There are only two feasts in the Muslim calendar: Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.
They are unlike the festivals of other religions because these two feasts of Islam come after the main religious celebration has taken place and they are, on the whole, celebrated quietly with family.
Both feasts present a challenge to those who are new to Islam, because new Muslims often don't have that Muslim family to celebrate with and so they can be left feeling alone and even quite sad when they feel they should be rejoicing and making merry. So what are new Muslims to do at Eid to make the most of the feast?
It is partly because of what they have been used to that Eid comes as a surprise. In the West, there is a long run-up to the Christian celebration of Christmas every December. This sometimes starts as far back as August, when the shops begin to get into Christmas mode and start displaying their Christmas goods.
After so many months of expectation, then, Christmas Day itself can be something of a let-down. Once the presents have been opened on Christmas morning and the family has gone to church, that's it! Endless repeats of old films on the TV doesn't sate the appetite that has been tempted for so long.
Similarly, the Christian feast of Easter comes after a period of forty days of Penance, which has been undertaken in preparation for Easter itself. When Easter Day arrives it can be a disappointment.
|After a whole month of fasting from dawn to sunset, followed by nights filled with extra prayers and then family visits, this Eid is quite a contrast|
The two Muslim feasts are quite different. The four-day feast of Eid al-Adha (the feast of Sacrifice) comes when the main rituals of the Hajj (the once in a lifetime pilgrimage to Makkah enjoined on all Muslims able to perform it) are over.
In thanksgiving for the Hajj, and in solidarity with all those who perform it, Muslims sacrifice a sheep or a lamb in imitation of what Prophet Abraham did in place of his son, Ishmael. There are community prayers on each of the four days of the feast, but other than that it is a quiet time to spend with the family.
The three-day Eid al-Fitr (the feast of fast-breaking) is even more simple. After a whole month of fasting from dawn to sunset, followed by nights filled with extra prayers and then family visits, this Eid is quite a contrast. It is certainly a contrast to what western minds would expect from a celebration. But therein lies the key to celebrating Eid.
Don't let yourself be fooled by media and marketing experts into thinking that celebrating a religious festival is about buying more and more things and having bigger and more expensive parties.
These same groups often place an unbearable pressure on parents to come up with gifts for their children which are often quite beyond their modest means. No, Islam is eminently practical and simple.
Islam, too, stands on its head the material thinking of this world. After a month of spiritual exertion in Ramadan, this Eid is a chance to calm down and return to the normal routines of the rest of the year. The whole year cannot be lived at the heightened pitch of Ramadan.
Eid al-Fitr allows the Muslim family give thanks for Ramadan and for all of Allah's blessings. It is a chance, too, to close the door for a few days and to enjoy one another's company in the presence of Allah.
In celebrating Eid, then, we are not given weeks or months of expectation, leading to something great happening at the end. Ramadan has been the time of celebration and of coming closer to Allah. The feast of Eid al-Fitr is the time to give thanks for that. Prophet Muhammad would gather the Muslim community and lead them in the special Eid prayers early in the morning. In imitation of this, we do the same ourselves.
|The Eid celebration is a chance to take one's breath after the rigors of Ramadan and to thank Allah Almighty for the gift of being Muslim.|
At London's Central Mosque, for example, Muslims from what seem to be every nation on earth will gather early in the morning for the Eid prayers. They will put on their best clothes and head for the mosque. This is not only a wonderful example for the rest of London to see, but for Muslims, it is a reminder that Islam is for all people and for every nation.
The Eid celebration is a chance to take one's breath after the rigors of Ramadan and to thank Allah Almighty for the gift of being Muslim. Those new to Islam, whether they belong to a Muslim family or not, can join in this sentiment with all their hearts.
Allah has called them to be Muslim. From the beginning of time, He has intended that from all the people on the face of the earth He wants them to accept Islam. We don't need tinsel and fairy lights to celebrate that. We don't need expensive gifts.
We can certainly put on our best clothes to go and pray at the mosque, but if getting to the mosque is a problem at such an hour because of our work commitments, we can still offer the prayers of our heart and celebrate the feast with great joy.
During the sermon he gave at the last Hajj which he performed, Prophet Muhammad reminded the Muslim faithful of a wonderful thing. "Remember that you will indeed meet your Lord," he told them. "I leave behind me two things, the Quran and my example.
If you follow them you will not go astray." Surely that is a great cause for us to celebrate this feast. But he even went on to say more. "O, people, listen to my words. Know that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that all Muslims constitute one brotherhood." Being brothers and sisters to one another is not just a nice idea in Islam. It is what we really are.
As Muslims we read in the Holy Qur'an:
[…with Him are the keys of the unseen; none knows them but He. He knows what is in land and sea; not a leaf falls, but He knows it. Not a grain in the deep darkness of the earth, not a thing green or dry But it is in a clear Book.] (Al-An`am 6:59)
As New Muslims, or as Muslims who have been within the fold of Islam since birth, we can all take to heart this verse as we celebrate the feast of Eid al-Fitr. Allah knows everything about us. He knows our weakness and our strength.
We have broken our fast for another year. Insha'Allah (God willing), during the year we will live all those promises and resolutions we made, with His help. We will have become better people, better Muslims, as a result of our fasting for Allah's sake. Whether the feast is a public holiday or not where we live, let us now spend a few quiet days to take in what we have learned during Ramadan and to celebrate and give praise and thanks that we are Muslim. Eid Mubarak!
Related Links:Eid Is Here
Have A Splendid Eid
Muslims, Eids, and Having Fun
Prophet Muhammad in Eid
Ramadan in Non-Muslim Countries