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Historical Festivals and Holy Days in The Islamic Culture

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There are many historical festivals and holy days in the Islamic culture that have been a continuous tradition for many years. Many dates back to the time of Muhammad, the Islamic Prophet who was appointed as Prophet by Allah. These festivals and holy days are Al-Hijra, Ashura, Ramadan, Eid Al-Fitr, Hajj, Eid Al-Adha, and Mila un Nabi. All hold many traditions such as, for example, feasts, dishes, ritual prayers, and expectations of giving to the poor.

The first holy day is called Al-Hijra, which is the Islamic New Year. This day has some history in the Islamic tradition and goes back to 622 C.E. during the time of Muhammad. Muhammad was said to have started this holy day when he migrated from Mecca to Medina, Saudi Arabia. He was asked to travel to Medina to help solve the problem of tribes being hostile, and not getting along. Many companions when with him on this journey. During this time, while many tribes were separated, Muhammad’s had the goal to combine these tribes to be on one page. Therefore, he created the first Islamic state, he meshed mosque and state. This means that he took religious rituals and beliefs and combined them with the law of the state. This caused the tribes to diminish and all of the people in them were under one Islamic state, which was when Islam, the religion, was created. After this, all Muslims were under one faith, served one God, “Allah”, and were under one set of laws. The month in which Muhammad accomplished this was called “Muharram” and he created the Islamic state of the first day of the month. This holy day is celebrated from dusk till dawn. In 2019, Al-Hijrah is said to have fallen on Friday, August 30th, and ended the evening of Saturday, August 31st. As opposed to many other holy days, Al-Hijrah doesn’t have many traditional spiritual requirements or rituals. Muslims spend this holy day, much like the American New Year, by reflecting on the past year and what they want to happen in the year that is ahead of them. According to ReligionFacts.com, They will exchange greeting cards to each other to celebrate and will also create “New Years Resolutions”

Ashura is another Islamic holy day. This day falls 10 days after Al-Hijra, on the 10th of Muharram. This holy day was also created by the Prophet Muhammad. According to ReligionFacts.com, historically, Muhammad created this holy day to commemorate two events written out in the Qur’an. One of these events Christians are familiar with and the other they are not. The first event Muslims are supposed to pay their tributes to is when Noah left the ark. Noah built this ark after God, or in Islam, Allah saw that the earth was corrupt with sin and violence and instructed Noah to build an ark with his sons, their wives, and 2 of each creature so Allah could flood the earth. The next event Muslims are to honor on the Day of Ashura is when Moses, a prophet, was saved by Allah from the Egyptians. It was said that Moses was sent by Allah to Egypt because of slavery taking place there. Muslims celebrate this holy day by fasting from sunset to sunset. Unlike Ramadan, a month of fasting which is required for all Muslims to partake in, Ashura is for only one day and is not required or voluntary. Many sects of Islam, such as Sunnis and Shias, celebrate this day differently and even have different histories behind the significance of honoring and partaking in this holy day. According to ReligiousFacts.com, this holy day actually led to the split of these two sects. For Shi’ites, this day honors Husayn’s death when he was boldly willing to be a martyr for Allah. Shia Muslims use this day to mourn and grieve his death and will even express their feelings by partaking in ritual actions that symbolize the pain and struggle Husayn went through in Karbala, Iraq. These ritual actions, for example, are flagellating, where Muslims wear all black, will take a sharp weapon with many chains, and beat themselves on their back with it. They will also beat their heads or cut themselves. They do this to honor Husayn and historically represent the blood that he shed when he was martyred. Muslims also do this to claim salvation and paradise when the “Day of Judgement” by Allah comes. There is a shrine in Karbala, Iraq of Husayn’s tomb that many people visit on this day to participate in grieving, mourning, and these rituals. There will also be speeches held here. According to ReligiousFacts.com, the significance of this holy day for Shi’ites is a “symbol of the struggle against injustice, tyranny, and oppression.” When Muslims do not go to Karbala on this day, they will usually have major festivals. This holy day fell on Monday, September 9th, and ended the evening of Tuesday, September 10th of this year.

