Know Your Neighbour: Eid al-Fitr

Know Your Neighbour: Eid al-Fitr

We have recently started a new series entitled ‘Know Your Neighbour’ which will provide a short briefing for some of the key religious festivals in the calendar. This is so that you can stay abreast of what major events are approaching for individuals of other faiths and what it all means.

What is Eid al-Fitr?

Eid is a celebration marking the end of Ramadan in which Muslims celebrate the conclusion of their period of fasting. Its name is derived from the Arabic, meaning "festival of breaking of the fast". It's one of the two major holidays in the Islamic year.

When is Eid al-Fitr?

Eid al-Fitr falls on the first day of Shawwal, the month which follows Ramadan in the Islamic calendar. The festival is expected to be on or around July 17 in the UK this year, depending on the sighting of the new moon.

The festival begins when the first sight of the new moon is seen in the sky.

Why is Eid al-Fitr celebrated?

According to a hadith, the festival of Eid al-Fitr was instituted by the Prophet after his journey from Mecca to Medinah.

The hadith says,

When the Prophet arrived in Medinah, he found people celebrated two specific days in which they used to entertain themselves with recreation and merriment. He asked them about the nature of these festivities to which they replied that these days were occasions of fun and recreation. At this, the Prophet remarked that the Almighty has fixed two days [of festivity] instead of these for you which are better than these: Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.

Because Eid takes place at the end of Ramadan, Muslims are celebrating the end of fasting, but they are also thanking Allah for the help and strength that he gave them throughout the previous month to help them practise self-control.

How is Eid al-Fitr celebrated?

Before Eid, during the last few days of Ramadan, each Muslim family gives a determined amount as a donation to the poor. This donation is usually food to ensure that the needy can have a holiday meal and participate in the celebration. 

It is also important to remember that for Muslims Eid is not just a time for celebrating but also a time of forgiveness and making amends.

On the day of Eid itself, Muslims gather early in the morning in outdoor locations or mosques to perform the Eid prayer. This consists of a sermon followed by a short congregational prayer.

After the Eid prayer, Muslims usually visit various family and friends, give gifts (especially to children), and make phone calls to distant relatives to give well-wishes for the holiday. These activities traditionally continue for three days.

Eid is always a colourful celebration as Muslims decorate their homes and wear new clothes.

Of course, there is also a special celebratory meal that is eaten during daytime. This is the first daytime meal Muslims will have had in a month. Eid is also known as "Sweet Eid" because of the amount and variety of sweet dishes eaten as Muslims celebrate.

Sumayya Usmani, who writes the food blog My Tamarind Kitchen and moved from Pakistan to the UK in 2007, told the New York Times: “On Eid, you are encouraged to eat all the things that are too rich, too sweet, too creamy for a normal day.

"The whole day is dedicated to rejoicing in having food on the table."

You can see some great pictures of Eid in years gone by here

Author: Mr Tim Burton-Jones

Date: 15 July 2015