Today marks the 30th day of the month of Ramadan, of the year 1443 in the Islamic lunar calendar. After sunset, began the first of Shawwal, which is the tenth month of the Islamic calendar. Eid al-Fitr is celebrated the following morning, at the conclusion of Ramadan, which is a time of reflection, of piety, of prayer and of abstention from our base desires, in Arabic known as nafs. Also, in the month of Ramadan falls the auspicious Night of Divine Power, Laylat al-Qadr during the last ashraa of the month (the word ashraa, refers to the last ten nights of the Holy month of Ramadan when the first verse of the Holy Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h)). Thus, the Night of Power is the culmination of the month when we can look back at our lives and reflect upon our spiritual selves and material lives, and above all, be thankful for all that God has bestowed upon us, which engenders thoughts of devotion, prayer, compassion, and ethical behavior in believers, enabling us to become pure and come closer to God.
Eid al-Fitr is also the day of gratitude, often expressed in many ways: by distributing alms to the poor and the needy and by offering special prayers. We also thank God on this day for the help and strength we have received during the month of Ramadan – a time of austerity and intense prayer. It is a time to think about our loved ones and to pray for those who are no longer with us. It is also a time for reconciliation, a time to forgive those who may have hurt us and to approach those that we may have knowingly or unknowingly hurt and ask them for forgiveness, with an open heart and sincerity. It is a time to make amends with business colleagues and apologize to family members that we may have upset or hurt unintentionally. It is a time of openness, forgiveness, and renewal.
This sense of forgiveness is captured beautifully in the greetings offered on Eid in Indonesia. While throughout much of the Arabic-speaking and South Asian world, Muslims greet each other by saying Eid Mubarak or Eid Saeed, in Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population, people greet each other on Eid al-Fitr by saying, “mohon maaf lahir dan batin,” meaning “forgive my physical and emotional wrong doings.”
“We have not created the heavens and the earth and everything in between except for a purpose. And the Hour is certain to come, so forgive graciously.” (The Holy Quran 15:85)
Festivals play a very important role in any religion. They provide us with an opportunity to rejoice in the company of others, to promote a greater sense of belonging and identity, and to reflect upon our duties and responsibilities. Eid al-Fitr embodies these values. It is a festival of joy and faith. It is a time for relaxation, of renewed hope, of strengthened resolution to do what is right, and of goodwill towards all.
The word Eid means celebration of a feast, a festival, or a holiday. The term fitr is derived from the Arabic root word “fatara” which means to open or split, and therefore, to break the fast. Thus, the derivative words fitr or iftar mean breaking of the fast. Another derivative of the same root word is fitra which means charity, giving alms, sacrifice, etc. Thus, Eid al-Fitr is a festival celebrated as the culmination of fasting in the month of Ramadan, accompanied with the offerings of charity. And therefore, Eid al-Fitr is also called Eid as-Sadaqah, meaning ‘festival of charity’.
Eid al-Fitr is celebrated around the world with great enthusiasm and festivity. It is also a time when Muslims exchange greetings with our sisters and brothers around the world; and at home, new traditional/ethnic clothes are worn, friends and relatives socialize, children receive presents, and more alms and charity are given to the needy. It is a time for delicacies and, above all, reconciliation with anyone whom we don’t get along with or who may have harmed or hurt us, as well as the renewal of ties of friendship and kinship.
“Whoever honors you, then honor him. And whoever scorns you, then honor yourself from him.” Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (a.s)
This reminds us that whilst we are celebrating and rejoicing, we should also be mindful about people around us – within our family, community, society and around the world. Can we be helpful to them? What can we do to make their lives comfortable, happy, and to make them smile? How can we support them? These and other relevant questions must be thought about as we celebrate the Eid festival. Since we are blessed by Allah, Eid al-Fitr reminds us to offer fitra, i.e., charity to our fellow beings; give something from what we have and show generosity towards all around us. This is the essential message of Eid al-Fitr, which concludes the month of physical, intellectual, and spiritual discipline and restraints practiced during Ramadan. The message we must take home is that these acts of piety should not remain only for one day, or for one month, but throughout the year.
So, tomorrow, in addition to celebrating Eid al-Fitr with our families and spending time with our loved ones, let us keep an open heart on this special day, to be thankful for Allah’s bounty and to do our best to forgive those who have hurt or upset us in the past, and to pray that those we may have hurt will have the courage and strength to do the same.