Getting the most out of Eid al-Fitr.
Eid al-Fitr is undoubtedly one of the major highlights of the Islamic calendar. After a month of fasting, piety, devotion and sincerity, Allah bestows His believers with a moment of unparalleled joy in the form of Eid. This short article explores some aspects of this great celebration, which in turn will Insha Allah remind us of Allah’s compassion and the brilliant wisdom of our religion.
i. The History of Eid.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) initiated the two Eids after observing that the inhabitants of al-Madina celebrated their two local festivals. He introduced the two Eids as the alternative Islamic festivals. The hadith of Imam Abu Dawud reports:
Anas ibn Malik reports that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) came to al-Madina and saw they had two days of festivity. He asked: ‘What are these two days?’ They said: ‘we used to celebrate these days in Jahiliyya. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, ‘Allah has replaced them with better two days: the day of Fitr and the day of Adha.’
There are some reports that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) offered the first Eid prayer at al-Madina in the first year of Migration. The more authentic and widely accepted report, on the other hand, indicates that the first Eid prayer was observed in the second year of the Hijra.
Eid ul-Fitr takes place after the month of Ramadhan, on the first of Shawwal. Eid ul-Adha occurs on the tenth, eleventh and twelfth of Zul-Hajj.
ii. The Eid Prayer
On both Eids, the two-Rak’at Salah is Wajib(compulsory). It is misguidance to deliberately miss these prayers. Eid prayer is compulsory upon sensible, mature, non-travelling and healthy male Muslims. It is not compulsory upon women, children, the ill and those who are travelling. The residents of small villages are not required to perform Eid Salah. If they do wish to perform Eid Salah, then they should travel to larger cities and towns and perform it there.
As for the timing, Eid prayer can be performed thirty or forty minutes after sunrise, until the time of Zawal.
iii. Worship on this occasion
In essence, Eid is a day of happiness and a time to enjoy the blessings of Allah Almighty. Fasting on this day is impermissible on this very basis. However, this is not to say that worship is discarded totally on this day. For example, the night of Eid is a time when duas are accepted by Allah. Imam al-Shafi‘i, one of the four great Imams, said:
It has reached us that it is said that there are five nights when the Du’as are accepted; the night of Friday, the night of Eid al-Adha, the night of Eid al-Fitr, the first night of Rajab and the fifteenth of Sha‘ban.
This is perhaps partially based on the report of Imam Malik ibn Anas. He reports from Urwah, from Sayyida A’isha (may Allah be pleased with her) who said she heard the Prophet (peace be upon him) state that there are four nights in which the gates of righteousness are opened; the night of Eid al-Adha, the night of Eid al-Fitr, the night of Arafa (9thDhul al-Hajj) and Layla al-Nisf min Sha‘bān.
iv. The philosophy of Eid
Beyond the exquisite food, expensive clothes and flash motors, Eid al-Fitr offers Muslims some very important lessons:
a. It is certainly a day of happiness, but this happiness is preceded by a moment to thank Allah for everything. Eid cannot be celebrated until Muslims conduct a collective prayer.
b. Eid al-Fitr is everyone’s Eid, not just the ones who can afford it. This is why Muslims must donate Sadaqa al-Fitr, which is used to buy clothes and food for those who cannot afford to mark this occasion.
c. Eid al-Fitr teaches us to unite. The Eid prayer cannot be conducted individually, it must be performed collectively. After the prayer (and indeed all day) we are expected to meet Muslim brothers and greet them warmly. Muslims are encouraged to return home from the mosque using a different route they used to get there. The reason is so they can meet as many different Muslims as possible.
d. Islam promotes work first and then reward. We fast and then we are rewarded for it in the form of Eid. We live this life in accordance to Islam and then we are rewarded with Janna. A little sweat now means a lifetime of bliss.
e. On one of the most important days in the year, Islam teaches us to spend it with the most important people in our lives, our family. It is unfortunate that young UK Muslims prefer to spend Eid with friends instead. It was the family who make the month of Ramadan easy for us; waking us up, preparing food, allowing us time to worship and time to rest. It is therefore strange that we repay this debt by ignoring them on Eid.
f. Eid without compassion is no Eid. This is why elders happily give ‘Eidi’ to the youngsters. This is why Muslims visit the graveyards on this day. This is why neighbours and families will happily swap and share food.
Dr. Hafiz Ather Hussain al-Azhari.
This article first featured in this edition of the An Nasiha Quarterly