The festival of Eid or Eid ul-Fitr (also spelled as Id al-Fitr) is a religious holiday which commemorates the end of the month-long dawn-to-sunset fasting throughout Ramadan, all around the world. It is a very auspicious festival for Muslims and is considered a very important occasion in Islam.
Eid ul-Fitr, when translated directly, refers to the “the festival of breaking the fast”. During ‘Shawwal’ which is the tenth-month in the lunar-based Islamic calendar, Eid is the only day when Muslims are not allowed to fast. The Islamic calendar is also known as lunar Hijri and according to this calendar, the month’s start date varies with the new moon sightings by the Islamic authorities (local and religious). This is the reason why the date of celebration is variable to different localities. There are two different Eid festivals celebrated around the year but both signify different reasons. These are Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha. Basically the festival of Eid-ul-Adha arrives after the yearly Hajj (Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca) and is celebrated on the tenth day of the last month i.e. Dhu al-Hijjah. Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations also mark the success of devotees who have abstained from food and water (for daylight hours) for a whole month. It requires absolute dedication and self-control but it brings the people closer to Allah spiritually.
History of Eid
It is known that the Islamic Prophet Muhammad first commenced the festivities of Eid-ul-Fitr. Although, some also believe that this festival was initiated in the city of ‘Medina’, after Muhammad migrated to Mecca. Prophet Muhammad first acknowledged the Holy Quran during the Ramadan month. ‘Anas ibn Malik’, who was Prophet Muhammad’s companion, narrated that after Muhammad arrived in Medina (the capital of the Al-Madinah Region, Saudi Arabia) he observed the local people living there. He saw that people were celebrating on two specific days during which they came together and enjoyed the merriment of the day. Anas narrated that this made the Prophet realize that the Almighty also has two special days of celebrations for Muslims. These days were then implied to be Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha. After this revelation, Eid was considered as a holy and religious day. It is also mentioned in the Quran that whoever sights the new moon in the month of Ramadan and intends for glorifying Allah through fasting, will be guided by him. Ramadan is basically the ninth month if we consider the Islamic calendar. As a month itself it is a symbol of spiritual reflection and fasting, which is known as ‘Sawm’ (one of the five pillars of Islam). This journey of fasting makes a person grateful as Allah eases their pain and suffering.
Why do Muslims Celebrate Eid?
The festival of Eid is very important for Muslims all around the world. After a complete month of abstaining from food and water for daylight hours, Eid is the day on which the long fasting is broken. During these fastings, people pray and devote themselves to their gracious Allah. It’s written in the ‘Surah Al-Baqarah’ (the second and the longest chapter of the Quran) that those who establish the habit of regular prayers and the regular charity will be rewarded for their deeds. They will live with no grieves or fears. These prayers or ‘Salat ul-Fajr’ are recited by Muslims every morning. Prayers are a way of devoting themselves and they chant it early in the morning. Many also recite the Takbir, the Arabic phrase ‘Allahu akbar’, which means that “Allah is greater than everything”, during charitable contributions. These contributions are called Zakat al-Fitr and are held in prayer grounds. This overall reflects that fasting (Sawm), praying (Salat ul-Fajr) and charity (Zakat al-Fitr) comprise very significant parts of the festival of Eid ul-Fitr.
The festival of Eid ul-Fitr is celebrated for three days. Muslims from around the world wake up early and complete their morning prayers. They take a bath and wear perfumes (ittar) of which they are very fond of. It’s customary to intake healthy breakfast before heading towards the congregational prayers. Muslims gather in mosques or open prayer grounds and pay their reverence to Allah through two units of prayer called ‘Rakat’. These prayers are followed by a sermon which is an oration of scriptures. Through the sermon, the imam, who leads Muslim worshippers in prayer, asks for everyone’s peace and forgiveness or mercy for those who have sinned. The people who fast during Ramadan consider it a journey through which they can show their gratitude towards Allah. It is believed that Allah gives them strength during this time. The very first Eid ul-Fitr was celebrated in 624 CE by the Prophet Mohammad and his companions. At that time they celebrated their victory in the ‘Jang-e-Badar’ battle. After this, it became one of the most important festival for Muslims.
On Eid people share greetings amongst each other by saying ‘Eid Mubarak’ and ‘Khair Mubarak’ in response. The day proceeds with people making and exchanging a variety of dishes like Seviyan, Biryani, Haleem, or Kebabs people enjoy and feast on these yummy dishes. Children are given gifts or money from elders. Eid as a whole is a festival of rejoicing and thankfulness. It is the day for new beginnings and seeking forgiveness from Allah. The offerings and charity have done towards the poor or needy also signify that it’s a day for showing mercy and love to the ones who actually need it.