Muslim Traditions and Holidays Get pumped!

By Rachael Metz, Ilias Storti, Victoria Liceaga, and John Armstrong.

It is estimated that there are over 900 million Muslims today. Many live in the Arab World (estimated 120 million), but many more live in countries such as India, Iran, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, China, the USSR, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Sudan. An estimated 3 million Muslims dwell in the United States.

"The word "Islam" is derived from the same root as the words salaam (peace) and silm (the condition of peace). Islam means to abandon oneself in peace. A Muslim, is one who in peace gives or surrenders himself or herself to God. Islam means accepting the faith freely - heart, mind, and soul. Surrendering to Islam, as a result, means giving oneself to believe without reservation, accepting the principles of faith, and following both the letter and the spirit of the Qur'an's prescriptions."

The Background information is collected from the book Introduction to Islam, by M. Cherif Bassiouni. It was published on September 1, 1988, in Chicago, Illinois.

1) Important Traditions in the Muslim Faith

Muslims are never cremated- they are always buried. It is a religious requirement that the body must be ritually washed and draped before burial, which should be done as soon as possible after death. The people who are actually performing this duty should be immunized against Hepatitus B and they should be aware of the hazards of AIDS. Muslim women never attend burials. “Muslim jurists from the Arab world can justify organ transplantation, but those from the Indian subcontinent are against it. They are united in the belief of the sacredness of the human body and thus deplore postmortem examinations.”
Over 1.5 million Muslims live in the United Kingdom, and of those well over 600,000 are from Pakistan and Bangladesh. The majority of the rest are from India. The largest non-Christian religious group in the United Kingdom are Muslims.

Muslim wedding ceremonies are celebrated with great splendor. The Muslim wedding known as Nikaah can take place at any convenient time because there is nothing like a “promised” time in Muslim weddings. The wedding can take place in the bride or groom’s house, but these days many have been holding the ceremony in a banquet hall, as it has become a fashion.

Muslim families all around the world have adopted many of the traditions essential in the culture of the country they live. Still, there are many Islamic traditions that all Muslims share, regardless of ethnic or cultural background.
In Muslim households everywhere, there are two main holidays celebrated: Eid Al Fitr and Eid Ul Adha. Eid Al Fitr is celebrated first- it marks the end of the month during the Islamic month of Ramadan. Muslims refrain from food and water beginning at sunrise for one month, and break their fast at sunset. Many Muslims invite others in their community to join in a small feast called Iftar, which consists of dates, fruits, and the traditional food of Muslim culture. The Islamic months are based on a lunar calendar, and when the new moon is sighted at the end of the month of Ramadan, families all over are happy and feast the following day (the day after Eid al Fitr). Some celebration traditions include a gift exchange between family members, and wearing elegant new clothes to the community prayer which is held in several locations in every city. A tradition between Indian Muslims during Eid Al Fitre consists of making a sweet dessert called shirkhurma, a milky mixture consisting of dates and nuts. After the morning prayer is finished, Muslims greet each other with either one hug or three hugs (depending on their cultural background) and wish each other Happy Eid.
Eid UI Adha is celebrated by Muslim families two months later- it honors the sacrifice that Prophet Abraham was willing to make for God. “God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, and at the final moment before the sacrifice took place, Muslims believe that God send down a lamb in his son's place rewarding Abraham for his obedience.” Muslims have lambs slaughtered in remembrance of this, and the meat is distributed among family members and the needy. Muslims will also gather during Eid UI Adha in large community halls for a special Eid prayer, and will greet each other after the prayer is complete. The day is primarily spent meeting relatives and enjoying the company of friends and family.
Muslims have different traditions that are unique to their culture, depending on where they are from.

