Muslim Holidays

Every religion has celebrations that take place over the course of the year. Some require that you fast, others require that you refuse to give in to temptations, others celebrate the birth of the religions. Some religions have holidays throughout the year, while others are concentrated in one month or so.

The Islamic faith has two major holidays, al-Fitr and al-Adha. Al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan. The fasting is now over and the end of the holy month is celebrated with a big celebration and bountiful feast.

Al-Adha is another holiday that is very important. The english translation of this holiday is the “Feast of Sacrifice.” The holiday marks the day that prophet Abraham was going to sacrifice his son to honor God. Just as he was going to sacrifice his son, God provided him with a goat to slaughter. Since this day people of the Islamic faith have been slaughtering a goat as a sacrifice to God.      

Important Muslim Holidays

Some of the important holidays in Islamic faith are:

  • Ramadan

Ramadan is a month long celebration that takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. During these 29 or 30 days, Muslims must fast from sunrise to sundown. Ramadan is meant to celebrate the first verses of the Quran being presented to the prophet Mohammed.

  • Laylat al-Qadr

Laylat al-Qadr takes place on one of the ten final nights of Ramadan. This celebration marks the day that the first verses of the Quran were presented to Mohammed. During this day, Allah’s blessings are said to be the strongest and all sins are forgiven.

  • Eid al-Fitr

Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan. The end of the month long fast is celebrated with a great feast. In Islamic countries, the holiday is celebrated over a three day period.

  • Hajj

The Hajj is one of, if not the most important holiday in the Islamic faith. Each year, there is a pilgrimage to the Mecca. While it is not required to attend the pilgrimage every year, it is required to complete the pilgrimage at least once in your lifetime; if you are able, of course. This holiday celebrates one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

  • Eid al-Adha

Eid al-Adha marks the end of the Hajj. The day is celebrated with the sacrifice of a lamb. The intent of Eid al-Adha is to celebrate happiness and forget any differences you have. Gifts are given to family and friends an there is a large feast.

For every religion, holidays mark the day of an important event. They are a day to rejoice and celebrate. It is important that no matter what your beliefs are, you respect the beliefs of others as well.

The Muslim Population in the United States

The Muslim Population in the United States

The United States has one of the lowest percentages of the population being Muslim in the world. That being said, the Islam religion is the fastest growing religion in the world. According to Pew Research Center, the religion’s popularity is growing at a rate that will surpass the Christian religion and take the number one spot by the halfway point of this century.

As of 2010, there were 1.6 billion Muslim people in the world; 0.2% of the Muslim population are living in the United States. By 2015, the United States’ Muslim population had risen to 3.45 million, making up about 1.1% of the population. Out of the approximated 2.15 million Muslims in the country, 58% are immigrants. According to surveys done by Pew Research Center, the Islam religion is projected to pass Judaism for the second most popular religion in the world by the halfway mark of this century. The two areas in the United States with the highest percentage of their population being Muslim are New Jersey and the District of Columbia, coming in at 3%.

Reasons for the Rapid Expansion of the Muslim Religion

There are a number of factors contributing to the recent rapid expansion of the Muslim religion. A couple of these reasons are not what you would expect. While the Muslim faith has some people converting to their religion, the reason for the rapid expansion is the number of children families of the Islamic faith have. According to research done by the Pew Research Center, Muslim women have an average of 2.9 children. This is higher than the combined rate of all of the other religions, which is 2.2 children per woman.

While these children will grow up to be of Islamic faith, there is another reason that the Muslim religion is projected to grow exponentially. The reason is because the median age of the religion as of 2015 is 24 years old. At 24 years old, the birth of the Islamic faith is getting ready to marry and begin a family. Kind of like the baby boomers forcing the American population to explode in the 1950s and 1960s. With a median age of 24 years old, the Islamic faith has a median age that is 7 years younger than non-muslims.   

Both of these facts are the leading factors in the rapid expansion of the Muslim religion. There are simply more people being born into the faith than any other religion, which is why the Islamic faith is surpassing the  Jewish and Catholic religions, in terms of popularity.

American Muslims On Christmas

It is now the time of year that many seem to split into two or three distinct occasions. One is a time of great religious significance that celebrates the birth of Jesus, the Messiah of the Christian faith. Another involves what some call the over-commercialization of the former with gatherings of family and friends, gift giving, decorations, and dinners that dwarf the typical family sit-down. And then, there is a third, foreign to Christians of varying degrees. That is the concept that Christmas is just another day for members of other faiths. The stereotype has been for some time that Jewish people “celebrate” Christmas by ordering Chinese food. And whether or not the former is actually an accurate depiction of the religion as a whole, the point still stands that Christmas in itself is significant almost exclusively to Christians despite the great marketing campaigns that many of us are exposed to during this time of the year.

