Eid Sa’id! Muslims celebrate festival breaking the Ramadan fast

Group of people kneeling in white and red clothing

Click on the image above to watch a video of a student-based program for Eid al-Fitr. Courtesy of Vimeo

SUNSET MONDAY, JUNE 3: Sunrise-to-sunset fasting has ended for the world’s Muslims, and the Islamic community transitions from the month of Ramadan to the month of Shawwaal with a joyous “Feast of the Breaking of the Fast,” called Eid al-Fitr. (Eid Sa’id! is a common greeting, meaning, happy Eid!) (Note: Spellings vary, and you may see the holiday alternatively spelled Eid ul-Fitr, as well.)

From the United Arab Emirates: UAE’s Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation has announced that private sector workers will have four days for Eid Al Fitr in 2019 (one day less than public sector workers). For those in the private sector, the holiday will start on June 3 and end on either Thursday, June 6, or Friday, June 7, depending on moon sighting (the public sector holiday begins on June 2).

Group of people on knees in front of mosque

Iranians in prayer on Eid al-Fitr. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

EID AL-FITR: FROM SUNRISE TO SUNSET

Before sunrise on Eid al-Fitr, Muslims pray, bathe and put on their best clothing. A small breakfast—usually including dates—is consumed before heading to a nearby mosque (or, in some cases, an open square or field). In the mosques, open squares and fields, Muslims pray in unison; following prayers, feasting commences.

Government buildings, schools and businesses close in Muslim countries as everyone visits family and friends, dines on sweet treats and joyfully greets passersby. In many regions, festivities will continue for three days; in some regions, festivities can last up to nine days.

Zakat (charitable giving) has been completed, and many adherents spend ample time enjoying the company of family and friends, attending carnivals and fireworks displays, giving gifts and expressing thanks to Allah.

Did you know? The first Eid was observed by the Prophet Muhammad in 624 CE. 

The grand holiday of Eid al-Fitr is referred to in many ways: the Sugar Feast, Sweet Festival, Feast of the Breaking of the Fast and Bajram, to name just a few.

AROUND THE WORLD: FROM THE UK TO ASIA TO AFRICA

With nearly one-quarter of the world’s population observing the Islamic faith, countries around the world are preparing their banks, airlines, shops, business hours and public services for the major holiday.

Unlike most Muslim holidays, which may or may not be observed by all Muslims each year, the two Eid holidays—Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr—are commemorated universally.

In the UK, some of the largest festivals of the year will take place for the Eid holidays.

Did you know?
In Egypt, Eid ul-Fitr is an occasion for neighborhood carnivals; in Asia, a celebratory dish contains toasted sweet vermicelli noodles and dried fruit; in Saudi Arabia, wealthy families buy large quantities of rice and other staples and leave them anonymously on the doorsteps of those less fortunate.

Looking for Eid recipes?
Sweet and savory selections are available courtesy of the BBC. For sweet recipes, check out NPR.org. For even more, try the New York Times.

Care to read more?

As 2019 dawned, we made a commitment as a publishing house to help combat bigotry by reaching out to our Muslim neighbors in a friendly way.

GET THE BOOK—Please consider buying a copy of the new book Our Muslim Neighbors and become a positive model of change in your community.

Recently, author Victor Begg was featured in an online interfaith dialogue in Florida. Here’s a link to that inspiring conversation.

Want to see all the holiday stories?

Just remember www.InterfaithHolidays.com 

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Ramadan: Muslims worldwide embrace month of fasting and prayer

“O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint.”
from The Quran

Mosque lit at night with people gathered

Muslims gather for a Quran reading during Ramadan in Iran. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SUNSET SUNDAY MAY 5: The crescent moon shines in the night sky as Ramadan 2019 begins for Muslims around the globe, ushering in a month of daytime fasting, intense prayer and shared nighttime meals. Though an official moon sighting—and start date of Ramadan—is announced from Saudi Arabia, localized moon sightings may still vary slightly by region. (Learn more here about the crescent moon sighting, vital to the start of Ramadan, from the website of the main North American council of Islamic scholars.)