Muslim family members are supposed to be very connected to each other, and many families have certain traditions that are related to Islamic Shari’aa (laws). Here are a few, translated as best as they could be:

1) Muslims are brought up on the concept of respecting the elder ones and having mercy on younger ones. We must pay great respect to elder ones even if they are not from our family members.
2) Muslims must never lie.
3) Muslims must be praying by the age of seven years old.
4) Parents are advised by our prophet Mohammed (PBUH) to play with their children until the age of seven and educate them for another seven years. Be friends to them for another seven years, and then that will be twenty-one years.
5) Muslim girls are not supposed to be out late in the night and are supposed to take their parents’ permission before going anywhere.
6) Muslim girls are not allowed to get married without their fathers' permission (or the one in charge of her if the father is dead).
7) In the Muslim holy book, men are in charge of their women, and they must protect, take care of them, and treat them well.
8) Muslim women are supposed to obey their husbands unless their husbands order them to do something that is forbidden by God.
9) Muslim women are supposed to breast feed their babies until they are two years old.
10) Muslims must pay very great respect to their parents, and never shout at them because they are the second Holy thing after God. But, like Muslim wives, they must not obey their parents if they are ordered to do something that is forbidden by God.
12) Muslims are not allowed to be violent or aggressive.
13) Muslims are supposed to excuse themselves before entering their parents’ room during certain times.
14) Muslims must be clean all the time, and the "grown-up" girls must not wear revealing or tight clothes.

An elementary school teacher was curious about her Muslim students' traditions at home and how they were similar to American traditions. She had her Muslim students bring their families in and they talked about some things they observe in their home personally. They do not eat pork, and pray five times a day. Ramadan, a Muslim religious observance which takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calender, is observed by about one billion Muslims around the world. It is celebrated by not eating or drinking from dawn until dusk. Some fast on this day, observing an ancient tradition for teaching humility, patience, and compassion for the poor and the destitute. There is a traditional break-the-fast dinner at the end of the day. The teacher also found that some of their traditions are very similar to Christianity and Judaism. Many Muslims follow commandments teaching them to respect their parents, give to charity, forbid to murder, worship idols, and say God's name in vain. The Muslim holy book also talks about Jesus, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and other Biblical figures from the old testament.

2) Sects of Muslim Faith

There are many different cults and sects in the Muslim faith. Some of these faiths include:
Sunni: The Sunni are a large branch of Muslims containing about 90% Muslim. There are two major branches of Islam: the Sunni and the Shia. Shiat Ali is the is the central figure of the Sunni and the Shia. The Sunnis and Shias follow a core of fundamentals in Islam: the five pillars. The five pillars are the five duties that every Sunni has. These duties are called the Shahadah. Sunni has been around since 661. The Sunni follow a very strict law called the Shari'ah. It is a system of laws that instructs you on how you are to live your everyday life. In other words, it is a list of what must be done in the Sunni religion.

Shia: The Shia are the second largest Domination of Islam next to the Sunni. The Shia is an Islamic faith with many groups. The Shia are divided into three different branches. The largest and best known group is the Twever, named after the twleve Imams. The majority of the population has formed groups in Iran, Azerbaijan, Bahrain and Iraq. The other two smaller branches are the Ismaili, and Zaidi, who dispute the twelve lineage of Imams and beliefs.

Ibadi: Ibadi is the third branch of Islam. The Ibadi branch takes its name after it's leader, Abdullah ibn Ibad at-Tamimi. This group was named in 685 when it was first formed. Today, Ibadis represent the largest group in Oman. Though the religion is spread out into different countries, such as Algeria, Libya, the islands of Tunisia, and off the coast of Tanzania.

Sufism: A person part of the mystical religion of Sufism is called a Sufi. In this religion all members are men. All Sufis follow the rules of order, known as tariqa- they try to create connections with gods and spirits. It is said that there are about 5 million Sufis in the world today. The main goal of Sufism is to leave life in order to be closer to God.
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Ahl-e Haqq: Ahl-e Haqq is an independent religion, although it does pertain to the Muslim religion. It has over two to three million people, mostly living in western Iran. Ahl-e Haqq has a very strong connection with Sufism. Agl-e Haqq in Persian means "people of truth" and also "people of god." In Ahl-e Haqq, all members are loyal to the god or legendary figure, Soltan Sohak. The purpose of Soltan Sohak was to teach humans how to achieve Ultimate truth.

All of these religions form their branches off of the Muslim faith. But they all have their similarities and differences between what they do in their spiritual or religious practice. The Sunni and the Shia were practiced long ago, before any of the others above were. As time went by,new religions started branching off of the two, but were significantly different. Their general differences are what they believe in.

