Islam is the second-largest religion in the world after Christianity. Muslims believe in the prophet Muhammad, read the Qu'ran holy book and have five pillars, or things they need to do. They are: professing love for God, praying five times a day, giving to charity, a trip to the holy land and fasting.
Eid ul-Fitr is a joyous holiday indeed. After Ramadan, the month of fasting, Muslims get to break their fast with a feast, a church celebration and visits with friends and family. Fasting for an entire month is a hard thing to do, so Eid ul-Fitr is a great triumph for Muslims, since they were able to remain faithful for an entire month.
Hajj is one of the five pillars, or requirements, of Islam. It is a visit to Mecca, the Muslim holy land. It is located in Saudi Arabia. Every able and healthy person must make the winter journey at least once in their lifetime. Some Muslims don't make the journey, over one million people call Mecca home according to a 2004 census.
Laylat al-Qadr is a very important event that happened during the last ten days of the month of Ramadan. This is the day when the first verse of the Qu'ran was handed down. The rest of the Qu'ran was revealed to the prophet Muhammad over a period of twenty-three years.
Mawlid an-Nabi means "the birth of the prophet." It is when Muslims celebrate the birth of Muhammad. Other religious traditions have always celebrated the birth of their prophets. Not so with Islam, where this is not an official holiday. While countries like Turkey and Egypt celebrate this holiday, others like Saudi Arabia do not.
Noruz is the New Year in many Arab countries. It commonly falls on the day of the vernal equinox, around March 21st. It is a springtime celebration as well as a New Year festival. It is a holy day for people who practice Sufism, a religion that branches off from Islam. Noruz traditions date back 15,000 years, to before the last ice age.
Qurban, or Eid ul-Adha, occurs the day after the pilgrims in Mecca descend from Mount Arafat. This is a day to celebrate Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his own son to Allah. Even though Ismael was allowed to live, on this holiday Muslims sacrifice animals to Allah, say a special prayer and go to the mosque.
During Ramadan, devout Muslims fast during the day and eat a restricted diet from sundown to sunup. They must also go to the mosque, or church, more often. The month of Ramadan was when the Qu'ran, the Muslim holy book, was first handed down to Muhammad. After the month-long fast there is a week of feasting and celebration
The month of Shawwal is the tenth month of the Islamic calendar and comes right after the month of Ramadan. During this month, devoted Muslims fast for six additional days. According to some Islamic beliefs, this is equal to fasting for an entire year and is a tradition of the very faithful.