INDIA FESTIVAL ID-UL-FITR
Celebrated by: Muslims all over India
Significance: Breaking of the fast of the holy month of Ramadan.
Id-ul-Fitr means the 'festival of breaking the fast'. The festival marks the end of the Ramzan period, and usually falls on a new moon night, in the month of April or May on the first day of the Shavval month of the Hijri year (Muslim year). Ramzan is the ninth month in the Muslim calendar. According to legend, the Holy Koran was revealed in this month. The first Eid of the year is known as 'Eid-al-fitr' meaning 'breaking the fast'. The reason behind keeping fast during Ramadan refers to the legend of the Prophet Mohammed who left Mecca and undertook the journey to Medina in 622 AD, to join the other Muslims who had migrated to Medina to escape persecution in Mecca. During this period, he fasted for three days. Many years later, He was to receive a revelation from God, which stated that all followers of the Islam faith fasted for a certain number of days. According to Islamic belief fasting helps to develop self-control and a means of coming closer to Allah. It purifies one's soul. The festival is a day of joy and thanksgiving. 'Eid', which means"festivity" in Arabic, is celebrated after the sighting of the new crescent on the previous evening. Since Éid is celebrated with gift-giving, the highly decorated shops and markets are open till late at night for last minute shoppers. On the eve before Éid, women and children get together to decorate their hands with henna. Staying up late preparing food for the next day, the whole house becomes a hub of activity and excitement.
In the morning every member of the household takes a bath and thereafter attire themselves into new or clean clothes, applies perfume, eats dates or some sweets. Then they go to the mosque for Id prayers. Men attires themselves into white clothes because white symbolizes purity and austerity. Prayers can be read anytime between sunrise and just afternoon. Even women in veil attend the prayers in special chambers. Before the prayer the congregation recites the Takbir(the takbir is an Arabic name for the phrase "Allahu Akbar", a common Arabic expression, which can be translated as "God is Great," "God is Greater," or "God is the greatest"):
Allahu akbr, Allahu akbr
la illaha ila Allah,
wa Allahu akbr, Allahu akbr
wa lillah hilhamd
God is Greatest, God is Greatest
There is no deity but [the One] God
God is Greatest, God is Greatest
and to Him goes all praise
It continues until the start of the Eid prayer. Before the Eid prayer begins, it is customary for every Muslim to pay "Zakat al Fitr", an alms for the month of Ramadan. Charitable gift, called Sadaqah Fitr, is a dole to break the fast. It is to be given to a needy person as thanksgiving. Even one who has not kept the rojas is expected to give alms. The amount to be gifted must be in excess of one's essential needs and free from all encumbrances of debt. Food grains or their cost are permitted to be donated. The Quran also specifies the grain and their quantities. A person should give 3.5 lb of wheat or its flour per head, or 7lb of barley per head or their cost. Do Rakat Namaz is performed.
Women prepare sweets at home. Vermicelli cooked in sweetened milk, is popular. People then go for Id get together and socializing. Some people visit cemeteries and stay there for many hours, often even camping out overnight. This is perhaps to honor their ancestors and to be with their spirits. To a devout Muslim, Id is a time to forget all past grievances. The 30-day fast is broken on Id-ul-Fitr with sumptuous feasts which people embrace each other three times, as is laid down in the Quran. The festival originated when after proclaiming Ramadan as the period of fasting and austerity, Prophet Muhammad announced a day for celebrations to reaffirm the feeling of Id-ul-Fitr brotherhood.
The Eid prayer (salah) is followed by the 'khutba' (sermon) and then a prayer (dua') asking for forgiveness, mercy and help for the plight of Muslims across the world. It is then customary to embrace the persons sitting on either side of you as well as your relatives, friends and acquaintances.
Eid is also the time for reconciliations. Family feuds or disputes are often settled on Eid.
The 'Eid prayer is important for Muslims as it has the merits of the daily prayers and the weekly gathering. On the day of Eid, fasting is forbidden since this day marks the end of the month-long fast. Eid is a family and social event, and so after the Eid prayers people visit each other, exchange gifts, spend time socializing, visiting the sick and offering prayers for the deceased. For those who fasted during the month of Ramadhan, there is a sense of triumph and accomplishment. The month of restraint and spiritual growth followed by this day of extravagance, festivities and celebrations.
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