Eid -ul -Fitr is a unique festival. It has no connection with any historical event nor is it related to the changes of seasons or cycles of agriculture. It is not a festival related in any way to worldly affairs. Its significance is purely spiritual. It is the day when the Muslims thank Allah for having given them the will, the strength and the endurance to observe fast and obey His commandment during the holy month of Ramadhan.
This day, in Muslim world, brings rejoicing and happiness. The rejoicing is not, however, at the departure of the month of Ramadhan; it is the happiness which man feels after successfully completing an important task.
So far as the passing away of the month of Ramadhan is concerned, Muslim religious leaders of the early days of Islam always felt profound sorrow when it came to an end, as they felt that they were being deprived of the spiritual blessings which were associated with the month of fasting.
Eid-ul -Fitr is related to such a month of blessings, because it is on this day that the strict restrictions of the preceding month are lifted. Unfortunately, in some places, this resumption of the normal activities is misinterpreted as a licence to indulge in activities prohibited in Islam, like gambling, etc.
Fortunately, such trends are not common yet; but such people should be made to understand the significance of Eid -ul-Fitr. Religious observances of the Eid-ul-Fitr are designed to offer thanks to Allah that He helped us in accomplishing the aim of Ramadhan.
Surely, it would be an affront to Allah if anybody, after thanking Him for completing that spiritual training, goes right away sinning against Him! Had such person known the meaning and purpose of Eid-ul -Fitr, he could not have indulged in such un-Islamic activities. Eid-ul-Fitr can be interpreted as a three-fold blessing:
First it provides one more occasion for the Muslims to thank God and remember His blessings.
Secondly, it affords an opportunity of spiritual stock-taking, after the month of Ramadhan. A Muslim can now ponder over the strength (or weakness) of his will power; he can see, in the mirror of Ramadhan, what were the strong (or weak) points of his character, because under the stress of fasting, the hidden qualities (or evils) of human character come to surface in such clear way which is, perhaps, not possible otherwise.
Thus a man gets a chance of self-diagnosis of the traits of his character, which probably no one else may ever detect.
Thirdly, it enjoins the well-to -do persons to share a portion of what they have with their poor brethren. On the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr, a Muslim is obliged to give to the needy food-stuff at the rate of a prescribed weight, on behalf of himself and of every member of his family, including servants and guests who were sheltered under his roof on that night. It would certainly be pleasing to God if we did not forget these lessons after Eid-ul-Fitr.
Incidentally, here the difference between religious and materialistic outlooks becomes sharper. Religion exhorts a man to give, by his own free will, a share of his wealth to those who are less fortunate, and to give it for obtaining the blessings of God. Materialism teaches him to snatch from others whatever they have got without any regard to the moral or ethical questions involved.
Thus, the religion tries to strengthen the highest qualities of the human character; materialism strives to make him the slave of the lowest animal instincts degrading him to the level of the beasts.
On this day, special prayers are held the world over, between sunrise and noon, when the Muslims assemble, in large congregations, wearing their best dresses standing shoulder to shoulder, demonstrating for everyone the universal brotherhood which is another distinguishing feature of Islam — the religion of God.
In East Africa, special Eid barazas. are held in which the Muslims, as well as the non-Muslims, participate whole-heartedly. Thus, it provides the country-men with a chance to strengthen the ties of brotherly love and a national unity.
Let us re-dedicate our life to the cause of humanity, which is the best way to demonstrate our love of God. Let us resolve that our energies, in the coming year, will be directed towards strengthening a society based on mutual respect, brotherly love, and universal understanding.
Let us decide that, in the coming year, we will build a social order which would bring not only the material benefits, but also the spiritual satisfaction.
And, in the end, let us pray to God in these words:
“O Lord, make us clean from our errors by the close of the month of Ramadhan, and take us out of our sins when our fast comes to end. And bless us on this Eid day, the day of our festival and our break-fast; and let it be the best day, which passed over us, and forgive us our sins known and unknown.”
Eid-ul-Fitr is the most important festival in the Islamic calendar. The day does not mark any historical event or episode; but its existence provides the Muslim for an occasion to offer thanks to Allah for having given him the strength and the will to observe fast during the holy month of Ramadhan.
It is also an occasion for prayers when the Muslims gather in large congregations, standing shoulder to shoulder, to demonstrate the equality and equity which is the inherent feature of Islamic society all over the world.
But the greatest significance of this day of rejoicing lies in the fact that on this day every Muslim is enjoined to give the needy food at the rate of the prescribed weight per every member of his household, including servants and guests who were sheltered under his roof the preceding evening.
Eid-ul-Fitr then serves a three-fold purpose: It places upon every Muslim the obligation to remember Allah and offer Him thanks; it affords him an opportunity of spiritual stock-taking in that he can now ponder over the strength of his will or the weakness of his character, as the case may be, which manifested itself during the preceding month; it also is the day for the haves to share a portion of what they have with the have-nots.
And, for those persons who disobeyed this command of Allah this is the day of an end to the month-long pangs of conscience, inner struggle and continuous realisation of the feebleness of their character. No more will they have to argue, without much conviction, against fasting‘. No more will they have to think up an excuse every morning for not fasting’. No more will they have to say “Oh, but fasting is old-fashioned; it was not meant for the modern world.”
It is not my object here to explain the philosophy of fasting. Almost everyone realises the spiritual, social, scientific and medical benefits which are derived from fasting. But so far as a Muslim, a true believer, is concerned, it should be sufficient that fasting is prescribed in the Holy Book, and as such is the command of Allah. Should one seek to justify Allah’s commands?
The measure of a man’s love for his Creator is his unquestioned obedience to the commands of the Creator. When for whole month a Muslim has obeyed Allah, unquestioningly, without complaint, without regret, and ,when he has spent his time in prayers, in humility and in charity, should one wonder, if at the end of this period, the Creator may Himself turn to such creature of His and say: “It is now for thee to ask for Me to give.”
Ramadhan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, is the period when man is subjected to a supreme test. Without compulsion, without coercion, the Muslims throughout the world obey God; and every day from dawn to sunset abstain not only from sensual pleasures but even from the necessities of life like food and drink. Some do this in shivering cold, some in burning heat, some do it where days are short and others where days are interminably long. The rich fast as well as the poor, the master as well as the servant; the parents as well as the child; the ruler as well as the subject. They all fast, regardless of the colour or their social position.
Having done this, for one whole month, today on this auspicious day of Eid-ul-Fitr, every Muslim should be ready to face the year that lies ahead with renewed strength, greater understanding and universal goodwill. He has fasted to acquire piety, discipline and self-control. Now the habit of unquestioning obedience to God is cultivated in his heart and mind. He is now trained to accept the commands of Allah, in the remaining eleven months of the year, with the same unwavering loyalty. He has emerged from the month of Ramadhan with a new personality and a stronger character, confident of his ability to subordinate his desire to his will, his emotion to his intellect.
No longer will it be difficult for him to refrain from intoxicating drinks; no longer will he turn away from his less fortunate brethren; no longer will he fail to understand and appreciate the pain of hunger, the pangs of thirst.
So the training period of Ramadhan has come to an end. Now we are entering the era of normal activities of life. If the lessons learnt in Ramadhan have left their marks upon our character, we are entitled to enjoy Eid-ul-Fitr.