New Muslims Society

What Do Muslims Celebrate?

celebrations in Islam

The first day of the month following Ramadan is `Eid al-Fitr (`Eid of Breaking the Fast). This is the celebration of fast-breaking.

In Islam, celebration is a form of thanking Allah, the One True God. Celebration, in Islam, is merry-making, going out to parties, visiting and meeting friends and relatives and having clean fun, and also a form of physical and spiritual purification.

Islamic celebrations include taking a bath, putting on clean or new clothes, wearing perfume and going to the mosque or a place of congregation for salah (prayer), a form of prescribed prayers. The Islamic celebration of `Eid is also a day when children and adults may get new clothes and gifts.

The dates and days of celebration are set according to the Islamic calendar.

Islamic Calendar

The Islamic calendar consists of twelve lunar-based months. A new month begins with the sighting of the new crescent. Since lunar months are 29 or 30 days long, a year has 354 or 355 days, 10 or 11 days shorter than the solar year.

Another characteristic of Islamic months is that the number of days of a month is not fixed. For example, the month of Ramadan may be 30 days in one year and 29 days in another year.

In this age of advanced astronomy and mathematics it is possible to calculate the first of the month years ahead of time, but conservative interpretations of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) require Muslims to see the new crescent physically before announcing the first day of the month. Hence, there is uncertainty in fixing the date.

In practice, Muslims look toward the western horizon on the 29th of the month, immediately after sunset for the new crescent. If the crescent is not sighted they complete 30 days of the month, then start the new month. If the moon is sighted on the 29th , the new month has already begun with the sunset.

The twelve months of the Islamic calendar are Muharram, Safar, Rabi` Awwal, Rabi` Thani, Jumada Awwal, Jumada Thani, Rajab, Sha`ban, Ramadan, Shawwal, Dhul-Qi`dah and Dhul-Hijjah.

The moon by itself is not holy or sacred in Islam. The moon, as a symbol which appears on flags and minarets, may have been an adaptation from the Romans or the Turks in the early period of Islam but after the period of the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad. Islamic teachings do not place any significance on the moon, sun or other heavenly objects except as creations and signs of Allah.

Prescribed Salah (Prayers) and the Time Table

The prayer is a form of worship, a celebration of the holiness, praise and glorification of Allah and the renewal of dedication of oneself to Him. Every adult Muslim is required to perform prayer five times a day. For the preparation of the prayer time table, the position of the sun in relation to a location on the earth are used, that is, sunrise, meridian and sunset.

Before sunrise but after dawn, which commences 80 to 90 minutes before sunrise, is the time for the morning or Fajr prayer. Immediately after the meridian is the beginning of early afternoon or Zhuhr Prayer (Noon Prayer), which lasts midway to sunset. From midway to sunset till shortly before sunset is the mid-afternoon or `Asr Prayer time.

Immediately after sunset is the Maghrib Prayer (Sunset Prayer) time which lasts until the disappearance of twilight (approximately an hour). After Maghrib until dawn is the `Isha’ or (Night Prayer) time. Each of the prayers lasts five to ten minutes, but it must be done within its own time slot. All Muslims who have attained puberty are required to perform prescribed prayers at the proper time. A brief washing is required as a preparation for the prayers.

The following weekly and annual celebrations are mandated in Islamic textual sources, that is, the Qur’an and the Hadith.

Yawm Al-Jumu`ah

The literal meaning of these two words is ’the day of congregation‘, which is Friday. Muslims gather in the masjid (mosque) for a khutbah (sermon or speech) followed by Jumu`ah (Friday Prayer) led by an Imam. After the prayer, people meet each other in the masjid and may visit relatives and friends.

In Islam there is no Sabbath, therefore, there is no mandatory closing of businesses on Friday except for the duration of congregational services. However, in a majority of Muslim countries, Friday is the weekly holiday, sometimes combined with Thursday or Saturday. In the West, Muslims take a couple of hours from their jobs or businesses to go to the mosque on Friday. The Friday Prayer, held in the early afternoon, lasts less than an hour in general.

In large work places where many Muslims are employed, Muslims use a room and prepare it for the Jumu`ah (Friday Prayer). In some places a community center room is rented for a couple of hours on Friday for holding the congregation. Since, a part of the prayer requires prostrating and sitting on the floor, it is covered with clean sheets or rugs.

Ramadan: The Month of Fasting

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is known as the month of fasting. During Ramadan Muslims get up before dawn, 2-3 hours before sunrise, and eat a pre-dawn meal. There is no eating, drinking, or sexual activity between dawn and sunset. In addition, Muslims must implement the moral code of Islam very strictly; the violation thereof nullifies their fast. During the night Muslims eat, drink (intoxicants are forbidden) and carry on normally.

Laylat Al-Qadr

The literal meaning is ‘the Night of Decree’, “the Night of Measure’ or ‘the Night of Value’, sometimes also translated as ‘the Night of Power’. The worship and works of this night carry more value than the worship and works of one thousand months. This is the night when angels descend with the decree of Allah.

