Just as millions of Westerners celebrate Christmas, our muslim brothers and sisters have a similar holiday period which began today.[12.10.07] and which they call Eid. I thought it might of interest to some if I posted a piece which looks at the history of this day and exactly what Muslims get up to when celebrating Eid.
Muslims all over the world are celebrating Ramadan Bayramı, also known as Eid al-Fitr, the festival that follows the holy month of fasting. While they will visit their elders, relatives and friends on account of the bayram, they will also endeavor to make up for past mistakes and forgive those of others. Children, particularly those in Turkey, go from door to door collecting candy, chocolate, baklava, Turkish delight and — very rarely — pocket money, which never ceases to be the favorite.
The month of Ramadan, the most blessed of the 12 months in the Islamic calendar, has ended, leaving in its place the month of Shawwal, which begins with the holiday Eid al-Fitr (often abbreviated simply as Eid). This holiday is a three-day Muslim holiday that marks the end of the month of fasting. Eid is an Arabic term meaning “festivity” or “celebration” while Fitr means “to break the fast” and can also mean “nature,” from the word “fitrat.” On the first day of the celebration, observant Muslim families wake up very early and then, after praying the first of the daily prayers, eat a small meal, a symbolic act that reminds them that Ramadan is over. They then attend congregational prayers held specially for this occasion in mosques or, in places where mosques are not enough to hold the entire local male Muslim population, in large open areas or even stadiums. The prayer is made up of two cycles followed by a special Eid sermon. Worshippers greet and hug one another in a spirit of peace and love after the congregational prayer in celebration of one another’s Eid. After the special prayer, the festivity commonly begins with visits to the homes of relatives and friends.
When the Prophet Mohammed emigrated to the city of Medina, there were two festivals celebrated there each year. On those days there were games and celebrations. The Prophet, who witnessed these, said, “Almighty God has allotted Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha (the Festival of the Sacrifice) as more blessed than these two festivals.” Thus, since the beginning of the Age of Happiness, which is how Muslims refer to the time when the Prophet honored this world with his presence, the Islamic world has celebrated two religious festivals.
Muslims across world share in the great blessing of the tranquil and spiritual Eid morning. It is a joyous occasion with important religious significance, celebrating the increase in piety with which God blesses the world during the month of Ramadan. It is a day of forgiveness and moral victory as well as of brotherhood and unity. Muslims celebrate not only the end of fasting, but also thank God for the help and strength that He bestowed upon them throughout the month of fasting, during which they endured their fast with not only a physical but also a spiritual asceticism — that is, they have controlled their stomachs, their tongues and their hearts, so they have successfully passed the test of servanthood. It is a time of giving and sharing. In many Muslim societies people get up early on Eid. If possible, they have a bath; if this is not possible, then they make wudu (ablutions) and put on clean garments. They walk to the mosque in an unhurried, sedate manner, remembering God and glorifying His Name.
Timing of Eid
The exact day on which Eid falls depends on the sighting of the new moon, which is only visible just after sunset. Most Muslims in non-Muslim countries check with local mosques or other members of the community to see if the moon has been sighted by authoritative parties, whereas those in Muslim countries check with the religious authorities and directorates. In some Muslim countries, like Malaysia, they use both sighting of the moon and astronomical calculation to verify the date, the calculation being only used to verify the sighting of the moon. Therefore, there may be regional differences in the exact date of Eid, with some Muslims fasting for 29 days and some for 30 days. This year for Sunni Muslims in Turkey, Europe, North Africa, North America and Middle East, the first day of Eid al-Fitr will be celebrated today.*
This article first appeared in the Turkish newspaper Zaman