As the Islamic calendar is lunar, the beginning and end of Ramadan is based on a crescent moon sighting that is typically visible 1-2 days after the astronomical new moon. The end of Ramadan—the ninth month of the Islamic calendar—is met with Eid al-Fitr, a festival of the breaking of the fast. Eid al-Fitr marks the beginning of the next lunar month, Shawwal, and is a time of great feasting and family celebrations.

RAMADAN 2019:
DISCOVER ‘OUR MUSLIM NEIGHBORS’

Author Victor Begg is an experienced public speaker and group leader. He’s already scheduling appearances across the U.S. Contact him via his website if you’re interested in inquiring about his schedule.

Early in 2019, we encouraged our readers to make a special commitment this year. You can read that entire column here. The story opens this way …

Join all of us at our publishing house in making this New Year’s Resolution: Meet a Muslim.

Most Americans have never actually met our millions of Muslim neighbors. It’s time to change that. If we do reach out, we usually discover new friends with similar values—and the entire community is enriched by our new friendships.

This week, we are making this process easier than ever before. You can meet Victor Begg, his wife Shahina and their entire family in the engaging new memoir, Our Muslim Neighbors—Achieving the American Dream, an Immigrant’s MemoirVictor welcomes readers into a fascinating family story in which readers are likely to recognize the personalities of their own mothers, fathers and other family and friends.

Readers certainly will recognize their core American values and will enjoy reading about Victor’s courageous attempts to live out those values, sometimes in the midst of tragedy.

RAMADAN: MUHAMMAD AND THE QURAN

Of every month in the calendar, Muslims hold Ramadan to be the most favorable for the revelations of God to humankind. Specifically, Ramadan recalls the month when the first verses of the Quran were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Because the Quran was given to the Prophet during this month, Muslims usually spend more time with the Quran—often visiting mosques and other Muslim centers where the entire Quran will be recited aloud during the course of the month.

During this special month, devotees also gain a better understanding of the conditions surrounding those less fortunate around the world, and charitable works skyrocket during Ramadan.

FASTING (AND THE IFTAR)

Tradition states that God not only suggested fasting, but demanded it for those physically and mentally able. During Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, all able Muslims are required to refrain from eating and drinking during daylight hours in the hopes that they will gain a closer relationship with Allah.

A fast-breaking meal known as Iftar replenishes the body’s food stores after a long day: the meal starts with dates, in the practice of Muhammad himself, followed by a feast prepared for family and friends.

During the night, Muslim countries are alight and alive with lanterns in houses and mosques, lights in public squares and joy all around.

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Hajj: Millions of Muslims travel to Mecca for annual pilgrimage, pillar of Islam

Huge crowds of people dressed in white inside open-air mosque

Hajj pilgrims circumambulating the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The Kaaba is the most sacred site in Islam. Photo courtesy of Max Pixel

More than a billion Muslims around the world look to the Hajj, each year, as more than 2 million pilgrims travel to Mecca for to fulfill one of the five pillars of Islam.

SUNSET MONDAY, AUGUST 20: Eid Al-Adha, also known as the Feast of the Sacrifice, begins and runs through August 21. On the morning of Eid, crowds spill out of mosques, into open fields and in parks around the world, as Muslims celebrate both Ibrahim’s devotion and the miracle that took place on the sacrificial altar. Officially, Eid al-Adha begins after the descent of Mount Arafat by the pilgrims on Hajj in Mecca; Muslims across the globe gather with family and friends and offer prayers in congregation.

Hajj: Hajj is a religious duty that must be undertaken by every adult Muslim at least once in his or her lifetime (if it is manageable physically, mentally and financially); despite the frequently used phrase “religious duty,” Muslims regard Hajj as an experience to be treasured. Muslims believe that the ritual of a pilgrimage to Mecca stretches back centuries before the advent of Islam—to the time of Ibrahim (Abraham)—yet it was the Muslim Prophet Muhammad who cemented the rituals of Hajj, in the seventh century. The uniform method of performing the rituals of Hajj is meant to demonstrate both the solidarity of the Muslim people and their submission to God.