This night may be any of the odd nights of Ramadan during the last ten days, meaning, Laylat al-Qadr may be the 21st or 23rd or 25th or 27th or 29th night of Ramadan. Some Muslims celebrate only on the 27th night and by doing so they may be missing the real Laylat al-Qadr.

During these nights, Muslims stay awake all night reading and studying the Qur’an, listening to religious addresses and performing salah. They go home for the pre-dawn meal to prepare for the fast; naturally, they need to sleep the next day.


   1. Some Muslims take time off from their work for the entire last ten days of Ramadan and stay in the masjid, day and night, until the end of Ramadan. This is called I`tikaf (spiritual retreat in the mosque or isolation from the worldly affairs). Those who are in I`tikaf are allowed to go out for necessities only, such as for food and to use the bathroom and shower, if not found within the mosque area.

`Eid Al-Fitr

The first day of the month following Ramadan is `Eid al-Fitr (`Eid of Breaking the Fast). This is the celebration of fast-breaking. Muslims watch the western horizon immediately after sunset on the 29th day of Ramadan for the crescent. If the crescent is sighted, it is the first day of the new month and beginning of `Eid day. If the crescent is not sighted within ½ an hour after sunset on the 29th day of Ramadan the Muslims complete 30 days of fasting. Either way, the 1st of Shawwal, the 10th month of the Islamic lunar calendar is ‘Eid al-Fitr.

On `Eid day, Muslims gather in a larger facility than the neighborhood masjid and join in Salat Al-‘Eid which is composed of salah followed by an address by the Imam (leader). This is a major holiday for the Muslims. On this day, they visit many relatives and friends and give gifts to the children.

`Eid is, first, a day of thanks to Allah, and next, a gathering of families and friends. All financially able Muslims are required to give Sadaqat Al-Fitr, a form of charity, on behalf of each and every person of the family, including newborns, to the poor and needy during the Ramadan but before the `Eid Prayers.

`Eid Al-Adha

This is the celebration of sacrifice which comes two months and ten days after `Eid Al-Fitr. Muslims celebrate the sacrifice of the lamb in place of Ishmael (Isma`il) by his father, Abraham. On this day, after Salat Al-`Eid (the prescribed `Eid Prayers), Muslims sacrifice an animal: a ram, goat, sheep, cow or camel. The meat is divided into three parts: one part is distributed among the poor and needy, one part is distributed among relatives and friends and one part is used by the family.

This is also a major holiday for Muslims to visit each other and give gifts to the children. `Eid Al-Adha is celebrated on the 10th of Dhul-Hijjah, the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar, and again depends upon the crescent sighting for the first of the month. For those people who have gone to Makkah for Hajj (the pilgrimage), staying in the Plain of Arafat on the 9th of Dhul-Hijjah is the most important event. However, for those not performing Hajj, `Eid Al-Adha is the 10th of Dhul-Hijjah and one of the two most important celebrations of the year.

In the Arabian Peninsula the calendar follows the local crescent sighting criterion, whereas in the U.S., the local crescent sighting is used for the determination of dates. `Eid Al-Adha may be celebrated for four days from the 10th to the 13th of Dhul-Hijjah.

Cultural Celebrations

There are many other occasions which Muslims celebrate that are developments of local cultures and traditions. Some celebrations are more widespread than others. However, these are innovations in Islam and have no foundation in the Qur’an, the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) or practices of the Sahabah (the Companions of the Prophet).

These innovative celebrations are not found in the early generations of Muslims. In fact, Prophet Muhammad has declared all innovations (in the religion of Islam) to be bid`ah (heresy) and he declared that all bid`ah lead to dalalah (misguidance) and all dalalah lead to the hell-fire.

The following celebrations are religious/cultural innovations which are discouraged by the informed Islamic scholars.

Mawlid An-Nabi

Mawlid An-Nabi (Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday) is the most common innovative celebration in the Muslim world. It is supposed to celebrate the ‘birthday’ of the Prophet Muhammad. However, there is no authentic record that the Prophet or his Companions celebrated his birthday. Besides, there is no verifiable proof of Prophet’s date of birth. It is an innovation of later times, reported to have been introduced by the Fatimids in Egypt, a very corrupt Shiite sub-sect.

Laylat Al-Isra’ & Al-Mi`raj

A verse in the Qur’an, “Glorified be He Who carried His servant by night from the Inviolable Place of Worship to the Far distant place of worship the neighborhood whereof We have blessed, that We might show him of Our tokens! Lo! He, only He, is the Hearer, the Seer” (Al-Isra’ 17:1), states that the Messenger of Allah was taken one night to Jerusalem and brought back to Makkah.

In addition, authentic traditions add that he was led to the Heavens to visit the signs of Allah. However, there is no authentic day or date of this event recorded nor did the Prophet or his Companions ever celebrate this night. Despite the lack of evidence, many Muslims continue to celebrate it.

Laylat An-Nisf min Sha`ban

Laylat An-Nisf min Sha`ban (The Middle Night of Sha`ban), which is called also Shab-e-Barat, is a celebration which takes place on the 15th night of the 8th month of the Islamic lunar calendar, Sha`ban, but has no foundation in the Qur’an or teachings of the Prophet.

