This year is a wonderful and joyous year. For one, it starts off with Eid today. There is another very special thing about this year, which is the fact that this year will have 3 days of Eid in total. This happens only once every 33 years in the Gregorian Calendar. This is because the Islamic religious days are observed using the Islamic Calendar.
I’ve been getting lots of greetings today along with mails asking me what Eid is all about. So I’ll be trying to jot down details of Eid in my blog. Well, it has to be done sometime!
Muslims all over the world, celebrate 2 days of Eid in a year, namely Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha. Okey, you don’t expect me to get you all the details on my own do you? Some of the contents you see below are mine and most of them are from Wikipedia.
Eid ul-Fitr, often abbreviated as simply Eid, is an Islamic holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting. Fitr means “to break” and therefore symbolizes the breaking of the fasting period and of all evil habits. On the day of the celebration, a typical Muslim family gets up very early and attends special prayers held only for the occasion in big mosques, in large open areas, stadiums or arenas. The festivities and merriment start after the prayers with visits to the homes of friends and relatives and thanking the Creator for all blessings. Eid is a time to come together as a community and to renew friendship and family ties. This is a time for peace for all Muslims in the world to devote to prayers and mutual well-being.
It is a joyous occasion with important religious significance. Happiness is observed at attaining spiritual uplift after a month of fasting. Muslims dress in holiday attire. After attending the special congregational prayer in the morning, worshippers greet and embrace each other in a spirit of peace, love, and brotherhood. Visiting friends and relatives is common.
For Muslims, Eid ul-Fitr is a joyful celebration of the achievement of enhanced piety. It is a day of forgiveness, moral victory and peace, of congregation, fellowship, brotherhood and unity. Muslims are not only celebrating the end of fasting, but thanking their God for the help and strength that they believe he gave them throughout the previous month to help them practice self-control.
Common greetings during this three-day festival are the Arabic greeting “Eid mubarak”, “Eid saeed” or its Urdu variation “Eid mubarak ho!” which, loosely translated, means “Happy Eid!”
The first Eid was celebrated in 624 CE by the prophet Muhammad with his friends and relatives after the victory of the Battle of Badr.
The holiday follows the month of Ramadan, falling on the first day of Shawwal (the tenth month in the Islamic calendar). As with all months in the Islamic calendar, it begins with the sighting of the new moon. For this reason there may be regional differences in the exact date of Eid, with some Muslims fasting for 29 days and some for 30 days.
Eid ul-Fitr commemorates the end of the month of Ramadan. Fasting is forbidden on this day as it marks the end of the month-long fast of Ramadan. A Muslim is encouraged to rise early and partake of some dates or a light, sweet snack, significant because for the past 30 days they have abstained from all food and drink from dawn till dusk. It may come as a surprise to many non-Muslims, but many people feel a sense of loss or sadness at the passing of Ramadan.
Traditions and Practices
Muslims are encouraged to dress in their best clothes, new if possible, and to attend a special Eid prayer that is performed in congregation at mosques or open areas like fields, squares etc. Before the prayer the congregation recites the Takbir:
Allahu akbaru, Allahu akbaru
la illaha ila Allah,
wa Allahu akbar, Allahu akbaru
wa lillah hilhamd
God is Greatest, God is Greatest
There is no deity but [the One] God
God is Greatest, God is Greatest
and to Him goes all praise
The Takbir is recited after confirmation that the moon of Shawwal is sighted on the eve of the last day of Ramadan. It continues until the start of the Eid prayer. Before the Eid prayer begins every Muslim (man, women or child) must pay Zakat al Fitr, an alms for the month of Ramadan. This equates to about 2 kg of a basic foodstuff (wheat, barley, dates, raisins, etc.), or its cash equivalent, and is (typically) collected at the mosque. This is distributed by the mosque to needy local Muslims prior to the start of the Eid prayer. It can be given anytime during the month of Ramadan and is often given early, so the recipient can utilise it for Eid purchases. This is distinct to Zakat based on their wealth which must be paid to a worthy charity. This is calculated at 2.5% of their wealth.
The Eid prayer (salah) is followed by the khutba (sermon) and then a prayer (dua’) asking for forgiveness, mercy and help for the plight of Muslims across the world. It is then customary to embrace the persons sitting on either side of you as well as your relatives, friends and acquaintances.
Children are normally given gifts or money. Women (particularly relations) are normally given special gifts by their loved ones. Eid is also the time for reconciliations. Feuds or disputes, especially between family members, are often settled on Eid.
