THE SIGNIFICANCE OF EID-EL-FITR CELEBRATION

Amina Mohammed, Abuja

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Eid-el-fitr is the Muslim festival of breaking the fast otherwise known as Sallah celebration. It is mostly celebrated on the first day of Shaw’waal, at the completion of one month Ramadan fast which comes in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.

This period is highly significant for the Muslim faithful all over the world as it is believed that it was during the Ramadan fast that the Qur’an was revealed to mankind through the Prophet Muhammad.

The Ramadan period offers Muslim faithful a unique opportunity to devote the entire month in denial of self from basic needs of the day focusing on purifying themselves, getting closer to God and growing in their knowledge and faith.

The Ramadan period instructs Muslims to fast from dawn to dusk abstaining from food, drink, sexual intercourse, foul language, and immoral behavior.  It is also considered an ideal time for Muslims to forgive those who have wronged them.
Traditionally, the fasting begins on the first day of Ramadan and ends on the last day depending on the sighting of the new moon of Shaw’waal or by some astronomical calculations.

Therefore Eid-el-Fitr, the first day of the month of Shaw’waal, is usually a very exciting day for the faithful who considere it a period of celebration and thanksgiving after a month long sacrifice of fasting to the Almighty Allah.

In Muslim-majority countries, the Eid celebration lasts up to three days and is usually observed as public holidays. In Nigeria for instance, the Eid el Fitr is marked with traditional  Sallah durbar held in most Emirates in the Northern parts of the country, with the exchange of gifts amongst both the faithful and friends alike.

On these days Muslims show their real joy for the health, strength and the opportunities of life, which Allah has given to them to fulfil their obligation of fasting and other good deeds during the blessed month of Ramadan.

It is important to note, that the greatest significance of the Eid celebration is the compulsory act of charity Zakat al-Fitr, given to the needy before offering the prayers for Eid.

In line with this, Muslims seek to be more generous by sharing gifts on Sallah day, which also strengthens ties amongst families, friends, and neighbours.

There are many different ways in which countries celebrate the Eid but in general, all Muslims converge on the Eid prayer ground, supplicating to the Almighty Allah for witnessing the great occasion.

Some countries associate Eid with sweets as they refer to it as Sugar or Sweet Festival.  That explains why sweets of various kinds are a common feature of Eid.

Grains of any kind are also given to the less privileged so that they can partake in this special occasion. It enables every home to provide food for its family irrespective of its social class, which is the essence the Zakat-al Fitr time limit of the morning of Sallah before Eid prayers.

This form of charity becomes obligatory from sunset on the last day of fasting and remains obligatory until the beginning of `Eid Prayer, that is, shortly after sunrise on the following day. However, this act of charity can also be performed a couple of days before the `Eid.

After the spread of Islam the jurists permitted its payment from the beginning and middle of Ramadan so as to ensure that the distribution is made before the `Eid prayers in order that the beneficiaries are able to use the gifts to provide for their dependents on the day of `Eid.

One who forgets to pay this Zakat al-Fitr on time should do so as soon as possible even though it will not be counted as Zakat al-Fitr.

Eid or Sallah celebration is solely meant to ensure all Muslims have a sense of belonging and the need to know the pains of the under privileged in the society by sharing gifts which promotes love amongst the community of faithful.

One great lesson of this religious exercise is the love and peace with which Muslim faithful live with each other and their neighbours during the holy month of Ramadan. Muslims are therefore, enjoined to imbibe the injunctions of Ramadan as a way of life during and after Sallah celebrations by redoubling their good deeds, promoting peace in the world, committing more in greater acts of worship and catering for the needy by being charitable.