing an animal before celebrating Eid al-Adha.
Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) lasts three to four days and marks the end of Hajj. The holiday commemorates the story of the Prophet Ibrahim (or Abraham), who was willing to sacrifice his son Ismail (also known as Ishmael or Isaac) at God’s command. But just as Ibrahim was about to take Ismail’s life, God spared the boy, replacing him with either a lamb or a ram. Christians and Jews also have this story in their scriptures.
For Eid al-Adha, Muslims buy new clothes, exchange gifts and visit family, friends and neighbors. At dawn on the day itself, believers gather at the mosque and recite the Takbir (declaration of faith), along with the Salat al-Eid, a communal prayer also said on Eid al-Fitr. Muslims with the financial means to do so can sacrifice an animal such as a sheep, goat or cow. They are supposed to eat one-third of the meat, share one-third with friends or neighbors and donate one-third to the needy.