Festivals have a great value in human life. Occasional celebration of festivals breaks the monotony of our day-to-day life and brings cheer to all. For enjoyment and merry-making, different religions have established specific time and dates. Islam, too, is not indifferent towards this joyful practice. Eid-ul-Fitr is one of the two annual festivals of Muslims, celebrated the world over. Eid marks the end of Ramzan or fasting and is an act of collective thanksgiving to Allah for the reward of Ramzan and giving strength to the believers to keep fasts and worship for a whole month. it is a day of forgetting old grudges and ill-feeling towards other fellow human beings. it is the occasion for showing joy for the health, strength and opportunities Allah has bestowed on a believer to fulfil his or her obligations of fasting and performing good deeds during the holy month of Ramzan.
Instead of commemorating an event from the past, Islam has prescribed Eid, the first day of shawwal , the tenth month of the Islamic calendar as an annual festival for the Muslims when they themselves undertake a great form of worship, the roza . this is expected to remind a person that he or she should not rely on the accomplishments of one’s ancestors, but, undertake virtuous acts oneself to please the almighty. Islam follows a unique approach in celebrating Eid. unlike the festivals of other religions that usually comprise rejoicing through dancing, singing and playing, Islam has prescribed a simple yet graceful way to observe the festival. it is mandatory for all well-off Muslims to start their day by paying sadaqat-ul-fitr , an obligatory charity to the poor of the society, so that they may enjoy the day along with others and may not be worried about earning their livelihood at least on the day of celebrations. sadaqat-ul-fitr is an obligation for every Muslim, male or female, who owns 613.35 grams of silver or its equivalent, either in the form of money, ornaments, stock-in-trade, or goods beyond one’s normal needs. Every person who owns such an amount has to pay sadaqat-ul-fitr , not only on his behalf but on behalf of his minor children as well. the prescribed amount of sadaqat-ul-fitr is 1.75 kg of wheat or money of the same value. this year the amount is fixed at Rs 30 per person. This charity is given to the poor and needy, widows, disabled persons and orphans. it cannot be adjusted in the wages of the servant, or be given for the construction of a mosque. it is advised that the sadaqat-ul-fitr is paid before performing the ‘Eid prayer’, but it can be paid before the ‘Eid day’. however, if a person has failed to pay on its proper time, he should pay it as soon as possible. after paying the obligatory charity, the Muslims proceed to mosques or Eid gaah to offer the Eid prayers collectively. here they present themselves before Allah, the creator, and offer a special namaz or prayer, to receive the blessings of the almighty. during the prayer, people from different strata of society stand shoulder-to-shoulder and bow and prostrate before Allah. all distinction of class and status disappear. after the prayer, they embrace one another and say ‘’Eid mubarak’’ to one another. since Eid-ul-fitr is the day on which Muslims break their month-long fast, it is preferable to eat before going for the prayer. prophet Muhammad had the habit of eating an odd number of dates before going for Eid prayer. while going to the special namaz, Muslims generally do takbeer, or the glorification of almighty as prescribed in the qur’an, which says, ‘‘you should complete the prescribed period and then you should glorify Allah for having guided you so that you may be grateful to him’’. The believer is expected to follow a particular guidance before performing the special prayers. at the beginning of the day of Eid-ul-fitr , one should wake up early in the morning and after taking a bath, he or she should put on new or best available clothes. after the Namaz, Muslims are supposed to celebrate the day in a responsible manner greeting one another at home and in the neighbourhood. People visit each other’s homes and partake of festive meals with special dishes, beverages and desserts. Children receive gifts and sweets on this special occasion. Islam advises not to violate the limits prescribed and never to indulge in acts that are prohibited, especially on this auspicious day. This article appeared in The Times of India 17 December 2001