There are two basic calendars that humans go by. One is the solar calendar, which marks the days, months, and years by the sun. This is the one that the Gregorian calendar, the calendar that most Western countries go by, is based on.
The second major calendar is the lunar calendar. This tracks the months and seasons by the moon. The timing is different that the solar calendar, because the moon goes through a steady 28-day cycle, whereas the solar calendar, or at least the Gregorian version of it, divides the months of the year into 30- or 31-day months, with one 28-day month, for 365 days, except for every four years, when February has 29 days ... It's kinda a mess, actually, and the days aren't even 24 hours long; hence the leap year, and leap second. Therefor, in an entirely lunar calendar (which is what Islam uses), the months drift by about 11-12 days each year, and rotate back about every 33 lunar years.
The most widely used lunar calendar is really a mix of the lunar and solar calendars, with months put in to bridge the gap between the lunar and solar years.
All right, now that we know all of this, let's talk about the Islamic calendar and how it's used to celebrate holidays.
Muslims sight by the moon; that's what starts each month. We're currently in Ramadan, the 9th and most holy month of Islam. This is the month when the Qur'an was first revealed to the Prophet, peace be upon him, and we can't eat or drink, or have sex, during the daylight hours. This year, Ramadan goes from between August 11th-12th until September 9th-10th.
Why is Ramadan so important? Other than what I've listed above, it's also a month in which we grow closer to God, when the gates of Hell are closed, and the gates of Heaven are open. It's a time, much like the Christmas season, in which to do good deeds, to feed the hungry, help the homeless ... It's an amazingly spiritual time. Fasting not only brings us spiritually closer to God, but we also gain a deeper understanding of what the poor go through every day, not being able to eat anything they want, not being able to go to McDonald's or Denny's or wherever for a quick meal. We're encouraged to let go of any past animosities, to befriend people, to heal old wounds and to forgive.
After Ramadan, on the first day of the next month, we have a huge festival called Eid ul-Fitr, which is like Christmas for Muslims. We exchange gifts, go to Eid parties, wear our best clothes, have carnivals for the kids ... we're celebrating God, life, our families, the Qur'an, and more. It's a festival of love and peace.
The problem, if you noted when Ramadan's scheduled to end this year, is that Eid may fall on September 11th. I can already see the headlines: "Muslims celebrate 9/11!" ... "Extremists celebrate 9/11 all over the US!", and on and on.
The thing is, we're NOT going to be celebrating 9/11, should Eid fall on that day. 9/11 has nothing to do with Eid. We Muslims aren't happy that terrorists, acting in the name of Islam, killed over 3,000 people that day, people who included other Muslims. We're not happy that because of those few men, now our mosques are being protested across the country, or that our loyalty to America is being questioned right and left. We're not thrilled that because of the twisted interpretations of the Qur'an that those men were indoctrinated with, that because of the actions that they took, we're declared sub-human and that there are calls for us to be expelled from the USA, the country that many of us were born in.
September 11th was an awful day for all Americans, for all humans. The terrorist acts of 9/11 should never be celebrated, and those who participated in those acts should be condemned.
But neither should all Muslims be placed with the blame for them. Neither should our holiday be the target of hate, of protests, of claims of celebrating death, when we're celebrating life. If someone, in the name of Christianity, massacred people on Christmas, should Christmas then never be celebrated again? Should all Christians be ostracized because of it?
No. Neither should the building of Catholic churches be protested on any level, simply because some priests are paedophiles. Neither should all priests share the blame for the actions of a few. Timothy McVeigh, while agnostic, grew up in the church and had Christian ties. Yet there's a church 246 feet away from the site of the bombing.
Why? Because people realise that while some of these groups are twisted and evil, not all people associated with agnostics, the Catholic priesthood, or Christianity are evil. But with Muslims, we're being made out as this faceless, threatening Other, with one unified goal, one unified desire, to destroy all secular and non-Islamic governments, to cover every woman with a Taliban-style burka, to kill all the unbelievers.
This isn't kosher, people. Yes, Muslims have their share of legitimate wackos. But we're not ALL like that. Don't let fear tear you up. IF Eid falls on September 11th this year, it will be a joyful occasion, but one tempered by the grim reality that 9 years ago, terrorists acting in Islam's name defiled not only Islam, but America, the country that gives Muslims the most free reign in practising our religion, the country with the most religious freedoms granted, the country that many Muslims are proud to call home.
We're not celebrating 3,000 murdered victims of a hideously twisted ideology. We're celebrating life, and the hope that all humanity can come together to forgive, to understand, and to make the future better for everyone.