THE TIMES KUWAIT REPORT
Eid Al-Fitr is the spiritual culmination of the piety, self-restraint and compassion that prevailed during the holy month of Ramadan. It is unique among festivals in that it is not a celebration of a historical or religious event, nor is it a festival of other temporal affairs. The festival is purely a spiritual celebration of thanksgiving to Almighty Allah for giving us the fortitude to remain true to the dictates of the Holy Quran, and the spirit to observe fasting from dawn to dusk during the month of Ramadan.
Eid Al-Fitr is an occasion for both rejoicing and reflection for Muslims all over the world. The rejoicing comes not because the month of fasting and abstinence has ended, but from being able to rekindle our faith and from the knowledge that we were endowed by Almighty God with the strength to successfully observe the Ramadan fast, and accomplish the spiritual aims of this holy month.
Eid Al-Fitr is also an occasion for reflection. It allows us to offer our prayers and thanks to Almighty God for all the blessings he has bestowed upon us, as well as reflect on those less fortunate and empathize with them through our offerings of Zakat Al-Fitr and sharing that are highlights of this festival.
Eid Al-Fitr allows us to contemplate on whether we have fully imbibed the piety, the compassion, and the spiritual significance of the month-long observance of the divinely ordained Ramadan fast. It is also an opportunity to reflect on ourselves, to evaluate our actions and interactions with others; to ponder over our rights and also our responsibilities as citizens to society and to the larger world.
Eid Al-Fitr is an ideal moment for all of us to relight the essence of this festival in our hearts and to rededicate ourselves to the true message of Islam — of humility, of humanity, of respect, understanding, and acceptance of others, especially those we perceive to be different. Eid Al-Fitr this year is especially meaningful, as it allows us to thank Almighty God for having delivered us safely through two years CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
of the COVID-19 crisis, and to pray for the souls of all those who did not make it through the global pandemic. It provides us with the opportunity to count our blessings, and to be grateful for all that we have been bestowed with.
The month-long period of fasting from dawn-to-dusk that culminates with the Eid-al-Fitr festival, is also a display of the resilience and buoyancy of the human spirit. Fasting daily for a month not only strengthens one’s piety, it reinforces willpower and helps build endurance and ability to overcome challenges. Fasting also introduces people to what the poor and the deprived members of society experience daily in their lives.
It leads people to be thankful for their blessings and invokes a desire in them to help those less privileged. The immutable message reinforced by the Eid celebrations is that all of humanity is one family; helping one member helps build a stronger and more resilient society; and, causing harm to one individual leads to hurting everyone in the long-term.
As Muslims around the world bid farewell to the holy month of Ramadan and participate with joy in the Eid Al-Fitr festivities and family gatherings, let us also take a moment to think and relate ourselves with all those who do not have the means to celebrate; to identify ourselves with those who are far from their homes and family; with the millions of people who are without a home and living in refugee camps around the world. Let us take a moment this Eid to think about ‘the others’.
For those not in the know, here is a refresher on Eid al-Fitr, a festival that is traditionally celebrated over a period of three days in most Muslim-majority countries. Muslims worldwide celebrate Eid al-Fitr on the first day of the month of Shawwal in the Islamic calendar, which marks the end of month-long fasting from dawn to sunset during the month of Ramadan. Because the advent of Eid Al-Fitr is a lunar event, the date changes annually on the Gregorian calendar and varies from country to country depending on geographical location.
Just as the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan is identified with the sighting of the crescent moon — a day after the new moon — so too must Muslims wait until the evening before Eid to sight the crescent moon before announcing the start of Eid Al-Fitr. If the crescent moon is not visible, the month of Ramadan and the accompanying fasting from dawn to dusk continues for another day.
On the first day of Eid Al-Fitr, Muslims around the world partake in communal post-dawn prayers, followed by a short sermon. The prayers take place in mosques or large halls but in many countries, it is also held in the open to accommodate the large numbers. This is the first such congregation in two years in Kuwait, after the event was canceled by the authorities in previous years, as part of restrictions introduced to curb the spread of the global pandemic.
Following the congregational prayer, people congratulate one another with greetings of ‘Eid Mubarak’. They spend the day visiting relatives and neighbors exchanging greetings and gifts, and sharing in feasts. Children, dressed in new clothes, are offered sweets, gifts and money to celebrate the joyous occasion.
Each country has its own traditions when it comes to celebrating Eid Al-Fitr
Saudi Arabia: In Saudi Arabia, people decorate their homes and prepare sumptuous meals for family and friends. While celebrations vary culturally depending on the region, the one common thread in all celebrations is generosity and hospitality. It is a Saudi tradition for families to gather at the patriarchal home after the Eid prayers. Before the special Eid meal is served, young children will line up in front of each adult family member, who dispenses money as gifts to the children. Family members will also typically have a time where they will pass out gift bags to the children. These bags are often beautifully decorated and contain candies and toys.