But it also begs the question of what others do during this time of great celebration for many who follow the Christian faith. For example, how do Muslims observe Christmas, if even at all?

Well, in fact, it would seem that Christianity and Islam have more in common regarding Christmas than many might have realized. For example, Harvard University professor Hisham Mahmoud stated in an interview with National Public Radio that, “Muslims and Christians believe that Jesus is the only Messiah.” Others support this assertion as well. Sajdah Nubee describes the veneration of both Jesus and Mary in the Qur’an and the significant roles they play in the faith of Islam. She goes on to say, however, that Muslims do not tend to celebrate the births of prophets, the regard in which they hold Jesus.

Others recount their holiday “celebrations” by mentioning giving to charities or even going bowling at the time. Some even mention getting involved in the Christmas spirit. Fawzia Mirza and Nabeela Rashid describe the 13-foot tree in their living room even though they are both Pakistani-American and of the Muslim faith. Zahra Noorbaksh mentions all of the Persian members of her community gathering to celebrate and even having someone dress up as Santa Claus.

Even despite this, there are many who don’t feel the necessity of observing Christmas. For one, the month of December, in particular, is riddled with religious importance for a number of faiths. Christians celebrate Christmas, Jewish faithful celebrate Chanukah. And while Muslim Eids (holy celebrations) shift in dates every year due to the observance of the lunar calendar, they do occasionally fall in December.

However, the significance of the holiday isn’t lost. While Muslims do not celebrate the birth of Jesus as Christians do, there are many who recognize the spirit of the holiday itself: a time of generosity and charity, of kindness and love, and of reflection on the blessings of life. They may not all hang up garland or lights or get swept up in gift-giving, but the similarities of the faiths are strong enough where they can at least appreciate the holiday season, if not necessarily celebrate it. Perhaps it can also serve as a lesson in mutual respect and awareness of religious observances.

Muslim Boy Scout Troup

Can something as American as the Boy Scouts work within the traditional framework of Islamic traditions? In the small town of Richmond Heights in Ohio, an all-Muslim Boy Scout Troop is attempting to answer that question.

Boy Scout Troop 2690 is headed by Scout Master Isa Abdul Matin and is represented by Muhammad Samad. According to Samad, “These boys are American boys. They bleed American pride. They do what American boys do.” And let’s be honest, there’s nothing more American than the Boy Scouts.

However, there are certain aspects of being a Boy Scout that does not mesh with some aspects of Islamic law. A prime example is the Boy Scout tradition of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at Scout meetings.

“We pledge our allegiance to God, not a flag or a country,” says 12-year-old Boy Scout Mohammad Zoraiz. “Saying the pledge is ‘American’ but our basic tenet that we don’t have to is… because it’s America,” he added, understanding that the right to free speech is an American tenet.

Samad points out, “Those who do not pledge allegiance to the flag still stand at attention out of respect.”

But how do the Boy Scouts America feel about this? According to Mark Baxter from the Lake Erie Council, it’s absolutely fine.

“Scouting is and has always been open to all faiths and religions,” Baxter continued. “We have a duty to God but to who’s god? What god? That is between the young person, their parents and their organization’s faith. We support that.”

For those who don’t know the Boy Scout Oath, you can read it below:

On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.

Boy Scout Law requires a scout to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. If anyone is familiar with the tenets and laws of Islam the similarities are clear. It turns out that you can be Muslim and American.

This Is What You Need To Know About Islamic Growth

We go through the routine of each day without much thought about what really goes on around us. We live in a bubble, underneath a rock, and wholly ignorant of the realities that other people face. A large part of this response to the world around us is biologically ingrained. Mother nature wants us focused on the predator just around the corner, not the predator three thousand miles away. That’s the reason why we’re so drawn and indoctrinated by the news we see on TV, and it’s also the reason why we think so little about the things that actually matter–like creating community with the people who live down the street.

Well, here are some things you might actually want to know about the Islamic world that surrounds you–and make no mistake, it does surround you. Contrary to popular opinion, it isn’t your enemy, either.

In 2015, there were nearly two billion Muslims living in the world. This accounts for about a quarter of the entire world population. In 2010 (the last year on record), there were 2.2 billion Christians compared to the 1.6 billion Muslims at the time. If you’re Christian, this might stoke some sort of pride. Tone it down, though, because according to a Pew Research Center estimate, Islam will likely experience a whopping 70 percent increase by 2060, while Christianity will experience only 34 percent.

