Eid ul Fitr – A day of joy and thanksgiving | Sunday Observer

Eid ul Fitr – A day of joy and thanksgiving

Special congregational prayers known as Salathul-Eid
Special congregational prayers known as Salathul-Eid

Eid Mubarak!

Family members enjoy special Eid breakfast

Muslims in Sri Lanka and the world over will celebrate ‘Eid-ul-Fitr’ (Ramadan Festival) this week. The festival begins with the sighting of the new moon for the month of Shawal, which marks the end of Ramadan. Eid means recurring happiness or festivity, and ul Fitr means breaking of the fast. Eid ul Fitr is an important religious festival celebrated by Muslims world over. Eid ul Fitr celebrates the conclusion of the month of dawn to dusk fasting observed during Ramadan.

The date of commencement of the lunar Hijri month varies, based on the sighting of the new moon by local religious authorities. Therefore, the exact day of celebration varies according to the locality, while some countries celebrate Eid on the same day as Saudi Arabia.

Muslims start the end of Ramadan celebrations with the special congregational prayers 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 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 given them, to fulfil their obligations of fasting and other good deeds during the month of Ramadan. It is also a day of forgiveness and good feelings towards other 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 certain traditions.

Some Islamic historical records say that when the Prophet arrived in Madinah, he found the people celebrating two specific days on which they would entertain themselves with recreation and merriment. He asked them about the nature of these festivities at 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, which are better. They are Eid ul-Fitr (Ramadan festival) and Eid ul Adha (Hajj festival).

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

Muslims wake up early in the morning before sunrise and offer Salathul Fajr (Pre-sunrise prayer). According to custom they shower, don new clothes and apply perfume before leaving for prayers. It is forbidden to fast on the day of Eid. It is customary to have breakfast with a sweet such as a date before attending Eid prayers. Both men and women go to the mosque at different times and perform their prayers separately, in different halls. It is a ritual to go for Eid prayers on foot. Soon after the prayers, the Imam (who conducts the prayers) gives a sermon on a topical subject. After the prayers, Muslims visit their 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.

They 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 usually have biryani, a mixed rice dish with meats and vegetables and a dessert of Watalappam, a coconut custard pudding made with eggs and jaggery. Young girls and children enjoy applying mehendi, 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 when Muslims show their empathy for the poor, give charity, worship, practise steadfastness and patience. The month of Ramadan also teaches a Muslim to stay away from worldly desires and to focus entirely on the Lord and thank Him for his blessings. It is a rejuvenation of the religion and creates a stronger bond between the Muslim and his Lord.