Celebrating and taking stock of Islam’s holidays

Muslims in the Treasure Valley recently celebrated Eid ul-Adha, or the Festival of the Sacrifice, which is one of two religious holidays in Islam. The other holiday is the Eid ul-Fitr (Festival of Fast Breaking), which occurs the day after the month of Ramadan.

Muslims celebrate these two holidays based on a lunar calendar. This means that their occurrence in the Gregorian calendar changes from year to year. In 2018, the dates of these two holidays will advance by 10 or 11 days in the Gregorian calendar since a lunar year is shorter than a regular year.

This year, Muslims celebrated the Eid ul-Fitr on June 25, 2017. This festival of breaking the fast occurs on the first day of the month of Shawwal, which follows the month of Ramadan. During the last 10 nights of Ramadan, some Muslims retreat to their local mosque, where they spend these nights worshiping, praying, reading the Quran or simply napping for a few hours.

The second holiday of Eid ul-Adha was celebrated on Sept. 1, 2017, or two lunar months plus 10 days after the Eid ul-Fitr, during the season of the Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca.

There are different rituals for the pilgrims traveling to Mecca and those Muslims back home. The Hajj naturally occurs during the 12th lunar month of Dhul Hijjah, which literally means the month of the Hajj.

For a Muslim, the first 10 days of the month of Dhul Hijjah are thought to be the best days of the whole year, just as the last 10 nights of the month of Ramadan are considered the best nights during a whole year.

It is interesting to note that the Festival of Fast Breaking occurs after the last 10 nights of the month of Ramadan, whereas the Festival of the Sacrifice occurs after the 10 days of the month of Dhul Hijjah.

Some scholars have sought to compare the virtues of the last 10 nights of Ramadan versus those of the first 10 days of Dhul Hijjah.

Some advance the fact that one of the last 10 nights of Ramadan is the Night of Decree, or the Night of Power, when the revelation of the Quran started. Worshiping God during this one night is better than worshiping during 1,000 months, or about 83 years, which is the lifespan of a human being (Quran, Chapter 97).

Other scholars claim that the first 10 days of Dhul Hijjah are superior to the last 10 nights of Ramadan because all forms of worship such as praying, fasting, offering the mandatory alms-giving or regular charity, and performing a pilgrimage, can be accomplished during these 10 days.

Some other scholars have reconciled the arguments of both groups by adopting a middle position that the best nights of the year are the last 10 nights of Ramadan and the best days of the year are the first 10 days of Dhul Hijjah.

The ninth day of the month of Dhul Hijjah is particularly significant as the pilgrims stand at Mount Arafat and earnestly implore God for forgiveness of their sins. It is also a day of fasting and atonement for Muslims around the world who commiserate in spirit with the pilgrims. However, the pilgrims are not allowed to fast.

For a Muslim, the two Eids are times for joy and celebration. It has been reported in the Hadith that the Prophet said: “Do not fast these days for they are the days of eating, drinking and remembering God.”

On these days, it is important to honor ties of kinship, visit friends and neighbors and shake hands with people. A maxim of the Prophet states that “two Muslims will not meet and shake hands that their sins (toward each other) will be forgiven before they separate.”

The Eif ul-Fitr is also called the small Eid whereas the Eid ul-Adha is referred as the big Eid. While both days are joyous occasions, they also remind Muslims to remember their creator during these days and to atone for their sins.

As a religion, Islam emphasizes orthopraxy, which is the emphasis on correct practice and action, rather than orthodoxy, which is the emphasis on correct belief and doctrine. These practices are apparent in the five pillars of Islam and in the celebration of the religious holidays of Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha.

Dr. Said Ahmed-Zaid is a Boise State University engineering professor and the 2004 recipient of the annual HP Award for Distinguished Leadership in Human Rights.

The Statesman’s weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.

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