‘Eid ul Fitr
Uzma Mazhar Muslims celebrate ‘Eid ul Fitr on the first day of Shawwal — the tenth month of the Islamic calendar, following the month of Ramadhan (in which the revelation started and ended 20+ years later, and which is also the month of fasting). Following a Lunar calendar, Muslims mark the beginning of the month with the sighting of the new crescent. ‘Eid, which means “festivity” in Arabic, is celebrated after the sighting of the new crescent on the previous evening. Eid ul-Fitr is the first of two celebrations in Islam. The second celebration is called Eid ul-Adha and falls on the 10th day of Dhul Hajj, which is the 12th month and occurs during the Hajj (pilgrimage).
The air of festivity and celebration can be felt on the eve before Éid when frenzied shopping and Éid preparations are at its height. Since Éid is celebrated with gift-giving, the highly decorated shops and markets are open till late at night for last minute shoppers. On the eve before Éid, women and children get together to decorate their hands with henna, (in the south Asian subcontinent this evening is also known as ‘chand raat’.. chand means moon and raat means night.. the evening when Eid is confirmed for the following day, with the sighting of the crescent moon indicating the start of festivities). Staying up late preparing food for the next day, the whole house is a hub of activity and excitement.
The crazy excitement of the sighting of the crescent is worth experiencing… especially for children. As their excitement builds and rumors start of the sighting in some remote locale, as yet officially unconfirmed, their eyes shine with joy as they anticipate Eid and the typical preparations preceding Eid. Climbing on rooftops to get a glimpse of the crescent. The greatest rumor was that the Air Force had dispatched airplanes to sight the moon, awesome! They think of what they will wear, what gifts they will get and how they will spend their gift money to buy toys. Pretty exciting! And sometimes the disappointment when it is not confirmed… another fast, another day, and the next evening they are just as excited.
Children fast for the first time usually at age 7yrs, building up to the whole month by age 12 or 14 years. Younger kids insist on fasting as they get excited by all the attention they see their older siblings getting. The young ones are allowed to keep ‘chiri roza’ (as it is known in Pakistan… chiri = bird, roza = fast)… fasting like birds they can peck all day long, which means that they can fast from sehr (pre-dawn meal) to breakfast, breakfast to lunch, and then from lunch to iftâr (dusk meal to open fast)… little mini fasts to make them feel included and participate in the spirit of Ramadhan.
For the children who kept their first fast, their Eid is special. Eid now has a unique significance for them. Now they KNOW Eid! They experience Eid like never before. Their innocent faces smiling and their eyes shining with pride and joy at their accomplishment. They are rewarded by family and friends with gifts, extra attention and compliments for their achievement. More exciting than a birthday could ever be… this is their hard earned day of glory.
The ‘Eid prayer is important for Muslims as it has the merits of the daily prayers and the weekly gathering (Jumu’ah). On the day of Eid, fasting is forbidden since this day marks the end of the month-long fast. Eid is a family and social event, after the Eid prayers people visit each other, exchange gifts, spend time socializing with extended family and community, visiting the sick and offering prayers for the deceased.For those who fasted during the month of Ramadhan, there is a sense of triumph and accomplishment. The manifestation of the two attributes of God are palpable: Yâ Qâbid (The Restrictor) Yâ Bâsit (The Expander). The month of restraint and spiritual growth followed by this day of extravagance, festivities and celebrations. Internal reverie followed by external spread. Revived and rejuvenated by the intimacy of Ramadhan fasters celebrate the blessings with others. The macrocosm of life manifested in the microcosm of a month.. self-discipline and commitment to Allâh is rewarded… as it will be in the Hereafter. Focus redirected. Ups and downs, highs and lows… and with every hardship follows ease!
For those who were in Íetikaf (spiritual retreat in the last 10 days of Ramadhan), like a child out of the womb, new and innocent… facing the noisy world, feeling disoriented and disconnected… the safety and protection of the womb withdrawn… the umbilical cord severed… creates the intense desire to retreat into that safe haven of peace and love. Shifting from the spiritual plane to the worldly… it takes time to adjust to the world again. Everything seems too noisy, too loud, too distracting, too much.