Eid ul-Fitr in Indonesia
In Indonesian the feast is named Hari Raya Idul Fitri. Hari Raya literally means Day of Celebration . Sometimes, there are different statements on when the day falls, especially between Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama, because people use different techniques to determine it. Almost all of the people follows the government of Indonesia’s statement and such differences do not get in the way of people celebrating. This event is recognized as national holiday and starts a few days before Idul Fitri and lasts some days after it. Schools also have different schedule for the holiday as many Islamic schools usually make it a longer holiday.
Another Idul Fitri tradition in Indonesia is mudik that usually applies to urbanites who came to Jakarta from Java or other islands in Indonesia. Before Idul Fitri comes, people will go back to their hometowns where their relatives, sometimes including their parents, reside. This event often causes crowding in airports, seaports, and bus stations while some who are travelling by car are trapped in the traffic jam for hours. For little children, asking for money as well as forgiveness from relatives is common to motivate them. Many, especially in the cities, also use the term angpau for the money just like Chinese people do.
Eid ul-Fitr in the USA and Canada
American and Canadian Muslims in North America typically celebrate the day in a quiet way. Because the day depends on the sighting of the moon, observing families are often not aware that the next day will be Eid until the night before. Most check with members of the community to see if the moon has been sighted by anyone. Different methods for determining the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Shawwal are used in each particular community. Because the day is determined by the natural phenomenon of sighting the cresent moon, the East Coast may celebrate Eid on a different day than the West Coast.
To determine the day of Eid, the crescent moon must be sighted directly, although some people choose to base the sighting on scientific calculations. Typically, the end of Ramadan is announced accordingly via e-mail, postings on websites or chain phone calls to all members of a community. Usually working people make arrangements for a lighter work day on the days that may possibly be the Eid day. But many North American Muslims cannot take the whole day off. A typical Muslim family in the USA or Canada will wake up very early in the morning and have a small breakfast. Getting ready often consists of getting dressed in fancy clothing for those who are off all day, and work clothing for those who cannot have the day off.
Next the family will go to the nearest congregational prayer. The prayer may be held at the local mosque, hotel ballroom, arena or stadium. The prayer is often led by a lay person in the community who is respected because of his character and breadth of knowledge of Islam. Often these prayers are held in shifts. The first prayer at 7 am the second at 9 am and the third at 11 am. After prayers, the Muslims disperse. Some have to go to work, others have the day off and spend the time visiting friends and family. Many Muslim families have Eid ul Fitr open houses on that day. Muslim children who attend public school often take the day off and spend it with members of the family who are able to take the day off. The day is spent thanking the Creator for all our blessings.
Because North American Muslims come from all parts of the world, not any one particular food is served on that day. Muslims believe that all blessings come from God, but each family typically has a feast with foods of their particular heritage. For example, an Pakistani-American-Muslim family would have traditional South Asian food, whereas an African-American-Muslim family would have a roast with the sides and a Arab-American-Muslim family would have Arab cuisine. An intermarried, bicultural family would have food from both cultures on that day. Often a Muslim North American family will visit the homes of friends of many heritages on that day. A typical Muslim family might have an Asian breakfast, an Indian lunch and an Irish dinner all in one day.
Eid ul-Fitr in Malaysia and Singapore
In Malaysia and Singapore, Eid is also commonly known as Hari Raya Aidilfitri; Hari Raya literally means Day of Celebration. Muslims in Malaysia celebrate Eid like other Muslims throughout the world. The night before Eid will be filled with the takbiir which is held in the mosques or musollahs. Eid also witnesses a huge migratory pattern of the Muslims, from big metropolitan cities to rural areas. This is known as Balik Kampung — literally going back to home town to celebrate Eid with one’s parents.
It is customary for Malays to wear traditional Malay costumes on the Eid. The dress for men is called baju melayu while the women’s are known as baju kurung. In recent years, robes, adopted from Arabic tradition and culture, are added to the traditional attires for Eid. It is also common to see non-Malay muslims wear costumes of their culture.
Once the prayer is completed, it is also common for Muslims in Malaysia to visit the grave of their loved ones. During this visit, they will clean the grave, perform the recital of the Surah Yaa Sin and also perform the tahlil ceremony. All these are done in hope that their loved ones are blessed by Allah and they are spared from the punishment in the grave.
The rest of the day is spent visiting relatives, or serving visitors. Eid ul-Fitr is a very joyous day for children for this is the day where adults are extra generous. Children will be given token sums of money, also known as “duit raya” from their parents or elders.