About 62 percent of the world’s Muslim population is situated in APAC (the Asia-Pacific region), and countries like India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Turkey, and Iran. Of the nearly 330 million people living in the United States, there are only 3.35 million Muslims–but they still live in a vibrant, important part of our overall community. By 2050, the Muslim percentage of the U.S. population will probably more than double (while other minorities shrink the Caucasian percentage even further). This will contribute to the United States becoming even more diverse than it already is.

One of the driving factors behind the projected growth of Islam is the age of those who are alive today. The median Muslim age was only 24 in 2015, and that means a lot of people are about to start having children. Couple that with the fact that Muslim women are having more children on average as anyone else (about 2.9 as opposed to 2.2), and you have the reason for the booming population.

Luckily, frosty feelings about the Islamic population in the United States are actually on the decline. Based on the same research study, views regarding Muslim citizens are ten points warmer than they were only a few years ago. On the whole, Americans feel the same way toward Muslims as they do toward atheists. In other words, we still have some work to do.

What Is It Like To Grow Up Muslim In America?

Most people who haven’t experienced bullying are confused by the debate that surrounds it. They define the word as similar to the constant teasing that envelops us as we grow up and go through the public school system, but that’s not what bullying is. Bullying is a constant everyday thing that comes at someone from all sides all the time, and to the victim, it feels universal and unending. Like it can’t stop, no matter how much you want it to. That’s why the environment that Muslim American children grow up in today is so terrifying. Imagine how you might feel if all you hear on the news is how evil a big part of your upbringing is. It’s not so easy to put ourselves in their shoes, and most of us seem not to care.

Not everyone had the same experience, as is expected.

Writer Haroon Moghul says that religion got in the way of his high school experience, and so he contemplated a turn to atheism as a means of combating the perplexed feelings exhibited by his peers. Oddly enough, he was drawn back into his faith because of his Roman Catholic peers. If they could believe openly, then why shouldn’t he? Even though these years were tumultuous, it wasn’t until college that 9/11 happened and his identity became shaped by the reality of what others had done. Although he doesn’t necessarily connect one element to the next, Moghul goes on to write about his battle with being bipolar and a divorce. How did his childhood affect these parts of his life?

Sara Barry is an Egyptian and Muslim who can speak Arabic, but she grew up far from home. As is true of anyone who other kids pick on, it can be a difficult struggle to feel different. It’s not easy to pass through that barrier, either. Barry was asked if she spoke Muslim, and when she admitted that her religion barred her from pork consumption, the confusion was obvious and the questions were endless. Therein lies another problem with being different: even when people aren’t openly abrasive or negative about who you are, they’re curious and want to know the details. It can become a headache having to explain and relive the same small moments each day of your life.

Although the hardships associated with growing up Muslim in America today can vary greatly from individual to individual and certainly from one region of the country to the next, it’s still important to empathize with those from other walks of life as often as possible, and to help one another make it through this journey whenever we can. The Muslim identity is just one of many, and it should be no easier nor more difficult than any other.

Holy Festival Celebrations

If I were to ask you to name as many Islamic-based religious holidays and festivals as you could, how many could you name? Assuming you weren’t already Muslim, of course, which would probably give you an unfair advantage. If you’re like me, you would probably only be able to name the fasting month of Ramadan, and you probably wouldn’t have guessed the name of the festival that annually closes out the month: Eid al-Fatr. Surprisingly enough, this isn’t even considered the major festival associated with the Muslim faith. That honor belongs to the holy festival Eid al-Adha.

The Eid al-Adha, which literally translates to “festival of the sacrifice,” is generally celebrated each year on the 10th day of the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar (which shifts 11 days every year due to the difference in cycles between the moon and the sun, on which the Gregorian calendar is based), with variations taking place dependent upon region or sect, even possibly individual mosques. The celebration itself is said to correlate with the time in which Ibrahim (more familiar as Abraham to the Christian and Jewish faithful) was commanded by God to prove his devotion by sacrificing his son. When Ibrahim came to the point of preparing to sacrifice his son and even after fending off Satan with stones after attempts to deter him from carrying out God’s will, God stopped him – convinced of Ibrahim’s devotion – and provided him with an animal to sacrifice in his son’s stead, most often considered to be a sheep or a ram. The festival celebrates devotion to Allah and enacts this devotion by sacrificing animals to Allah while simultaneously assisting those in need by distributing the meat of the slaughtered to the poor and the needy, as well as making monetary donations.

