Muslim World Celebrating Eid with Fireworks

By Abdul-Lateef Balogun
Freelance Writer - Malaysia

Introducing metallic salts gives color to fireworks, including Strontium Red, Sodium Yellow, Copper Blue, and Barium Green.

Hardly had the noise from the first rocket subsided than another rocket went up in the air. Within the blink of an eye, the surrounding atmosphere was lit by flares of varying colors. It is difficult to miss such display of fireworks on a night like this.

With a penchant for celebrating festivals in a glamorous way, the use of rockets and fireworks is an integral part of Malaysian festivities. Whether it is the Muslim’s Eid celebration or the annual Chinese carnival, residents and visitors are often inundated with series of firework displays and the deafening noise that accompanies them.

At 24, Ashraf is experienced enough to know what to expect during the forthcoming Eid festival. According to him, Chinese immigrants brought the concept of firecrackers when they settled here centuries ago.

“When they migrated from China, they came along with their customs which included the use of firecrackers during festive seasons,” the Malaysian Muslim told OnIslam.net. The overwhelmingly Muslim Malay population have since imbibed and even perfected this custom as they celebrate every Eid with it.

Deep-Rooted Tradition

(Image Credit: Minnesota Public Radio Organisation)

So prevalent is it that a first-time visitor might be tempted to think the Malays actually invented the art of fireworks.

“I have been involved with this right from my kindergarten days. I used to ask my mum for money to buy them at times,” he recalled with nostalgia. Much older now, Ashraf and his peers are content with watching little kids in the neighborhood play with the firecrackers while they sit back and reminisce over their past pyrotechnical exploits.

“I have outgrown it; firecrackers are common among kids and teenagers.”

In Pakistan, age isn’t a barrier to the use of firecrackers. Kids, teenagers, and even adults are all involved. At 26, Naseebullah has no qualms concerning the use of fireworks.

“I used it during the last Eid,” he told OnIslam.net. According to the IT specialist, firecrackers are used in Pakistan to celebrate major events like the two Eids, marriage ceremonies, and major sporting events.

“Eid provides an opportunity for relatives and friends to come together after long separations, and firecrackers really help to liven the atmosphere during such rare gatherings,” he stated, adding that peer pressure is another reason behind the ubiquity of the explosive devices.

“The sight of your neighbors’ kids using firecrackers instigates your own kids too and you can’t deny them when they request for it.”

Asked about the possibility of being arrested for indulging in a pastime which has been outlawed in numerous countries around the world, he didn’t feel too concerned. “I live in a rural area. Though the government tries to arrest users, we get away with many things in rural areas.”

In far away Algeria, you need not live in a rural area to be able to use fireworks.

“It’s legal in my country. It’s a normal thing, part of our tradition,” said Dedeche Abderrahmane, a petroleum engineer, to OnIslam.net. “It is very vital to the celebration of Eid; we wait anxiously for Eid in-order to be able to use this.”

The legality of fireworks here means kids do not need to hide them from the cops. Under the supervision of parents, the devices are handled casually and used well into the night. One of the most popular among the kids here is the “Chain-Cracker”, which has the ability to shoot 20 or more rounds of firecrackers non-stop. The cacophony of sounds that accompany its use often makes it difficult for anyone to sleep properly on such nights. For people planning to celebrate the forthcoming Eid in Algeria, they should be prepared to sacrifice some night’s sleep.

Surprisingly, the use of fireworks is not considered a big issue in the kingdom.

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is usually the center of attention during Hajj. With millions of Muslims thronging the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in order to perform the Hajj rites, virtually all countries in the world have at least a citizen in the kingdom during this unique season.

Not to be outshone by their counterparts elsewhere in marking this auspicious moment, Saudi youths also celebrate Eid with fireworks.

“We use lots of fireworks during Eid, especially after the Eid prayer and at night too,” said Anas, a Saudi Arabian student.

