Eid al-Fitr – ‘Holiday of Breaking the Fast’

Eid al-Fitr (/ˌiːd əl ˈfɪtər, -trə/; Arabic: عيد الفطر, romanized: ʿĪd al-Fiṭrlit. ‘Holiday of Breaking the Fast’, IPA: [ʕiːd al ˈfitˤr]) is the earlier of the two official holidays celebrated within Islam (the other being Eid al-Adha). The religious holiday is celebrated by Muslims worldwide because it marks the end of the month-long dawn-to-sunset fasting of Ramadan. It falls on the first day of Shawwal in the Islamic calendar; this does not always fall on the same Gregorian day, as the start of any lunar Hijri month varies based on when the new moon is sighted by local religious authorities. The holiday is known under various other names in different languages and countries around the world. The day is also called Lesser Eid, or simply Eid.

Eid al-Fitr has a particular salat (Islamic prayer) that consists of two rakats (units) generally performed in an open field or large hall. It may only be performed in congregation (jamāʿat) and features six additional Takbirs (raising of the hands to the ears while saying “Allāhu ʾAkbar”, meaning “God is the greatest”) in the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam: three at the start of the first rakat and three just before rukūʿ in the second rakat. Other Sunni schools usually have 12 Takbirs, similarly split in groups of seven and five. In Shia Islam, the salat has six Takbirs in the first rakat at the end of qira’a, before rukūʿ, and five in the second. Depending on the juristic opinion of the locality, this salat is either farḍ (فرض, obligatory), mustaḥabb (strongly recommended) or mandūb (مندوب, preferable). After the salat, Muslims celebrate the Eid al-Fitr in various ways with food (“Eid cuisine”) being a central theme, which also gives the holiday the nickname “Sweet Eid” or “Sugar Feast”.

History

According to Muslim tradition Eid al-Fitr was originated by the Islamic prophet Muhammad. According to certain traditions, these festivals were initiated in Medina after the migration of Muhammad from Mecca. Anas, a well-known companion of the Islamic prophet, narrated that, when Muhammad arrived in Medina, he found people celebrating two specific days in which they entertained themselves with recreation and merriment. At this, Muhammad remarked that Allah had fixed two days of festivity: Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.

Native names

LanguageNameMeaning
AcehneseUroë Raya Puasa Rojar Id“Festival of breaking fasting”
AlbanianFitër Bajrami,
Bajrami i vogel
“Big festival”
Arabicعيد الفطر ‘Īd al-Fitr“Happiness of breaking fasting”
Assameseৰমজান ঈদ Romzan Īd“Eid of Ramadan”
Bengaliরোজার ঈদ Rojar Īd“Eid of the fasting”
BosnianRamazanski Bajram
Chinese開齋節(traditional)
开斋节(simplified)
Kāi zhāi jié
“Festival for the end of fasting”
GreekΣεκέρ Μπαϊράμ
HausaKaramar Sallah“Little Eid”
Hebrewעיד אל-פיטר
Hindiछोटी ईद Chhoṭī Īd,
मीठी ईद Mīṭhī Īd
“Little Eid”,
“Sweet Eid
Kashmiriلۄکٕٹ عیٖز“Little Eid”
MalayRaya Aidilfitri
Malayalamഈദുൽ ഫിത്ർ Cheriya Perunnal
Pashtoکوچنې اختر ، کمکې اختر ، وړوکې اختر
Persianجشن روزه‌گشا Jashne rōzeh gosha
Tamilநோன்பு பெருநாள் Nōṉpu perunāḷ
TurkishRamazan Bayramı,
Şeker Bayramı
“Festival of Ramadan”,
“Festival of Sweets”
Urduچھوٹی عید Chhoṭī Īd,
میٹھی عید Mīṭhi Īd
“Little Eid”,
“Sweet Eid”

General rituals

Traditionally, Eid al-Fitr begins at sunset on the night of the first sighting of the crescent moon. If the moon is not observed immediately after the 29th day of the previous lunar month (either because clouds block its view or because the western sky is still too bright when the moon sets), then the holiday is celebrated the following day. Eid al-Fitr is celebrated for one to three days, depending on the country. It is forbidden to fast on the Day of Eid, and a specific prayer is nominated for this day. As an obligatory act of charity, money is paid to the poor and the needy (Zakat-ul-fitr) before performing the ‘Eid prayer.

