It’s a greeting that echoes throughout Muslim households and mosques around the world at this time of year; though this year it may echo more so over the phone and internet. It means ‘Blessed Eid,’ a common phrase to congratulate one another on the dawning of the most prominent Muslim festival of the year. The Arabic word ‘`Eid’ literally means a day which returns. Thus, Eid refers to an oft-returning festival or happy occasion..
There are two Eids celebrated by Muslims in every lunar calendar year; Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha.
Eid-ul-Fitr marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan; Fitr meaning to break, end or open the fast. The month of Ramadan is one for spiritual uplift, wherein Muslims fast from dawn till dusk, with heightened attention towards the obligatory and supererogatory prayers, studying the Holy Qur’an, giving alms and serving humanity. It is upon the conclusion of the holy month that Eid-ul-Fitr, is celebrated.
Eid-ul-Adha, or the festival of sacrifice, is celebrated ten weeks after Eid-ul-Fitr upon the conclusion of Hajj the holy pilgrimage to Mecca, one of the five pillars of Islam; a journey undertaken at least once in a lifetime by all Muslims who are able. This Eid, as the name suggests, draws attention to the spirit of sacrifice, specifically commemorating the sacrifices of the prophet Abraham (as) and his son Ishmael (as). Upon seeing a dream in which he was ordered to sacrifice his son Ishmael (as), both father and son submitted themselves to the Will of God and continued according to the Divine instruction. Just as Abraham (as) was about to sacrifice his son, God commanded him to stop, saying that he had fulfilled that which God had intended. It is this very spirit of sacrifice and obedience to the Will of God which is commemorated by Eid-ul-Adha.
What is the Significance of Eid?
Some may see Eid to simply be a time of merriment, large gatherings, feasts and enjoyment. Although these things are an aspect of Eid celebrations, there is a much greater significance behind the concept of Eid. Historically speaking, Eid signifies happiness that stems from receiving the grace of God, His bounties and His blessings.
Eid has specifically been mentioned in the Holy Qur’an only once, in regards to Jesus (as). It is stated:
قَالَ عِیۡسَی ابۡنُ مَرۡیَمَ اللّٰھُمَّ رَبَّنَاۤ اَنۡزِلۡ عَلَیۡنَا مَآئِدَۃً مِّنَ السَّمَآءِ تَکُوۡنُ لَنَا عِیۡدًا لِّاَوَّلِنَا وَ اٰخِرِنَا وَ اٰیَۃً مِّنۡکَ وَ ارۡزُقۡنَا وَ اَنۡتَ خَیۡرُ الرّٰزِقِیۡنَ قَالَ اللّٰہُ اِنِّیۡ مُنَزِّلُہَا عَلَیۡکُمۡ
‘Said Jesus, son of Mary, ‘O Allah, our Lord, send down to us a table from heaven spread with food that it may be to us a festival, to the first of us and to the last of us, and a Sign from Thee; and provide sustenance for us, for Thou art the Best of sustainers.’ Allah said, ‘Surely, I will send it down to you,’’[i]
The early Christians suffered many hardships and had to make many sacrifices. However, these all cumulated into the descendance of God’s grace and bounties. Jesus (as) himself called the occasion of benefitting and taking advantage of God’s grace as a time of ‘Eid.’
As for the time of the Holy Prophet (sa), his advent and the advent of the religion of Islam itself was perhaps the greatest manifestation of God’s bounties and blessings; thus his entire dispensation cannot be regarded anything short of the greatest Eid. In fact, the very revelation of the Holy Qur’an, the complete and most superior teaching, began in the holy month of Ramadan; making it that much more fitting for there to be a celebration at the end of the month. This is perfectly encapsulated by the following narration:
‘Narrated ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab: Once a Jew said to me, ‘O the chief of believers! There is a verse in your Holy Book Which is read by all of you (Muslims), and had it been revealed to us, we would have taken that day (on which it was revealed as a day of celebration.’ ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab asked, ‘Which is that verse?’ The Jew replied, ‘This day I have perfected your religion For you, completed My favor upon you, And have chosen for you Islam as your religion.’ (5:4) ‘Umar replied, ’No doubt, we know when and where this verse was revealed to the Prophet. It was Friday and the Prophet (sa) was standing at ‘Arafat (i.e. the Day of Hajj)’’[ii]
Hazrat Umar (ra) attested to the fact the day on which God declared Islam to be His chosen religion, symbolizing perhaps God’s greatest favor upon this world, was indeed a day of Eid. It was revealed on a Friday, the holiest day of the week for Muslims, considered a sort of Eid in its own right. Furthermore, it was revealed on the day of Hajj, the blessed pilgrimage signifying blessings of epic proportions. Thus, on account of its sheer blessings, this day was also considered an Eid.
