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Celebrating religious events is of high significance among Shias and different branches of this sect share many rituals. There are many events celebrated by Alawites and other religions or sects of Shiism but they have different interpretations and they celebrate them in different ways.

Shared festivals between Alawites and Mullims: The Alawites, whose doctrines have some similarities and differences with other religions, celebrate many of the Muslim festivals, including ʿId al-fitr (feast of breaking the fast at the end of the month of Ramadan) and ʿId al-adhha (feast of the sacrifice traditionally celebrated at the end of the hajj pilgrimage), but with their own interpretations.

Shared events celebrated by Alawites and other Shia sects: Similarly to other Shiʿi communities, they also observe   ʿId al-Ghadir, which for the Alawites represents Muhammad’s proclamation of Ali’s divinity, and the Ashuraʾ in celebration of Imam al- Husayn’s occultation, rather than commemorating his martyrdom, as he is regarded as a hidden divine figure.

Shard celebrations between Alawites and other religions: The Alawites also celebrate a number of Persian festivals of Zoroastrian origin, though again with different allegorical interpretations; these include the spring equinox on 21 March marking Nawruz, or Persian New Year, and the Mihragan marking the autumn equinox and the incarnation of the deity in Ali.

From amongst a number of Christian festivals, they celebrate the Epiphany, called ʿId al-ghutas (feast of the baptism), Palm Sunday and Christmas (Laylat al-milad). The ʿAlawis also celebrate Mass, including the consecration of bread and wine, but in a Shiʿi context and maintaining that the mystery of faith is Ali who, as light, is manifested in the wine.

The popular religion of the Alawites also retains certain traces of pagan traditions, such as the veneration of trees and springs. The Nusayris also developed allegorical interpretations of the religious commandments and prohibitions, such as fasting in the month of Ramadan and the hajj pilgrimage. Furthermore, they do not have mosques or other public spaces of worship, but conduct their religious ceremonies in private homes, especially the residences of their shaykhs.

Taken from: A History of Shiʿi Islam

By: Farhad Daftary


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