3) Ramadan

What: The Muslim holiday of Ramadan is observed by over one billion Muslims around the world, Ramadan takes place for spiritual purification achieved through fasting, self-sacrifice and prayers. It ends with a 3-day festival known as "Eid" or "Eid ul-Fitr," which means "the feast of the breaking/to break the fast." Ramadan came from the Arabic root word ramida or ar-ramad, meaning intense scorching heat and dryness. This is supposed to represent the intense heat and dryness present during thirst (fasting).

When/Why: Ramadan is always celebrated during the ninth month of the Islamic calender. One of the five pillars of Islam is fasting during Ramadan. Pillars are the Islamic belief that requires Muslims to perform five central duties in order to strengthen their faith. While Islam has two major sects, the Sunnis and the Shiites, all Muslims aim to realize these five pillars in their lifetime. In 2008, Ramadan started on Monday, September 1 and continued for 30 days until Tuesday, September 30.

What/Where/Why found on: also on

Fasting: During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn until dust for the whole month, and almost all that participate are joyous while doing so. This is done in the hope that while practicing this, those who participate will receive blessings. This month is an opportunity to show your dedication to God and to refocus our lives, as well as a time of worship. Another part of fasting is experiencing what others that are less fortunate have to endure, a way to put yourself in their shoes. Fasting during Ramadan is similar to the fast in the Jewish religion. Those who are sick or have any type of condition where fasting would affect their health are excused from the practice. In most cases prior to fasting, there will be a pre-fast meal, or suhoor, which takes place before dawn. Later, there will be a post-fast meal, or iftar, after sunset.

For more information see: Islamic Holidays and Observations
For pictures of Ramadan in Kabul Afghanistan click here

On am Islamic website found, suggestions were given to fellow Muslims while practicing Ramadan. They are as followed: Website found on

1. Let us make it a habit to visit the mosque as often as possible but atlas once a day with our families.

2. Let us make it a habit to break fast with fellow Muslims in the mosque at least once a week.

3. Let us invite our non-Muslim friends and neighbors to join us in the breaking of our fasts.

4. Let us pool our efforts and resources to feeding the homeless.

5. Let us be extra-generous and donate our money to worthy causes.

6. Let us encourage our children to offer taraweeh prayers with us at the mosque.

7. Let us at least try to complete reading the Quran with meaning once.

8. Let us ensure that we mend our relations with everyone regardless of the mistakes on the part of others.

9. Let us spend some time in seclusion at night praying to the Almighty.

10. Let us ensure that we will not hurt anyone and control our anger in all situations

12. Let us spend more time with our families especially in breaking the fast.

13. Let us make sure that we don't miss our Fajr prayer and pray all the other prayers on time.

14. Let us donate at least one book on Islam to a local library.

15. Let us ensure that we offer Zakat ul Fitr ahead of Eid prayers so that the poor and the needy can make use of it in an appropriate manner.
Common Picture Associated with Ramadan
Common Picture Associated with Ramadan

This is a video of a common children song played during Ramadan:

For more information about Ramdan and Muslim traditions click here
To see more about Ramadan celebrations see 2005 News Artical about Ramadan

4) The Muslim Holiday: Eid

What is Eid?
Eid ul-Fitr, often called Eid, is a Muslim holiday that occurs at the end of Ramadan. Eid is an Arab word for "festivity", and Fitr means "to break fast". Therefore, Eid is known to us as "the breaking of the fast" period. Eid is a three day celebration, celebrated on the first day of the month, Shawwal. Muslims are ordered by the Qu'ran to finish their fasting on the last day of Ramadan and then recite the Arabic Takbir, or "God is great" as Eid occurs. In Khaled Hosseini's Kite Runner, Eid is mentioned on page 76 during a flashback to Amir's past (the main character).

Why celebrate Eid?
After the month of fasting, also known as Ramadan, Eid is the time to finally break the fast. Eid allows it's celebrators to break their fast with a feast. Eid is also a time to give charity to those who are in need, and celebrate with family and friends at the completion of Ramadan. On the day of Eid, celebrators gather in the morning in outdoor praying places or mosques to begin the Eid prayer. After the Eid prayer, day is continues with visits to various friends and family, giving gifts mostly to children, and giving your best wishes to distant relatives. In most countries, Eid is a 3-day celebration.