Centuries later, the advent of the Promised Messiah (as) came after a long period of darkness, not only within the Muslim world, but the world as a whole, as it veered towards falsities and Godlessness. In order to remind the world of the true essence of Islam, the same religion He declared to be most complete and His chosen religion, God manifested the long-awaited Messiah in the person of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian (as). He was the bearer of a Divine torch in a time of grave darkness. He was a manifestation of God’s promise to the believers that, ‘He brings them out of every kind of darkness into light.’[iii]And so, the advent of the Promised Messiah (as) was no ordinary time, rather as God Himself revealed to Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as),
‘Felicitation on the coming of the Eid. It is Eid, celebrate it or not.’[iv]
The Second Caliph, Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad (ra) elaborates:
‘The appearance of the Prophets is an Eid. That is, by their appearance, the days of the manifestation of God’s grace descend upon the earth and the seed of progress is sown.The seed grows slowly into such a big tree that the whole world benefits from its fruits and shade.’[v]
Thus, Eid is historically a time of rejoicing upon receiving the blessings and bounties of God, to be aware of them and to thank Him for them. So beyond mere celebrations, Eid is a time for remembrance, and thankfulness to God Almighty.
The Essence of Eid-ul-Fitr
Having understood the precepts of Eid, now the matter at hand is understanding them in relation to the Eid celebrated upon the completion of Ramadan. In light of its background, it is clear that Eid-ul-Fitr is not a celebration simply because Ramadan, a month of sacrifice and prayer, has come to an end. Rather, the true essence of Eid-ul-Fitr can be understood, by understanding the true essence of Ramadan. The Holy Prophet (sa) said:
‘All the deeds of Adam’sas sons are for them, except fasting which is for Me, and I am the reward for it.’[vi]
Obviously, fasting is one of the primary proponents of the month of Ramadan. Thus the sacrifice of abstaining from food and drink for the entirety of the day, supplementing an increase in prayer and worship, is all for a singular cause; to attain God – His nearness and pleasure. How then, does Eid-ul-Fitr relate to the month of Ramadan? Eid symbolizes the cumulation of the lessons learned, the changes adopted, and the nearness to God attained during the month of Ramadan. It is in essence, a celebration of attaining the reward of God.
Ramadan is a month of heightened worship. When describing the supererogatory pre-dawn prayers of the Holy Prophet (sa) during Ramadan, his beloved wife Aisha (ra) narrated that they were beautiful and longer in length than usual.[vii] Thus, upon the completion of a month focused on the worship of God and the attainment of His pleasure, Eid is not a celebration of it being over, but is a reflection of the lessons learned in it. In a message on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr, the Fifth Caliph and worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) said,
‘It is my hope and prayer that we continue to practice the good deeds that we observed during Ramadan and turn them into a permanent feature of our lives. Only then can we say that we are celebrating a true Eid and fulfilling its real purpose.’[viii]
Eid is a day that embodies heightened worship. It is found from the Sunnah or practice of the Holy Prophet (sa) that he would recite the following Takbeer (glorification of God) throughout the days of Eid:
اللّٰہُ اَکْبَرُ اللّٰہُ اَکْبَرُ لَا اِلٰہَ اِلَّا اللّٰہُ وَ اللہُ اَکْبَرُ اللّٰہُ اَکْبَرُ وَ لِلّٰہِ الْحَمْدُ
Allah is the Greatest; Allah is the Greatest. There is none worthy of worship except Allah; Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest and all Praise belongs to Him.
Thus, on top of the constant remembrance of God one is enjoined to do throughout the day, Muslims are encouraged to act upon this practice of the Holy Prophet (sa) as well, and in reciting this prayer, increase their remembrance of God on Eid.
Then, Muslims are taught to offer five obligatory prayers on a daily basis. However, in order to signify the habit of increased worship inculcated in the month of Ramadan, there is a sixth prayer on the day of Eid; the Eid prayer.
Even within the prayer itself, there is symbolism of heightened worship, of giving thanks to God for the opportunity to worship Him. The Muslim prayer begins with the declaration Allahu Akbar, Allah is the greatest, while raising both hands to the ears, then each subsequent rak’at (unit of prayer) begins with the declaration Allahu Akbar. During the Eid prayer, in the first rak’at, the declaration Allahu Akbar is repeated seven, and in the second rak’at it is declared five times, as opposed to once each time. Not only is this another symbol of the heightened worship of God inculcated in Ramadan, it is a heartfelt expression of gratitude, for having been given such a beautiful opportunity to attain His nearness.
Thus, Eid serves as an expression of the habits learned in Ramadan and an opportunity to give thanks and glorify God.
Another lesson taught in the month of Ramadan is an increased focus towards the service of humanity, especially through giving alms. It is narrated that the Holy Prophet (sa) was the most generous amongst all people, and he would be even more generous in the month of Ramadan. In fact, he would give alms in the month of Ramadan quicker than the speed of storming winds.[ix]Thus, as Muslims strive to adopt this habit in Ramadan, the same is reflected in the celebration of Eid.
