Eid al-Fitr is a holy Islamic festival, celebrated at the end of the month of Ramadan. The Arabic name ‘Eid al-Fitr’ can be translated as ‘festival of the breaking of the fast’. The Ramadan fasting is over and the month of Shawwal (the tenth month of the Islamic calendar) has begun.
Why do Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr?
Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr to give thanks for the end of the month of fasting, and to thank Allah for the strength (or ‘taqat’) he blessed them with throughout Ramadan, which is typically a time where Muslims practice exceptional self-restraint in all areas of their lives.
Eid al-Fitr is a time of forgiveness and making amends, where families can come together and grudges are laid to rest. It’s a joyful and peaceful festival, celebrated annually by more than 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide.
The History of Eid al-Fitr
The first Eid was celebrated in 624 CE by the Prophet Muhammad with his relatives and friends after their victory in the battle of Jang-e-Badar. This event in early Islamic history was a key turning point in Muhammed’s struggle with his opponents among the Quraish in Mecca.
When is Eid al-Fitr?
The festival of Eid al-Fitr is based on the Islamic lunar calendar, so the dates vary annually. The celebrations officially begin when the new moon is first sighted in the sky and this can lead to Eid falling on slightly different days around the world. This year, Eid al-Fitr will last from the evening of Sunday 25th June until the evening of Monday 26th June, depending on the moon sighting.
How do Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr?
On the day of Eid, Muslims usually gather at their local mosques in the morning to perform Eid prayers, and then hold large gatherings for families and friends. Celebrations usually last for three days and include the sharing of banquets and traditional sweets. Children often receive Eid gifts, and everyone will wear their best clothes.
Although it’s a festival of food for many Muslims, Eid is about more than eating delicious meals with family and friends. It is also a time of forgiveness, self-reflection and peaceful contemplation.
Eid is also about remembering loved ones who have passed away, and Muslims traditionally visit and tend to the graves of family members, whilst offering prayers to Allah. Muslim scholars describe the tradition of remembering loved ones during Eid as a way of honouring the Prophet Muhammad, who was said to have visited his mother’s grave and praying for forgiveness for her sins.
Eid celebrations around the world: Saudi Arabia and Palestine
In Saudi Arabia, Eid celebrations tend to be very grand, with flamboyant decorations and sumptuous feats. Food is often left outside the doors of houses where less privileged families live, so no one is excluded from eating well on Eid. Many Muslims in Saudi Arabia congregate in the holy city of Mecca. The country’s cultural heritage is celebrated with traditional dances, poetry, food, exhibitions of culture and traditional handicraft markets.
The cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates will be brightly lit for Eid and the shopping malls will be filled with extravagant displays of Islamic couture.
In Palestine, thousands of Muslims will surround the Al-Aqsa mosque, also known as ‘the Dome of Rock’, standing shoulder to shoulder as they pray together.
Eid celebrations around the world: Bangaldesh
The last few days of Ramadan in Bangaldesh are busy as people go shopping for multiple outfits to wear to a number of ‘dawaats’ (food-parties). Biryani (spicy rice with meat or veg), kebabs, and desserts such as shemia (a vermicelli milk pudding), kaalo jam (fried dough balls in syrup), payesh (a rice milk pudding), and doi (a sweet yogurt) are made. People living in the large cities, such as Dhaka and Chittagong, travel back to their home villages to spend Eid with family.
Eid celebrations around the world: Britain and North America
In the United States and Britain, Eid celebrations are influenced by a number of different cultures and traditions due to the diversity of Muslim communities. Special Eid bazaars are often held a couple of days before the celebration, where people can receive henna art, and purchase jewellery, clothing, and gifts in preparation for the festivities. In some communities with large Pakistani/Indian populations, Chaand Raat or ‘Night of the Moon’ events take place, where people can engage in last-minute shopping for Eid gifts.
Eid celebrations around the world: Malaysia
“Hari Raya Aid il fitri” is how Eid al-Fitr is known in Malaysia. On the final day of Ramadan, Malaysian households are often very busy, preparing a number of dishes such as ketupat (rice cakes in coconut leaves) and lemang (rice in coconut milk cooked in bamboo). The night before Eid, members of the government go out to look for the new moon, and if it is sighted, the next day is declared as Eid on national television. Malaysians often open their homes for a certain period of time during which friends, family and neighbours (of all faiths) can visit, eat and have fun.
Wherever you live, Muslims are likely to greet each other by saying ‘Eid Mubarak’, which translates as ‘happy Eid’ or ‘blessed Eid’.
What is the difference between Eid ul Fitr and Eid al-Adha?
Muslims have two major celebrations in the year. Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr. But what is the difference between the two?
Sometimes referred to as the Greater Eid, or Feast of the Sacrifice, Eid al-Adha celebrates the utter submission of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his only son. His son was also completely obedient to the Divine command, recognising it to be God’s will. However, right before Abraham was to kill his son, God intervened and gave him a ram to sacrifice instead. This story is present in both Christian and Jewish traditions, as well as in Islam. In recognition, Eid al-Adha is often celebrated with the sacrifice of a cow, goat, lamb or other animal. The meat is then distributed to the poor as well as family and friends.
Eid al-Adha falls on the tenth day of Dhul Hijjah, the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar. It is in this month that Muslim pilgrims travel to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to perform the pilgrimage of Hajj, consisting of various ancient rituals which connect them to God and ultimately allow them to receive forgiveness.
The payment of Zakat al-Fitr before Eid begins
Muslims are expected to give to charity by performing ‘Fitranaa’ or ‘Zakat al-Fitr’, an obligatory giving that is paid prior to the Eid al-Fitr celebrations. Zakah-al Fitr should be given to the poor and the majority of scholars agree that this particular charity is exclusive for fellow Muslims, whereas other charities, like Sadaqah, are not specific to Muslims.
Who should pay Zakat al-Fitr?
Every Muslim, whether young or old must pay Zakat al-Fitr. If you have dependent children, you should pay Zakat al-Fitr for yourself and also on behalf of each of your children. It is considered an obligation by the majority of Islamic scholars.