Ramadan is the next tradition held for Muslims. This isn’t just a holy day, like other traditions, but is celebrated for a whole month. This month falls on the ninth month of the Islamic year. This holy month is a month of fasting that Muslims partake in to be obedient to Allah’s command. You can find this command in the Qur’an, where Muslims are commanded to participate. According to ReligionFacts.com, during this month, they are to be restricted from many things such as “food, drink, even water, evil thoughts and deeds, and sexual intercourse from dawn till dusk.” The purpose of this month-long fast is so they are making sure they are not putting these things above Allah, and that they are able to rid of distractions in order to make room for spiritual reflection, improve on their worship, follow and learn more teachings of Islam, and increase their devotion and love for Allah. This fast also redirects their heart and focus from worldly things, and cleanses and frees their souls. As for Non-Muslims during this month, they are to be cautious of Muslims around them and shouldn’t eat or drink in their presence in public because it is rude and disrespectful to do. According to ReligionFacts.com, there are specific traditional greetings Muslims are to say during this month. The greeting starts out with “Ramadan Mubarak” which means “May God give you a blessed month”, and it should be replied with “Ramadan Karim” meaning “May God give you a generous month”. In addition, during this month Muslims are encouraged to give their savings to the poor, also known as “Zakat”. Good deeds are especially important and accounted for during this month. It is said that the more they give, the greater the reward they will receive on the Day of Judgement. Muslims are also encouraged to read the entire Qur’an during the month of Ramadan. They visit the mosque every night of the month and participate in traditional ritual prayers and a recitation of a section in the Qur’an. At the end of the month, Muslims will have completed reading the whole entire book. As to who participates in this month of fasting, Muslims are not required to do this until they hit puberty. They must also be healthy and be without any disabilities or illnesses. According to ReligionFacts.com, there are, however, many exceptions to fasting if someone is required to participate. Exceptions such as “menstruation, travel, illness, older age, breastfeeding, and pregnancy”. However, these people are supposed to make up for their days missed. Muslims with medical conditions and illnesses are directed not to participate, however, some still try to. Additionally, they are supposed to talk to a medical professional and get permission if they still want to participate. They also need to be closely monitored by these professionals. As for children, it is not required for them to participate in Ramadan, but they are still allowed to if they want to practice for later in life when it is required for them. At the end of the day, when Muslims are able to break their fast, they say a ritual prayer. Then they have a meal known as “Iftar”. Many people, across Muslim countries, eat different things for this meal according to their preference. Some will eat traditional meals, some will eat from dinner the night before, and others breakfast foods. There will usually also be desserts. In the Qur’an, it is said that “Muhammad broke his fast with three dates”, therefore, many Muslims partake in this same tradition. After the meal is served, before eaten, they will say a prayer known as “Maghrib”, which is the fourth of the five ritual prayers in the religion of Islam. As for liquids, they will drink water, juice, and milk, but rarely soft drinks and beverages with caffeine. ReligionFacts.com gave an example of what this meal might consist of: “lamb stewed with wheat berries, lamb kebabs with grilled vegetables, or roast chicken served with chickpea-stuffed rice pilaf. A rich dessert such as baklava, which is a buttery syrup-sweetened kadaifi noodle pastry filled with cheese.” Not all families will break their fast with the meal “iftar”. Many will have big festivals in order to have fellowship with families, friends, and their community and they will eat iftar together. According to Google, this year, Ramadan fell on Sunday, May 5th, and ended in the evening of Monday, June 3rd.

