Muslims celebrate a number of significant events and milestones. These include casual birth rites; the Shahada, which formally marks a follower's entry into Islam; wedding ceremonies; and funerals. These ceremonies tend to be simple rather than elaborate, although the size and details of weddings vary from culture to culture.
The first Islamic birth rite is the adhaan, a prayer. The adhaan is whispered into the baby's right ear and should be the first words that a newborn hears. Following the adhaan, the child's tongue is rubbed with a date or any kind of sweet food. In some cultures, on the seventh day after the child's birth, the aquiqah is performed; the ceremony includes the slaughtering of a sheep for the purposes of welcoming the new-born and giving thanks to Allah. Additionally, most Muslims circumcise their male babies on the seventh day after birth.
The Shahada, which marks a person's formal entrance into Islam, is an informal ceremony and can take place at any age. Most initiation ceremonies take place in a mosque, although this is not mandatory. During this simple ceremony, the person being formally initiated into Islam declares his or her faith by bearing witness in public and repeating their profession of faith that there is only one God and that Muhammad is God's prophet.
Islam approaches marriage as a social contract, rather than addressing it in terms of a sacred and lasting union. Wedding ceremonies, referred to as "nikah," can be simple or extravagant; some weddings are followed by large receptions with hundreds of guests. The ceremony consists of opening prayers, a statement from the groom's relative or friend acknowledging the marriage, and an exchange of vows between the bride and groom. The ceremony closes with a blessing from the presiding imam or mullah, and a prayer. Weddings are not typically held in a mosque; rather, they take place in the bride's or groom's home, or a wedding hall. Before the wedding, a marriage contract is negotiated between the bride's and groom's families. It is usually signed a few weeks before the wedding or on the day of the wedding.
For Islamic funerals, the deceased's body is washed and properly wrapped in a special cloth called the kafan. Pre-funeral prayers include the Janazah, a call-and-response prayer led by an imam, and the Thana, which gives witness to Allah and honors his name. The funeral ceremony itself is simple. It starts with a short recitation that honors the dead buried in the cemetery that the deceased will be buried in. As the deceased's body is being buried in the grave, his or her face should be facing the direction of Mecca. Everyone who attends the funeral should take three handfuls of sand and place it on the top of the grave.
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