There are a number of Muslim festivals like Muharram, Bakri Id, Ramzan, Id-I-Milad Shab-I-Barat and others. A well-known peculiarity of Muslim festivals is this that they do not correspond to any particular date or month of the Gregorian Calendar, as they are based on the Hegira which follows pure lunar reckoning. As such these Muslim festivals do not have months corresponding to seasons.
The first Muslim month is Muharram and Muharram is observed on the tenth day of this month. Muharram is a day of mourning as it commemorates , what is considered the greatest tragedy in the history of Islam-the martyrdom of the Prophet's grandson Hussein. The long processions with their Taziahs which are the gorgeous replicas of the martyr's tomb, the masked dancers and the colorful crowds, give Muharram the appearance of a gay festival but in reality it is an expression of grief and distress.
Bakri-Id is one of the Muslim festivals, the celebration of which is enjoined in Koran and it commemorates Abraham's sacrifice of his beloved son in obedience to God's command. Abraham having implicit faith in God decided to offer the sacrifice. Abraham blindfolded himself and killed his son but when he removed the bandage from his eyes, found his son standing before him with a slain ram at the altar. Therefore, for Bakri-Id every Muslim family is required to sacrifice a healthy animal and distribute two-thirds of the meat among the poor. A full grown camel, cow, goat or sheep free from disease is considered the best offering with a short prayer which is an absolute surrendering of the soul and acknowledging the greatness of Allah.
The prophet was born on the twelfth day of the third month of the Muslim year and his death anniversary also falls on the same date. During the twelve days of sickness of the Prophet which ended in his death, sermons are delivered in mosques by learned men. Also a ceremony known as the "Sandal Rite" is performed over the symbolic foot-prints of the Prophet in stone, kept in some households or mosques. A replica of Burag, the horse on which the Prophet is believed to have ascended to heaven is kept near the foot-prints and is anointed with Sandal Paste. And the casket of foot-prints are decorated and illuminated. The twelfth day, which is the Urs proper, is observed quietly and spent in prayers and alms-giving.
This feast is held either on the thirteenth or on the fourteenth day of the eighth month of the Muslim year. It is a nocturnal observance as the fortunes of all mortals for the coming year are to be registered in heaven during the night. Fatiha, which means blessings are recited over the food and the sweet dishes in the name of the Prophet, his daughter Fatima and her husband Ali.
This is perhaps, the gayest of the Muslim festivals. It comes at the end of the Muslim month of Ramzan during which every devout Muslim fasts by day and eats only at night. It is celebrated on the day following the appearance of the New Moon at the end of Ramzan and in the evening anxious crowds are seen watching the fading light of the western sky for a trace of the moon.
The Ramzan fast, observed during the whole month begins daily from the time the first streak of daylight is observed on the horizon till nightfall when the stars become clearly visible. During the day even drinking water is prohibited but food is permitted to be eaten at night. Muslims spent the day in reading the Koran.
The odd nights of the last ten days of Ramzan are known as Lailut-ul-Kadar or "the nights of power", as the Koran is believed to have descended from heaven on one of these nights. The actual date and time of the event is known only to Allah and the Prophet who did not reveal it to his followers. On this night, the whole of creation is believed to low down mysteriously in praise of Allah.
Community prayer, generally held in an open space is the most important part in Ramzan Id celebrations. Every Muslim is commanded by Koran to offer Id prayer with his brethren in full faith. As the congregation becomes too unwieldy to be accommodated in a mosque spacious grounds are selected for Community Prayers. It is required that every Muslim gives alms to the poor and dresses in clean clothes before attending the public prayer.
The Fitr or alms must be a minimum of two kilos and a half of wheat or any other grain, dates or grapes. Thus every member of a Muslim household is under religious obligation to give this Fitr or alms before proceeding to the ground where Id Prayer or Community Ibadat is arranged.
After the distribution of alms the congregation proceeds to the house of the Kazi who is a Muslim religious official or some other learned and pious man who is detailed to lead the Ibadat and then the Kazi is conducted to the place of worship.
After the Ibadat or prayer is over, a sermon is delivered for an hour or so. The preacher then offers extempore supplementary prayers which are known as `Munajat' to the Almighty Allah for the welfare of the Muslim faith, remission of sins for all Muslims, for the safety of pilgrims and travellers, for the recovery of the sick, for timely rain, preservation from misfortune and freedom from indebtedness. He then comes down from the pulpit, kneels on a prayer carpet to do "Namaz" supplication on behalf of the people. The congregation at the end of each prayer , rises up and ejaculates "Faith"- Din.
After the ritual prayers, the assembled people conduct the Kazi back to his house and the people who had accompanied him to house take leave of him.
People spend the rest of the day in feasting, visiting friends and relatives and going to the fairs which are held in open spaces for the sale of toys and trinkets. Children also enjoy themselves to their hearts content in these fairs.
Muslims firmly believe that those who neither give alms freely nor take part in the Community prayers nor observe Ramzan Id as prescribed by religion, remain suspended after death between heaven and earth.
Ramzan Id is an occasion for a general expression of goodwill and friendship. Even those who are dead are not excluded from the benefit of this Id. So it is a prevalent custom in certain parts of India for the living wife of a Muslim to offer new clothes and finery to a former dead wife in a small ceremony which is known by the name -"Saukan Maura" which literally means first wife's crown. Greeting cards printed with "Id Mubarak" which is also the greetings for this Id festival are sent to friends and relatives also when friends meet they greet each other saying "Id Mubarak".