The Holy Prophet (sa) prescribed Sadaqat-ul-Fitr, alms that are to be given before the Eid prayer. Hazrat Ibn Abbas (ra) relates:
‘The Holy Prophet ٰ(sa) deemed Sadaqat-ul-Fitr obligatory upon Muslims. It is a means of purifying the fasting person from idle talk and foul language and also to feed the poor.’[x]
Not only is Eid a time for rejoicing, but is also to carry on the sense of understanding for the less fortunate brought about by fasting. His Holiness (aba) explains:
‘We are living in an era where much of mankind is suffering and there is ever-increasing conflict in the world. Thus, on this day of happiness, we must remember those who are less fortunate and open our hearts to all humanity. May we feed the hungry and support those who are vulnerable and deprived.’[xi]
And so, one look at the rites and rituals of Eid, and a complete image of the essence of Ramadan, its lessons and its purpose can be seen.
Merriment on Eid
Along with the spiritual enjoyments of the Eid celebrations, there is also an aspect of merriment. As it is seen from the example of the Holy Prophet (sa), Eid was a time for enjoyment.
Hazrat Aisha (ra) narrates that it was Eid day, and she along with two other girls were singing songs. The Holy Prophet (sa) was also in the same vicinity, lying down, and did not object to their singing. Hazrat Abu Bakr (ra) entered the home, and upon hearing the girls singing, immediately objected, scolding them for singing in the home of the Holy Prophet (sa). The Holy Prophet (sa) stopped him and said.
‘O Abu Bakr! There is an Eid for every nation and this is our Eid.’[xii]
Similarly, on the day of Eid there was a showcase being held of displaying talent with spears and shields. It is recorded that the Holy Prophet (sa) took Hazrat Aisha (ra) to watch and enjoy this display.[xiii]
The blessed example of the Holy Prophet (sa), shows that Eid is most definitely a celebration, including enjoyment and merriment. It is according the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (sa) that on Eid day, one bathes, wears new or clean clothes, and applies fragrance before going to the mosque for the Eid prayer. Then traditionally, families get together enjoying each other’s company and a great meal. Even these aspects of Eid are in place, so that one may give thanks to God. Having experienced the hardships of fasting, and being one with the realities that so many face around the world, one thanks God for He has blessed them with.
Eid in Lockdown
Eid will certainly look different this year, as much of the world remains under some form of lockdown restrictions due to the current pandemic. Otherwise, Eid is synonymous with large gatherings at the mosque for prayers and subsequent gatherings of family and friends. It is interesting to note, that even under normal circumstances, the practices of Eid are conducive with maintaining a healthy environment. The practice of bathing, wearing clean clothes and applying fragrance, especially emphasized on a day where there are to be large gatherings of people, such as Eid and the Friday prayer, carry with them a deeper philosophy. The Promised Messiah (as) states:
‘The instruction to make use of fragrance on the two Eids and on Friday is for this very purpose. The actual reason is that where there are large congregations, there is a danger of the spreading of lth. Therefore, bathing, clean clothes and fragrance, will prevent the spread of noxious matter and filth’[xiv]
Part of the service to humanity which Eid embodies is also exercising caution for the health of others. This caution will need to be exercised more during this year’s Eid-ul-Fitr than perhaps ever before; to the extent that there will be no gatherings in mosques and family gatherings may be limited to simply the members of the household. It will certainly be a significant change, as Imam Shahrukh Abid from Canada, looking ahead to this year’s Eid celebrations says,
‘Eid will have to be offered at home as we will not be able to gather at the mosque which obviously would be a first time for most of us. Since it won’t be celebrated as a community there will be a noticeable difference and perhaps slightly less excitement especially for the youth. But in any case, we will follow the instructions of our beloved Caliph (aba).’
The Calph’s (aba) instructions have been clear. In his Friday Sermon delivered on May 22, 2020, he emphasized, as he has done throughout this pandemic that even as lockdown restriction may begin to ease, every Ahmadi should completely adhere to the laws and restrictions set by their respective governments. As for this year’s Eid-ul-Fitr, mosques around the world mostly remain closed. The few which have started to open are only allow a limited number of people, uncharacteristic of the normally large Eid gatherings.
But even as the communal aspect of Eid may not be there this year, the true essence of Eid still remains. Eid prayers can be offered at home as a family, the Takbeer can still be recited throughout the day, Sadaqat-ul-Fitr can still be given; and for Ahmadis all around the world, the live Eid address delivered by His Holiness (aba) can still be watched and listened to. Thus Eid, in its true essence, a reflection of the lessons learned in Ramadan, can still be celebrated despite the current situation of the world. Thus, just like any other, this will be a most blessed Eid; Eid Mubarak!
[i]The Holy Qur’an Chapter 5 Verses 115-116
[iii]The Holy Qur’an Chapter 2 Verse 258
[iv]Tadhkirah, English Ed. P. 981
[v]Khutbat-e-Mahmud Vol. 1 pp. 163-164
[vii]Bukhari Kitab Salat-ut-Tarawih
[viii]Eid Message of His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad Khalifatul Masih V (aba), Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Press and Media Office, June 4, 2019
[x]Sunan Abu Dawood Kitab-uz-Zakat
[xi]Eid Message of His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad Khalifatul Masih V (aba), Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Press and Media Office, June 4, 2019
[xiv]Malfuzat English Ed. Vol.1 p. 254