The festival also marks the end of what is known as the hajj – the holy pilgrimage to Mecca, considered the most holy site throughout the Islamic faith. Recognized as one of the Five Pillars of Islam, the hajj is a pilgrimage that millions of Muslim worshipers make every year, and one that all Muslims are expected to make as part of their religious duty at least once in their lives if they are at all able to afford the physical and financial burden of it. Typically, the hajj concludes with pilgrims camped in what is known as a tent valley in Mina, a portion of Saudi Arabia, where they spend three days visiting holy sites such as the Jamarat Bridge and perform a symbolic ritual known as Stoning of the Devil. This ritual sees worshipers throwing stones to symbolize the stones that Ibrahim used to stone the devil who stood between him and God’s command. The hajj ends in celebration with prayers at the Grand Mosque in Mecca before pilgrims disperse to return to their friends and families and celebrate the rest of the observance of Eid al-Adha.

This year, more than 2.35 million Muslims made the pilgrimage to Mecca and celebrated Eid al-Adha in the holy city. In Mina and at the Grand Mosque, male worshipers shave their heads and remove white garments that are worn specifically for the hajj, while female worshipers cut and remove a lock of their hair. This removal of hair and garments is recognized in the Muslim community as a sign of spiritual rebirth and renewal. You can learn more by visiting their website

Muslims and Racism

Islamophobia is real; take a look at the past several months of American politicking and all the proposed legislation that circulated through our highest offices if you don’t believe me. To some extent, it was even successfully implemented and imposed a travel ban on several majority-Muslim nations, barring entry of those originating from those countries. Now, while I will not claim to know all of the ins and outs of political methodology, it’s not difficult to see why there is such a fear of the Muslim community. For those of us that were around to experience it, our generations “where were you” moment was most definitely September 11th, 2001, just like generations before us experienced the attack on Pearl Harbor or the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The vivid memory and the uprising of propaganda of conflict between Muslim nations and the Western world that propagated from it still exist to this day. And with the rise of militant groups such as ISIS, the message that many try to send has only seemed to get even clearer. Muslims are the enemy.

For the record, I don’t agree with this line of thought whatsoever, but it’s obvious to see the ripple effects that something like this has on the American people and their view of the Muslim community. I once spoke with a woman who openly expressed a fear of Muslim women who would enter grocery stores wearing the hijab. Her reaction was that she was afraid they might have bombs strapped underneath. This is the sort of ignorance that our country has come to embrace. Similar to profiling teenagers for wearing hooded sweatshirts in public that make them look suspicious by default (you know the incident I’m referring to), the assumption that anyone wearing a hijab might be coming into public buildings with bombs strapped to their chest is utter lunacy. Granted, I’m not saying it couldn’t ever happen, but the fact is that the modern propaganda has altered much of the nation’s view on Muslims and we now hold them accountable on everything they do that differentiates them from other religions or cultural backgrounds. Which borders very close to – if not, crosses into the territory of – racism.

Now, some of you may be tempted to argue that being Muslim is not a race, so it’s impossible to be racist against them. And to that, you would technically be right. People are not simply born Muslim as they are with darker or lighter skin – it is a result of choosing (freely, in an ideal circumstance) to follow the beliefs and practices of the religion. But, there are some who would argue that the entire concept of race is just a load of garbage anyway. Yes, there are defining physical qualities that separate some humans from others, whether it be complexion or stature or something else that we can’t help but accept as part of our lot in life. But there are some who would argue the fact that many of us decide to divide the world population up into nice, neat portions is little more than an arbitrary social construct based on (arbitrary) sovereign borders because our long-lost ancestors decided to settle in certain places a long time ago. And is often the case, as one Stuart Hall might argue, these sorts of differences picked out are done so due to an imagined sense of superiority in terms of cultural sophistication – the same stereotypical way an admirer of ballet and symphony orchestras might look down upon those who go for rock and roll or rap music.

The point of all this is that, while racism might not be the most accurate term to describe prejudice against Muslims, there is very much a strong prejudice in the American community. Whatever word is put to it, the fact remains that Muslims suffer from stereotypes and heavy profiling – a lot of it due to the government’s handling of international affairs and the worldview that is painted by a handful (radical militants) compared to the reality of the rest of the entire Muslim community.

Muslim Youth Camp In America

In the aftermath of a growing wave of general Islamic fear and hatred, there may well be a number of Muslim children who are scared and confused about why they are being persecuted when they did nothing wrong – or why their parents are under such scrutiny by neighbors and friends.

