Holy Days in Islam
There are two Muslim festivals set down in Islamic law: Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha ("Eid" or "Id" is a word meaning festival).
There are also several other special days which Muslims celebrate.
Al-Hijra (1 Muharram) -
The Islamic New Year's Day
This festival commemorates the Hijra (or Hegira) in 622 CE when the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) moved from Mecca to Medina.
This was the beginning of the growth of Islam into a world faith.
The Muslim calendar counts dates from the Hijra, which is why Muslim dates have the suffix A.H. (After Hijra).
There is no specific religious ritual required on this day, but Muslims will think about the general meaning of Hijra, and regard this as a good time for "New Year Resolutions".
The Qur'an uses the word Hijra to mean moving from a bad place or state of affairs to a good one - and so Muslims may think about how their faith helps them leave behind bad ways of living and achieve a better life.
Ashura (10 Muharram)
This is a holiday for Shi'a Muslims in particular, and commemorates the martyrdom of Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet (pbuh) in 680 CE.
In Shi'ite communities this is a solemn day: plays reenacting the martyrdom are often staged, and many take part in mourning rituals.
For other Muslims, Ashura is an optional fasting day.
Mawlid an Nabi (12 Rabi') - The birthday of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
At this time Muslims think about Muhammad (pbuh), and the events of his life. Muslim parents will tell stories of the Prophet's (pbuh) life to their children.
Those Muslims who celebrate this festival do so joyfully.
Some Muslims disapprove of celebrating the birthday, on the grounds that it is an innovation, and innovations in religious matters are forbidden.
Why are innovations forbidden?
Because if changes were made in religious matters it would imply that Islam was not complete when it was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), or that the Prophet (pbuh) did not tell Muslims everything that was revealed to him.
This would be seen as highly sacrilegious by many Muslims.
Lailat al Miraj (27 Rajab)
The night journey and ascent of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and the revelation of Salat.
The festival is celebrated by telling the beautiful story of how the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was visited by two archangels while he was asleep, who purified his heart and filled him with knowledge and faith.
The Prophet (pbuh) travelled from Mecca to Jerusalem in a single night on a strange winged creature called Burqa. From Jerusalem he ascended into heaven, where he met the earlier prophets, and eventually God. During his time in heaven Muhammad (pbuh) was told of the duty of Muslims to recite Salat (ritual prayer) 5 times a day.
Lailat al Qadr (27 Ramadan)
The festival of The Night of Power marks the night in which the Qur'an was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) by Allah.
Muslims regard this as the most important event in history, and the Qur'an says that "this night is better than a thousand months" (97:3), and that on this night the angels descend to earth.
This is a festival that Muslims spend in study and prayer. Some will spend the whole night in prayer or in reciting the Qur'an.
Lailat al Qadr is a good time to ask for forgiveness. Allah's Apostle said,
"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." (Bukhari Vol 1, Book 2: 34)
The date of 27 Ramadan is a traditional date, as the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did not tell us when the Night of Power would be, although he suggested it was in the last 10 days of the month.
Because of this, many Muslims will treat the last 10 days of the month of Ramadan as a particularly good time for prayer and reading the Qur'an.
Eid ul Fitr (1 Shawwal)
This marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting, and is a festival of great celebration. In Islamic countries it is a public holiday. The first Eid was celebrated in 624 CE by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) with his friends and relatives after the victory of the battle of Jang-e-Badar.
Muslims are not only celebrating the end of fasting, but thanking Allah for the help and strength that he gave them throughout the previous month to help them practice self-control. The festival begins when the first sight of the new moon is seen in the sky.
Muslims in most countries rely on news of an official sighting, rather than looking at the sky themselves.
Eid ul Fitr is very much a community festival and people go out into the streets to exchange greetings, and visit friends and relatives.
The celebratory atmosphere is increased by everyone wearing best or new clothes, and decorating their homes. There are special services out of doors and in Mosques, processions through the streets, and of course, a special celebratory meal-eaten during daytime, the first daytime meal Muslims will have had in a month.
Eid is also a time of forgiveness, and making amends.
Eid ul Adha (10 Dhul-Hijja)
The Festival of sacrifice which marks the end of the Hajj or holy pilgrimage, which is one of the 5 pillars of Islam, however it is celebrated by all Muslims, not just those who are on the pilgrimage.
This is a 4-day public holiday in Muslim countries.
The festival remembers the prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son when God ordered him to.
God appeared in a dream to Ibrahim and told him to sacrifice his son Isma'il. Ibrahim and Isma'il set off to Mina for the sacrifice. As they went, the devil attempted to persuade Ibrahim to disobey God and not to sacrifice his beloved son. Ibrahim drove the devil away.
As Ibrahim prepared to kill his son God stopped him and gave him a sheep to sacrifice instead.
Ibrahim's complete submission to the will of God is celebrated by Muslims each year.
Each Muslim, as they celebrate, reminds themselves of their own submission to God, and their own willingness to sacrifice anything to God's wishes.
During the festival Muslims who can afford to, sacrifice domestic animals, usually sheep, as a symbol of Ibraham's sacrifice.
The meat is distributed among family, friends and the poor, who each get a third share. (British law insists that the animals must be killed in a proper slaughterhouse.)
As with all festivals there are prayers, and also presents.
Article Contributed by: itsIslam Staff