Eid Al-Fitr is a religious festival celebrated by Muslims all over the world. This takes place after Ramadan and means “Festival of the Breaking of the Fast.” However, before this it can be celebrated, Muslims believe that Allah commands them, in the Qur’an that they must have completed their fast until the last day of Ramadan and they must have already paid the Zakat. Muslims believe that if they had the self-control to fast the whole month of Ramadan that Allah blessed them, and they should be thankful to him on this day. According to ReligionFacts.com, Muslims not only celebrate this festival with rituals and practices but do it joyfully with thankfulness and as a community. The Eid Al-Fitr is one of Islam’s two major festivals, the other being Eid al-Adha. This festival can last up to three days in some countries. In the morning on the first day, the mosque will hold a ritual prayer before beginning the rest of the celebrations the day will hold. Muslims will normally wear new clothes as well. These days of Eid Al-Fitr consist of many communal gatherings and receptions, many will give gifts, they will eat a lot, and will also visit the graves of family members. Just like Ramadan, there is a greeting Muslims will often say, and it is “Id Mabarak” meaning “May God make it a blessed feast.” This year Eid Al-Fitr started on Monday, June 3rd, and ended in the evening of Tuesday, June 4th.

Hajj is a fundamental duty of Muslims in Islamic culture that must be fulfilled once in a lifetime if it is possible. This is a pilgrimage and is symbolic of Islamic worship. Muslims are to take a trip to Mecca, Saudi Arabia and it lasts up to ten days. Mecca, and the cities around it, are some of the holiest places for Islamic culture held with many traditional stories from the Qur’an about Allah. There are also stories of Muhammad starting his life and ministry in Mecca with other prophets. In Mecca, there is a Pre-Islamic monument and according to the Qur’an, was built by Abraham with the help of his son Ishmael. They built the Kaaba as a symbol of their submission to Allah and prayed that they would be shown the ways they are supposed to worship. The Kaaba has been destroyed and rebuilt many times throughout history but the first time it was destroyed, it was rebuilt by Muhammad, the Islamic Prophet. Muslims are to pray five times a day directed toward this monument. This direction was established by the Qur’an itself. Only Muslims can take this pilgrimage to Mecca to visit the Kaaba and participate in Hajj. When Muslims participate in this pilgrimage, all of their past sins are said to be forgiven. However, they are also to have good intentions to go because Allah can judge if their intentions are good or not and it will not count. Muslims are allowed to visit Mecca at any time during the year, however, the twelfth month on the Islamic calendar is when they are able to participate in the Hajj. When Muslims participate in Hajj, they are to wear white cloth and the women still are supposed to wear veils. The white symbolized ritual purity and also masked the wealth and status of the people. When they arrive at the Kaaba and once they are changed, they are to gather in the courtyard around the Kaaba. The first rite of pilgrimage is to run around it seven times counterclockwise. They go around and attempt to kiss and touch the black stone of the Kaaba in the eastern corner. This is historically believed to have been given to Abraham by the angel Gabriel. The next step the pilgrims perform is running between two hills known as “Safa” and “Marwah” seven times. The history behind this is found in the Qur’an. The story is that Abraham, also known as Ibrahim to Muslims, was blessed with a son from Allah through an Egyptian girl, who was also a slave, named Hagar, Hajar in Islam. After this son, Ismail, was born, Allah instructed Ibrahim to take Hajar and Ismail into the desert and leave them there. It was written that Ibrahim left them near where the location of the Kaaba is now. Ismail then cried out in thirst while in the desert, Hajar ran between two hills looking for water and turned to Allah for help. Allah rewarded her for being patient and sent an angel, Gabriel, or Jibril in Islam, to show them a spring known as the “Zamzam Well.” Today, after Muslims run between these two hills, they drink water from the sacred well before their next journey and take some home as well to be blessed. They then set out by groups by foot on long paths or by busses and cars to go to Mina where there are many tents. This is an eight-kilometer journey. When they arrive, they will spend all day in prayer in remembrance of Allah. The next morning, they set out at dawn and travel to Arafat where historically, the Prophet Muhammad was seen to have given his final sermon. Muslims will spend the day in continuous prayer. And at night they will take a nine-kilometer trip and spend the night under the stars. Many will begin collecting pebbles for the next day when they travel back to Mina before sunrise. Here is when they perform a ceremony called “Ramy” where they throw the stone pebbles they picked up the night before and throw them at three pillars. Some will even throw their shoes or some belongings. This has a history of representing the temptation Satan put on Abraham to disobey Allah’s call to sacrifice his son, Ismail. The Qur’an says that as he attempted to kill his son, Allah intervened, and a ram was killed in place of Ismail. Because of this, the next step of the pilgrimage is to slaughter an animal, often a sheep or goat, which the meat will be given away to the poor. In the next few days of the pilgrimage, Muslims will return to Mecca and drink more from the well of Zamzam. There are many issues of Hajj concerning the safety of the crown of people that are there. There is a lot of traffic and many die because of being trampled. However, they believe that if they die for Allah during Hajj, they will instantly merit paradise. In 2020, Hajj will fall on Tuesday, July 28th, and end on the evening of Sunday, August 2nd.

