16 Culture and Advice
Cultural and Religous Discussion
Holiday Phrases and Responses: by Sara Bakari
At Arab weddings, It is polite to congratulate the bride or the groom and their close family (father, and mother, sisters, and brothers). The word مبروك or مبارك is usually used as “congratulations” in Arabic. At a wedding, you might specifically say, “مبروك الزواج,” which means congratulations on your marriage.
Additionally, Muslim Arabs might say, “بارك الله لكما وبارك عليكما وجمع بينكما في خير” because this how the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) congratulated men on their marriages. This phrase specifically translates to “may Allah bless for you, and may he bless on you, and combine both of you in good”.
Birthday or Graduation Party
Birthday parties in the Middle East and Saudi Arabia are different than in America when it comes to its significance. Not all people celebrate birthdays, but there definitely are some who do celebrate, it just depends on the family. Especially in the past 2 years, there has been an increase in people enjoying parties! Like baby showers, bye-bye single life, and Gender reveal parties. At a birthday party or graduation party you would say the same things that you do in America:
عيد ميلاد سعيد – Happy birthday
كل سنة وانت طيب/ـة – general greeting for birthdays and holidays
مبروك التخرج – congratulations on your graduation
A few Islamic holidays include Ramadan, Eid Al Adha, and Eid Al Fitr.
Greeting: رمضان كريم أو رمضان مبارك
Response: علينا وعليكم
Eid Al Adha and Eid Al Fitr
Greeting: كل سنة وأنتم طيبين or من العايدين
Response: وانت طيب/ـة or من الفايزين
New Year/ Islamic and Gregorian
In most Arab cultures, they don’t celebrate the new year of the Islamic Calendar السنة الهجري. You might see a few cultures that do celebrate the Islamic new year, but most just celebrate the Gregorian Calendar New year.
Happy New Year: سنة جديدة سعيدة or سنة سعيدة
Response: علينا وعليك
Most Important Holidays in Islam: by Sara Bakari
Muslims celebrate two different holidays. Both celebrations come after significant events. One is after the month of Ramadan (Eid al fiter). And the other is after the completion of the annual Hajj pilgrimage (Eid al adha).
*SWT = سبحانه و تعالى
When writing the name of God (Allah), Muslims often follow it with the abbreviation “SWT,” which stands for the Arabic words “Subhanahu wa ta’ala.” Muslims use these or similar words to glorify God when mentioning his name
Eid al Fitr
Eid al Fitr does not mark a historic moment nor does it have a specific date. Yet, it is the spiritual aspect of offering thanks/gratitude to Allah SWT (God) for giving us strength and willpower to observe fast and follow the commandments during the holy month of Ramadan that makes Eid Al Fitr significant. Fasting is one of the 5 pillars of Islam, and during the month of Ramadan, we seek to get closer to Allah SWT* and become more compassionate to those in need.
Eid Al Fitr is celebrated after the month of Ramadan, in which Muslims fast (no food or water) for around 30 days from sunrise to sunset. To determine when Ramadan begins and ends, the new moon has to be seen, signaling the first day of Ramadan and the day of Eid (occurs the day after the new moon is seen and no one is allowed to fast). Eid Al Fitr means “festival of breaking fast,” marking the end of the month of Ramadan and is celebrated on the first day of the Islamic month Shawwal. On this day of Eid, Muslims celebrate and rejoice for the health, strength, and opportunities that Allah SWT has given to fulfill the obligation of fasting. Eid Al Fitr is usually celebrated for 3-4 days.
The day of Eid is when Muslims come together to pray for forgiveness and strength of faith. The day is started early, wearing new clothes and gathering for a special prayer in major/big mosques. When we are done praying, Muslims greet one another with the saying “Eid Mubarak “. Eid Al Fitr is a joyous occasion for Muslims all over the world reminding us to help each other and to spread the joy of Islam.
