Eid al-Fitr and Ramadan

Eid al-Fitr 2016 Date in India

Thursday 7 July (Depending on Moon Sighting)

Ramadan 2016 in India

Monday 6 June to Tuesday 5 July 2016

Eid al-Fitr is a happy day in the Islamic religious calendar. Often referred to as Eid ul-Fitr or simply Eid, this day marks the end of the month-long dawn to dusk fasting, which is known as Ramadan (the holy month of fasting). Ramadan which begins 15 days after Shab-e-Barat, is very important in Islam. In fact, it’s amongst the “Five Pillars of Islam”.

Eid al-Fitr or the festival of breaking the fast is one of the two most important Islamic festivals. The other important festival is Hajj, which is the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

Fasting, Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr

During the 29-30 days of holy Ramadan (depending on the sightings of the crescent moon), people following the religion would wake up early in the morning, before day break, and have their food. This early morning meal is called Suhoor. The next food they will have is after the sun goes down. This means that, throughout the day, they won’t have anything. Some people won’t even drink water. But before they have anything at dawn, the Muslims would first offer their Salat ul-Fajr or the Morning Prayer. They will brush the teeth, take a quick shower and wear perfume, and then pray for Allah.

Devout Muslims are not allowed to even smoke or have sexual relations during this month. According to Islam, fasting is mandatory during Ramadan for both men and women. However those who are pregnant, going through menstrual bleeding, breastfeeding, diabetic, and those who are traveling or suffering from an illness may not fast. Everybody else, including children above the age of 12 years should do it.

The fasting is referred to as Sawm. It is very important for Muslims to fast. In fact, Prophet Muhammad says that it’s among the five duties or pillars of Islam. Most restaurants in Muslim localities remain closed during the day in this month. They would open only after the sun has gone down. The food taken once the fast is broken is called Iftar. Many Muslims will have some energy drink with other foods.


Ramadan Fasting – The Spiritual Context

The fasting is symbolic. It’s about self-sacrifice and dedicating the self to Allah. Those who are fasting will obviously be hungry and thirsty, and thus would remember how much the poor who cannot have regular meals suffer. This is why many Muslims would offer charities just after the Morning Prayer this time of the year. It’s in line with the basic values of the religion that stand for worship, patience, steadfastness and of course empathy for the poor and the needy. Muslims will want to remember the Prophets’ desires of staying away from worldly pleasures, and focusing the mind on the Lord, and thanking Him for all the blessings. This practice strengthens the bond between a disciple and his Lord.

The charity is often in the form of food – rice, date, barley, fruits and such others. Most people won’t look at the religion of the receiver. The food is given away to those who really need it so that they can be happy during the festival time. This is referred to as Sadaqah al-Fitr. It is also called Sadaqah and Zakat in some places.

It’s an opportunity to cleanse the mind and body as well. This is the sacred month, and so, Muslims are expected to feel the inner peace that comes from spiritual devotion.

Islamic Prayers on Eid al-Fitr

Eid al-Fitr Prayer

Those who follow Islam are required to offer their prayers to Allah several times a day. These prayers are called Salats. A salat, in turn, is composed of a repeating unit or cycle known as a rakat. However there are some special prayers on Eid al-Fitr. In Muslim prayers, there are usually two units or Rakats. During Eid al-Fitr, the prayers are often held in a large hall or open field, to accommodate many more people, because everybody wants to pray together on this special day. Islam recommends its followers to pray in Jama’at’s or congregation. There are six additional Takbirs – these are declarations of faith. During the Takbir, Muslims would hold their hands close to the ears and say “Allāhu Akbar” or “Allah is Great”.

The Hanafi school of Sunni Islam asks followers to hold three of these Takbirs at the start of the Raka’ah, and the other three just before the second Raka’ah. But there are some Sunni Muslims who will even have up to twelve of these Takbirs. Seven of them are at the beginning, and the other five before the second Raka’ah.