Eid Al-Adha is a festival in Islamic tradition. This is the other one of the two major festivals in Islam and can last up to four days. Eid Al-Adha is also known as the “Festival of Sacrifice.” This festival not only takes place after the Hajj pilgrimage but is also celebrated to commemorate the faith Abraham had of Allah. This festival begins on the last month of the Islamic calendar, known in Islam as “Dhu’l-Hijja.” This festival specifically celebrates the history behind day three of the Hajj when Allah sacrificed the ram instead of making Abraham sacrifice his son Ismail. The overall symbolic meaning behind this festival is submission to Allah. This is also what Islam itself means. For this festival, families will do just as Allah did, if they are financially able to do so, and sacrifice an animal such as a sheep, camel, goat, or cow. They then divide up the meet between the family, and will also give it to their friends, neighbors, and the poor. While they sacrifice an animal, they will recite a prayer. According to ReligionFacts.com, this prayer says, “In the name of Allah and Allah is the greatest O Allah, indeed this is from you and for you, O Allah accept it from me.” Additionally, Muslims will gather in their local mosques where they will wear their best clothes and have “communal prayer” on the first day. They also spend time with family, friends, neighbors, and exchange gifts. According to Google, Eid Al-Adha fell on Thursday, July 30th, and ended on the evening of Friday, July 31st.

Mila un Nabi is a holy day celebrated in Muslim culture as well as in India. This day is celebrated, on the third month of the Islamic calendar, to commemorate the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. The sects of Islam, Shias, and Sunnis, however, will celebrate it on different days during this month. According to CalendarLabs.com, Muhammad’s place of birth was turned into a house of prayer by “Al-Khayzuran.” By the 20th century, this holy day was found to be a national holiday in many regions of the world, especially in Muslim countries. Many years ago, Muslims would celebrate this holy day by sacrificing animals and big possessions they had. Gifts were also exchanged between Muslims who were in great power. Not only do Sunnis and Shias celebrate Mila un Nabi on different days and in different ways but so do Muslims in different parts of the world. According to CalendarLabs.com, “In Pakistan, this holy day is celebrated by raising their national flag on national monuments followed by a gun salute at dawn. In some of the other parts of the world, there are festivals with large possessions and an atmosphere like a carnival. People will exchange gifts and distribute food to the poor. Mosques are decorated with lights and people will gather in mosques to pray.”

These festivals and holy days such as Al-Hijra, Ashura, Ramadan, Eid Al-Fitr, Hajj, Eid Al-Adha, and Mila un Nabi are all historical and traditional in Muslim culture. Many have been seen to date back to the time of Muhammad, the Islamic Prophet and all hold many traditions that have continued on for many years.  

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Historical Festivals and Holy Days in the Islamic Culture. (2022, August 01). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/historical-festivals-and-holy-days-in-the-islamic-culture/
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