The Islamic Calendar is different than the Gregorian calendar (the calendar used by the western world). The 12 months in the Islamic calendar are based on the moon and have 29 or 30 days. As a result, the Islamic year has either 354 or 355 days. Because the Islamic calendar has fewer days (typically 11 fewer), Islamic holidays and festivals move each year when compared to the western calendar.
The first year of the Islamic calendar began in 622 CE when the Prophet Muhammad and his followers migrated from Mecca to Medina. This migration is called the "Hijrah." The Islamic year is then given as AH, which means "after the Hijrah."
Holidays and Festivals
Religious holidays and festivals are important times in the lives of Muslims. There are several days set aside as holidays to celebrate or reflect on certain events in the history of Islam. The two most important festivals are Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha.
Al Hijrah - Al Hijrah celebrates the Islamic New Year and takes place on the first day of the month of Muharram. It marks the day when Muhammad and his followers traveled from Mecca to Medina. This holiday is sometimes known as just "Muharram." Muslims generally spend the day quietly in reflection and prayer.
Ashura - This holiday is a day of fasting that takes place on the 10th of Muharram.
Mawlid an Nabi - This day celebrates the birth of Muhammad and takes place on the 12th day of Rabi al-Awwal. This day is often celebrated with parades and songs.
Ramadan - Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. It is special to Muslims because it is the month when the Quran was revealed to Muhammad. Throughout the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast (don't eat or drink) from sunrise to sunset.
Laylat al-Qadr - This day is also called the Night of Power. It takes place near the end of Ramadan and commemorates the night the Quran was first given to Muhammad.
Eid al-Fitr - This day marks the end of Ramadan and is sometimes called the Breaking of the Fast. It is celebrated on the 1st day of the month of Shawwal. Muslim families often get together for meals and to exchange presents.
Eid al-Adha - This is perhaps the most important festival on the Islamic calendar. It begins on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah and ends on the 13th day. The festival commemorates how Ibrahim (Abraham) was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac at God's command. Celebrations include family gatherings, meals, animal sacrifice for food, and giving gifts.
Interesting Facts about the Islamic Calendar, Holidays, and Festivals
Some Muslim countries, like Saudi Arabia, use the Islamic calendar as their official calendar.
Not all Muslims are required to fast during Ramadan. Young children, sick people, and pregnant women can be excused.
At the end of Ramadan, Muslims make a charitable gift called the "Zakat" to help poor people.
Muslims often read the entire Quran during the month of Ramadan.
The word "Eid" means "festival." It is sometimes spelled "Id."