STORIES & TRADITIONS

Islamic tradition tells that in approximately 2000 BCE, Abraham was ordered by God to leave his wife, Hagar, and his son, Ishmael, alone in the desert of Mecca while he traveled to Canaan. After Abraham left, her food and water quickly ran out, so Hagar ran back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwa seven times. Exhausted, Hagar laid Ishmael down on the sand and begged God for help. Miraculously, a well sprang up at the baby’s feet, and that well—the Zamzam Well—continues to provide ample water to Hajj pilgrims today.

Later, according to Muslim tradition, Abraham was commanded to build the Kaaba, so that people could perform pilgrimage there. It is believed that the Archangel Gabriel brought the Black Stone from heaven to be attached to the Kaaba; today, the Black Stone marks the beginning and ending point of each circle a pilgrim makes as he circulates the Kaaba during Hajj.

DESTINATION: MECCA

Muslims describe the era of pre-Islamic Arabia as jahiliyyah, a time of what Muslims regard as barbaric practices when the Kaaba had become surrounded by pagan idols. To cleanse the Kaaba, the Prophet Muhammad led his followers from Medina to Mecca in what is now regarded as the first Hajj. The pagan idols were destroyed, and Muhammad rededicated the Kaaba to God. At this point, Hajj became one of the five pillars of Islam, and adherents have been making the journey ever since. While on Hajj, men and women are permitted to perform the rituals side-by-side as a reminder that they will also stand together on Judgment Day.

RITUALS OF HAJJ

Prior to the start of Hajj, pilgrims go to the entry station where they bathe, don special clothing and make a statement of intent. The first ritual of Hajj is performed inside the Grand Mosque complex: pilgrims circle the Kaaba structure seven times, counterclockwise, reciting prayers (tawaf). Following tawaf, many drink from the Zamzam well. Next, Muslims walk rapidly between the hills of Sara and Marwa seven times, as Hagar did. Another statement of intent is made, after which the faithful travel through Mina, and on to the plains of Mount Arafat.

Intense prayer for forgiveness is offered at Arafat, as Muhammad said, “Far more people are freed from the Hellfire on the Day of Arafat than on any other day.” This portion of the Hajj journey is one of the most important. Small stones are gathered, and the following day, pilgrims perform a symbolic “stoning of the devil” at Mina.

Muslims the world over celebrate Eid al-Adha. Pilgrims return to Mecca to repeat Tawaf, crossing Sara and Marwa, performing additional symbolic stonings and circulating the Kaaba one final time, to do a farewell tawaf.

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Laylat al Qadr and Eid al-Fitr: Muslims observe holiest night, end of Ramadan

Group of Muslims kneeling in prayer, daytime, outdoors

Muslims in Iran holding Eid al-Fitr prayer. Photo by M. Hasan Miremadi, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SUNSET SUNDAY, JUNE 10 and SUNSET THURSDAY, JUNE 14: The holiest night of the Islamic year arrives for Muslims worldwide with the Night of Power (Laylat al-Qadr). Known by many names—Night of Value, Night of Destiny, Night of Measure—Muslims note the anniversary of the night the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad via the angel Gabriel. (Note: Muhammad did not reveal precisely when the Night of Power occurred, though the 27th day of Ramadan is a traditionally held date; however, as many of the odd-numbered nights in the last 10 days of Ramadan as possible are still observed.)

It is believed that on this sacred night, verses of the Quran were relayed to Muhammad in the year 610 CE, and angels descended to earth for the event. If a devoted Muslim prays in earnest for forgiveness of sins on Laylat al-Qadr and reads the Quran, it’s believed that the night is “better than 1,000 months.” Sins are forgiven and blessings are manifold.

Mosque lit up at night, people walking out of mosque and nearby

Photo by Sharonang, courtesy of pixabay

I’TIKAF & THE FINAL DAYS OF RAMADAN

Muslims who can afford to spend the final 10 days of Ramadan in the mosque may choose to observe a form of worship known as I’tikaf. A fast observed during the day is supplemented with intense prayer and Quran study both day and night. Nighttime meals are provided by most mosques to I’tikaf participants. Ten days of observance is ideal, but some participants follow the practice for shorter periods. Both men and women are encouraged to observe I’tikaf.