Egypt: Eid al-Fitr is a three-day feast and an official holiday in Egypt with vacations for schools, universities and government offices. The Eid day starts with a small snack followed by Eid prayers in congregation attended by men, women and children, in which the sermon reminds Egyptians of the virtues and good deeds they should do unto others, even strangers, during Eid and throughout the year.
Afterwards, neighbors, friends and relatives start greeting one another. Family visits are considered an essential practice on the first day of the Eid, with the other two days of the holidays spent in going to parks, cinemas, theaters or the beaches.
Children are given new clothes to wear for Eid. Women, particularly mothers, wives, sisters and daughters, are given special gifts by their loved ones. The family gatherings involve cooking and eating various kinds of Egyptian food, especially Kahk — cookies filled with nuts and covered with powdered sugar. Egyptians either bake it at home or buy it in the bakery.
Indonesia: Eid is known in Indonesia as Hari Raya Idul Fitri (or more popularly as Lebaran) and is a national holiday. Shopping malls and bazaars are usually filled with people to get things for Lebaran such as new clothes, shoes, sandals, and even food to serve days ahead of Idul Fitri. The entire country is infused with a distinctive festive atmosphere with many banks, government and private offices closed for the duration of the Lebaran festivities.
One of the largest temporary human migrations globally is the prevailing custom of the Lebaran where workers living in cities and towns return to their home-town or village to celebrate with their families and to ask forgiveness from parents, in-laws, and other elders. It is estimated that more than 30 million Indonesians travel to their hometowns during lebaran holiday.
The night before Idul Fitri is called takbiran, it is filled with the sounds of many muezzin chanting the takbir in the mosques or musallahs, people usually fill the street and also chanting takbir. In many parts of Indonesia, especially in the rural areas, obor (torches) and damar/pelita (oil lamps) are lit up and placed outside and around homes. Also, during takbiran, people usually light various firecrackers or fireworks.
India: Celebrations in India and the rest of the Indian subcontinent share many similarities with regional variations. The night before Eid, called Chaand Raat, which means, ‘Night of the Moon’, will see Muslims visiting bazaars and shopping malls with their families for Eid shopping. Women, especially younger girls, often apply the traditional Mehndi, or henna, on their hands and feet and wear colorful bangles. Gifts are frequently given — new clothes as part of the tradition — and it is also common for children to be given small sums of money (Eidi) by their elders.
After the Eid prayers, many families visit graveyards and pray for the salvation of departed family members. Visits to neighbors, family members, especially senior relatives, and the sharing of food and sweets are customary. On Eid day before prayers, people distribute a charity locally known as fitra. Many people also avail themselves of this opportunity to distribute zakat, an Islamic obligatory alms tax of 2.5 percent of one’s annual savings, to the needy. Zakat is often distributed in the form of food and new clothes.
Turkey: Celebrations marking Eid Al- Fitr, referred to as both Seker Bayramı (‘Bayram of Sweets’) and Ramazan Bayramı (‘Ramadan Bayram’) are held nationwide. It is a public holiday, where schools and government offices are generally closed for the entire three- day period of the celebrations.
The celebrations of bayram are infused with national traditions. It is customary for people to greet one another with Bayramınız kutlu olsun (‘May your bayram be blessed’). It is a time for people to attend prayer services, put on their best clothes (referred to as bayramlık, often purchased just for the occasion), visit their loved ones such as relatives, neighbors, and friends, and pay their respects to the deceased with organized visits to cemeteries, where large, temporary bazaars of flowers, water (for watering the plants adorning a grave), and prayer books are set up for the three-day occasion.
South Africa: In Cape Town, hundreds of Muslims gather at Green Point in the evening of the last day of Ramadan each year for the sighting of the moon. The gathering brings together people from all walks of life, and everyone comes with something to share with others at the time of breaking the fast. The Maghrib (sunset) prayer is then performed in congregation and the formal moon-sighting results are announced thereafter.
Children receive presents and money from elder members of the family, relatives and neighbors. Most people wear new clothes with bright colors, while biscuits, cakes, samosas, pies and tarts are presented to visitors as treats. Lunch is usually served in family groups. It is also customary to exchange gifts.
No matter how it is celebrated, Eid Al-Fitr remains an eternal celebration of the human spirit, its resilience and its desire to live virtuously, peacefully, creatively, and to help make life meaningful for all.