On Eid, food choices are dependent on the cultural background of each Muslim. For example, Muslims coming from South Asia such as India or Pakistan will make Sheerkuma, a sweet milk and vermicelli-based dish for breakfast and give it to neighbors, family or friends. In Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia, families gather to eat breakfast together after the Fajr and Eid prayers. The food is hearty and is shared with one another, Muslims or not. At each gathering, kids will get candy, money or gifts from relatives, and fireworks!
On Eid, it is sunnah to wear your best/new clothing for this joyous and special occasion (following the Islamic modesty guidelines for males and females). The day is started with Eid prayer and afterward depends on each family. An obligatory monetary donation to the poor needs to be given before the completion of Eid prayer, preferably before or early in the month of Ramadan. Generally, families or friends will get together at someone’s house, a park, zoo, etc. Again, it depends on the family and what they have planned out for the day.
Since Muslims are supposed to not celebrate other holidays such as Christmas or Halloween, Eid is a huge deal not only for adults but also for children who shouldn’t feel excluded from joyous, happy occasions as well. Although, I will say that I have enjoyed experiencing Halloween while living in America.
Eid al Adha
Eid al Adhaa translates to “festival of sacrifice” and is celebrated on the 10th of Dhul Hijjah of the Islamic calendar (lunar) or the “month of the pilgrimage.” This month is also the month where Hajj or pilgrimage to Makkah takes place. Hajj starts on the 8th of Dhul Hijjah finishing on the 10th day, which is Eid al Adha, and lasts for about 3 days. It is the 2nd most important Islamic festival on the Islamic calendar. During this Eid, Muslims around the world will sacrifice animals such as goats, sheep or cows. The meat is divided into 3 equal portions to hand out to relatives, family, and charity. This is done to ensure everyone is represented during the time of Eid and has a good meal.
Eid al Adha reminds us of the obedience and faith Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) had in Allah SWT, honoring his willingness to sacrifice his only son upon Allah SWT command. This was a test from Allah SWT to Prophet Ibrahim to test his love, devotion, and sincerity towards him. When Prophet Ibrahim was set to fulfill his sacrifice, Allah SWT told him to leave his son unharmed and slaughter a ram instead. Hajj rituals commemorate this event.
Same as Eid al Fitr, during Eid ul Adha Muslims, wear their best clothes and attend the morning Eid prayer. Food, traditions, celebrations each depend on the family but keeping the theme of sharing and rejoicing. The lesson to take from each Eid is to be grateful to Allah SWT, share what you have with those around you and those who are less fortunate, and do your best to be good and do good.
Different middle eastern cultures have different opinions about which Eid is the best. For me, I enjoy Eid al Fitr more because of the social gathering, dancing, and the new clothes. I do like eid al Adha because of the special kinds of meat meals we eat. In Saudi Arabia, we have what is called (سلات) or (مقلقل).
In this video, the lady is doing مقلقل to celebrate the Saudi national day https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onujoylCvoc.
**Eman Gazaz: a Saudi chef who cooks most of the Saudi traditional food, her way is simple and delicious. She had English translation too. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxHVWywmwTTXvkOTiyKuCnA
Do Muslims Celebrate Secular Holidays?
Sara: Nowadays, people in Saudi Arabia celebrate most of the secular holidays. For example, Valentine’s day, Mother day, Father day, International Women’s day…etc. However, as Muslims, we are prohibited from celebrating the holidays of other religions like Christmas or Halloween, even if they are considered more secular than religious.
Grace: I am not Muslim and can not speak for Muslims, but I did want to mention what I observed while living in Jordan. While Muslims may not celebrate the secular aspects of Christmas or Halloween, you may still see the influences of those holidays around you. I remember how Jordanian malls would become decorated with Christmas trees, ornaments, and lights during the month of December. Lots of my friends would take pictures with the trees and post them on their Instagram. So while the country may be majority Muslim, they still support their Christian minority and show holiday spirit. Now, this experience may not be consistent with other Muslim countries, but it demonstrates that despite the country being Muslim majority it’s not like you don’t see anything related to Christmas.