The moment the new moon is sighted, which marks the end of the month of Ramadan, many Muslim youth can be seen hitting the streets like a scene from The Fast and the Furious. Loud music blaring from rented sports cars, free mixing and a chaos ensues. The mosques which were populated by the youth throughout the month are left empty and the Shisha bars are back to business. This is a common description of some of the Muslim youth’s activities the night before Eid in numerous Western cities which is traditionally known as Chaand Raat.
Young Muslim men and children clad in their traditional thobes and prayer caps walking to the mosques to offer their prayers, supplicating late into the night was a common sight in many parts of the country during the month of Ramadan. However, now a very different atmosphere is reflected to the very sombre and spiritual aura that was felt.
To the outside world it may appear as if this was a celebration to mark the end of a long, burdensome and taxing month wherein one forgoes food and drink as well as other comforts. This is certainly not the case as the month of Ramadan is not a burden for Muslims, rather it is to celebrate one’s gratitude for being enabled to undertake a spiritual journey and reach newer heights which a believer will strive to maintain and progress in the coming year; it is a celebration of continuation rather than to mark an end. Thus, unlike other festivities, Eid is a truly unique celebration which has a much deeper philosophy that extends beyond any material gains.
Generally, celebrations across the world are commonly associated with overindulgence in alcohol, music, food and gift giving. By the end of such celebration it is quite the norm to lose oneself in the merry making, thus detaching oneself from the daily stresses and struggles of the world. On the other hand, for a Muslim, true bliss, joy and solace is found through communion with God and serving His creation – Eid being no exception.
Aye! It is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts can find comfort.[i]
Therefore, throughout the year, Muslims are to observe 5 obligatory prayers in a single day, however, on Eid, apart from the 5 obligatory prayers, an additional prayer has been added, providing an extra opportunity to engage in worship. It is also encouraged to recite the Takbeerat [glorifying the greatness of God] on Eid as was the tradition of the Holy Prophetsa.
The essence of the teachings of Islam can be summarised into two objectives: fulfilling the due rights of God, and fulfilling the rights to his creation. The celebration of Eid encapsulates both aspects. While festivities are a time of celebration and happiness for many, but for others it can serve as a potent reminder of what little, or nothing, they have to celebrate due to their difficult and straitened circumstances. Thus, as part of Eid it is mandatory upon all Muslims to make a financial contribution which must be done prior to the Eid prayer, so that the poor and destitute members of society can equally be included in the celebration.
The spirit of unity and togetherness is further epitomised through the joyous occasion of Eid. Through the means of worship, Islam has established progressive stages to achieve this unity. Whereas voluntary prayers can be offered at any time in one’s home, Muslims are instructed to observe the obligatory prayers in the local mosque each day. This encourages the Muslims of the locality to meet each other, exchange ideas and share knowledge. Then, once a week for the Friday prayers, the Muslims should gather in the main mosque of the township, since it could be difficult for the people of the whole town to gather on a daily basis. Subsequently, God Almighty has prescribed the Eid prayers once a year, which are to take place at a regional level to promote interaction between Muslims on an even wider scale – the Hajj of course being the ultimate pilgrimage in which Muslims around the world unite, once in their lifetime.
While the spirit of Eid is to create unity amongst people, it is most unfortunate that nowadays many Muslims have lost the true essence of this holy and sacred day. Despite living in the same locality, they offer the Eid prayer at different times in the same mosque under different Imams. Some even celebrate Eid on entirely different days, even though the moon sighting is the same for that specific region. Others, are completely oblivious of their less fortunate brethren while they immerse themselves in lavish extravagances.
Nevertheless, this division was foretold by the Holy Founder of Islamsa, prophesising the deplorable state and division among his followers. However, in such calamitous times, he left a beacon of hope: the appearance of a Messiah in the latter days, who would ultimately unite humanity under one banner. Thus, his appearance signifies the manifestation of God’s grace, and so the celebration of Eid in a wider sense can also be likened to the era of the Promised Messiah’s advent as was revealed to the Promised Messiahas:
‘Felicitation on the coming of the Eid [Festival]. It is Eid [Festival], celebrate it or not.’[ii]
More about the authors:
Shahzad Ahmed is an Imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and serves as the Editor of the Islam and Contemporary Issues section. He also regularly appears as a panellist on MTA International discussing Islam.
Zafir Malik serves as the Deputy Editor of the Islam and Contemporary Issues section. He is also Imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and regularly appears as a panellist on MTA International and Voice of Islam radio station answering questions on Islam.
[i] The Holy Qur’an, 13:29
[ii] Tadhkirah, English Ed. p. 981.