Like in most other countries, the scene here is dominated by teenagers. “Fireworks are mostly used by teenagers. I stopped using it some years back because I have outgrown it but once in a while I still play with it just for fun.”

Surprisingly, the use of fireworks is not considered a big issue in the kingdom. Known for its conservative stance against many social issues, it might seem strange to some that the kingdom is yet to crack down on the widespread use of fireworks. “You rarely hear the government speak against it. Though efforts are on to ban it, it is still widely used in the kingdom during Eid,” Anas explained.

Ancient Chinese Technology

(Image Credit: Econewmexico.com)

Though no one knows precisely when the first set of fireworks were produced, there is evidence that fireworks were already in use in ancient China prior to its adoption by other countries.

According to John Bennet, editor of UK based FIREWORKS magazine, the Chinese invented paper and gun powder, two vital components of fireworks. In a bid to scare away evil spirits and demons, they made loud noises at festivals and religious gatherings using firecrackers. By making a fuse out of very thin paper and twisting gunpowder into a long string, reliable firecrackers were produced.

It’s been more than 2,000 years now since the chance discovery and ancient Chinese firecrackers have gone through series of metamorphoses. With the introduction of metallic salts, it became possible to witness colors in fireworks. Colors such as Strontium Red, Sodium Yellow, Copper Blue, and Barium Green are common features in modern day fireworks display.

Considering the reason for its use in ancient China, some people who are intimately aware of this history have strong reservations about the use of fireworks during Eid.

“The roots of fireworks lie in superstitious Chinese beliefs. Eid has nothing to do with evil spirits – there are better ways of celebrating such religious occasions,” fumed Abdbullah, a Malaysian student.

In his view, the money spent on firecrackers could be used to assist less privileged people in various parts of the world. “I don’t know why the Ulama [Islamic Religious Scholars] are not speaking out against such waste. Lots of people have been injured by firecrackers in the past. If you visit my hometown during Eid, you will probably think you are in Baghdad or even Afghanistan.”

But Bennet believes most of the accidents associated with fireworks can be prevented if properly used.

“There are sensible safety instructions which provide advice. Basically, if one reads the instructions on the label of the firework and adhere to this, stand at a safe distance, and never go back to a lit firework, there should be no accidents,” he told OnIslam.net. “Most firework accidents are the result of misuse and this can apply to many items which are sold only to adults.”

Preventing the misuse of fireworks is a tall order. When items originally designed for adults find their way into the hands of kids and teenagers who incidentally are the largest users of fireworks, the implication can be better imagined.

"Most of the available firecracks in the country are smuggled in from neighboring Thailand.

Lots of people were alarmed when the consumer product safety commission of the US published its annual fireworks report in 2005. During the year under review, over 9,000 people were treated for fireworks-related injuries.

More shocking was the fact that children under the age of 15 accounted for 40% of the injuries, 23% of which happened to children below the age of five. These findings were met with outcries in the US and subsequently led to the enactment of restrictive laws by the government. Some states even settled for an outright ban. (Pyro Universe)

Beyond the US, many countries around the world have equally been cracking down on the use of fireworks. “The Malaysian government has been trying hard to control its use. They stopped issuing licenses to dealers sometime in the mid 90’s due to frequent complaints from parents whose kids were losing their limbs. It’s illegal to buy or sell firecrackers now; most of the available ones in the country are smuggled in from neighboring Thailand,” said Malaysia’s Ashraf.

While it is desirable to savor every moment of this unique season, efforts should be made to ensure the limits set by Allah are not transgressed during the course of celebrating. Thanksgiving, stocktaking and sincere repentance should be the watchwords. Above all, the lessons of Hajj and Eid, which is sacrifice and total submission to Allah’s will, should not be lost.
  1. History of Fireworks and Celebrations” FIREWORKS. 2008.
  2. Bradley, Collin. “Firework Injury Statistics” Pyro Universe. 2005.
  3. Bennet, John. “Fireworks through the ages” FIREWORKS. 2008.
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