Note: Due to traditional moon sighting calculations, Muslim observances often vary by country or region.

THE END OF RAMADAN: HAPPY EID!

Sunrise-to-sunset fasting through some of the year’s longest, hottest days has ended for the world’s Muslims, and the Islamic community transitions from the month of Ramadan to Shawwaal with a joyous “Feast of the Breaking of the Fast,” called Eid al-Fitr. Islamic days start at sunset, and for 2018, official astronomers have predicted that sunrise on June 14 will open Eid al-Fitr.

Note: Spellings vary, and you may see the holiday spelled Eid ul-Fitr as well. The proper greeting for this festival is “Eid Sa’id!” (Happy Eid!)

For the grand holiday, Muslims around the world awaken early, heading to a nearby mosque (or, in some cases, an open square or field) and praying in unison, before feasting with families and friends. Government buildings, schools and businesses close in Muslim countries as everyone visits family and friends, dines on sweet treats and greets passersby with a “Happy Eid.” In many regions, festivities will continue for three days or more.

Did you know? The first Eid was observed by the Prophet Muhammad in 624 CE. 

Before sunrise on Eid al-Fitr, Muslims pray, bathe and put on their best clothing. A small breakfast—usually including dates—is consumed before heading to a nearby mosque, hall or open area. Zakat (charitable giving) has been completed, and adherents spend ample time enjoying the company of family and friends, attending carnivals and fireworks displays, giving gifts and expressing thanks to Allah.

From ground, rides at a fair

Eid al-Fitr fairs and festivals, such as this one in Amsterdam, are common. Photo by Charles Roffey, courtesy of Flickr

The grand holiday of Eid al-Fitr is referred to in many ways: the Sugar Feast, Sweet Festival, Feast of the Breaking of the Fast and Bajram, to name just a few.

EID AROUND THE WORLD

With nearly one-quarter of the world’s population observing the Islamic faith, countries around the world are preparing their banks, airlines, shops, business hours and public services for the major holiday. Unlike most Muslim holidays, which may or may not be observed by all Muslims each year, the two Eid holidays—Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr—are always commemorated universally.

Did you know? In Egypt, Eid al-Fitr is an occasion for neighborhood carnivals; in Asia, the celebratory dish contains toasted sweet vermicelli noodles and dried fruit; in Saudi Arabia, wealthy families buy large quantities of rice and other staples and leave them anonymously on the doorsteps of those less fortunate.

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Ramadan: Muslims fast during ‘longest days’ of the calendar year

Woman stands below grand ceiling, hands raised, looking at ceiling, in dress and headscarf

A Muslim woman offers a Ramadan prayer. Photo by Thamer Al-Hassan, courtesy of Flickr

SUNSET FRIDAY, MAY 26: As a crescent moon appears and is spotted around the globe, the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims—nearly a quarter of Earth’s population—begin the month of Ramadan. (Note: Starting dates in communities around the world may vary by location and by method of calculation.)

Because the Islamic calendar is lunar, the beginning and end of Ramadan is based on a crescent moon sighting that is typically visible 1-2 days after the astronomical new moon. The end of Ramadan—the ninth month of the Islamic calendar—is met with Eid al-Fitr, a festival of the breaking of the fast. Eid al-Fitr marks the beginning of the next lunar month, Shawwal, and is a time of great feasting and family celebrations. The majority of our readers live in North America—and, this year, the Islamic Society of North America, says the Eid will begin on Sunday June 25.

As Ramadan moves slowly around the Gregorian calendar, 2017 will cover some of the “longest” days of the year in the Northern Hemisphere—which, for observant Muslims, equates to more hours of daytime fasting. This year, Ramadan will incorporate the summer solstice, on June 20—the “longest” day of the year for those living in the North.

A GROWING POPULATION

This spring, the Pew Research Center’s analysis of global religious trends reports that—based on worldwide patterns of childbirth—Islam is likely to emerge as the world’s most rapidly growing religion in the years ahead. You can download the complete report here in PDF format. That Pew report is the source of our reference above to 1.8 billion as the world’s current Muslim population. Christianity remains the world’s largest religion with 2.3 billion adherents, Pew reports.

