Within Islam, Friday is the day of communal weekly gathering. Based upon the Lunar
calendar, Muslims observe the following annual festivals and
first of Muharram (muh-HAR-rahm), New Year’s Day--first month of the Islamic year) celebrates the
Hijra of Muhammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina in 622
(ah-shoo-RA) commemorates the martyrdom of Husayn (hoo-SAYN) on the 10th of Muharram, A.H. 61 (C.E.
[A.D.] 680). Among Shi’a Muslims, this festival is
traditionally celebrated for 10 days, beginning from the first of
Muharram. Ashura can also commemorate the safe landing of
al-Nabiy (MOW lid oon-NA-bee) is the anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. For many
Muslims, this day ranks third in importance, after ‘Id al-Fitr
and Id al-Adha.
al-Nabiy (mehr-raj al-NEB-bee) commemorates the
ascension (al-Mi’Raj) of the Prophet to heaven following his
night journey (al-Isra’) from Mecca to Jerusalem. Interpreted
either symbolically or literally, the Qur’an records the event
in Sura 17:1. While on this night journey, God commanded the
Prophet to begin the practice of prayer five times each day.
(nush-if sha-ah-BAHN) comes
on the 14th day of the eighth month (Sha’ban)...in the middle (Nisf)
of the month. It is a night of repentance in preparation for
(RAH-mah-dahn) is a holy month of fasting wherein
Muslims, who are physically able to refrain, do not eat, drink,
smoke or engage in sexual activity, from the first sign of dawn
until sunset. This month is a time for spiritual reflection
and discipline. Pious adherents remember past sins.
They express gratitude to God for his guidance. Many read
through the entire Qur'an during this month. The traditional Arabic
greeting for Ramadan is "Ramadan Mubarak" (RAH-mah-dahn
moo-BAR-ahk, "may God give you a blessed month").
Response is "Ramadan Karim (RAH-mah-dahn KAH-reem, "May
God give you a generous month").
al-Wada’ (juhm-at al-wha-DAH) is know as 'Farewell
Friday'. It is the last Friday of the month of Ramadan.
Though not a strict festival, many Muslims consider it a special
al-Qadr (LAHAY-let al-KAHD-ehr) is known as the Night of
Power. It commemorates the first revelation of the Qur’an. This
event came to the Prophet Muhammad in 610 C.E. (A.D.), when he was
forty years old. The observance includes the last ten days of
Ramadan as no one knows the exact night the Prophet first received
God's revelation. Sometimes during this event, pious Muslims
seclude themselves in a mosque, leaving only when necessary.
al-Fitr (i-EED al FAHT-ehr), Festival of the Breaking
of the Fast of Ramadan. Along with ‘Id al-Fitr, Id
al-Adha comprise the two main Islamic festivals. ‘Id
al-Fitr celebrates the end of Ramadan. It comes on the
first day of the month Shawwal which follows Ramadan.
Usually the holiday lasts for three days with family members
gathering to exchange presents and celebrate together. When
possible, the faithful attend mosques. It is also an
occasion to pay special alms for the poor ("zakat al-fitr,"
ZAH-kat al FAHT-ehr).
of Hajj (al-HAHJ), the 'Day
of Arafat' comes on the ninth day of Dhul’Hihha.
It commemorates the concluding revelation to the Prophet at Mt.
Arafat, a mountain 18 kilometers east of Mecca. All Muslims on
Hajj attend a service on the plains in front of Mt. Arafat (Waqfatu
al-Adha (i-EED ahl-OOHD-hah), the Festival of Sacrifice concludes
the act of pilgrimage. It usually occures two to
three months after Ramadan. Muslims offer sheep, goats, and
camels in a pattern after Abraham’s offering of his son Ismail
to God. The poor and needy receive the meat. Muslims observe these
two festivals (Day of Hajj and Id al-Adha) whether on pilgrimage
Islam considers Ismail the rightful heir, the son to be sacrificed. (in
the Judeo-Christian tradition, Abraham's second son Isaac,
is the true heir, the son to be sacrificed]).
greeting for this day is "Id Mabarak" (id moo-BAH-ahk,
"may God make it a blessed feast").
"akikah" (ah-KEE-kah) in Arabic, this brief,
informal event welcomes a newborn infant into the home. The
traditional Arabic greeting "Mabrook" (MAH-brook),
meaning congratulations, is appropriate.
Rite. Taking "Shahada"
(SHAH-hah-dah) or "witnessing" occurs anytime from the
mid-teens upward. It is a declaration of the Muslim faith,
"There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of
God." Two male Muslims or eight female Muslims witness
the event. An imam (EE-mahm) leads the prayer and gives a
sermonic talk. A muezzin (MOO-ah-zin) calls the faithful to
prayer. The Arabic term "mabrook" (MAH-brook)
meaning congratulations, may be appropriate.
Marriage. Unless financial or physical restrictions are present,
pious Muslims marry.
Marriage is a social contract or covenant, not a sacrament.
The ceremony, taking place in a mosque, is officiated at by an
imam. Two witnesses observe the contract between the bride
and groom. After the ceremony, a reception ("waleemah,"
wah-LEEH-mah) is common. Pious Muslims serve no alcohol at
this celebration, though beverages and food abound. Traditional
Arabic greetings include "mabrook alaik" (MAH-brook ah-LAYK,
congratulations) if addressing the man; "mabrook alaiki"
(MAH-brook ah-LAYK-ee) if speaking to the bride.
two to three days after death the funeral takes place. Calls
or visits to bereaved families entail quiet sitting, offering a
prayer and condolences to the bereaved family members. An
imam presides at the ceremony. At the graveside, Janazah (jan-NAH-zah)
prayers for the dead, are recited. The deceased is buried,
In the Islamic world
there are two main holiday periods...the feast which follows the
Ramadan fast ('Id al-Fitr, i-EED-ahl-FAHT-ehr) and the feast which
follows the Annual Pilgrimage ('Id al-Adha, i-EED-ahl-OOHD-hah).
These conform with the Islamic calendar., which, being based on
lunar months, is 10 or 11 days shorter than the Western year.
Otherwise, Saudi National Day falls on 23 September of the Western
calendar, but the date is normally not observed by the natives.
For the two feasts, the government announces official holidays of
three or four days. However, it is often the case that in Saudia
Arabia, for example, those employed in government and military
service take about two weeks off from work. Celebration of the
feast following Ramadan has a family focus, while the other feast
involves more visiting and entertaining. Islamic holidays are not
occasions for military ceremonies. These do occur, but they are
mostly confined to bases and training areas and usually involve a
pass in review. Appropriate occasions include high level change of
command, graduation from formal courses, completion of
modernization training or related reorganization. The armed forces
provide honor guard details at airports for the reception of
visiting dignitaries. Occasionally, troops will line the streets
along the route of a motorcade; however, they do not parade
through them. During holiday times, officers and men of the
National Guard may assemble in some public place to perform the
traditional sword dance, which derives from the tribal ritual of