The meaning and significance of Eid al-Fitr
More than one billion Muslims across the globe will soon celebrate a holiday called Eid alFitr. Eid al-Fitr, means the “Holiday of Breaking the Fast.” It is one of the major holidays of the Islamic faith. This holiday spans over three day with the first day marking the end of the month of Ramadan. The month of Ramadan Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, and intimacy with their spouses from sunrise to sunset. In the evening, they gather in the mosque to perform a special congregational prayer called Tarawih.
Additionally, many Muslims spend most of the month of Ramadan in sincere devotion, praying in the middle of the night, giving charity, and performing good deeds. One might imagine that Muslims are relieved that Ramadan is over. However, for many, as Ramadan comes to an end they feel a sense of sadness. Ramadan is a time when they draw near to God, better themselves, and feel a close intimacy to God that cannot be explained.
It must be experienced. Ramadan is not only about refraining from food and drink, but it is also about abstaining from evil thoughts, words, and actions. What makes Ramadan special is that these acts of devotion are done collectively. Everyone is fasting, praying, and trying to get rid of their bad habits. It creates an atmosphere where one is encouraged and supported to become a better person. However, what also makes Ramadan special is that it is only one month. Had it been more than that it would lose its uniqueness.
It is a short, but high intensity, month of changing your life. Because Ramadan is a month of refraining from eating and drinking during the daylight hours, Eid is about celebrating the hard work. During Eid, Muslims are prohibited from fasting and therefore must eat and drink. Each culture throughout the world has different Eid traditions, but all of them begin with the morning Eid prayers in the mosque. These prayers are usually very large and sometimes take place in a larger setting such as a park or stadium to accommodate all the people.
Toward the end of Ramadan Muslims give a small amount of money in charity, approximately $10 a person, and this goes to the less fortunate. It is meant to allow those families who are struggling to also celebrate Eid, buy new clothes, or gifts for their children. As Muslims celebrate, they must never forget the less fortunate. This charity is meant to lessen the burden of the underprivileged, those who have nothing to celebrate. Although Eid is meant to be a time of joy and celebration, one cannot divorce themselves from the misery of others.
Muslims dress up, wearing their best and finest clothes. The new clothing represents spiritual renewal. The person leaves Ramadan, a month of self-discipline, in a more beautified spiritual state. Food is an important part of Eid. Eating takes the place of fasting just as ease in the next life will take place of challenges in this world. The Quran notes that in the hereafter, believers will be told: “Eat and drink with happiness because of what you used to do” (Quran 52: 20). Meaning, the reward of fasting is that one will enjoy never ending buffets and luxurious meals in the hereafter. After the prayer, most Muslims focus on gift giving and family gatherings.
Many mosques in America give toys to all the children who attend the prayers. Different Muslim cultures have their own special Eid sweets. The day is usually marked by visiting relatives and friends to celebrate together, share the happiness, and spread harmony. When it was Eid, the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, would take one road to the mosque and a different road on his way back. He did this in order to great as many people as possible and spread peace and happiness. Aisha, the Prophet’s wife, noted that on the day of Eid there were people playing in the mosque and entertaining others.
She sat with the Prophet with her cheek against his. Therefore, Muslims also celebrate Eid by entertaining themselves. They might choose to go on a family trip, to a theme park, watch a movie, or go out for dinner. For Muslims, it is important to have this time with family so that they may celebrate one of the most important holidays of the year. Several school districts across the country have recognized Eid as an official school holiday.