Vinod Anand | 09 Aug 2013

Eid-ul-Fitr (Vinod Anand) According to the Islamic tradition, there are two festivals observed by Muslims every year - Eid-ul-Fitr just after Ramzan and Eid-ul-Zuha in the month of Haj. Eid-ul-Fitr literally means festival of breaking the fast. Like other festivals, Eid-ul-Fitr is a symbol of an important article of faith. It reminds one of an Islamic belief in the form of social practice. Muslims believe that human life is divided into two parts: the pre-death period and the post-death period. One who follows divine commandments in the pre-death period will be rewarded in the post- death period. Just before Eid-ul-Fitr, Muslims keep a fat throughout the whole month of Ramzan. Fasting symbolizes life in the present world in which Muslims follow Gods commandments. Eid-ul-Fitr denotes the reward that will be given by God Almighty in the Hereafter in return for our good deeds. Fasting in the month of Ramzan is not simply giving up food. In fact, it symbolizes abstention from all kind of practices that are unlawful in Islam. The Arabic word for roza is ‘sawm’ which means abstinence. Abstaining from food and water in the daytime during Ramzan reminds Muslims that they have to lead their lives with a sense of responsibility. They have to remind themselves that, in the present world, they have to adopt a life of abstinence, taking something and leaving something. This is the true spirit of Ramzan. Then comes the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr, which is a symbolic reminder of the fact that one who leads a responsible life in this world will be rewarded with a life of happiness in eternal Paradise. Eid-ul-Fitr also has a social connotation. On this day Muslims go out of their homes, offer a congregational prayer, meet their neighbours, exchange good wishes with other people and eat and drink without any restriction. All these activities are reminders of life in Paradise. Eid-ul-Fitr may be a Muslim festival, but Muslims, like other communities, live in a society, in a neighbourhood. This makes Eid-ul-Fitr automatically a social festival. Therefore, Muslims meet not only with their religious brothers, but also with neighbours of other denominations and with their colleagues at work or in business, It is this social aspect of Eid-ul-Fitr that has led to the practice of Eid Milan. Muslims observe Eid Milan by inviting their neighbours and others to spend some time with them. In this sense Eid-uI-Fitr promotes social harmony. Like other festivals, Eid-ul-Fitr cannot be observed in isolation, it is but natural that the festival begins as a Muslim tradition but, in practice, it turns into a social festival. When Muslims visit shopping centers during the pre- Eid period to purchase things for the festival, they are bound to meet their fellow brethren. Then when they leave their homes to go to mosques, they again meet other members of society. Thus, every activity of Eid-ul-Fitr automatically turns into a social activity. In this sense the observation turns into a human festival rather than a Muslim festival, sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly. Eid-ul-Fitr has a form, but at the same time there is a spirit inherent in all the festivity. In terms of form it may seem to be a limited festival, but in terms of spirit it is a universal festival. If Eid-ul-Fitr is observed in its true spirit it will energize the whole community, bringing people together in harmony and gratitude. Eid-ul-Fitr therefore truly means Eid-ul- Insaan or a festival of humankind. In fact, it brings people together. Eid is a social tradition. Socialization is the need of every society, promoting as it does harmony and mutual understanding. It is required for a healthy social life, as .it encourages people to live as a cohesive group. There are several ways of engaging in such social behaviour. One effective way is through festivals, especially of the religious kind. Basically, a gathering is simply a gathering but a religious gathering is a gathering plus. Religion gives to it the colour of sanctity. Eid -ul-Fitr is that kind of social tradition. Muslims celebrate Eid on the first day of Shawwal, the tenth month of the Hijra calendar, that is, just after the end of the month of Ramadan. While the month of Ramadan is the month of spiritual preparation, the day of Eid is the first demonstration of the spirit of Ramadan. The day of Eid begins with two units of congregational prayer. This prayer gives a spiritual direction to the festival of Eid. After performing the two-unit prayer, Muslims leave their homes and meet people, both Muslims and non-Muslims. They accept sweets and also offer sweets to others. They say ‘mubarakbad’, or greetings, to everyone. They wear new clothes, which is a sign of purity and cleanliness. Eid celebrations were very simple earlier, life was natural and totally based on agriculture. It was a time when there was no concept of ‘we and they’. Elderly Muslims recall that on the day of Eid, they (Hindus) used to celebrate it in the Muslim tradition and, on the day of Diwali, Muslim community used to celebrate the festival of lights as practiced by the Hindu community. At the time, Hindu and Muslim believed that both these festivals were part of our Indian life. Eid promotes interaction and interaction leads to discussion and discussion leads to intellectual development. In this sense, Eid, as well as other festivals are not only a part of culture, they are a source of education and they promote human values. Ramadan and Eid are two different sides of the same coin. If Ramadan is spirituality, Eid is a kind of applied spirituality. Ramadan is an inner journey and Eid is like an external journey. Ramadan prepares you to live at a personal level and Eid tells us how to live on a social level. Both are equally important. On the occasion of Eid, Muslims are enjoined to give sadaqah aI-Fitr. The purpose of sadaqah al-Fitr is that even the less privileged can have the means to celebrate Eid along with others on an equal basis. Sadaqah al-Fitr is an expression of that kind of living in which people share with others. Though sadaqah al-Fitr is a one-day practice of brotherhood, it is a form of training to promote universal brotherhood. The Prophet of Islam made alms-giving and providing food for the poor obligatory on Eid-ul-Fitr. It was meant to atone for any sin that may have been committed while fasting during the month of Ramadan. Ramadan and Eid both represent two different aspects of Islamic life. According to Islamic teachings, there are two periods of life: the present world and the world hereafter. In the present world we are required to fulfill our responsibilities and are promised a reward for our deeds in the world hereafter. Disciplined living in the month of Ramadan represents the first phase of life and celebrating joy and happiness on Eid represents what is expected in the life hereafter. Ramadan stresses on tile spirit of fraternity. The Muslim religious calendar depends on the lunar month and the ninth lunar month, called Ramadan, is considered as the auspicious period which emphasizes on the spirit of fraternity and humanity. During Ramadan Muslims are required to strive hard to settle their differences wish others and avoid conflicts, they are advised to refrain from lying, cheating and using filthy language or hurting others. They • have to fast from sunrise to sunset by refraining from eating drinking or enjoying any sort of pleasures. Throughout the year, a Muslim has to offer prayers or namaz five times a day. But, during the Ramadan, a special prayer known as Taravih’, in addition to the night prayer called ‘Isha’, is offered. Eatables cooked in milk called the Sehri are consumed as part of the early morning meal after which they have to attend a prayer session in the mosque. They fast for the whole day and break their fast as soon as they get a call for the Maghreb prayer at sunset. The fast is broken with a sip of water and by eating some fruits. Later, they consume special food items which are prepared for iftar like sauces of tamarind, fried corn flour, boiled grams, sweet meats, meat kababs and other delicacies. For 29 or 30 days, the Muslims observe the fast and perform special prayers. If the new moon is seen on the 28th day, the next day is celebrated as the Eid. Otherwise, they have to observe another day of fasting, with total fasting for 30 days. Fasting helps a person to acquire self-control through patience and penance. Eid-ul-Fitr symbolizes happiness at the end of days of fasting and hence it is celebrated by the Muslim community with a lot of excitement. To mark the occasion, members of the Muslim community prepare several varieties of savoury dishes. Vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian food items are prepared. But vermicelli cooked in milk with raisins and nuts called sheer-khurma is a must. During the month of Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr, the Muslims have to make generous donations to help orphans, the aged, beggars and other needy persons and maintain humanitarian values.     PAGE  PAGE 3