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Muslim Holidays

Muslim holidays, also known as Islamic holidays, commemorate important events and principles in Islamic history such as the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, or sacrifice and obedience to Allah.

Many Islamic holidays involve feasts and sharing food with family and loved ones.


What Holidays Do Muslims Celebrate?

Muslims celebrate several important holidays and religious observances throughout the Islamic calendar year. Here are some of the major Islamic holidays:

  • Eid al-Fitr (Eid ul-Fitr): Eid al-Fitr is sometimes called “the biggest Muslim holiday.” It marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr with communal prayers, feasting, giving of gifts, and acts of charity. It is a time of joy and thanking Allah for the strength to complete the fast.
  • Eid al-Adha (Eid ul-Adha): Also known as the Festival of Sacrifice, Eid al-Adha commemorates the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God. Muslims around the world sacrifice animals, typically a sheep, goats, cows, or camels, and share the meat with family, friends, and the less fortunate.
  • Mawlid al-Nabi (Milad un Nabi): Mawlid al-Nabi celebrates the birth of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. While the celebration’s practices can vary significantly, it often involves sermons, recitations of poetry, and special meals.

These are some of the major Islamic holidays. Please note that the Islamic calendar is lunar-based—the dates of these holidays shift each year in relation to the Gregorian calendar. Additionally, the observance of these holidays may vary among different Muslim communities and cultural traditions.

When Are Muslim Holidays?

The dates for holidays within the Islamic lunar calendar are determined primarily by direct observation of the Crescent Moon.

Different rules, interpretations of Islamic texts, the political climate, and even weather conditions can often make predicting the exact date of holidays a complicated affair. This means that all future dates of Muslim holidays are preliminary and may change by a day or two at short notice.

At timeanddate.com, we follow a strict research and quality assurance process to make sure our predictions are as reliable as possible. This involves cross-checking the dates with the relevant national authorities in advance and then updating them as soon as the holiday’s actual date is announced by governments.

Based on the Moon

Unlike many other religious holidays, Islamic holidays do not occur at a fixed time of the year in the Gregorian calendar. This is because the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, based on the Moon’s phases. A year has 12 months with 29 or 30 days each, making it about 11 days shorter than a solar year. Therefore, holidays based on the Muslim calendar tend to fall about 11 to 12 days earlier each year in the Gregorian calendar, sometimes even occurring twice in the same calendar year.

Start at Sundown

Dates within the Islamic calendar begin at sunset instead of midnight, as in the Gregorian calendar. For example, Eid-al Fitr, one of the major holidays in Islam, falls on the first day of the month of Shawwal in the Islamic calendar. In 2019, it began at sundown on June 3 in many countries, even though a public holiday for the occasion was declared on June 4.

At timeanddate.com, we show the first full day of the holiday in our calendars and yearly holiday lists for countries. In the example above, our holiday list of a specific country would show Eid-al Fitr falling on June 4, even though it began on the evening of June 3.

In the case of public holidays associated with Muslim observances, we list the dates announced by the respective national authorities.

Fickle Moon

The beginning of a month determines the date of holidays in the Islamic calendar, but deciding when the month starts can itself be tricky, depending on where you are in the world.

According to strict religious interpretation, the first day of an Islamic month, and therefore the date of a holiday, is determined purely through the direct observation of the Crescent Moon, also known as hilal. Factors such as the age of the Moon, the Moon’s proximity to the horizon, geographical obstructions, and the observer’s latitude and longitude can all influence whether the Crescent Moon is visible from a location. Additionally, cloudy skies and atmospheric pollution can impede the observation of the Moon.

Local Moon Sighting Necessary

There is no single worldwide Muslim authority defining the rules of observation of the Crescent Moon. Some Muslims believe a month should only begin after the Moon has been sighted locally. Others believe a local sighting is unnecessary as long as the Moon has been seen in a Muslim country or by a Muslim religious authority.

Different Rules and Multiple Days

Many Muslim countries follow rules established by religious authorities in Saudi Arabia (the Umm al-Qura calendar), while others follow the Islamic calendar of Turkey. Some countries in Southeast Asia, including Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore, use a formula called the MABIMS. Like India and Pakistan, others rely on the strict viewing of the Crescent Moon and use religious judges to make the final decision. In non-Muslim countries, different mosques make their own rules about the start of a month.

All of these factors have two consequences: first, the exact date of a Muslim holiday is hard to predict until the Crescent Moon is sighted, and second, different countries can observe the same holiday on different dates. For instance, in 2019, Eid-al-Adha, another major Islamic holiday, was celebrated on August 11 in some countries and August 12 in others. In some countries, like India, where different sects and groups follow different rules, the same holiday could be celebrated on different dates within the country.

How Reliable Are Dates for Islamic Holidays?

All dates on timeanddate.com are cross-checked with the relevant national authorities in advance and then updated as soon as the holiday’s actual date is announced by governments. The actual date may be a day or two earlier or later than predicted.