Just like the Jewish calendar, the Islamic calendar has 12 months that are 29 to 30 days long, summing up to a total of 354 days. However unlike the Jewish calendar, the Islamic calendar does not alter or adjust in order for it to coincide with the solar calendar. This means that the Muslim holidays will not always fall on the same month or season on the next year. When it comes to Islamic holidays, there are three that are considered to be major religious holidays: the Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha and Ramadan. There are also several other minor Islamic holidays that are celebrated throughout the year. We’ve provided a list of the Islamic holidays for 2013.

  • Jan 24 or 29, Milad un Nabi or the Prophet’s Birthday – During the MIlad un Nabi, Muslims will celebrate Prophet Muhammad’s birth. There is no precise date on when Milad un Nabi will be celebrated annually. Like all Islamic holidays, Milad un Nabi follows the lunar calendar and it is celebrated on the Islamic calendar’s third month. The date for the Milad un Nabi will also vary on the Islamic sect. Sunnis will commemorate the birth of the prophet Muhammad on the 12th day, while the Shias will commemorate it on the 17th. The way in which Milad un Nabi is celebrated varies per country. In some countries people celebrate the Prophet’s Birthday with loud and pumped up activities, while some areas prefer to celebrate in a more serene way. These people usually spend their Milad un Nabi relaxing, praying with their families or giving treats and food to the less fortunate.
Milad un Nabi

Milad un Nabi

  • June 5 or 23, Lailat Al Miraj – The Muslim believe that the prophet Muhammad travelled to the ‘Farthest Mosque’ from Mecca so that he can ascend to heaven and be purified from all his sins. During his purification, Muhammad was also given the task to instruct his fellow Muslims to pray 5 times daily. Lailat Al Miraj serves as a day when Muslims remember Muhammad’s journey. Although Lailat Al Miraj is celebrated on the 27th day of the Rajab month, the rituals for this religious holiday begin a day before, after sunset the previous day. Lailat Al Miraj is considered to be a big day for Muslims. People commemorate this holiday by visiting mosques and attending prayer services. After offering their prayers in mosques, Muslim families will then spend a quiet day at home.
  • July 9, the Start of Ramadan – For about 30 days each year, Muslims from every corner of the globe will fast from wee hours of the morning until sunset. The purpose of Ramadan is to let people experience the hardships of the weak, poor or those who cannot afford their own food or water. Muslims also believe that by denying their bodies of nourishment, they are able to purify their souls. According to tradition, the heavens gave the Quran to the Muslim people on this month. Many Muslims also believe the statement mentioned by Muhammad. He said that during Ramadan the gates of Hell are closed but Heaven’s gates are wide open. The start of Ramadan will be on the 9th month of the Islamic calendar.
  •  August 3, Laylat Al Kadr – Laylat Al Kadr, or the Night of Power, is the day when Muslims celebrate the night when the first few verses of the Quran was given to the prophet Muhammad. The Laylat Al Kadr is usually celebrated within the last few days of Ramadan, but most preferably on a date with an odd number. Muslims consider Laylat Al Kadr as the holiest of all nights and Muslims are encouraged to worship and offer prayers on this night. For the Sunnis, the Night of Power is celebrated on the last five odd nights of Ramadan. Shias will honor Laylat Al Kadr on the last 10 odd nights.
  • August 8, Eid al-Fitr or the End of Ramadan – After fasting for a month, Muslims will then celebrate Eid al-Fitr or the Festival of Fast Breaking. Eid al-Fitr officially marks the end of Ramadan for the year. Once Ramadan is over, large feasts are made and everyone is expected to take part in the celebration. Eid al-Fitr is also the time when people thank Allah for giving them the perseverance and strength to fast for 30 whole days. This major religious holiday is also the time to forgive, share and unite with old friends and family members.
  • October 14, Waqf Al Arafa or the Day of Arafa – The Day of Arafa is another important holy holiday in Islamic culture. It is said that when the Day of Arafa is celebrated, the religion has been perfected. This holiday is observed on the Dhul Hijja’s 9th day, exactly 70 days after the final day of Ramadan. According to Islamic tales, the past and future sins of the people who fast on this special day will be completely forgiven.
  • November 4, Islamic New Year – Since the Islamic calendar does not follow the Gregorian calendar, a different date is given for the Islamic New Year every year. The Islamic New Year is celebrated annually on Muharram’s first day, Muharram being the first month in the Islamic calendar. Although the celebrations for the Islamic New Year are not as festive or flamboyant as other Islamic holidays, this holiday is still celebrated with a lot of optimism, hope and joy.
Islamic New Year

Islamic New Year

  •  November 13, Day of Ashura – The Day of Ashura is also named the Day of Mourning. This Islamic holiday is solemnized every 10th day of the first month of the Islamic calendar. It is during the Day of Ashura when the Muslim people remember the death of Imam Hussein. Imam is the grandson of the great prophet Muhammad.