When is it?
Eid occurs on the first day of Shawwal, the month that follows Ramadan on the calendar of Islam. Before Eid, every Muslim family gives a donation to those in need. The donation is typically food: rice, barley, dates, etc. This is to make sure those in need have a meal and participate in the holiday.

A Muslim song about the day of Eid:

Sami Yusuf - "The Day of Eid"

Eid Across the World:

Eid in the UK:
In the United Kingdom, there is a speech give, where the Muslim community is encouraged to end any animosities that took place in their past. The leader of the mosque then goes on to a prayer. Once Eid ul-Fitr has been declared, greetings and hugs are shared all across the community. However, Eid ul-Fitr is not a public holiday to the United Kingdom even though the Muslim population is obliged to travel to their mosques for morning prayers. In Muslim areas, schools and businesses give the three days of Eid off to the community. In the UK it is not recognized as a data but decided by the moon on the night before.

Eid in North America:

Muslims in North America usually celebrate Eid in a subtle way, because it's commencement is determined by the sighting of the crescent moon which is symbolic to the Muslim culture. Because this beginning of Eid only occurs after the sighting of the crescent moon, North Americans may celebrate the holiday on different days than other Muslims around the world. Normally, North American Muslims wake up early, have a portioned breakfast and travel to their mosques for the prayers of Eid. Since many North American Muslims are immigrants, the traditions of Eid are usually followed only within the homes of the celebrators. On October 12th, 2007, the Empire State Building was lit green until October 14th in celebration of Eid.

The Empire State Building in New York, New York. Shining green to celebrate the day of Eid.

Eid in Iran:

In Iran, with Shia culture ruling the land, Eid is celebrated discreetly. Most celebrations and traditions are usually deadened. In Iran, Eid is known as Eyde Fetr by the population, and the virtue of charity is stressed on the day of it. Public prayers are held in mosques across the country, and in public places. Visiting family and friends is a common tradition. Usually, Muslim families give food to those who need it. Meat called Kurbani, which translates to meaning sacrifice, is usually lamb or a young calf (which is expensive in Iran) which will be giving to the needy by wealthier families. An example of the lamb sacrifice can be found in Khaled Hosseini's Kite Runner on page 76 when Amir, the main character, watches the mullah sacrifice a sheep to give it to family, friends, and the poor in their area.

Eid in China:

Out of the 56 official ethnic groups, Eid ul-Fitr is celebrated by only 10 (officially amounting to only 18 million people celebrating the holiday.) In certain regions of China, such as Ningxia and Xinjiang, Eid is a public holiday. All of the people living in these areas are given a one or three day holiday. Outside these regions, Muslims are only given a one day holiday. In the region of Xinjiang, Eid is even celebrated by the Han Chinese. During this holiday, mutton and beef are given to households as part of the welfare program. In the Yunnan region of China, Muslims travel to Sayyid 'Ajjal's grave after their prayers. The ceremony consists of four parts: first, a reading from the Qur'an; second, the grave is cleaned; third, Sayyid 'Ajall's accomplishments are told to the attendents; and fourth, a service is held to remember the hundreds of thousands of Muslims killed during the Qing dynatsty, and for the hundreds of Muslims killed in the Cultural Revolution.

Eid in South Africa:dbi_flag_southafrica.gif
In Cape Town, South Africa, hundreds of Muslims flock to Green Point for the sight of the moon, symbolizing the last day of Ramadan every year. These gatherings bring people from all aspects of life. The Magrib prayer commences, and the moon sighting is announced afterward. Eid ul-Fitr is celebrated by going to a Mosque for the prayer of Eid. After prayers, friends and family are visited. Children are given presents and money from their elders, family, and friends. Many wear brand new clothes with bright coloring. Treats are given to visitors. Lunch on the day of Eid is normally served to large groups of family and friends.

