Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Issues in Islam: All about Eid

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Issues in Islam: All about Eid

Article excerpt

Issues in Islam: All About Eid

The two Eids, or feasts, of the Muslim calendar are occasions for celebration and remembrance. They are times for family, friends and the society as a whole to come together. Two of the most important holidays of the year for the Muslim community, they also represent the completion of two of the "five pillars" of Islam, through which man fulfills his obligations and renews his commitment to God.

Preparations for the Eid begin several days in advance.

The Eid al-Fitr (the Feast of Fast-Breaking) is also known as the Eid as-Saghir (the Lesser Eid), and comes first in the Islamic calendar. The Eid falls on the first three days after Ramadan, and is determined by the sighting of the new moon or the passage of 30 days from the beginning of Ramadan, whichever occurs first. Since the lunar year is approximately 11 days shorter than the solar year, the Eid falls on an earlier date each year. This year the Lesser Eid will begin around April 2.

Aside from celebrating the fact that the difficult period of fasting during the daylight hours is over, the Eid al-Fitr is a time to rejoice that one has performed his or her duty toward God, since the Ramadan fast is undertaken not for reasons of health or tradition, but because God commanded it for the Muslim community.

Preparations for the Eid al-Fitr begin several days in advance. Families are out in the streets, going from shop to shop to buy new clothes for the children and to stock up on food for the holiday. In some areas of the Muslim world it is traditional to visit cemeteries on the last day of Ramadan and recite the Qur'an over the graves of loved ones. Many of the most devout spend this final day and evening at the mosque, praying and reading.

This is also a good time to dispense the sadaqat al-fitr, charitable giving which must be paid before the Eid prayers. The head of a family must provide to the poor food or money equivalent to one meal for every member of his or her household, including servants and guests.

On the first day of Eid, Muslims take a light breakfast and then go either to a mosque or a large outdoor clearing for special Eid prayers, which are said in addition to the five daily prayers. The Eid prayer begins with recitations of praise to God and the asking of blessings for the Prophet Muhammad, his family and his Companions. Then the prayers themselves are said in congregation, followed by a short talk or sermon on the importance of the day.

The rest of the three-day feast is spent visiting family, friends and neighbors. People open their houses to guests, then return the visits. Coffee or tea is served along with cookies and pastries. Children, wearing their new clothes, often receive additional presents, and guests are invited for exquisite meals. There is a festive air to these visits, but it is not purely socializing. Eid al-Fitr is a time to renew old acquaintances, bring the family together and join with neighbors in celebrating the season. It is particularly stressed that enemies should put aside their differences, greet one another as fellow Muslims and start afresh. Though this time of festivity is particularly intense during the holiday itself, it continues through the next Eid, which arrives about 10 weeks later.

The Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice), or the Eid al-Kabir (the Greater Eid), is a three-day feast which begins on the tenth day of the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah. This year it will fall around June 11. It marks the culmination of the pilgrimage to Mecca, when pilgrims prepare to end their haj by ritually sacrificing an animal, usually a sheep. …

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