Islam and the Holidays
By Laura Salinger
As U.S. demographics continue to diversify and multiculturalism grows, the visibility of global holidays is on the upswing and the face of U.S.
holidays is ever-changing and expanding. That isn’t to say that Christmas will not dominate the shopping malls and media advertisements this
December, but the traditional “holiday season” in the U.S. has also become a time to extend greetings to people of all religious and traditional
backgrounds. As the U.S. celebrates another holiday season, it is also a time to celebrate the beliefs of all that call this nation their home.
For followers of Islam, the way that holidays are celebrated varies across cultures. Muslim holidays follow the Islamic lunar calendar. From
holy months like Ramadan to large-scale celebrations and prayer gatherings, the Muslim religion is abundant in humble and non-flashy
tradition. Islam’s most recent holy times and holidays include Ramadan, Eid ul-Fitr, and Eid ul-Adha.
Considered Islam’s holiest month of the year, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar marks the community-wide fasting of Ramadan. This
year, Ramadan fell from late August to late September but dates vary each year.
During Ramadan, Islamic devotees refrain from food and drink during the daylight hours, but more importantly, use this time to refocus their
soul and spirit and deepen their connection with Allah. The month is about more than just restraint from food. It is about restraint from evil
actions, thoughts, or words. Devout followers use this time for more intensive worship, reading of the Qur’an, charity, purification, and
Historically, Ramadan is the month when the Qur’an was thought to be revealed to the prophet Muhammad. One night, during the month of
Ramadan in 610 A.D., the angel Gabriel revealed Muhammad to be the messenger of Allah and a prophet to his people. It was during Ramadan
that Muhammad learned the sacred knowledge of Islam.
Eid ul-Fitr, one of Islam’s main festivals which literally means “Festival of Breaking the Fast,” marks the end of Ramadan. During this time,
Muslims celebrate a successful month of fasting by dressing their best, visiting with family and friends, and giving thanks to Allah for their
strength. Eid ul-Fitr is also a time to focus on generosity and charity; Muslims are encouraged to help feed the poor and make contributions to
The Islamic Society of Milwaukee recently celebrated Eid ul-Fitr at the Wisconsin Exposition Center with over 7,000 attendees.
“Eid ul-Fitr marked the end of the month of Ramadan,” Dr. Zulfiger Shah, the religious director for the Islamic Society of Milwaukee, explained.
“We prayed for the acceptance of fasting and the well being of humanity. We shared gifts with the needy by means of giving to a special
charity that day.”
Eid ul-Adha, or Feast of Sacrifice, recently took place in November this year and is the second major Islamic festival.
“It is the culmination of the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca (where Muslims essentially follow in the footsteps of Abraham’s pilgrimage),” Dr.
Shah explained. “We sacrifice animals to share the meat with the poor. We sacrifice the animal as a symbol of sacrificing one’s ego, sense of
superiority, and arrogance and also as a rejection of evil desires. Muslims share that meat and other gifts with the immediate family, external
family, and human family, which are the poor and needy.”
Dr. Shah expected some 5,000-7,000 attendees at the Wisconsin Exposition Center for this Nov. 27 celebration. Future Muslim holidays
include Al-Hijira, the Islamic New Year, and the Islamic holy day of Ashura.
Islam, a religion of peace
Media coverage of late tends to profile the most extremist Muslim movements, because of their torrential violence and unfortunately, than
their perceived newsworthiness. In actuality, there are over one billion Muslims in the world, who make up one-fifth of the world’s population,
that follow the very peaceful, introspective teachings of Islam and who denounce any connection with extremists.
“Islam is by nature a peaceful religion,” Dr. Shah said. “Love your God, love your neighbor, is in essence the meaning.”
In terms of the recent news at Ft. Hood, Dr. Shah had this to say: “Muslims have condemned the act in the strongest words possible.
Everybody has got the good and bad apples. Unfortunately, it’s the bad apples that get the attention. We Muslims, we condemn it (the actions
at Ft. Hood). It has nothing to do with Islam and its peaceful followers.”
IslamiCity.com, a website endorsed by the Islamic Society of Milwaukee, explains that “Islam is not a new religion, but the same truth that
God revealed through all His prophets to every people. For a fifth of the world’s population, Islam is both a religion and a complete way of life.
Muslims follow a religion of peace, mercy, and forgiveness, and the majority have nothing to do with the extremely grave events which have
come to be associated with their faith.”
Salinger is a