The Muslim New Year:

What is the Muslim New Year?
The Muslim New Year is the time when Muslims observe the first day of Muharram, which is the first month on the Islamic calendar. Muslims use this day to remember the significance of Muharram, and the Hijra, or the migration the Islamic prophet Muhammad made to a city now known as Medina. In recent years, people have begun to give cards and presents on this day; however, this is not common for this holiday. The beginning of the new year is usually quiet, unlike the New Year's celebration in American tradition. Muslims celebrators travel to mosques for special prayers and readings of the Qu'ran. A major part of this holiday is the story of the Hejira, Muhammad's flight from Mecca to Medina which was made in 622 B.C.E. Muslims also tend to reflect on the continuation and passing of time, and their mortality.

Why celebrate the Muslim New Year?
Unlike Eid which is seen as an "important" holiday, there hardly any rituals associated with the Muslim New Year. Most Muslims will use the day as a time to reflect on the Hijra and the year to come. In recent times, some Muslims have given cards to celebrate this holiday. The Qu'ran uses Hijra as a word meaning to move from a bad place to a good one, so Muslims may ponder upon how their faith helps them achieve a better life and leave behind bad times. Since there are now religious prerequisites on Muharram, Muslims may use this time to create new year's resolutions.

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Two Muslim New Year cards, it is becoming more common to give such cards to friends and family on Murharram.

When is the Muslim New Year?
The Muslim New Year occurs on the first day of Muharram, the first month of the Muslim calendar. Muslim years are calculated from the first Muharram, when the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, traveled from Medina to Mecca. This date is 1 Muharram 622 CE, after this date all dates are referred to as AH of After Hijara.

A News segment directed by Fahmi Farahat, which aired on CSUF's "On The Edge".
How does all of this relate to the text?
This topic relates to the text in many ways. In Klhaled Hosseini's novel, The Kite Runner, Baba and Amir celebrate several of the holidays we mentioned above. On page 76 of the text, the narrator mentions the holiday of Eid Al Adha, or Eid. "Tomorrow is the tenth day of Dhul-Hijjah, the last month of the Muslim calendar, and the first three days of Eid- Al-Adha, or Eid-e-Qorban, as Afghans call it - a day to celebrate how the prophet Ibrahim almost sacrificed his own son for God. baba has handpicked the sheep again this year, a powder white one with crooked black ears.*
We all stand in the backyard, Hassan, Ali, Baba, and I. The mullah recites the prayer, rubs his bear. baba mutters,
Get on with it, under his breath. He sounds annoyed with the endless praying, the ritual of making the meat halal. Baba mocks the story behind this Eid, like he mocks everything religious. But he respects the tradition of Eid-e-Qorban. The custom is to divide the meat in thirds, one for the family, one for friends, and one for the poor."

This is very much of what was mentioned above. "Usually, Muslim families give food to those who need it. Meat called Kurbani, which translates to meaning sacrifice, is usually lamb* or a young calf (which is expensive in Iran) which will be giving to the needy by wealthier families.
Also, many Muslims pray daily for different reasons, like the following:
Fajr (pre-dawn): This prayer starts off the day with the remembrance of God; it is performed before sunrise.
Dhuhr (noon): After the day's work has begun, one breaks shortly after noon to again remember God and seek His guidance.

In the text, on pages 345 and 346, Amir gets down on his knees to pray for Sohrab, who had cut himself and was taken to the hospital.
"I throw my makeshift jai-namaz, my prayer rug, on the floor, and I get on my knees, lower my forehead to the ground, my tears soaking through the sheet. I bow to the west. [...] There is a God, there has to be, and now I will pray, I will pray that He forgive that I have neglected Him all of these years, forgive that I have betrayed, lied, and sinned with inpunity only to turn to Him now in my hour of need, I pray that He is as merciful, benevolent, and gravious as His book says He is. i bow to the west and kiss the ground and promise that I will do zakat, I will do namaz, I will fast during Ramadan* and when Ramadan has past I will go on fasting, I will commit to memory every last word of His holy book, and I will set on a pilgrimage to that sweltering city in the desert and bow before the Ka'bah too."

We mentioned above that during Ramadan, people fast: "During Ramadan*, Muslims fast from dawn until dust for the whole month [...] This is done in the hope that while practicing this, those who participate will receive blessings*. This month is an opportunity to show your dedication to God and to refocus our lives, as well as a time of worship."

*Amir wishes so hard for God to be forgiving, because he has betrayed, lied, and sinned with impunity.


Works Cited: