Islamic holidays are based on the lunar calendar, as opposed to the Gregorian calendar that is based on the solar year. The Islamic calendar began with emigration (Hijra) of Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina in the year 622 C.E. The Gregorian year 2004 C.E. for example is 1425 A.H. (After Hijra). The lunar month is either 29 or 30 days and the Islamic calendar is yearly 11 days shorter than the Gregorian one. This causes Islamic holidays to travel through all the seasons over the years.
Muslims have two major celebrations called Festivals or Eid.
- The Eid of Breaking Fast comes at the end of the fasting month.
- The Eid of Sacrifice is in remembrance of the test of sacrifice given to Prophet Abraham.
Eid begins with special morning prayers and lasts for three days. During Eid Muslims greet each other with the phrase "Eid Mubarak" (eed-moo-barak), meaning "blessed Eid." They also embrace one another, exchange gifts, and visit one another.
In addition to Eids, Muslims also observe the following:
- Hijra New Year -- A holiday in many countries. The New Year reminds Muslims of the migration of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina in the year 622 C.E.
- Night Journey & Ascension -- Remembrance of the ascent of the Prophet in a spiritual journey to God.
- Night of Salvation -- In honor of the merits of the special month of Shaban.
- Ramadan -- The 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. The month of fasting when Muslims abstain from food, drink, and intimate relations from dawn to sunset each day during the month. They often break fast in the evening with family and friends and attend special prayers each night. Fasting Muslims are encouraged to display genorosity, kindness and self discipline more than they do throughout the year.
- The Night of Power -- This is the night of the first revelation of the Quran. Muslims pray throughout the night seeking reward.
- Day of Hajj -- In remembrance of those performing Hajj.
- Friday is also considered a Muslim holy day. Muslims will congregate in mosques for a special sermon and prayer.