The joy and merriment of Shawal are here, thanks to our devotion during the month of Ramadan. Still rooted in our common Islamic heritage, we are in the midst of our respective cultural celebration of the festive season.
Yet, this is the moment where the original spirit of Eid might begin to diverge away from what it used to be in the days of ar-Rasul.
Although, by and large, the deviation of meaning may still be within the permissible sunnah boundary, perhaps the time has come for us to remind ourselves of how and why exactly the celebration of Eid was so significant back in time. We might find that we may have overlooked some fundamental attributes of celebrating Eid al-Fitr which led to the birth of a great ummah in the past.
1. Eid al-Fitr was a gift of Divine replacement.
Prior to the advent of Islam, the Arabs already had two festive celebrations, namely, Nayrouz and Mahrajan. Inherited from the Persian tradition and coincided with the change of seasons, these ‘Eids’ were glorified and commemorated with singing, battle dancing and liquor drinking.
One Sahaba, Anas (may Allah be pleased with him), reported that when ar-Rasul came to Madinah, they had two days on which they would play around. Ar-Rasul asked, “What were these two days for?” They answered, “We used to play on these days during the Jahiliyyah (state of ignorance prior to Islam)”.
Ar-Rasul said, “Verily Allah has replaced them for you with something better: the day of (Eid) al-Adha and the day of (Eid) al-Fitr.”
Unlike any other festive seasons, Eid al-Fitr is neither about commemorating a specific figure, nor fabricated by the Muslims. It is a special celebration, gifted to us by Allah. Shouldn’t that make the Eid a season of happiness centred on Allah Himself?
2. Both Eids are marked with the great Ibadah of Islam.
We are created by Allah for the purpose of Ibadah, so why shouldn’t a festive celebration be for the same purpose, too? In case we miss it, both Eids mark the execution and completion of three great Ibadahs: the fasting and Zakat for Eid al-Fitr, and the pilgrimage (Hajj) for Eid al-Adha.
That is how holistic and transcendental Islamic teaching is: even our festivals and celebrations are imbued with Divine values.
Islam is not restricted to merely performing the five daily prayers, or patching an Arabic name to a thing. Islam encompasses each and every fundamental aspect of our lives and not just functioning as a side-dish.
3. The first Eid marked two great victories: The Battle of Badr and the first month-long of fasting.
The obligation of fasting was revealed during the second year after the migration to Madinah (2 Hijriyyah) which witnessed the battle of Badr during the first fasting month of the Sahabah.
The Sahabah were ill-equipped for the battle. Their small number seemed to be no match for the size and capability of the enemy.
Despite the hunger, thirst and the physical demands of the battle, the Sahabah did not turn back even for a second. Some records state that ar-Rasul and the Sahabah broke their fast during the battle as a Rukhsah (concession) from Allah, particularly as they were drawing closer to the enemy (although there is the scholars’ discussion on the authenticity of the record).
Allah s.w.t even relieved them with rain (al-Quran 8:11) and an army of invisible angels (al-Quran 3:123-124) due to their perseverance in enacting what Allah decreed.
With the double victory over both battle and fasting it is understandable that the Eid that year was celebrated with the immense exuberance that it deserved. The utterance of Takbeer was so meaningful, as was the sense of gratitude to Allah for His aid, blessing, and protection. The question is does our Eid today even remotely feel the same?
4. Eid al-Fitr is about a sense of achievement in doing Ibadah!
Today is the age when people talk about how indispensable the elements of self-gratification and sense of achievement are to any successful human endearvour.
Islam has already promised Jannah to the true believers, and now, in addition, Allah has decreed the celebration of Eid al-Fitr as an extra congratulation for our Ramadan accomplishment.
It is a Divine recognition of our natural need for celebrating our accomplishments in a struggle against our basic natural instincts.
5. Eid al-Fitr is not only about us and Allah. It is also about us and people.
If we perceive Islam as emphasising on our relationship with Allah alone, we are dead wrong.
Even in the sunnah of Eid as ar-Rasul taught us, several elements related to the relationship with people are incorporated. Why did ar-Rasul encourage us to follow different paths to and from the Eid prayer? It was so that ar-Rasul (and we too) can meet up with many different needy people to offer them charity while visiting them.
The same goes for the great emphasis laid on attending the congregational Eid prayer that even women in their menses should also make an effort to come along. Not to mention the Islamic injunction of seeking forgiveness, strengthening the Silaturrahim, and paying the compulsory Zakat al-Fitr during the celebration of Eid al-Fitr.
Eid al-Fitr and the ummah
Going through the wisdoms behind Eid al-Fitr should make us realise how the celebratory Eid al-Fitr is regulated for the benefit of the ummah while centring everything on Allah.
The question is are we doing everything, including the work of Da’wah, in total compliance with all that Allah has decreed — the principles, the intentions, the procedures, and even the ethics?
The same goes for Ibadah, for even a festive season ordained by Allah also has a purpose of Ibadah. It is clear that the concept of Ibadah surpasses the commonly understood boundary to embrace the interest of the people.
Our overview of Eid al-Fitr here shows that Allah wants the maintenance of our greatest performance of Ibadah to be inclusive of the issues of the ummah. The question for the Muslim leaders and Daies then is, “Will your Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr, and most importantly, your endeavour in advancing the cause of the ummah still be the same after this”?