While the lazy excuse for this may be that America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, the real reason could just be ignorance and fear because the large majority of terror attacks in the world over the last couple decades have been committed by Muslims who have a literal (or known as “radical”) ideology and interpretation of the teachings of the Qu’ran. It is unfortunate that general ignorance about Islam leads to this fear of Islam because of a few “bad apples” who lay claim to adhering to “fundamentalist” Islam.

Islam is a religion that has some inherent difficulty assimilating to life in a free America, and it’s also difficult to live an Islamic life in a society that does not understand your faith and the lifestyle that usually comes with it. And it can be tough in these situations, especially for children in Islam, to live with pride in their religious and cultural heritage, and thus easier to “fit in” by adopting and assimilating to the Judeo-Christian ethos or the secularist ethic that seems to predominate in America.

More than 50 years ago, however, a Muslim couple (actually the wife converted to Islam from Methodist Christian) opened a Muslim Youth Camp in northern California, designed to unite Muslim children and help them embrace their faith and live harmoniously in America.

The camp is located in the woods of northern California, and it looks and acts much like any other summer camp you may find. There are games, activities, music, and swimming – many of the activities that campers of all stripes would experience during the summer.

The one difference is that all the children are Muslim and they have sessions each day where they learn about their faith and learn to adapt it to fit into the current American culture and society.  The camp lasts for a week and campers of all ages are welcome – even parents are encouraged to participate to “find their inner youth.”

Entire families will often participate, with parents being involved in adult classes and counseling sessions with other parents to support each other with the challenges of Muslim living, and children are grouped by age with various other classes and activities, and campers come from all over the world for the experience.

This youth camp is getting some publicity in the mainstream these days, mostly in the wake of anti-Muslim sentiment, and this camp is being portrayed as an “escape” for Muslims to find some camaraderie and support to be able to stand up in the face of irrational hatred and remain committed and proud of their culture and faith and understand that Islam is not inherently to blame for the carnage that is being tied to the religion.

Are Muslims To Blame For The Barcelona Attacks?

After a terrorist attack, it can be very easy for those who are skittish to automatically assume that all members of a particular group are dangerous. Whether it’s a right-wing white guy who had problems with the federal government (see Tim McVeigh) or if it’s a terrorist group which operates on a religious basis (ISIS, al-Qaeda), it can be considered “safer” to stay away from anyone who looks or appears to be connected by race, religion or gender to a terrorist.

But does painting with so broad a brush really help anyone, or does it just make us more divisive as a people?

Apparently in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Barcelona, Spain, last month, many residents of Spain have taken to retaliatory acts against Muslims in the area, even those who are innocent of the attacks. Up until the attacks, Muslims were able to live in peace and were left alone. But after the attacks happened – for which ISIS claimed responsibility – Spaniards and other Europeans seemed to have taken umbrage to all Muslims in the area, though the main suspects in the attacks have been arrested already.

A new wave of “Islamophobia” seems to have taken root in Europe in the wake of these latest attacks, where peaceful and innocent Muslims seem to be targeted simply based on their religious adherence that seems to be consistent with those of the ISIS terrorists.

But the question is, is it fair to blame Muslims for the terror attacks?

This is where we get into having to split hairs on a razor’s edge. After all, while yes, the Crusades were a series of battles involving Christians – not all Christians were involved in the Crusades.

The same can be said here in terms of modern-day terrorist attacks. While we may know the labels of these terror groups –  ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda or Boko Haram – and they all claim to be based on Islam, it does not mean that all 1.5 billion Muslims are terrorists or practice the fundamentalist dogma about a caliphate.

In the last few years, it seems that all terrorists have been Muslim – but the reality is that not all Muslims are terrorists. The terrorist ideology is not necessarily the same that all Muslims espouse or practice. While the basis for the terrorism is rooted in the Qu’ran, there are also interpretations of the Bible that lead Christians to kill (terrorizing abortion clinics for example). But we also know it is not fair to paint all Christians as terrorists either.

To execute terrorism takes a certain unorthodox logic or reasoning (that may not be logical) to justify the killing of people. Some of this is mentioned in the Qu’ran, but many Muslims – like many Christians – tend to take the holy book in its spiritual intent and not its literal words.

It is often the literal and only the literal that seems to breed terrorism or at least extreme behaviors.

So are Muslims responsible for the Barcelona attacks? Only on an individual level, yes. It is too simplistic and dangerous to blame all Muslims for the heinous acts of a few. The Islamophobia that has run rampant is unfortunate nd actually does not help the situation in eradicating terrorism for all corners of the globe. It actually is making things worse.