Eid ul-Fitr in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh
In Pakistan, celebration the night before Eid is called Chand Raat, or night of the moon. Women, especially young girls often paint each others’ hands with traditional mehndi (henna) and wear colorful bangles. One of the special dishes in India, Pakistan and Fiji is savayya, a dish of fine, toasted vermicelli noodles. Elder family members give eidi (small amount of money or gifts)to children. After attending the mosque in the early morning, family members and relatives visit eachother, attend many joyous parties, feasts, special carnivals and parks (with picnics, fireworks, etc.), and exchange gifts with eachother. In Pakistan and India, many bazaars, malls, and restaurants get crowded with people. Many people also like to decorate their homes with lights.
Eid ul-Fitr in Iran
In the predominately Shia culture of Iran, Eid is a highly personal event, and celebrations are often more muted. Typically, each Muslim family gives food to those in need. Often meat or ghorbani, which is an expensive food item in Iran, will be given by those in wealthier families to those who have less. Payment of fitra is obligatory for each Muslim. The tradition in many families holds that for each member of your household on the day of Eid, one person outside of your family needs to be fed. Many Iranian families have chelo kabab, which is skewered meat served with white rice, grilled tomatoes, herbs and yogurt on that day. Thanking God for all blessings is top on the list of activities for the day. The day is a national holiday. So most people spend the day at home or visiting family or going for outings in the areas around the big cities.
Eid ul-Fitr in the Gregorian Calendar
While Eid ul-Fitr is always on the same day of the Islamic calendar, the date on the Gregorian calendar varies from year to year, much like Easter, due to differences between the two calendars, since the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar and the Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar. Furthermore, the method used to determine when each Islamic month begins varies from country to country.
Next, let’s have a look at what’s happenning today.
Eid ul-Adha occurs on the tenth day of the Islamic month of Dhul Hijja. It is one of two Eid festivals that Muslims celebrate. Eid ul-Adha is celebrated by Muslims worldwide as a commemoration of Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son for God.
The story behind Eid ul-Adha
Muslims believe that God revealed in a dream to Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Isma’il. Ibrahim and Isma’il set off to Mina for the sacrifice. As they went, the devil attempted to persuade Ibrahim to disobey God and not to sacrifice his beloved son. But Ibrahim stayed true to God, and drove the devil away. As Ibrahim prepared to sacrifice his son, God stopped him and gave him a sheep to sacrifice instead. The story is also a part of the other Abrahamic religions (see the Binding of Isaac).
Observing Eid ul-Adha
It is celebrated on the 10th day of the month of Dhul Hijja (ذو الحجة) of the lunar Islamic calendar, after Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. This happens to be approximately 70 days after the end of the month of Ramadan.
While Eid ul-Fitr is considered to be three days, Eid ul-Adha is supposed to be four days. The first day is the primary holiday, on which men, women, and children are expected to dress in their finest clothing and perform prayer (Salah) in a large congregation. Muslims who can afford to do so sacrifice domestic animals, usually sheep, as a symbol of Ibrahim’s sacrifice; this sacrifice is called “Qurbani.” The meat is distributed amongst their neighbors, relatives, and the poor and hungry. The charitable instincts of the Muslim community are demonstrated during Eid ul-Adha by the concerted effort to see that no impoverished Muslim is left without sacrificial food during this day. Coming immediately after the Day of Arafat (when Muhammad pronounced the final seal on the religion of Islam), Eid ul-Adha gives concrete realization to what the Muslim community ethic means in practice.
Other names for Eid ul-Adha
It is often referred to as the “Kurban Bayramı” (from Turkish) or “Sacrifice Feast”. Eid ul-Adha is also known as Hari Raya Haji/Qurban in Singapore and Malaysia , Hari Raya Idul Adha in Indonesia and Tabaski in West Africa. In Bangladesh it is commonly called Qurbani Eid, while in other parts of the Indian subcontinent it is known as Bakr-Id.
Eid ul-Adha in the Gregorian Calendar
While Eid ul-Adha is always on the same day of the Islamic calendar, the date on the Gregorian calendar varies from year to year since the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar and the Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar. Each year, Eid ul-Adha (like other Islamic holidays) falls on one of two different Gregorian dates in different parts of the world, due to the fact that the boundary of crescent visibility is different from the International date line. Furthermore, some countries follow the date in Saudi Arabia rather than the astronomically determined local calendar.
Oh and by the way, we are celebrating Eid ul-Adha today !