MORE THAN FASTING …

The Beauty of Ramadan by Najah Bazzy front cover (1)

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Najah Bazzy, author of The Beauty of Ramadanreminds readers in her opening pages that Ramadan is about far more than denial of food and water during daylight hours. Bazzy, a nationally known expert on cross-cultural healthcare, covers many of the health-related issues in her book. But she calls on a traditional text credited to the Prophet Muhammad for the deeper meaning of this special month. In addition to fasting, prayer and Quran study:

Give alms to the poor and the needy. Pay respect to your elders. Have pity on those younger than you and be kind toward your relatives and kinsmen. Guard your tongues against unworthy words, and your eyes from such scenes that are forbidden and your ears from such sounds as should not be heard. Be kind to orphans.

Bazzy’s book explains much more about the rich experience of this month for Muslim families. It also clearly explains a lot about the month’s practices, making the book helpful for educators, anyone in public service and neighbors or co-workers with Muslim friends.

FASTING & IFTAR

Fasting is a tradition in nearly all of the world’s great faiths—but the word “fasting” can refer to many different forms of this ancient tradition. In some traditions, giving up meat or other kinds of foods is a fast. In other groups, a fast may be the elimination of a single meal—or it may refer to avoiding food, but not liquids.

Three dates in wooden bowl

Three dates are traditionally consumed at the end of each day’s fast during Ramadan. Photo courtesy of YouTube

Muslims observe the month of Ramadan with a strict sunrise-to-sunset fast, which means that nothing passes the lips during those hours. All food and drink (including water) is prohibited. Meanwhile, prayer is increased, as is reading from the Quran. According to Muslim belief, the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad occurred during Ramadan, and as such, observance of the month is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Many Muslim communities around the world invite special vocal interpreters of the Quran to come to mosques and chant the sacred text, night after night, until the entire holy book is completed.

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims partake in a pre-dawn meal known as the Suhoor, and do not return to eating until after sunset—with the iftar.

Three dates customarily break the fast each day of Ramadan, and an iftar meal is often an occasion for social gatherings, large feasts and buffet-style hosting. Occasionally, Muslims describe the night-time iftar tradition as “like a series of Thanksgiving dinners,” because friends and family often visit each other during the nights of Ramadan—and favorite dishes frequently are prepared for these feasts.

A lantern with colored glass on each side, reflecting colors onto walls around it

A Ramadan lantern. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

ZAKAT GIVING & ‘NIGHT OF POWER’

In addition to fasting, Muslims donate to charity during Ramadan. Charity, known as zakat, sometimes translated as “the poor-rate,” is an obligatory practice.

Laylat al-Qadr, or the “night of power,” is considered the holiest night of the year and commemorates the night the first revelation of the Quran was sent to Muhammad. Around the Islamic world, traditions vary for identifying the date of Laylat al-Qadr—though it is generally believed to fall on one of the odd-numbered nights of the last 10 days of Ramadan.

Do you know Muslim friends, neighbors or co-workers? Michigan State University’s Joe Grimm reports on an easy and friendly way to reach out during Ramadan.

RAMADAN NEWS 2017

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Hajj: Muslims gather from around the world in Mecca for holy rituals

Crowds gathered around black building with white and gold

Photo by Al Jazeera English, courtesy of Flickr

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10: In the wake of last year’s Hajj stampede, Saudi Arabia is taking extra measures to safeguard Hajj 2016, as millions of Muslim pilgrims have been arriving in Mecca. (This 2015 link to the New York Times shows a fascinating overview of how the 2015 tragedy unfolded; but the estimate of fatalities in that Times presentation was far lower than later reports, which placed the death toll at more than 2,000 men and women.)

CHANGING DATES

In Saudi Arabia this year, experts announced no official sighting of a crescent moon was possible. Eventually, the Saudi Arabian courts got involved in determining this year’s schedule for the Hajj. Reports from Al Jazeera and other news services with staff on the ground began reporting on September 1 that the originally planned start date for the Hajj has now been moved from September 9 to 10. As a result, the Internet displays a confusing array of dates. The huge celebration, Eid al-Adha now will fall on September 12 this year.

