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Islamic Love Festivals

Updated on February 19, 2011

Islamic Love Festivals and Holidays

Islam often seeks to achieve a sense of modesty via imposing a code of morality on its devotees. However, traditional pre-Islamic ceremonies and holidays were immodest by these newer standards, - they were often erotic, even pornographic.

Islam has seen much success in incorporating the older festivals into its newer practices, so as the celebration of the Prophet’s birthday, the mawlid, for instance, has taken over the pre-Islamic rituals carried out at a certain time of the year in most of the Arab world.

The mawlid is often a vibrant and quite puffed up display with dance, suggestive movements, and so forth. Religious authorities have sought to bring it within the bounds of modesty, or to ban it altogether.

Nowrouz is the Persian New Year.
Nowrouz is the Persian New Year.

Persian and Sufi Influence on Islamic Love Festivals and Holidays

At the beginning of the Islamic government in Iran, for instance, the festival of the traditional Persian New Year, Nowrouz, was strongly discouraged. The government claimed that there was nothing Islamic about the Nowrouz celebration and that it reverted to earlier and inappropriate behavior.

Plenty of North African festivals are based on ecstatic Sufi beliefs and rituals. These Islamic festivals are likely to contain a spectrum of romantic and erotic imagery and actions that some Muslims would find questionable and inimical to the rules of Islamic propriety.

Eid-e-Mild-un-Nab, Mumbai, India
Eid-e-Mild-un-Nab, Mumbai, India

Three Types of Islamic Love Festivals

Islamic love festivals usually fall into 3 categories:

  • Some are clearly Islamic and there is little argument about them. They are widely accepter and propagated by religious authorities.
  • Some are highly suspect pre-Islamic celebrations having their origin in the jahaliyya, the time of ignorance before the institution of Islam was brought about through the Prophet Muhammad.
  • Then there are festivals possessing at least some Islamic roots, but are sometimes considered to constitute bid’a or innovation, as they have their basis in local customs or forms of national and regional identity that have nothing to do with Islam.

The latter two kinds of Islamic love festivals are often criticized by religious authorities based on conservative Wahhabism. They are understood to deviate from the basic message of Islam, particularly when they display any lewd and immodest behavior.

Say I Am You, by Rumi
Say I Am You, by Rumi

Varying Acceptance of Islamic Love Festivals and Holidays

On the other side, some religious authorities tend to approve of such public manifestations of local culture, considering them to possess important assertions of social identity and compatibility with the basic principles of Islam.

Just like principles of Islamic modesty vary from group to group, so Islamic love festivals are likely to be found acceptable or viewed as blasphemous depending on the understanding of the appropriate legal authority.

Islamic love festivals include the communal experience of a pilgrimage, the libertine atmosphere of a public fair, and the ecstatic rituals of mysticism.

The literature of Sufism is full of references to wine and love. Although these subjects are thoroughly allegorized, they could be in opposition with the laws of Islam, on account of the fact that the world at large takes them literally.

A festival might also be regarded as an attempt to form an only marginally religious social space, which is unacceptable for those wishing to make Islam the basis of all social life.

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