Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Nisfu Sha'ban

According to my calendar, today is the Islamic holiday Nisfu Sha'ban, a/k/a Mid-Sha'ban (and a bunch of other names)

Nisfu-Sha'ban is a Muslim festival celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month (Shaban) of the Islamic lunar calendar. (This year, it corresponds to August 28 on our calendar).

There are two major denominations of Islam: Shia (the Shi'its) and Sunni [aha - I never knew what these groups were exactly]. These denominations celebrate the holiday for different reasons.

Shias celebrate this holiday as the birth of Muhammad al-Mahdi. The Shias consider him to be the twelfth, final and current Shia Imam [a leader appointed by Allah who is a perfect example of how to live] and also the Mahdi [the ultimate savior of mankind]. The Prophet Muhammad said there would be 12 Imams after him, and apparently the Shias believe this one is the last one.

Sunnis observe this holiday as a night of worship and salvation, commemorating when Allah saved prophet Nuh's [Noah's] followers from the deluge [the flood]. They believe that on this night Allah prepares the destiny for all people on Earth for the coming year. It is decided who will be born, who will die, how much provision each person will get, etc. The angels are also given their duties for the coming year. It is a night spent in sincere introspection and repentance.

The Prophet Muhammad urged Muslims to stay up during the night and fast during the day. He himself would go to the graveyard of Madinah [a holy city] and pray for the dead. It is also desirable for Muslims to seek the forgiveness of their dead either by reciting the Qur'an, feeding the hungry, giving money in charity, or by just praying for them. .






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