A BOND WITH PILGRIMS

More than a billion Muslims around the world look to the Hajj, each year, even though only about 2 million pilgrims actually travel to Mecca.

NOTE: As a reporter with ReadTheSpirit, I’m also a member of the International Association of Religion Journalists. Want to follow a Muslim journalist making the Hajj this year? Check out the Twitter feed of Yazeed Kalaldien. Yazeed is providing a fascinating, real-time glimpse into the people and places he encounters.

Why do Muslims around the world feel such a bond to the pilgrims who make this journey each year?

As one of the five pillars of Islam, Hajj is a religious duty that must be undertaken by every adult Muslim at least once in his or her lifetime (if it is manageable physically, mentally and financially); despite the frequently used phrase “religious duty,” Muslims regard Hajj as an experience to be treasured. Muslims believe that the ritual of a pilgrimage to Mecca stretches back centuries before the advent of Islam—to the time of Ibrahim (Abraham)—yet it was the Muslim Prophet Muhammad who cemented the rituals of Hajj, in the seventh century. The uniform method of performing the rituals of Hajj is meant to demonstrate both the solidarity of the Muslim people and their submission to God.

Crowd of people with white architecture in background

Pilgrims attending Hajj. Photo by Bilal Randeree, courtesy of Flickr

STORY BEHIND THE HAJJ

Islamic tradition tells that in approximately 2000 BCE, Abraham was ordered by God to leave his wife, Hagar, and his son, Ishmael, alone in the desert of Mecca while he traveled to Canaan. After Abraham left, her food and water quickly ran out, so Hagar ran back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwa seven times. Exhausted, Hagar laid Ishmael down on the sand and begged God for help. Miraculously, a well sprang up at the baby’s feet, and that well—the Zamzam Well—continues to provide ample water to Hajj pilgrims today.

Later, according to Muslim tradition, Abraham was commanded to build the Kaaba, so that people could perform pilgrimage there. It is believed that the Archangel Gabriel brought the Black Stone from heaven to be attached to the Kaaba; today, the Black Stone marks the beginning and ending point of each circle a pilgrim makes as he circulates the Kaaba during Hajj.

DESTINATION: MECCA

Muslims describe the era of pre-Islamic Arabia as jahiliyyah, a time of what Muslims regard as barbaric practices when the Kaaba had become surrounded by pagan idols. To cleanse the Kaaba, the Prophet Muhammad led his followers from Medina to Mecca in what is now regarded as the first Hajj. The pagan idols were destroyed, and Muhammad rededicated the Kaaba to God. At this point, Hajj became one of the five pillars of Islam, and adherents have been making the journey ever since. While on Hajj, men and women are permitted to perform the rituals side-by-side as a reminder that they will also stand together on Judgment Day.

RITUALS OF HAJJ

Prior to the start of Hajj, pilgrims go to the entry station where they bathe, don special clothing and make a statement of intent. The first ritual of Hajj is performed inside the Grand Mosque complex: pilgrims circle the Kaaba structure seven times, counterclockwise, reciting prayers (tawaf). Following tawaf, many drink from the Zamzam well. Next, Muslims walk rapidly between the hills of Sara and Marwa seven times, as Hagar did. Another statement of intent is made, after which the faithful travel through Mina, and on to the plains of Mount Arafat.

Intense prayer for forgiveness is offered at Arafat, as Muhammad said, “Far more people are freed from the Hellfire on the Day of Arafat than on any other day.” This portion of the Hajj journey is one of the most important. Small stones are gathered, and the following day, pilgrims perform a symbolic “stoning of the devil” at Mina.

Muslims the world over celebrate Eid al-Adha. Pilgrims return to Mecca to repeat Tawaf, crossing Sara and Marwa, performing additional symbolic stonings and circulating the Kaaba one final time, to do a farewell tawaf.

