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As the United States grows increasingly diverse, recognizing important holidays within different traditions not only brings awareness of the diversity within the student population but also instills pride in the people who celebrate them. In the case of Muslim holidays or important dates, Muslim students may be too embarrassed or shy to acknowledge these practices or holidays, which are not yet a part of mainstream American culture. Additionally, since Muslims use a lunar calendar, the dates are not fixed, which makes it challenging for people to keep track of them.
*After Hijra (Hijra means “migration” in Arabic. This refers to the migration that the Prophet Muhammad made from Mecca to Medina in the year 622 C.E., which marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar.)
Please Note: In some communities and based on differences in scholarly opinions, actual dates are subject to local sightings of the new moon. For more information, please contact ING at 408-296-7312.
About the Islamic Calendar
The Islamic calendar (known as the Hijri calendar) is a lunar calendar. It contains 12 months that are based on the cycles of the moon. The Islamic calendar shifts by approximately 11 days every year with respect to the Gregorian calendar because 12 lunar months are only 354.36 days (12 x 29.53). The estimated 3 to 6 million Muslim Americans may observe additional religious and ethnic holidays in addition to those described below.
Ramadan (Islamic month of Fasting)
Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar during which Muslims fast daily from dawn to sunset as part of an effort towards self-purification and moral excellence. Muslims believe that Ramadan is the month in which the first verses of the Qur’an, Islam’s holy book, were revealed by God through the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad. Learn more here.
Eid ul-Fitr (Festival of Breaking the Fast)
This holiday commemorates the completion of Ramadan and lasts for three days during which Muslims celebrate with special prayers, sweets, presents for children, and community festivities.
Hajj (Annual Pilgrimage to Mecca)
The Hajj or annual pilgrimage to Mecca consists of several rituals that symbolize essential concepts of the Islamic faith, such as devotion to God, fellowship, and unity. The rituals of Hajj also commemorate the trials of the Prophet Abraham and his family. Hajj is required once in a Muslim’s lifetime if he or she is financially and physically able. Two to three million Muslims perform the pilgrimage annually. Learn more here.
Eid ul-Adha (Festival of the Sacrifice)
This holiday takes place on the third day of Hajj and lasts for four days. The holiday commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, who was miraculously replaced by a lamb. The holiday is celebrated much like Eid ul-Fitr with the addition that Muslims sacrifice a lamb, goat or cow, and share the meat with friends, relatives, and the poor
Islamic New Year
The Islamic New Year falls on the 1st day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar. The Islamic calendar began with the migration – or Hijra – of the Prophet Muhammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina. This event has a special significance in Islamic history as it marks the end of the period of persecution in Mecca and the transition to a recognized faith community in Medina. Learn more here.
Ashura falls on the 10th day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar. This day marks the anniversary of the tragic martyrdom of Husayn, the Prophet’s grandson, and many of his family members and companions. Shi‘ah and many Sunnis commemorate the day by mourning them and reflecting on how their example can inspire them today. Ashura also marks the anniversary of the exodus of Moses from Egypt and other events from the lives of the prophets, which are often observed by Sunnis by completing an optional fast.
This holiday is the anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. Sunnis observe the holiday on the 12th of Rabi‘ ul-Awwal, while Shi‘ah observe it on the 17th of Rabi‘ ul-Awwal, the third month of the Islamic calendar. Muslims often celebrate the birthday of the Prophet by reciting additional prayers and poems in his honor, remembering his life and teachings, and by giving charity to the poor. In some Muslim-majority countries, the holiday is celebrated with festivals, lights, and decorations throughout cities and in homes
For additional information and resources on Islamic Holidays please visit here.