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Muslim Festivals

For Muslims all religious festivals have their own special significance. In fact, at the end of different modes of worship, Islam has instituted a kind of festival. The festival following the daily Prayers of the week is Jum'a-tul-Mubarak (Friday); the one following the month of fasting is called Eid-ul-Fitr, while the festival following the ceremony of Hajj at the Ka'aba in Arabia is know as Eid-ul-Adhia.   Following is a list of Muslim Festivals


Jum'a-tul-Mubarak (Friday Prayer):

Of all the religious obligations of a Muslim, the most important is Prayer of Salat. It is compulsory for all Muslims, men and women equally. The Holy Quran states: "Observe Prayer in the prescribed form. It is enjoined on the believers to be performed at its appointed times." (4:104)   All the compulsory Prayers should be performed in congregation if possible. On Friday, however, a special mid-day Prayer Service is held in place of Zuhr Prayer. This is called Jum'a Prayer. Of all the Prayers, none is so essential to be offered in congregation as the Jum'a Prayer. The Jum'a, in fact, is the greatest Muslim festival.   Muslims are asked to leave all their worldly pursuits when they are called tothe Friday Prayer, and assemble in mosque to offer this Prayer with due observence of all its requirements. The Holy Quran states: O ye who believe, when the call is made for Prayer on Friday, hasten to the rememberance of God and leave off all business, that is better for you, if you only knew. (62:10)   The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Your best day is Friday, so you should be diligent on that day in calling down blessings on me, for your blessings are conveyed to me." (Sunan Abu Daud) "The best of days on which sun rises is Friday; on that day was Adam created, on that day he was admitted to the Garden and on that day was he expelled therefrom." (Muslim)   In regards to the preparation for Friday Prayer Service, the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "A Muslim takes a bath on a Friday, makes himself thoroghly clean, and uses scented oil or just some perfume. Having thus freshened up, he goes to the mosque. He occupies a place without disturbing people sitting on his right and left. He offers the prescribed prayers, and when the Imam appears, he listens to him in silence. May God forgive his sins between that Friday and the last." (Bukhari)   Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, relates that concerning Friday the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, said: "There is on that day a brief period of time during the service when whatever supplication a Muslim servant of Allah makes is granted." He indicated with his hand that the period is very short. (Muslim)   Abu Said Khudri, may Allah be pleased with him, relates that hte Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, said: "Bath on Friday is obligatory on every adult Muslim." (Muslim)   Ammar bin Yasir, may Allah be pleased with him, relates that he heard the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, say: "The length of a person's Prayer and the brevity of his sermon testify to his intelligence. Make your Prayer long and your sermon short." (Muslim)


Eid is an Arabic word which means "a day which returns often."   Eid-ul-Fitr is celebrated on the 1st day of the month of Shawwal. The month of Shawwal start after the month of fasting, that is why it is also called the festival of the breaking of the fast. Fasting in the month of Ramadhan is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is, therefore, a practical requirement of the faith and is regarded as and act of devotion. While Eid is an occasion for joy and happiness, it is certainly not an occasion to indulge in frivolity, over-eating and mere pursuit of pleasure. The main purpose is always to seek the pleasure of Allah almighty by glorifying Him and rendering thanks to Him for having enabled them to perform their duties duly.   Sadaqat-ul-Fitr or Fitrana On such an auspicious and festive occasion, Muslims are specially reminded of their obligations towards the poorer section of society. A special contribution called 'Sadaqat-ul-Fitr' or 'Fitrana' is fixed for this purpose. The contribution should be paid by the head of the family on behalf of all the members of the family. It is desireable to pay this contribution before the Eid service in order to enable the poor to join in the festivities of the day.  



