Islamic Perspectives

Eid — the Islamic Festival

Every religious and ethnic group has its festivals which bring members of that group together on certain days and dates every year. These occasions provide the group with a sense of belonging through taking part in prayers and sharing in festivity and joy. Religions too have their festivals but these are seldom celebrated in a single manner all over the world. Islam has only two religiously-ordained festivals which are celebrated in a single orderly manner all over the world. The two Islamic festivals are Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. The former is celebrated at the end of the month-long day-time fasting, while the latter is celebrated at the end of the arduous journey to Makkah and performing the Haj rituals there. On both occasions, Eid is an occasion of thanks-giving in humility to Allah who gave an opportunity to His slaves to fast and perform Haj which are difficult tasks and could not be completed without staunch belief and divine help to every Muslim man and woman.

Eid is also an occasion of sharing the joy with relatives, neighbours and the poor in general. The Eid al-Fitr prayer cannot be performed without paying a fixed alm, Sadaqa al-Fitr, to the poor for every member of one’s family, while the Haj is not complete without offering a sacrifice, most of whose meat is distributed to the poor. The idea is that poor too should share in these joys and should benefit from these festivities.

Both these festivals are essentially thanks-giving occasions because the Prophet (pbuh) said, fasting during Ramadan erases the sins committed during the previous year while the Haj erases the sins committed by the pilgrim in his pre-pilgrimage life.

Though these days, people are offering Eid prayers almost in all neighbourhood mosques, the Islamic tradition has been for the whole locality to offer the prayers in a special mosque outside the village or town or in the grand mosque of the area. The wisdom is that all Muslims of the area should meet each other at least twice a year in one single place just as Muslims of the whole world meet once at Makkah every single year since the advent of Islam. Women and children should also participate in these prayers though of late women tend to stay at home and only men and children go to these prayers.

Both Ramadan and Haj are occasions for the believer to examine his/her past life and to rejuvenate his/her faith and commitment to Allah and the community. If one fails in this duty, his/her fasting and Haj will be a worthless exercise, a mere hardship with no result.

Unlike some other religions, Islam does not give any licence for misbehaviour during these festivals. These are utterly civilised and sober occasions where joy and sharing do not lead to licentious behaviour because consumption of narcotics and liquor or indulgence in mindless dance or noisy expressions of joy are not permitted.

The essence of Eid is sharing and strengthening social bond, and expression of gratitude to Allah who gave the believer a chance to follow His command to observe the month-long fasting and to take up the arduous journey to Makkah, sacrificing wealth, time, luxuries of life and material resources.

Ramadan and Haj will remain purposeless if they do not inculcate in the believer the qualities of humility, piety, God-fearing, thanks-giving and a habit of sharing his wealth and time with others. Said Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani, the great sufi, in his book Ghinyatul Talibin, “Eid is not for those who don fine clothes but for those who are fearful of Allah’s warnings and punishment. Eid is not for those who use scents on this day but for those who repent and stay steadfast in their repentance. Eid is not for those who cook various dishes in big utensils but for those who resolve to lead a life of piety and choose taqwa’ (God-fearing) as their future path.”    

The above short article was sent to the editor of a national daily; he was also alerted by an sms with a request to publish it on Eid day. The editor knows the writer but did not reply by email or sms. The article was not published while on Eid day (20 August) the newspaper published a religious column in the Delhi edition entitled “Committed to protect” on Lord’s incarnations, while a south Indian edition of the same daily sufficed to publish a  photograph of a mosque in Mysore for the occasion.