Public Holidays and the Islamic Calendar

Islamic Calendar (Source: University of Cambridge)

Islamic Calendar (Source: University of Cambridge)

The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar which has 12 lunar months in a year of about 354 days.

Because this lunar year is about 11 days shorter than the solar year, Islamic holy days (public holidays), although celebrated on fixed dates in their own calendar, actually shift 11 days earlier each successive solar year.

It also means that the exact date of a public holiday cannot be determined until approximately a week before the event.

Generally, this means that planning to take a long weekend away is not an opton, although some people try to do this anyway. Take a look at what happens when they announce the date of the public holiday, and then change it at the last minute. I always find the Comments underneath the articles interesting. Parfticulary as the media here is very ‘conservative’ in expressing its views of government activities.

Holiday change angers workers

http://www.gulfnews.com/nation/Government/10291292.html

By Wafa Issa Staff Reporter
Published: March 03, 2009, 23:06

Dubai: Residents working in the private sector feel that the shift of the holiday marking the Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) birthday from Monday to Saturday is “discriminatory” as it strips them of a holiday that those in the public sector will enjoy.

Malcolm Kemp, a manager at an Abu Dhabi-based telecommunications company who has his weekends on Fridays and Saturdays, said: “Again, the poor private sector is stitched up regarding the forthcoming public holiday. The decision discriminates between the public and private sector. The Ministry of Labour is sadly out of touch if it assumes that most people in the private sector only have Friday off.”

While the public sector will celebrate the holiday on Sunday, the ministry had announced that, for the private sector, the holiday would fall on Monday. But a circular issued by Minister of Labour Saqr Gobash on Sunday shifted the holiday to Saturday.

Some in the private sector have a one-day weekend, which falls on Friday, while others have a two-day weekend that includes Saturday. Those who have a two-day weekend would therefore miss out on the holiday if it falls on a Saturday.

Gobash had earlier told Gulf News that the change had been made for practical reasons.

“We did not want to cause an interruption between the public and private sectors, so we decided to change the holiday by connecting the weekend with the holiday,” Gobash said.

Asked why the holiday was moved to a Saturday rather than a Sunday, given that many companies in the private sector have their weekends on Friday and Saturday, Gobash said: “As far as I know, the majority of companies in the private sector have only one day off, which is Friday. (Sophie: This is news to me! Everyone I know has Friday and Saturday off for the week-end.) Having the holiday on Sunday would have caused another interruption…” Gobash said.

Ganesh Prabu, a manager at a service company who also has two-day weekends, said the ruling “is a glaring example of discrimination between the public and private sector employees. It is unfair just to give the public sector a connected holiday, while we in the private sector get deprived of the holiday”.

However, Mohammad Omar, a sales engineer at a contracting company who only has Friday off, said: “I am happy that I will have Saturday off this week because I am always missing out on my friends’ gatherings as they all have two-day weekends”.

Khuram Anees, an employee of a consultancy firm, said that the holiday should be held on its official date regardless of what day of the week it is out of respect for religious occasions.

However, Dr Omar Al Khateeb, Assistant Director-General for Islamic Affairs in Dubai, told Gulf News that according to Islamic tradition it is not compulsory to have a holiday on the date marking the Prophet’s birth. What is important is that it is a collective celebration of the Prophet’s birth and a manifestation of love and respect for the Prophet.

“Although it does not really matter if the holiday is given a day or two in advance or after the actual occasion, it is still preferred [that it be held] on the same date of the Prophet’s birth as the feeling would be much stronger,” said Al Khateeb.

Your comments

Being a Muslim i wana say that its an Islamic holiday its should be on that date because those Muslim who wants have to pray
Beenish
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: March 04, 2009, 15:08

Private sector holiday on Saturday is not justified as the occassion of birth of Prophet falls two days after.
Ala’a
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: March 04, 2009, 15:00

I believe holiday should be observed on the actual day. How can one alter such a thing?
Azmat
Dubai,UAE
Posted: March 04, 2009, 14:45

It’s not a question of holiday but to perform the precious ocassion on the correct day. Milad is on Sunday not Saturday.
Mustafa Motiwala
Dubai,UAE
Posted: March 04, 2009, 14:45

I think it’s a bad idea by changing the date, because it causes confusion. The date should be decided first before declaring it.
Nasco
Sharjah,UAE
Posted: March 04, 2009, 14:40

