Meaning and purpose of the chief festivals and special days

Within the Islamic faith, there is a calendar. The Muslim year has 354 days and it is a lunar calendar. This means a new month begins with every new moon.

Ramadan

This is one of the most important times in the Islamic calendar. It is a time for Muslims to observe one of the Five Pillars of Islam - Sawm (fasting). It is the ninth month in the calendar and it reflects the time when Muhammad received the first revelation of the Qur’an from Allah.

It is a time for Muslims to appreciate Allah and everything that has been given to them.

Muslims are expected to fast during daylight hours – this includes:

  • no food or drink
  • no sexual relations
  • no sinful actions or thoughts

There is also a renewed focus on the Qur’an and faith in Allah during this time. However, not everyone has to participate in the fasting. Ultimately, Islam is a compassionate and caring faith, and so some are excluded. These include children, the elderly, those who are sick or pregnant and soldiers.

During his fasting, Muhammad would have had a few dates and a small drink. Some Muslims follow this today in order to stay healthy.

Eid-ul-Fitr

‘Eid’ means ‘celebration’ – it a feast or a festival. ‘Eid-ul-Fitr’ means ‘Festival of Fast Breaking’.

This religious celebration comes with the sighting of the new moon at the end of Ramadan. During this time, Muslims are not allowed to fast. Once the new crescent moon is sighted in Mecca, a message is sent to Muslims throughout the world. It is a time for the whole Muslim community to celebrate the completion of Ramadan together – presents are exchanged and everyone is dressed in their best clothes.

When the fast has been broken, food can be eaten

Eid-ul-Adha

Eid-ul-Adha takes place during the 12th month of the Islamic calendar and lasts for three days. It takes place during the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca).

The festival remembers the Prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son when ordered to by Allah.

Eid ul-Adha is a public holiday in Muslim countries, but Muslims in the UK may take the day off work or school to celebrate this festival.