SUNDAY, JUNE 23: Deep prayer emanates from Muslim homes and mosques tonight, as adherents pray for the year ahead on Lailat al Bara’at, literally, the Night of Forgiveness. Ahead of this sacred night, Muslims asked forgiveness from neighbors and friends; on this night, Muslims repent before Allah. Extending further, some Muslims also visit the graves of deceased ancestors, praying for their loved ones’ souls. Many believe that on this special night, Allah grants forgiveness to eligible Muslims and determines one’s fate in the year ahead; whether Hajj can be performed in the coming year is determined during Laylat al Bara’at. In some areas of the world, firework displays symbolize Allah’s forgiveness.
In most countries, daytime hours of Lailat al Bara’at are filled with gaiety as children receive sweets from neighbors and treats are made for friends. In the evening, Muslims shift to a more solemn state, praying throughout the night for salvation and forgiveness. The faithful stay awake the entire night, and many keep fast the following day. (Wikipedia has details.) Observances of Lailat al Bara’at vary slightly between Shia and Sunni Muslims: both honor the Night of Forgiveness with worship and prayer, but Shia also celebrate the birth date of Imam al Mahdi, the twelfth Imam.
MUSLIM INSTITUTION EXTENDS PEACE TO THE VATICAN
Following positive actions that Muslims have seen from the newly elected Pope Francis, Sunni Islam’s foremost institution has once again extended an invitation for peace with the Vatican. (Read more from the National Catholic Reporter.) Despite an amiable relationship between Al-Azhar and the Vatican during the reign of Pope John Paul II, ties were cut when Pope Benedict XVI spoke unfavorably during a 2006 lecture. Pope Benedict XVI attempted reconciliation with the Muslim world, but while some countries accepted his bid, Al-Azhar did not. When Pope Francis was elected and, further, displayed friendly relations, Al-Azhar expressed hope. Representatives report that the Vatican remains open to restoring ties.