The following are Islamic public holidays and festivals for 2013. The dates are the modern calendar year equivalents for the holidays as marked n the al-Qura calendar. Many of the holidays follow accepted religious practices.

January 24: Mawlid an-nabi

This holiday commemorates the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. Earliest historical accounts are in 8th-century Mecca, when the house where the Prophet was born became a place of prayer, thanks to Al-Khayzuran, mother of Harun Al-Rashid.

Today, the holiday is celebrated in a festive manner, with street processions. Homes and mosques are decorated. Charity, food distribution, and recitations of poetry are also done. Do take note, though, that how this holiday is celebrated depends on many factors; in some areas, celebrations are more prayerful, and in some cases not at all.

June 6: Isra and Mi’raj

This holiday celebrates the two parts of a night journey   the Prophet took. Described as both a physical and spiritual journey, the Prophet travels to the farthest mosque and leads other in prayer, and then ascends to heaven to talk with Allah. He returns with instructions on how the faithful should pray. This event is considered one of the most important in the calendar.

Some celebrate this with prayers in the night, and in some areas, the night is lit with electric lights and candles. Gatherings in mosques for prayer and supplication are also done. The narration of how the Prophet’s heart was purified by the angel Gabriel to prepare him for entry into the seven levels of heaven is a common observance at this time.

July 9: Ramadan (beginning)

Ramadan is when Muslims observe a month of fasting. It is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. From sunrise to sunset, no food or drink may be consumed, and smoking and intimate relations are forbidden. For some, even swearing is not allowed. There are some exemptions for fasting, and these are mostly on medical grounds. However, most are obliged to make up for it later on.

But fasting is not done around the clock. There is Iftar, which in some areas has become a festival of food once the sun sets, while Suhoor is a meal in the morning, taken before dawn and the first prayer of the day. Suhoor meals range from simple ethnic food, to the leftovers of last night’s Iftar.

It is also during Ramadan that people meditate and pray more, and as part of their Zakat and Sadaqa (required and voluntary charity, respectively), many people give food to the poor, inviting them to break the fast with them.

August 8: Eid al-Fitr
This holiday is to celebrate the end of Ramadan. No fasting is permitted on this day. The actual celebration can go on for up to three days. The day starts with people waking up early to offer pre-sunrise prayers, after which they are to clean themselves, put on their best clothes.  A small sweet breakfast is then eaten, and an act of charity performed, before performing the Eid prayer. This is usually done as a community, and total attention is required.

After the prayer, people visit friends, relatives and acquaintances, and many hold large family gatherings it they can. Gifts known as Eidi are given to children and immediate relatives.

Aside from the sumptuous feasts, homes are also decorated, with festivals also being held. Some shopkeepers will also give free Eidi with each purchase. In public, it will be normal for complete strangers to greet each other, with toys and gifts being given to children. The tradition of charity also extends in some areas to gifts of food (usually rice) being left at the door of less fortunate neighbors. Some neighborhoods literally have doors open, with homeowners inviting neighbors and passers-by to partake food with them.

October 15: Eid al-Adha
This date commemorates the Prophet’s willingness to sacrifice his first-born son Ishmael, as an act of faith and submission for both the Prophet and his son to the will of Allah.

The day starts with a prayer and sermon. All are expected to dress in their finest clothes while in prayer.

The more fortunate sacrifice their best halal domestic animals. The meat from the sacrificed animal is divided into three parts: a third remains with the family, another third is given to relatives, friends and neighbors, and the final third is given to charity. It is important that none of the less fortunate will be unable to partake of the sacrificial meal.

November 4: Islamic New Year, or the Al-Hijra
This day marks the migration of the Prophet and his followers from Mecca to Medina.

November 13: Day of Ashura
This holiday is generally seen as a day of fasting and mourning, for Husayn (Hussain) ibn Ali, grandson of the Prophet, who died at the Battle of Karbala. Prayers, gathering at mosques and processions are part of this holiday’s events. Narrative retellings of the martyrdom of Husayn at the Battle of Karbala are also done.

Charity is also a focal point, with people providing free meals or donating food to the less fortunate. Meals in honor of the holiday are seen as an act of communion with Allah, Husayn and all others.

It is important to remember that these holidays commemorate religious events, and are times of intense prayers and meditation. People not of the faith should exercise the utmost respect as the faithful go about the holidays in the Islamic calendar.

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