June 15, 2018 – Millions of Muslims around the world marked Eid al-Fitr on June 15 (Friday), which celebrates the end of Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Followers of Islam throughout the world are set for a feast as the month-long dawn-to-dusk fasting comes to an end.
Eid al-Fitr translates from Arabic as the “festival of breaking the fast” and sees the entire Muslim community come together to celebrate the completion of this annual act of devotion.
Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam – along with faith, prayer, charity and the pilgrimage – and gives Muslims a moment to reflect on their spiritual life in honour of the Quran being revealed to the prophet Muhammad. Eid al-Fitr is therefore the celebration marking the end of this solemn period of reassessment.
Eid al-Fitr or the “Festival of Breaking the Fast” is one of the most celebrated of all Muslim holidays, observed by 1.6 billion Muslims around the world. During the entire month of Ramadan, Muslims observe a strict fast and participate in pious activities such as charitable giving and peace-making. It is a time of intense spiritual renewal for those who observe it. At the end of Ramadan, Muslims throughout the world break their fast and celebrate their accomplishments in Eid al-Fitr.
Traditionally, Eid is celebrated for three days and is a national holiday in Muslim countries. In the UK, most people tend to celebrate for a day and will take time off work or school.
As with most holidays, people celebrate differently, but Muslims typically gather together at the mosque for early prayer, with services held every hour in the morning. Followers are often forced to queue due to their popularity.
When prayer is complete, worshippers greet one another, commonly embracing three times. Children sometimes receive gifts from their elders.
The rest of the day is about spending time with friends and family, exchanging gifts and feasting, the latter taking place during daylight hours for the first time in a month.
Again, the dishes being enjoyed depend on family heritage. Bangladeshi Muslims may have biryani while Turkish Muslims settle down for lamb shish kebabs. The choice is entirely down to the individual.
When to Celebrate Eid al-Fitr
Eid al-Fitr falls on the first day of the month of Shawwal, which means “To Be Light and Vigorous” or “Lift or Carry” in Arabic. Shawwal is the name of the month which follows Ramadan in the Islamic calendar.
The Islamic or Hijri calendar is a lunar calendar, based on the movements of the moon rather than the sun. Lunar years have a total of 354 days, compared to solar years which have 365.25 days. Each of twelve lunar months has 29 or 30 days, beginning when the crescent moon appears in the sky. Because the year loses 11 days with respect to the Gregorian solar calendar, the month of Ramadan shifts forward 11 days each year, as does Eid al-Fitr. Each year, Eid al-Fitr falls about 11 days earlier than the previous year.
Some scholars believe that the first Eid al-Fitr was celebrated in the year 624 CE by the Prophet Mohammad and his followers after a decisive victory at the battle of Jang-e-Badr.
The celebration itself is not directly linked to any specific historical events but is rather a breaking of fast.
The Meaning of Eid al-Fitr
Eid al-Fitr is a time for Muslims to give in charity to those in need and to celebrate with family and friends the completion of a month of blessings and joy. Unlike other Islamic holidays, Eid al-Fitr is not tied to specific historical events but is a general celebration of fellowship with one’s local community.
In contrast to the devoted calm of the rest of the Ramadan observance, Eid al-Fitr is marked by joyful happiness at having been released from religious obligation and forgiven for sins. Once the celebration begins, it may continue for up to three days. This is a time for Muslim families to share their good fortune with others.
How Eid al-Fitr Is Observed
Before the first day of Eid, during the last few days of Ramadan, each Muslim family gives a traditionally-defined amount as a donation to the poor. This donation is typically food rather than money—rice, barley, dates, rice, and more—to ensure that the needy are able to enjoy a nourishing holiday meal and participate in the celebration. Known as sadaqah al-fitr or Zakat al-Fitr (charity of fast-breaking), the amount of the alms to be paid was set by the Prophet Muhammad himself, as equal to one measure (sa’a) of grain per person.
On the first day of Eid, Muslims gather early in the morning in large outdoor locations or mosques to perform the Eid prayer. This consists of a sermon followed by a short congregational prayer. The exact pattern and number of segments of the prayer are specific to the branch of Islam, although Eid is the only day in the month of Shawwal during which Muslims are not allowed to fast.
After the Eid prayer, Muslims usually disperse to visit various family and friends, give gifts (especially to children), make visits to graveyards, and make phone calls to distant relatives to give well-wishes for the holiday. Common greetings used during Eid are “Eid Mubarak!”(“Blessed Eid!”) and “Eid Saeed!”(“Happy Eid!”).
These activities traditionally continue for three days. In most Muslim countries, the entire three-day period is an official government/school holiday. During Eid, families may string up lights, or place candles or lanterns around the house. Brightly colored banners are sometimes hung. Family members may wear traditional clothing or may give one another new clothing in order that everyone may look their best.
Many Muslims call the holiday Sweet Eid, and special foods, especially sweet treats, may be served.
Some traditional Eid fare includes date-filled pastries, butter cookies with almonds or pine nuts, and spice cake.