HAJJ 2016: NEWS UPDATES

Pilgrims wear digital ID bracelets: Saudi Arabia has declared that pilgrims traveling to Mecca for Hajj 2016 should wear electronic identification bracelets the entire time they are in the country, to assist authorities in identifying crowd locations and accessing medical information. The British security firm G4S was commissioned to make the bracelets and, according to a Saudi newspaper, the bracelets are water-resistant and connected to a GPS location system. (Read more from PressTV.) In addition, Saudi authorities have installed more than 800 surveillance cameras at the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

Last wish granted: Each year, inspiring and emotional individual stories arise out of Hajj, and this year, among them is the story of Abdiaziz Aden—a 23-year-old Kenyan who is in advanced stages of bone cancer and has received his final wish: to attend Hajj. After having released a video online from his hospital bed, asking his countrymen to help his wish to come true, Kenyans on social media and others raised the funds for Aden’s pilgrimage. (Read the story here—and find a link to his video, too.) Aden departs for Hajj 2016 on September 5.

No Hajj for Iranian pilgrims: In light of last year’s Hajj stampede, Iran has declared that its citizens will not take part in Hajj until Saudi Arabia can better guaranteed the safety of pilgrims, reports CNN and other news sources. According to some reports, more than half of the pilgrims killed in last year’s stampede were Iranian.

 

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Lailat al Miraj: Muslims celebrate ‘Night Journey,’ origin of faith’s daily prayers

Winged horse with human head on cloud, artistic depiction

Buraq, believed to be the steed that carried Muhammad on his Night Journey. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

THURSDAY, MAY 5: Millions of Muslims worldwide celebrate two phenomenal “night journeys” today that shaped Islam on the holiday known as Lailat al Miraj. (Note: Date may vary based on regional moon sightings.) For one night, Muslims commemorate the Prophet Muhammad’s journey from Mecca to the “Farthest Mosque” in Jerusalem, and then, finally, to heaven, where he was purified and given instructions from Allah to pray five times per day. Muslim tradition also describes the prophet, accompanied by the archangel Gabriel, meeting other prophets during his journey: Adam, John the Baptist, Moses and Abraham, just to name a few. The events of this night are recorded in both the Quran and the Hadith (the sayings of the Prophet).

Did you know? The “night journeys” are believed to have taken place around the year 621 CE.

The events of this sacred night are divided into two parts: in Arabic, Isra and Mi’raj. As the traditional story is told, the Prophet Muhammad’s journey begins in Mecca, at a time when he was “in a state midway between sleep and wakefulness;” Muhammad was granted wisdom and belief, and was washed clean. After a greeting by the Gabriel, Muhammad mounted Al-Buraq—a mythical animal often depicted as a great flying horse with a human face— and traveled to the “farthest mosque” (believed to be at the present site of the Masjid al-Aqsa mosque, or “Temple Mount,” in Jerusalem), where he was tested by Gabriel at God’s command. When he passed the test, Muhammad then ascended to the nearest heaven.

Fast Fact: Isra describes the first portion of the night’s journey, from Mecca to the “farthest mosque” in Jerusalem; Mi’raj is the second portion of the journey, when Muhammad traveled to heaven.

Traveling through the seven levels of heaven, Muhammad finally reached the presence of Allah (God), and was told to instruct Muslims to pray 50 times per day; afterward, upon Moses’s suggestion, Muhammad begged for reductions, until Allah reduced the number to five. At that time, Muhammad returned to Mecca.

Did you know? Following Muhammad’s initial instructions, the earliest Muslims prayed in the direction of Jerusalem, although this location later was changed to Mecca.

LAILAT AL MIRAJ TODAY

Today, Muslims commemorate Lailat al Miraj by attending services at the mosque, relaying the story of the “night journey” to children and reciting specific nighttime prayers. Isra and Mi’raj observances are joyous, and often include festivities enjoyed by children and adults alike. Lailat al Mi’raj is one of the most prominent events on the Islamic calendar.

NEWS: The New Jersey state Board of Education this week approved a list of religious holidays in the upcoming school year, for which schools must allow excused absences. Updated annually, this list includes more than 100 holidays for 2016-2017, including Lailat al Miraj.

 

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