Laylat al Qadr and Eid al-Fitr: Muslims observe holiest night, end of Ramadan

Group of Muslims kneeling in prayer, daytime, outdoors

Muslims in Iran holding Eid al-Fitr prayer. Photo by M. Hasan Miremadi, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SUNSET SUNDAY, JUNE 10 and SUNSET THURSDAY, JUNE 14: The holiest night of the Islamic year arrives for Muslims worldwide with the Night of Power (Laylat al-Qadr). Known by many names—Night of Value, Night of Destiny, Night of Measure—Muslims note the anniversary of the night the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad via the angel Gabriel. (Note: Muhammad did not reveal precisely when the Night of Power occurred, though the 27th day of Ramadan is a traditionally held date; however, as many of the odd-numbered nights in the last 10 days of Ramadan as possible are still observed.)

It is believed that on this sacred night, verses of the Quran were relayed to Muhammad in the year 610 CE, and angels descended to earth for the event. If a devoted Muslim prays in earnest for forgiveness of sins on Laylat al-Qadr and reads the Quran, it’s believed that the night is “better than 1,000 months.” Sins are forgiven and blessings are manifold.

Mosque lit up at night, people walking out of mosque and nearby

Photo by Sharonang, courtesy of pixabay

I’TIKAF & THE FINAL DAYS OF RAMADAN

Muslims who can afford to spend the final 10 days of Ramadan in the mosque may choose to observe a form of worship known as I’tikaf. A fast observed during the day is supplemented with intense prayer and Quran study both day and night. Nighttime meals are provided by most mosques to I’tikaf participants. Ten days of observance is ideal, but some participants follow the practice for shorter periods. Both men and women are encouraged to observe I’tikaf.

Note: Due to traditional moon sighting calculations, Muslim observances often vary by country or region.

THE END OF RAMADAN: HAPPY EID!

Sunrise-to-sunset fasting through some of the year’s longest, hottest days has ended for the world’s Muslims, and the Islamic community transitions from the month of Ramadan to Shawwaal with a joyous “Feast of the Breaking of the Fast,” called Eid al-Fitr. Islamic days start at sunset, and for 2018, official astronomers have predicted that sunrise on June 14 will open Eid al-Fitr.

Note: Spellings vary, and you may see the holiday spelled Eid ul-Fitr as well. The proper greeting for this festival is “Eid Sa’id!” (Happy Eid!)

For the grand holiday, Muslims around the world awaken early, heading to a nearby mosque (or, in some cases, an open square or field) and praying in unison, before feasting with families and friends. Government buildings, schools and businesses close in Muslim countries as everyone visits family and friends, dines on sweet treats and greets passersby with a “Happy Eid.” In many regions, festivities will continue for three days or more.

Did you know? The first Eid was observed by the Prophet Muhammad in 624 CE. 

Before sunrise on Eid al-Fitr, Muslims pray, bathe and put on their best clothing. A small breakfast—usually including dates—is consumed before heading to a nearby mosque, hall or open area. Zakat (charitable giving) has been completed, and adherents spend ample time enjoying the company of family and friends, attending carnivals and fireworks displays, giving gifts and expressing thanks to Allah.

From ground, rides at a fair

Eid al-Fitr fairs and festivals, such as this one in Amsterdam, are common. Photo by Charles Roffey, courtesy of Flickr

The grand holiday of Eid al-Fitr is referred to in many ways: the Sugar Feast, Sweet Festival, Feast of the Breaking of the Fast and Bajram, to name just a few.

EID AROUND THE WORLD

With nearly one-quarter of the world’s population observing the Islamic faith, countries around the world are preparing their banks, airlines, shops, business hours and public services for the major holiday. Unlike most Muslim holidays, which may or may not be observed by all Muslims each year, the two Eid holidays—Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr—are always commemorated universally.

Did you know? In Egypt, Eid al-Fitr is an occasion for neighborhood carnivals; in Asia, the celebratory dish contains toasted sweet vermicelli noodles and dried fruit; in Saudi Arabia, wealthy families buy large quantities of rice and other staples and leave them anonymously on the doorsteps of those less fortunate.

Lailat al-Qadr: Muslims observe holiest of Ramadan, Night of Power

Mosque lit at night from exterior

For Laylat al-Qadr, Muslims spend the night in prayer and Quran study. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

STARTING SUNSET TUESDAY, JULY 7 (OR an odd-numbered night in the last 10 days of Ramadan): The holiest night of the Islamic year has arrives for Muslims worldwide with the Night of Power (Laylat al-Qadr). Known by many names—Night of Value, Night of Destiny, Night of Measure—Muslims note the anniversary of the night the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad via the angel Gabriel.

It is believed that on this sacred night, verses of the Quran were relayed to Muhammad in the year 610 CE, and angels descended to earth for the event. (Learn more from On Islam.) If a devoted Muslim prays in earnest for forgiveness of sins on Laylat al-Qadr and reads the Quran, it’s believed that the night is “better than 1,000 months.” Sins are forgiven and blessings are manifold.

I’TIKAF & FINAL DAYS OF RAMADAN

Muslims who can afford to spend the final 10 days of Ramadan in the mosque may choose to observe a form of worship known as I’tikaf. A fast observed during the day is supplemented with intense prayer and Quran study both day and night. (Wikipedia has details.) Nighttime meals are provided by most mosques to I’tikaf participants. Ten days of observance are ideal, but some participants follow the practice for shorter periods. Both men and women are encouraged to observe I’tikaf.

Muhammad did not reveal precisely when the Night of Power occurred. The 27th day of Ramadan is a traditionally held date, but as many of the odd-numbered nights in the last 10 days of Ramadan are still observed.