Eid-ul-Adhia is a festival that is celebrated on the 10th of Dhul Hijja and marks the close of the Hajj ceremony or Pilgrimage to the Ka'aba.   A Muslim is required to perform the pilgrimage at least once in his lifetime, provided that he can afford the cost of the journey, is not indebted to anyone and is not otherwise prevented from performing the Haj. Those who unable to perform the pilgrimage join in the Eid-ul-Adhia ceremony at their own places.   The Eid is celebrated with great solemnity and reverence everywhere. Like Eid-ul-Fitr, Muslims make preparations several days before the festival. The animals to be sacrificed are bought well before the Eid day by those who can afford to do so. These animal should be free from all physical defects and should be fully grown. In case of sheep, goat or lamb, one animal suffices for one household, while a cow or a camel can be shared by upto seven families.   On the day of the Eid, Muslims assemble in the Eid-gah or in the large mosques of the town for Eid Prayer Service. The Eid Prayer is comprised of two Raka'as and offered in the same manner as Eid-ul-Fitr. Generally no breakfast is served on this Eid, and those who offer sacrifice do not eat anything until after they have sacrificed the animal. After the prayer the Imam delivers a sermon in which he explains the significance of the festival, giving the details of the sacrifices offered by Abraham, his wife Hager and their son Ishmael. Returning by a different route and singing the praise of Almighty Allah, Muslim worshippers return home and slaughter their animals. On Eid day, Muslims recite the praise of Allah in the following words: Allah ho Akbar, Allah ho Akbar La illaha illa Allah, wa Allah ho Akbar, Allah ho Akbar wa Lillah hil Hamd



Muharram festival commemorates the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain, the grandson of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). This festival starts at the 1st day of Muharram and lasts for 10 days until 10th of Muharram. Muharram is the first month of Islamic calendar.   During this month, while on a journey, Hazrat Imam Hussain, his family members and a number of his followers were surrounded by the forces of Yazid, the Muslim ruler of the time. During the siege, they were deprived of food and water and many of them were put to death. The incident happened at a place called Karbala in Iraq in 61st year after Hijra. This dispute was result of a disagreement among Muslims on the question of succession after the demise of Hazrat Ali, the fourth caliph.   Some sects of Muslims hold meetings where speeches are made on the happenings of Karbala and on the lives of martyrs. The Shias, however, observe this festival in a different fasion. As Muharram, the first month of the Muslim year, approaches, they put on black clothes, as black is regarded as a color of mourning. Majalis (assemblies) are held every day during the first nine days where shia orators relate the incident of the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain and his party in a great detail. On the 10th day of Muharram, large processions are formed and the devoted followers parade the streets holding banners and carrying models of the mausoleum of Hazrat Imam Hussain and his people, who fell at Karbala. They show their grief and sorrow by inflicting wounds on their own bodies with sharp metal tied to chain with which they scourge themselves. This is done in order to depict the sufferings of the martyrs. It is a sad occasion and everyone in the procession chants "Ya Hussain", with loud wails of lamentation. Generally a white horse beautifully decorated for the occasion, is also included in the procession, to mark the empty mount of Hazrat Imam Husain after his martyrdom.   During these first ten days of Muharram, drinking posts are also set up temporarily by the Shia community where water and juices are served to all, free of charge.


Eid Milad-un-Nabi:

Allah sends down his blessings on the Prophet, and His Angles constantly invoke His blessings on him; do you, O believers, also invoke Allah’s blessings on him and offer him the salutation of peace.’ (33:57)   A large number of Muslims do not believe in celebrating birthdays of death anniversaries because there is no historical evidence that such was the practice of the Holy Prophet. However, similarly large number of Muslims do commemorate the birth anniversary of the Holy Prophet on 12 Rabi-ul-Awwal of the Islamic lunar calendar year. For Muslims, this date marks the most important event in the history of the mankind because the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is regarded as the Chief of the Prophet, to whom the Holy Quran was revealed.   The extent of the festivities, on this occasion, is restricted because of the fact that the same marks the death anniversary of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) as well.   On this occasion public meetings are held in the mosques where religious leaders and scholars make speeches on different aspects of the life of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). The stories of the Prophet’s birth, childhood, youth and adult life, his character, teachings, sufferings, and forgiveness of even his most bitter enemies, his fortitude in the face of general opposition, leadership in battles, bravery, wisdom, preaching and his final triumph through Allah’s mercy over the hearts of people are narrated in detail. Salutations and songs in his praise are recited. In some countries, streets, mosques and buildings are decorated with colorful buntings and pennants and well illuminated at night. Affluent Muslims generously donate to charity. Feasts are arranged and food is served to guests and the poor.