Eid Al-Fitr Brings Ramadan to an End

Eid al-Fitr is held to break the fasting cycle of Ramadan. Friends and family would have food together. They would greet and hug each other and exchange pleasantries. Eid al-Fitr is usually held over three days, starting on the first day of Shawwal, which is the tenth month in the Islamic lunar calendar. Muslim countries the world over usually declare an official holiday for these three days.

Eid Al Fitr Celebrations

The first day of the festival is usually held on Thursday, but that can change by a day either way, depending on the new moon sighting. The day would also be different from one country to another. Most countries of course celebrate Eid al-Fitr on the days it is held in Saudi Arabia. Muslims the world over would wait for an announcement from Mecca on the exact days of Eid al-Fitr. Of course, the highest religious body of a country will also announce the date when the moon is sighted. Do also keep in mind that the dates are different because Islam follows the lunar calendar with fewer days than the solar calendar. There are 11 days less here.

Eid al-Fitr Customs in India and Other Countries

Eid al-Fitr is a religious occasion. But it is a happy occasion as well. Muslims would decorate their homes and light them up. They would visit friends with sweets, food and other gifts. Kids receive gifts too. These gifts are called Eidi. There is no fasting on the days of Eid al-Fitr. In fact, iftar parties are held everywhere. Muslims would wear new clothes. Interestingly, no special prayers are held on that day.

Eid al-Fitr in India

They would greet everybody, and even those who don’t follow Islam by saying “Eid Mubarak”, which stands for “Have a blessed Eid”. In some countries there are however some unique customs. For instance, in Turkey, people would usually say “Bayramınız kutlu olsun”, which means “May your Bayram Eid be blessed”.

Though Eid al-Fitr is supposed to be celebrated over three days, but interestingly, this doesn’t happen everywhere. For instance, in Tunisia, the festival is held over four days. In Sudan on the other hand, it is held over just two days, though the country has 97% Muslim population. In India, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, Eid al-Fitr is held over three days in most places. The eve of Eid is referred to in India as Chaand ki Raat. Similarly, the night before is known as Takbiran in Indonesia. People in India will have Murubbis and Biriyani. They will visit graveyards to pay their respect to departed family members. Myanmar too celebrates the event on just a single day.

Eid al-Fitr is often called Hari Raya Aidilfitri or Hari Raya Idul Fitri across South-East Asia. It is just a one day festival in Australia. Though officially it is not a holiday, but Muslim employees are excused on that day by all employers. The festival is held over three days in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, and in most other countries. The Philippines is the only Christian country where Eid al-Fitr is a national holiday. The authorities there announced this to promote unity among the different communities. Close to 6% people in the country are Muslims according to the last census.

Though the customs will vary from country to country, but in all of them, Eid al-Fitr is a happy festival, and an occasion to show devotion to Allah. It’s also customary to offer alms to the poor and buy new clothes. Muslims the world over will also thank Allah for everything they have and ask for his blessings.

Names for Eid al-Fitr Across the World

Eid al-Fitr has many names. Here are some of them.

  • Albania – Fitër Bajrami
  • Azerbaijan – Ramazan Bayramı
  • Holland – Suikerfeest
  • Germany – Ramadanfest
  • Greece – Bairami
  • Somalia – Ciid Yare
  • Spain – Fiesta de la ruptura del ayuno
  • Turkmenistan – Oraza baýramy
  • Portugal – Celebração do fim do jejum

Eid Al-Fitr – The Historical Context

There is a historical connection of this festival as well. The Muslim world believes that Anas ibn Malik started both Eid al-Fitr, and also Eid al-Adha to mark the journey of Prophet Muhammad to Medinah from Mecca. Malik was a companion of the Prophet in his journeys. The first ever Eid al-Fitr was held at Medinah. But there are those who believe that the festival was started to celebrate the victory in the Jang-e-Badar battle. It is said that the first Eid al-Fitr was celebrated by Prophet Muhammad himself in 624 CE with his companions. Now of course, Eid al-Fitr is celebrated by millions of Muslims from across the world, making it one of the biggest festivals.

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