It felt nice when i heard the holiday news on Sunday. We would have three days Holiday. I was planning to visit my country and meet my family. But i think we should take care of those private sector people who have only Friday off. So good luck to you guys…..Happy Weekend….:)
Asif M. Qasim Bughio Ali
Dubai,UAE
Posted: March 04, 2009, 14:30

I am happy for the 2-day rest. i only have friday as off-day to do all chores, thus, i really appreciate this saturday off. we cannot please everybody but i think the authority has just addressed what is good for the majority.
Thessa
Dubai,UAE
Posted: March 04, 2009, 14:15

Well, I am a working mother, my son’s nursery is off on sunday and i have to work, i dnt have anyone to take care of my child!!! and this is always the case, The purpose of a holiday is to celebrate the occasion and by this it lost its meaning
Rawan
Dubai,UAE
Posted: March 04, 2009, 14:15

Work on Saturday, Jobless…etc all this is fine and understood!!! However, we were told earlier that the holiday was on Sunday and planned accordingly to travel, visits..etc. Its not fair to take that away. I think that once a holiday is announced then it should be carried as stated without change.
Errol
Dubai,UAE
Posted: March 04, 2009, 14:06

Honestly, I am not at all in favour of moving the holiday from its original date i.e. Monday to Saturday. It makes no sense to celebrate any Islamic occasion before the original day.
From A Reader
Sharjah,UAE
Posted: March 04, 2009, 13:52

I couldn’t agree more! You can’t have a day off for one sector and not the other.
From A Reader
Dubai,UAE
Posted: March 04, 2009, 13:51

It surely became an unfair practice between public and private sector. Both sectors? employees are working. We rarely get holidays, and we are not even getting those. People are staying with infants, who are in day care all day. We were thinking we would be getting an off, but even that isn?t there now!
Binsi Thomas
Dubai,UAE
Posted: March 04, 2009, 13:45

Actual birth date of Prophets Mohammad?s (PBUH) birthday is on 12th of Rabi Al Awal h. corresponding to 9th March. The holiday should be on the same day otherwise there should not be a holiday at all.
Mohammad Miyan
Sharjah,UAE
Posted: March 04, 2009, 13:44

Holiday should be given on the day of the occasion not before or after, if the holiday is on Saturday, people who already have a holiday are unhappy, and if the holiday is on Sunday everyone is happy.
Emran
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: March 04, 2009, 13:44

It is a good decision. Most of the private companies only have Fridays off, so let them celebrate the Saturday off.
Prema Rajendran
Dubai,UAE
Posted: March 04, 2009, 13:41

Holiday should be on the actual date for both Public and Private sector to preserve the original spirit and historic value of the occasion.
Syed Mazhar
Dubai,UAE
Posted: March 04, 2009, 13:40

It seems that Saturday given as a private holiday is really good because as I know, a majority of the private sector companies have only Friday off, so it would be good for them to have Saturday off as well. Those who have Saturday as there week off, please excuse us because we also want to celebrate with our family a 2 day weekend.
Joe
Dubai,UAE
Posted: March 04, 2009, 13:32

I think the change of date for the holiday in celebration for the birthday of Prophet Mohammad is not reasonable unless it can interfere with more important celebration or occasion. I think we should celebrate on his exact birthday date as a sign of RESPECT.
From A Reader
Dubai,UAE
Posted: March 04, 2009, 13:26

The holiday should be held on the day it should be (The prophet’s birthday). How can they change such a thing. It’s totally bizarre and discriminating to me!
Milad
Dubai,UAE
Posted: March 04, 2009, 13:24

Nonsense! I am currently working as a Design Engineer, for the Dubai Metro Line. Those from the private sector working in the construction industry usually rest on Fridays. A lot of times, we even work on Fridays. Now look, who is out of touch? Don’t be a frog in a well.
Bryant
Singapore,Singapore
Posted: March 04, 2009, 13:22

It is unfortunate as many countries bank on the commercial aspect of public holidays to boost spending with in the economy. I would think that the global crisis would lead authorities in the UAE to decide otherwise.
Umica D
Dubai,UAE
Posted: March 04, 2009, 13:21

I only have Fridays off and I’m glad to be getting an extra day off this month. And I have to agree with the authorities in saying that most private sectors do have only Friday as an off.
Emma
Dubai,UAE
Posted: March 04, 2009, 12:54

You can’t expect the government to please everyone. If you keep Sunday as a holiday, those who work on Saturday will have an interruption in their work week. If you keep Saturday off, those who already have a Fri/Sat weekend will complain. With a majority of the working population having only 1 day weekends, let them enjoy Saturday off. Those of us with 2 day weekends shouldn’t complain!
Anthony
Dubai,UAE
Posted: March 04, 2009, 12:51

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7 responses to “Public Holidays and the Islamic Calendar

  1. Will the ministry please tell us how we are supposed to compensate the employees who have worked additional hours (8am – 6 pm)to make up for the saturday holiday? Are they not working extra hours in that case?