Unpermitted Celebrations

Some Sunni Muslims celebrate such days for many assumed saintly persons and Shiite celebrate such days for their assumed Imams. There is no evidence to permit such celebrations in Islam. There are related celebrations held annually at the graves and mausoleums of reputedly virtuous m    en (assumed saints or awlia’-Allah) of the past era. Such celebrations on or off the grave sites are not permitted according to the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad.

National Celebrations and Holidays

Celebrations such as of Independence Day, Republic Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and others are rooted in the secular lives of nations. Such celebrations are not mandated in Islam and have no Islamic significance.




New Muslims Worldview

Valentine’s Day: Roots & Islamic View

As Muslims, we are required to love one another and to wish and inculcate love among people regardless of their color, race, religion, or identity. However, this does not mean dissolving our identity or blindly copying and imitating others’ traditions and practices. so, what is the origin of some of these festivals, i.e. Valentine’s Day, what does Islam say about this?

Valentine's Day

The Romans used to celebrate this event in mid-February each year with a big festival.

Origin of Valentine’s Day (Festival of Love)

The Festival of Love was one of the festivals of the pagan Romans, when paganism was the prevalent religion of the Romans more than seventeen centuries ago. In the pagan Roman concept, it was an expression of “spiritual love”.

There were myths associated with this pagan festival of the Romans, which persisted with their Christian heirs. Among the most famous of these myths was the Roman belief that Romulus, the founder of Rome, was suckled one day by a she-wolf, which gave him strength and wisdom.

The Romans used to celebrate this event in mid-February each year with a big festival.

One of the rituals of this festival was the sacrifice of a dog and a goat. Two strong and muscular youths would daub the blood of the dog and goat onto their bodies, then they would wash the blood away with milk. After that there would be a great parade, with these two youths at its head, which would go about the streets. The two youths would have pieces of leather with which they would hit everyone who crossed their path. The Roman women would welcome these blows, because they believed that they could prevent or cure infertility.

Between Saint Valentine and This Festival

Saint Valentine is a name which is given to two of the ancient “martyrs” of the Christian Church. It was said that there were two of them, or that there was only one, who died in Rome as the result of the persecution of the Gothic leader Claudius, c. 296 CE. In 350 CE, a church was built in Rome on the site of the place where he died, to perpetuate his memory.

When the Romans embraced Christianity, they continued to celebrate the Feast of Love mentioned above, but they changed it from the pagan concept of “spiritual love” to another concept known as the “martyrs of love”, represented by Saint Valentine who had advocated love and peace, for which cause he was martyred, according to their claims. It was also called the Feast of Lovers, and Saint Valentine was considered to be the patron saint of lovers.

One of their false beliefs connected with this festival was that the names of girls who had reached marriageable age would be written on small rolls of paper and placed in a dish on a table. Then the young men who wanted to get married would be called, and each of them would pick a piece of paper. He would put himself at the service of the girl whose name he had drawn for one year, so that they could find out about one another. Then they would get married, or they would repeat the same process again on the day of the festival in the following year.

The Christian clergy reacted against this tradition, which they considered to have a corrupting influence on the morals of young men and women. It was abolished in Italy, where it had been well-known, then it was revived in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when in some western countries there appeared shops which sold small books called “Valentine’s books”, which contained love poems, from which the one who wanted to send a greeting to his sweetheart could choose. They also contained suggestions for writing love letters.

The Islamic View

valentine's day_heart

Islam is the religion of altruism, true love, and cooperation on that which is good and righteous.

Elaborating the Islamic stance on celebrating Valentine’s Day, Dr. Su`ad Ibrahim Salih, professor of Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh) at Al-Azhar University, says:

Indeed, Islam is the religion of altruism, true love, and cooperation on that which is good and righteous. We implore Allah Almighty to gather us together under the umbrella of His All-encompassing Mercy, and to unite us together as one man. Allah Almighty says:

The believers are naught else than brothers. Therefore make peace between your brethren and observe your duty to Allah that haply ye may obtain mercy (Al-Hujurat 49:10)

I can say that there are forms of expressing love that are religiously acceptable, while there are others that are not religiously acceptable. Among the forms of acceptable love are those that include the love for Prophets and Messengers. It stands to reason that the love for Allah, and His Messenger Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) should have the top priority over all other forms of love.

Islam does also recognize happy occasions that bring people closer to one another, and add spice to their lives. However, Islam goes against blindly imitating the West regarding a special occasion such as Valentine’s Day.

Hence, commemorating that special day known as the Valentine’s Day is an innovation or bid`ah that has no religious backing. Every innovation of that kind is rejected, as far as Islam is concerned. Islam requires all Muslims to love one another all over the whole year, and reducing the whole year to a single day is totally rejected.

We Muslims ought not to follow in the footsteps of such innovations and superstitions that are common in what is known as the Valentine’s Day. No doubt that there are many irreligious practices that occur on that day, and those practices are capable of dissuading people from the true meanings of love and altruism to the extent that the celebration is reduced to a moral decline.