Islamic Articles

Islamic Holidays

Celebrating the Islamic Calendar: Major Holidays

Islamic holidays, also known as Islamic festivals or Eid (Arabic for “celebration” or “festival”), form an essential part of the Islamic calendar. Rooted in history, tradition, and religious significance, these occasions bring Muslims from diverse backgrounds together in joyous commemoration and reflection. Let us embark on a journey through the major Islamic holidays to gain a deeper understanding of their significance and cultural nuances.

Eid al-Fitr: The Festival of Breaking the Fast

Eid al-Fitr, often simply referred to as Eid, marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. As one of the most anticipated and joyous Islamic holidays, Eid al-Fitr celebrates the spiritual renewal and self-discipline experienced during Ramadan. It falls on the first day of Shawwal, the tenth month of the Islamic lunar calendar.

Before the break of dawn, Muslims offer a special prayer, known as Salat al-Eid, in congregation at mosques or open fields. The prayer is followed by a sermon, after which families and friends gather to exchange greetings and gifts. A central aspect of the celebration is the giving of Zakat al-Fitr, a charitable donation that enables the less fortunate to join in the festivities. Sumptuous meals are shared, and sweet treats are savored, with cultural variations in dishes across different regions.

Eid al-Adha: The Festival of Sacrifice

Eid al-Adha, also known as the “Festival of Sacrifice,” is observed to honor the willingness of the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son Isma’il (Ishmael) as an act of obedience to God’s command. Just as Ibrahim was about to carry out the sacrifice, God provided a ram as a substitute.

Eid al-Adha falls on the tenth day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the twelfth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, and it coincides with the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca. Muslims who can afford to do so perform the act of Qurbani, sacrificing a permissible animal such as a sheep, goat, cow, or camel. The meat is divided into three parts: one-third for the family, one-third for relatives and friends, and one-third for those in need.

This holiday emphasizes the significance of faith, obedience, and compassion for others, as it encourages Muslims to share their blessings with the less fortunate.

Islamic New Year (Hijri New Year)

The Islamic New Year marks the first day of the Islamic lunar calendar, Muharram. It commemorates the migration of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his followers from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE, known as the Hijra. The event holds great historical significance as it not only established the Islamic community but also marked a new era for the Muslim Ummah (community).

Although the Islamic New Year is not as widely celebrated as Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, it serves as a time for introspection, renewal of intentions, and setting goals for personal and spiritual growth in the coming year.

Day of Arafah (Yawm al-Arafah)

The Day of Arafah is observed on the ninth day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the day before Eid al-Adha. It is an essential component of the Hajj pilgrimage, as pilgrims gather on the plains of Arafah to pray, seek forgiveness, and engage in supplications.

Even for those who are not performing Hajj, the Day of Arafah holds immense significance, as it is considered a time of immense blessings and an opportunity for believers to seek God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Mawlid al-Nabi: The Birth of the Prophet Muhammad

Mawlid al-Nabi, or simply Mawlid, is celebrated to commemorate the birth of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It is observed on the 12th day of Rabi’ al-Awwal, the third month of the Islamic lunar calendar.

The observance of Mawlid varies among different Muslim communities. Some choose to celebrate it with recitations of the Quran, religious lectures, and charitable activities. However, there are some debates within the Muslim community regarding the religious legitimacy of the celebration, as it is not directly mentioned in the Quran or the authentic Hadith.


Islamic holidays carry profound religious, cultural, and historical significance for Muslims worldwide. Each celebration serves as an opportunity for believers to strengthen their faith, foster unity within their communities, and reflect on the timeless teachings of Islam. Through commemorating these major Islamic festivals, Muslims cherish their shared heritage while honoring the diversity that enriches their faith. As we journey through these celebrations, may we deepen our understanding and respect for the Muslim world and its rich tapestry of traditions.

What are Islamic holidays?

Islamic holidays are religious observances celebrated by Muslims worldwide. These holidays hold significant religious and cultural importance in the Islamic faith and are marked by various rituals, prayers, and community gatherings.

How many major Islamic holidays are there?

There are two major Islamic holidays: Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. These are known as the “Eids” and are celebrated by Muslims around the world with great joy and enthusiasm.

What is Eid al-Fitr?

Eid al-Fitr, also known as the “Festival of Breaking the Fast,” is celebrated at the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting for Muslims. It marks the conclusion of fasting and is a time of thanksgiving, feasting, and giving to the less fortunate.

What is Eid al-Adha?

Eid al-Adha, also known as the “Festival of Sacrifice,” is celebrated around two months after Eid al-Fitr. It commemorates the willingness of the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son Isma’il (Ishmael) as an act of obedience to God’s command. However, before the sacrifice could take place, God provided a ram as a substitute.

Do Muslims celebrate any other holidays?

Apart from Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, Muslims also observe other significant occasions, such as the Islamic New Year (Hijri New Year), the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (Mawlid al-Nabi), and the Night of Ascension (Lailat al-Miraj). However, the celebration of these occasions varies among different Islamic communities.

Do Muslims in non-Muslim-majority countries get holidays for Islamic festivals?

In some non-Muslim-majority countries, employers or educational institutions may grant time off or accommodations for Islamic holidays, especially in areas with a significant Muslim population. However, it may not be a widespread practice, and observance might differ from one country to another.

Are non-Muslims allowed to participate in Islamic holiday celebrations?

Yes, Islamic holiday celebrations are generally open to people of all faiths. Non-Muslims are often welcomed to join their Muslim friends and colleagues during festive gatherings, meals, and prayer services as a sign of unity and inclusivity.

Are there any restrictions on food during Islamic holidays?

There are no specific restrictions on food during Islamic holidays. However, during Eid al-Fitr, it is customary to enjoy sweet dishes and desserts, as they symbolize the sweetness of the blessings of Ramadan. On Eid al-Adha, the meat from the sacrificial animal is shared, and feasting with family and friends is encouraged.

How do Muslims greet each other during Eid?

During Eid, Muslims often greet each other with the phrase “Eid Mubarak,” which translates to “Blessed Eid” or “Happy Eid.” It is a way to convey good wishes and blessings on the occasion of the holiday.

Are Islamic holidays fixed on specific dates?

No, Islamic holidays are based on the Islamic lunar calendar, which is approximately 11 days shorter than the Gregorian solar calendar. As a result, the dates of Islamic holidays shift each year and do not have fixed dates on the Gregorian calendar.

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