Shab-i-Miraj means the night of Ascent. It is the blessed night when the Holy Prophet of Islam was spiritually transported to heaven and he reached a high stage of nearness to God Almighty which is beyond ordinary human comprehension. The Ascent took place on 27th day or Rajab, 2 years before Hijra. The journey was not with a physical body but was a vision of the highest type. On the way the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, met Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and some other Prophets. The purpose of the Ascent was to confirm the high status of the Prophet of Islam, a position which all Muslims believe, is impossible to attain by any other human being. It is related that even Gabriel, the Angel who was accompanying the Holy Prophet remarked at one stage, 'I am forced to stop here. I cannot go any further, but you O Messenger of peace and friend of the Master of the worlds, continue your glorious ascent.'   It is also related that the Holy Prophet continued his journey until he reached very close to the Throne of God Almighty and attained the utmost nearness to Him. After having drunk fully at the Divine fountain of spiritual knowledge he came down to impart the knowledge to mankind.   It was on this journey, that five daily prayers were made obligatory upon Muslims.   Celebrations: According to popular belief, the Miraj or Spiritual Ascension took place on 27 of Rajab. On this day, in some Muslim countries the houses and streets and specially the mosques are decorated with colorful pennants and buntings, and at night they are well illuminated by means of electric lights, candles or even oil lamps. As evening approaches the worshippers assemble in the mosques and engage themselves in glorifying the Lord and in singing hymns in His praise and in praise of the Holy Prophet. Public meetings are also held generally after Isha Prayer in larger mosques where speakers throw light on the spiritual status of the Holy Prophet, and various aspects of his life. The story of his spiritual ascension is narrated in detail. After the meetings sweets are generally distributed. Muslims of means give money in charity and also distribute food among the poor. The devoted ones spend the whole night in the remembrance of God.



This blessed night is also called the night of Power. It is the particular night in the month of Ramadhan when the Holy Quran first began to be revealed. The Holy Quran states: "The month of Ramadhan is the month in which the Quran began to be revealed, the Book which comprises guidance for mankind and clear proofs of guidance and divine signs which descriminate between truth and falsehood ... "(2:186)   The translation of first verses which were revealed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, were the following: 'Recite in the name of thy Lord Who created everthing. He created man from a clot of blood. Recite, for thy Lord is Most Beneficent, Who has taught by the pen, taught man that which he knew not.' (96:2-6)   The Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, was forty years of age at that time.   The Holy Quran regards the Night of Decree as better that one thousand months. In chapter 97 it states:   Translation: 'In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful. Surely, We sent down the Quran during the Night of Decree. How would you know what the Night of Decree is?   Therein descends angelsand the Spirit by the command of their Lord with their Lord's decree concerning every matter. It is all peace, till the break of dawn.   The Holy Prophet is reported to have said: "Look for the Night of Decree among the odd nights of the last ten days of the month of Ramadhan."   In fact the whole month of Ramadhan is a period of spiritual training wherein believers devote much of their time to fasting. Prayers, frequent recitations of the Holy Quran and remembrance of Allah, as well as charity and goodwill, but during the last ten days of the month they strive more to worship God Almighty and to do good deeds.   The believers gather in the mosque in large numbers for Prayers and spend these nights in remembrance of Allah, asking forgiveness for their shortcomings and looking for the blessed night with the firm belief that God accepts the prayers of the supplicant readily during this night.   Those who can afford to devote the whole of their time in the remembrance of Allah, stay in the mosque for ten days. This worship is called I'tikaf or Retreat. They observe fast during the day and occupy themselves with the remembrance of Allah, performing voluntary Prayers and studying the Holy Quran, day and night, apart from the obligatory Prayers which they perform with the congregation. Food and other necessities of life are provided for them during their stay in the mosque, thus they my not leave the precincts of the mosque except for a genuine religious purpose.   Devoting their time thus fully to the remembrance of Allah, they hope to receive the divine favors and blessings connected with the blessed night.   The Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, was very particular in this regard. It is related that when the last ten days of Ramadhan began, he used to keep awake the whole night and was most diligent in worship.   Ayesha, the wife of the Holy Prophet, once asked him, "Messanger of Allah, tell me, in case I should realize which night is the Night of Decree, how should I supplicate in it? He answered: Supplicate; Allah, Thou art Most Forgiving and does love forgiveness, the do Thou forgive me' (Tirmidhi)
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