    • You are right. Those employees that worked on Saturday have worked an extra day than required by law if they are permanent employees. If you normally pay them overtime, or give them time off in leiu for extra hours worked, then I expect that would apply here.

      If they don’t normally get paid for working extra hours then I guess they don’t get paid extra on this occasion either.

      What did you decide to do?

  2. i think if Sunday was set as a holiday, then everyone would have benefited… people who usually get only fridays off will have 2 days off this week, and people who usually have fridays/saturdays off get and extra day as well this week… the problem is not with the interruption, it is with getting an extra day… i work on saturdays, and i wouldn;t mind having sunday off simply because i will have an extra day to run errands… moreover, i have never heard of anyone ever changing a set religious holiday to suit one’s needs… that’s extremely bizarre!!!

    • I too would have benefited if the holiday was on the Sunday. Being new to Dubai, I didn’t know that a lot of private sector workers only get a one day weekend (Friday). Are these the guys that work on the construction sites I wonder?

      really interesting comment about the religious holidays… I was wondering what they do other countries that have religious holidays set by calendars other than the solar calendar.

      This is not a religious holiday as such, but in Commonwealth countries such as Australia, UK and Canada the Queen or King’s Birthday is celebrated with a public holiday. This doesn’t reflect the actual sovereign’s birthday, and it is celebrated on different dates in the various commonwealth countries.

  3. Pingback: Time around the world « MadSilence

  4. ASALAM.ALI.QUM :To to all of my global brothern, and God Be Merciful to all the leaving creatures on earth.
    I am really surprised over the commentary and time consumption in creating best worded work to show respective responses towards the change of holiday.I would first of all like to know what is a holiday?Is it something like one should be at its ease and relax by just idling ,then i am sorry to say stop “commenting now ” on this issue and instead do plan something best for the corporate/company/country in its development as that will be in the real spirit of showing extreme love and submission towards the beloved prophet” MOHAMMAD” (s.a.w.a),and who could get the holiday turned to working day what can best tribute to offer to ALLAH and His Prophet(s.W.A.s) as one has more time to serve its concern,for which i think i need not to mention who will be displeased upon this. However if it is treated as to give more time and care towards the social and personal family life then,i fail to understand those who are in UAE for work cannot face any difficulty as their family and social strata are somewhere else for which they get a good much time to see their homes with a dose of handsome break of 15-30 days at once.
    Stop making issues upon such like issues, remember that the best of minds never wish breaks or week ends but they want continuity in their working schedule and would rather feel satisfied with the policies of companies/corps.
    WISH you best of time on earth >BE ALLAH MERCIFUL UPON ALL OF LIFE ON EARTH WHICH MAY ALWAYS TOWARDS BETTER SERVICES T HUMANDOM.

  5. ASALAM.ALI.QUM :To to all of my global brothern, and God Be Merciful to all the living creatures on earth.
    I am really surprised over the commentary and time consumption in creating best worded work to show respective responses towards the change of holiday.I would first of all like to know what is a holiday?Is it something like one should be at its ease and relax by just idling ?,then i am sorry to say stop “commenting now ” on this issue and instead do plan something best for the corporate/company/country in its development as that will be in the real spirit of showing extreme love and submission towards the beloved prophet” MOHAMMAD” (s.a.w.a),and one who could get the holiday turned to working day what can be a best tribute to offer to ALLAH and His Prophet(s.W.A.s) as one has more time to serve its concern,for which i think i need not to mention who will be displeased upon this. However if it is treated as to give more time and care towards the social and personal family life then,i fail to understand those who are in UAE for work cannot face any difficulty as their family and social strata are somewhere else for which they get a good much time to see their homes with a dose of handsome break of 15-30 days at once.
    Stop making issues upon such like issues, remember that the best of minds never wish breaks or week ends but they want continuity in their working schedule and would rather feel satisfied with the policies of companies/corps.for ‘WORK IS WORSHIP”
    WISH you best of time on earth >BE ALLAH MERCIFUL UPON ALL OF LIFE ON EARTH WHICH MAY ALWAYS BE READY TOWARDS BETTER SERVICES T HUMAS AND HUMANITY ALLOVER THE UNIVERSE.

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