Eid prayer and eidgah

The Eid prayer is performed by the congregation in an open area such as a field, community center, or mosque. No call to prayer is given for this Eid prayer, and it consists of only two units of prayer, with a variable amount of Takbirs and other prayer elements depending on the branch of Islam observed. The Eid prayer is followed by the sermon and then a supplication asking for Allah’s forgiveness, mercy, peace and blessings for all living beings across the world. The sermon also instructs Muslims as to the performance of rituals of Eid, such as the zakat. The sermon of Eid takes place after the Eid prayer, unlike Friday prayer which comes first before prayer. Some imams believe that listening to the sermon at Eid is optional. After the prayers, Muslims visit their relatives, friends, and acquaintances or hold large communal celebrations in homes, community centers, or rented halls.

Sunni procedure

As ritual dictates, Sunnis praise Allah in a loud voice while going to the Eid prayer:

Allāhu Akbar, Allāhu Akbar, Allāhu Akbar. Lā ilāha illà l-Lāh wal-Lāhu akbar, Allahu akbar walil-Lāhi l-ḥamd

Recitation ceases when they get to the place of Eid or once the Imam commences activities.

The prayer starts by doing “Niyyah” for the prayer, before the Takbir is said by the Imam and his followers. Next, the Takbirat al-Ihram is performed, by saying Allahu Akbar three times, raising hands to the ears and dropping them each time, except for the last when the hands are folded. The Imam then reads the Al-Fatihah, followed by another Surah. The congregation performs ruku and sujud as in other prayers. This completes the first rak’ah.

The congregation rises up and folds their hands for the second rak’ah, after which the Imam recites Surah Fatiha followed by another Surah. After this, three Takbirs are called out just before the ruku, each time raising hands to the ears and dropping them. For the fourth time, the congregation says Allahu Akbar and subsequently goes into the ruku. The rest of the prayer is completed in the regular manner. This completes the Eid prayer. After the prayer, there is a khutbah.

Shia procedure

The prayer starts with the Niyyat followed by five Takbirs. During every Takbir of the first rakat, a special Dua is recited. Then, the Imam recites Sūrat al-Fātiḥah and Surat Al-‘A`lá and the congregation performs Ruku and Sujud as in other prayers. In the second Rakat, the same above steps (five Takbeers, Sūrat al-Fātiḥah and Surat Al-‘A`lá, Ruku and Sujud) are repeated. After the prayer, Khutbah starts.

Post-prayer celebration

During the Eid celebration, Muslims greet each other by saying ‘Eid Mubarak’, which is Arabic for “Blessed Eid”. As it comes after a month of fasting, sweet dishes and foods are often prepared and consumed during the celebration. Muslims typically decorate their homes, and are also encouraged to forgive each other and seek forgiveness. In countries with large Muslim populations, it is normally a public holiday with most schools and businesses closed for the day. Practices differ by country and region.

In the Gregorian calendar

Although the date of Eid al-Fitr is always the same in the Islamic calendar, the date in the Gregorian calendar falls approximately 11 days earlier each successive year, since the Islamic calendar is lunar and the Gregorian calendar is solar. Hence if the Eid falls in the first ten days of a Gregorian calendar year, there will be a second Eid in the last ten days of the same Gregorian calendar year, as happened in 2000 CE. The Gregorian date may vary between countries depending on the local visibility of the new moon. Some expatriate Muslim communities follow the dates as determined for their home country, while others follow the local dates of their country of residence.

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