Breaking of the fast | Sunday Observer

Breaking of the fast

10 June, 2018

Muslims in Sri Lanka will be celebrating ‘Eid-ul-Fitr’ (Ramadan Festival) during the second week of June. The festival begins at the first sighting of the new moon in the sky, for the month of Shawal, which marks the end of Ramadan. Eid means recurring happiness or festivity. Ul Fitr means breaking of the fast.

The date of commencement of any lunar Hijri month varies, based on the observation of the new moon by local religious authorities. Therefore, the exact day of celebration varies according to the locality.

Eid ul Fitr celebrates the conclusion of the 29 or 30 days of dawn to dusk fasting during the month of Ramadan. Many Muslims these days visit shopping malls with their families and children for Eid shopping to buy clothes and other accessories. Muslims start the end of Ramadan celebrations with the special congregational prayer known as Salathul-Eid. It consists of two Rakats (units) and is generally offered in an open space or in large halls in mosques. Every year it is a beautiful sight to see the Muslims praying together shoulder to shoulder, at Galle Face Green, in Colombo. According to Islamic teachings, Muslims are commanded by Allah to continue their fast until the last day of Ramadan and pay the Zakath and Fitra (Charity) before offering Eid prayers.

Eid ul Fitr is a day of joy and thanksgiving. On this day, Muslims display their joy for the health, strength and opportunities of life, which Allah has showered on them, for fulfilling their obligations of fasting and other good deeds during the month of Ramadan. It is also a day of forgiveness and good feelings towards fellow human beings. This festival originated after the advent of Islam during the period of Prophet Muhammad. The Islamic festivals were initiated in Madinah after the migration of Prophet Muhammad from Makkah to Madinah, according to tradition.

Some Islamic historical records mention that when the Prophet arrived in Madinah, he found the people celebrating two specific days on which they entertained themselves with recreation and merriment. He asked them about the nature of these festivities, to which they replied that these days were occasions of fun and recreation. At this, the Prophet remarked that Almighty Allah has fixed two days of festivity instead of these, for you, which are better, and they are Eid al-Fitr (Ramadan festival) and Eid ul Adha (Hajj festival).

Eid ul Fitr is celebrated for two or three days and the common greetings during this festival is ‘Eid Mubarak’ or ‘Happy Eid.’ Muslims are encouraged on this day to forgive and forget any differences with others or animosities that may have occurred during the year.

On Eid day, Muslims wake up before sunrise and offer Salathul Fajr (Pre-sunrise prayer). According to custom, they shower, put on new clothes and apply some perfume before they set out to the mosque to offer Eid prayers. It is forbidden to fast on the day of Eid. It is customary to have a sweet breakfast such as a date fruit before attending Eid prayers. Both, men and women go to the mosque, and perform their prayers separately, in different halls. It is a ritual to go for Eid prayers on foot. Soon after the Eid prayers, the Imam (the person who conducts the prayers) disseminates a sermon on a topical subject. After the prayers, they visit relatives, friends and acquaintances or hold large communal celebrations in homes, community centres or halls. Eid gifts, known as Eidi (cash gifts), are given to children and close relatives.

After Eid prayers people meet and greet each other with a traditional hug of friendship. Before returning home, they give charity to the needy and the poor, to further make it possible for everybody to enjoy the day. At home, family members enjoy special Eid breakfast with various types of sweets and desserts. For the first noon meal in a month, Muslims in Sri Lanka have biryani, a mixed rice dish with meats and vegetables and watalappam, a coconut custard pudding with eggs and jaggery. Young girls and children enjoy applying henna, a form of skin decoration on their hands and feet during Eid.

Fasting expresses many of the basic values of the Muslim community. It is a month where they show empathy for the poor, give charity, worship, practise steadfastness and patience. The month of Ramadan also teaches one to stay away from worldly desires and focus entirely on the Lord and thank Him for his blessings. It is a rejuvenation of the religion and creates a stronger bond between man and his Lord.