Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday

This past Saturday, February 4th, Muslims around the world celebrated the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday or as it’s known in Arabic, Mawlid al-Nabi. While the exact day is not known with certainty, the Prophet’s birthday is usually celebrated on the 12th day of Rabi Al-Awwal, the third month of the Islamic calendar. Even though this day is a holiday in many Muslim majority countries, Muslims do not agree on whether this day should be celebrated at all. Continue reading

A Muslim Christmas?

Christmas time at the Wafi Mall in Dubai

December 25th was an an average day for the majority of the world’s Muslims, but for some, it signified Christmas along with its variety of associated meanings. Muslim beliefs related to Christmas and its celebration vary considerably–from a fun-loving holiday, to a dangerous heretical practice. The majority of the world’s Muslims don’t give the 25th of December much thought at all, but with increasing numbers of Muslims living in the predominately Christian West and Christians living in the predominately Muslim Middle East, it’s difficult not to have some kind of opinion or interpretation of Christmas.

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Ashura in a Kashmiri Village

Hunza Valley Shi'a Muslims commemorate Ashura near Ultar Peak and other Karakoram Range mountains. Photo: Randy Johnson

Reem recently wrote about the holiday Ashura, the day when many Sunni Muslims and Jews fast in recognition of Moses and the Israelites escaping from the bondage of the Egyptian Pharaoh. For many practicing Shi’a Muslims, Ashura is one of the most important days of the year. Most Shi’a view the sacrifices of Husayn and 71 others during the Battle of Karbala as a crucial turning point in Islam, saving the religion from the indulgence and tyrannical rule of Yazid.

Having taken a few courses related to Islam in college, I was vaguely familiar with Ashura, but was unaware of the significance it holds for many Muslims around the world. My first personal experience of Ashura was in 2007 during a trip to Pakistan, where I witnessed Ashura processions performed by local area Shi’a in a small village in the Northern Areas (Pakistani controlled Kashmir).

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Ashura: A Day of Fasting and Mourning

Ashura in Arabic

Today is Ashura, which is the tenth day of the first month (Muharram) of the Islamic calendar. While Ashura is significant for both Sunnis and Shia, they differ in what the day commemorates and what practices should be carried out.

Sunnis fast on this day to commemorate the day that Moses fasted in gratitude for the Israelites being saved from Pharoah. The recommendation to fast on this day come from the following hadith of the Prophet.

Ibn ‘Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, came to Medina and saw the Jews fasting on the day of ‘Ashura. He asked:”What is this?” They said: “This is a righteous day, it is the day when Allah saved the Children of Israel from their enemies, so Moses fasted on this day.” He said:”We have more right to Moses than you,” so he fasted on that day and commanded [the Muslims] to fast on that day. [Reported by al-Bukhari] Continue reading

Islamic New Year

This past Saturday, November 26th, was the Islamic New Year 1433. The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle so it is shorter and moves every year. The hijra, the migration of the small Muslim community from Mecca to Medina in 622 of the western calendar, marked the beginning of this calendar. This migration is one of the most significant events in the history of Islam.

Prior to the hijra, Muslims in Mecca constituted a small group of followers of the Prophet Muhammad. They practiced Islam privately out of fear of persecution, which many of the early followers endured. With the hijra, the situation of this small group of believers changed, as well as the course of the Muslim community as a whole. Continue reading

It’s the Thought that Counts

Today, known as Black Friday, marks the beginning of a holiday shopping season here in the US characterized by increased spending and to a certain degree extravagance. While Muslim majority countries also have shopping seasons around Eid Al-Fitr, after Ramadan, and Eid Al-Adha, during the hajj, where there are seasonal products, the level of extravagance is not the same. Stores do not open at midnight or in the middle of the night and there isn’t the same drive to buy so many gifts. Having said that, though, giving gifts is important in Islam, but moderation is the guiding principle. Continue reading

Muslim American Consumer Market Emerging

Lisa Mabe is the Founder and Principal of Hewar Social Communications, a consultancy focusing on Muslim and Middle Eastern consumer markets. Follow Lisa on Twitter @LisofArabia or go to www.hewarcommunications.com.

As we’re about to enter America’s largest annual shopping season, Muslim Americans just finished one of their biggest gift-giving seasons themselves – Eid al Adha. Most Americans are accustomed to seeing “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hanukah” in store windows during this time of year, but what would they think if they saw “Eid Mubarak” in their favorite store? It’s not that far off, and some companies are already reaching out to Muslim consumers around Islamic holidays where gift-giving is prevalent.

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Did You Go to Hajj?

With the completion of hajj and celebrations of Eid al-Adha that occurred from November 25-30,  I thought it would be a good time to do a follow up on the Inside Islam radio show that aired November 19th, during which Jean talked with Michael Wolfe and Qanta Ahmed about hajj and their personal experiences as pilgrims. The show highlighted the history of  hajj and its links to the Abrahamic lineage as well as the modern logistical difficulties of 2 million plus pilgrims performing the same rituals in 5 days.

This year’s pilgrimage passed without significant casualties. Despite fears around swine flu, it was reported that only 4 pilgrims died as a result of swine flu. There was heavy rain this year that hampered the beginning of the pilgrimage. However, while a reported 100 died from the flooding, none were pilgrims.

What Wolfe and Ahmed both emphasized is that despite the difficulties and the casualties,  hajj does not stop and that alone makes this annual pilgrimage significant and unique.

Were you at the pilgrimage this year? What was the experience like? Have you been to hajj before? We want to hear from you. Help us continue the conversation by leaving a comment below.

Breaking the Fast: Eid ul-Fitr

Eid ul-Fitr Prayers in Mecca

Eid ul-Fitr Prayers in Mecca

This year’s observation of Ramadan ended on September 20th with the Eid ul-Fitr festivities. Muslims from around the world spent the day celebrating the completion of one of the pillars of Islam. Each year, Ramadan lasts either 29 or 30 days. The beginning and end are determined in different ways. In the United States, for example, the largest Muslim organization, The Islamic Society of North America, uses calculations while many other countries depend on moon sighting. This year, there was relative consensus on Sunday.

The Eid celebrations begin with a morning communal prayer followed by a sermon. The sermon for this holiday typically revolves around fasting and the consequent spiritual growth. Because of the diversity of the Muslim worldwide community, Eid festivities are colored by cultural traditions that are most obvious after the prayer and sermon are completed. Continue reading