IN THE NEWS:

A YOUTUBE LECTURE AND RAMADAN IN NIGERIA & MOROCCO

Muslims and non-Muslims can gain additional insight into Ramadan’s holiest night with this YouTube lecture by Dr. Zakir Naik, who explains Laylat al-Qadr. For an international perspective of Islam around the world, check out articles from AllAfrica and Morocco World News, explaining Nigerian Muslim views on Ramadan and Moroccans’ five most cherished Ramadan traditions.

Ramadan: World’s 1.6 billion Muslims begin month of fasting, charity

Ornate pewter silver cups one holding fresh dates on neutral table

Traditionally, the daytime fast of Ramadan is broken with three dates. Photo by Ministry of Information and Communications and Technology, courtesy of Flickr

SUNSET WEDNESDAY, JUNE 17: As a crescent moon emerges and is spotted around the globe, the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims begin the month of Ramadan. Remember, though: Starting dates vary by location and method of calculation. Some Muslim groups use astronomical data; others sight the moon by human eye.

As the Islamic calendar is lunar, the beginning and end of Ramadan is based on a crescent moon sighting. The crescent typically appears 1-2 days after the astronomical new moon. The end of Ramadan—the ninth month of the Islamic calendar—is met with Eid al-Fitr, a festival of the breaking of the fast. Eid al-Fitr marks the beginning of the next lunar month, Shawwal, and a time of great feasting.

Did you know? In Saudi Arabia, a panel of scholars base proclamations for the start of Ramadan on moon sightings; in Turkey and France, predictions are made based on astronomical calculations. Religious authorities in Egypt and Kuwait coordinate their announcements with those of Saudi Arabia.

100-QA-Muslim-Large-Book-120x180Are you surprised at the size of the Muslim population? This is the world’s most rapidly growing religious group and, this week, University of Michigan sociologist Dr. Wayne Baker is reporting on the latest research about Muslim communities around the world.

Do you know Muslim friends, neighbors or co-workers? Michigan State University’s Joe Grimm reports this week on an easy way to reach out during Ramadan in a friendly way. As ReadTheSpirit’s veteran Holidays columnist, I wrote a special portion of the new MSU guidebook on Muslim Americans about Islamic holidays and festivals.

The-Beauty-of-Ramadan-cover 120x180Want to really dig deep into the traditions of Ramadan? Perhaps you are Muslim and have deeper questions. Or, you’re a health-care or public-service professional and want to know more about issues like health care during Ramadan? The best book for an in-depth exploration of the fasting month is The Beauty of Ramadan, written by nationally known cross-cultural health care expert Najah Bazzy.

WHAT IS THIS FAST?

 

Fasting is a tradition in nearly all of the world’s great faiths—but the word “fasting” can refer to many different practices. In some traditions, giving up meat or other kinds of foods is a fast. In other groups, a fast may be the elimination of a single meal—or may refer to avoiding food, but not liquids.

Muslims will observe the month of Ramadan with a strict sunrise-to-sunset fast, which means that nothing passes the lips during those hours. No food. No liquid. No smoking. Such a fast is very difficult as the lunar cycle of the Muslim year moves ever earlier during each calendar year. In 2015, Ramadan begins during some of the longest daylight periods in the Northern Hemisphere.

That’s why: If you have a Muslim friend or co-worker—wish them well. They’ll be struggling this year.

Meanwhile, during Ramadan, prayer is increased as is reading from the Quran. According to Muslim belief, the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad occurred during Ramadan, and as such, observance of the month is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Many Muslim communities around the world invite special vocal interpreters of the Quran to come to mosques and chant the sacred text, night after night, until the entire holy book is completed.

WHAT IS EATEN DURING RAMADAN?

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims partake in a pre-dawn meal known as the Suhoor, and do not return to eating until after sunset. Three dates customarily break the fast each day, and an iftar meal is often an occasion for social gatherings, large feasts and buffet-style hosting. (Wikipedia has details.) Traditional foods, ranging from lamb with wheat berries and roast chicken with vegetables to baklava, are typically on the Ramadan iftar table.

Occasionally, Muslims describe the night-time iftar tradition as “like a series of Thanksgiving dinners,” because friends and family often visit each other during the nights of Ramadan—and, often, favorite dishes are prepared for these feasts.

Looking for traditional recipes this Ramadan? Look to AllRecipes and Epicurious for a generous selection.

Did you know? In many Muslim countries, lights and lanterns illuminate the night during Ramadan, to accentuate the festivities and feasting.

GIVING IN RAMADAN

In addition to fasting, Muslims donate to charity during Ramadan. Charity, known as zakat, or “the poor-rate,” is an obligatory action. Muslims are also encouraged to read the entire Quran each Ramadan.

The government of Dubai is cracking down on beggars this Ramadan—even social-media-savvy ones—as it reports that many beggars fly into the region specifically to appeal to Muslims with a desire to give during Ramadan. Learn more from The National/UAE.

Note: Laylat al-Qadr, or the “night of power,” is considered the holiest night of the year and commemorates the night the first revelation of the Quran was sent to Muhammad. Laylat al-Qadr is believed to have taken place on an odd-numbered night during the last 10 days of Ramadan, and those who are able to pray as often as possible during these days in a practice known as I’tikaf.

Religious apps have rocketed in popularity among young Muslims, with abilities to calculate prayer times based on location, the exact time the fast ends each day and even provide suggestions on how to volunteer or give to charity. Read all about the top (free) apps for 2015 here.

Independence Day on June 4? The U.S. Embassy in Indonesia celebrated America’s Fourth of July on June 4 this year, so as to avoid conflict with the month of Ramadan.

Wondering how Muslims in the Arctic observe the fast? The Atlantic reported in 2013.