Eid al-Fitr, the Celebration Marking the End of Ramadan

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Istiqlal Mosque in Indonesia during Eid al Fitr

Eid al-Fitr, the Feast of the Breaking of the Fast, is celebrated for three days after the month of Ramadan is over and a new moon appears. The festival marks the end of the fast and thanks the Almighty for his blessing during the year. It begins with the start of the Muslim month Shawwal and like Ramadan requires the sighting of the new moon by a sane person in Mecca necessary for it to be declared. If the new moon is not spotted the celebrations are postponed for a day.

Eid al-Fitr, or "the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast", is kind of like the Muslim version of Christmas, in the sense that it's a religious holiday, people gather together for big meals with family and friends, exchange presents, and have a good time. Eid is also marked by dressing up and visiting the mosque for prayer, and with visits to family and friends for celebratory meals. Because Islam uses a lunar calendar, the month of Ramadan comes around 11 days earlier each successive year, so there is no Western season associated with Ramadan. [Source: BBC]

Eid begins when the first sight of the new moon is seen in the sky. Muslims in most countries rely on news of an official sighting, rather than looking at the sky themselves. The celebratory atmosphere is increased by everyone decorating their homes. There are special services out of doors and in mosques, processions through the streets. The special celebratory meal is eaten during daytime, the first daytime meal Muslims will have had in a month. Eid is also a time of forgiveness, and making amends and a favorite occasion for visiting the graves of departed relatives and friends. |::|

Websites and Resources: Islam IslamOnline islamonline.net ; Institute for Social Policy and Understanding ispu.org; Islam.com islam.com ; Islamic City islamicity.com ; BBC article bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam ; University of Southern California Compendium of Muslim Texts web.archive.org ; Encyclopædia Britannica article on Islam britannica.com ; Islam at Project Gutenberg gutenberg.org ; Muslims: PBS Frontline documentary pbs.org frontline

History of Eid al-Fitr

Eid al-Fitr is held on 1 Shawwal, the only day in the month of Shawwal during which Muslims are not permitted to fast. According to the BBC: “The first Eid was celebrated in 624 CE by the Prophet Muhammad with his friends and relatives after the victory of the battle of Jang-e-Badar. Muslims are not only celebrating the end of fasting, but thanking Allah for the help and strength that he gave them throughout the previous month to help them practise self-control. [Source: BBC, September 1, 2011 |::|]

Ramadan, the 9th Day on the Islamic calendar, recalls the revealing of the Qur’an to Prophet Muhammad. Eid al-Fitr is celebrated on the first day of the 10th month in the Islamic calendar. Because of the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar Eid is celebrated on different day every year, In 2019, Eid al-Fitr started in the U.S. on June 4. In 2020, the date for Eid al-Fitr was 24 May.

In many countries with large Muslim populations, Eid al-Fitr is a national holiday. Schools, offices and businesses are closed.. In Turkey and in places that were once part of the Ottoman-Turkish empire such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Azerbaijan and the Caucasus, it is also known as the “Lesser Bayram,” meaning “lesser festival” in Turkish.

Eid al-Fitr Celebrations

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Eid crowds in India
During Eid al-Fitr, people greet each other with “Eid Mubarak,” meaning “Blessed Eid.” Gifts are given out to the poor before the morning prayers. In addition, Muslims are encouraged to forgive differences and let go of grudges. There are a multitude of other practices that vary from country to country. [Source: Ken Chitwood, Lecturer, Concordia College New York, The Conversation, July 30, 2020]

The last days of Ramadan resemble the days preceding Christmas. People begin preparations for Eid al-Fitr. Spirits are high and crowds flock to bazaars to purchase new clothes, jewelry, fruits, meat and sweets; women make special pastries and cakes; people visit the friends and relatives. Adults and children often wear their best clothes around Ramadan. New clothes and shoes are traditional Ramadan gifts for children. Often the bulk of a family's clothing budget is spent during this time of the year. Many stores have special sales and have late hours to boost business.

The morning of the feast has the same excitement for Muslims as Christmas morning does for Christians. People put on nice clothes and eat a special breakfast with sweets, nuts and dried fruits. Many Muslims eat a cake layered with honey or sweet dishes made from ultra-thin vermicelli cooked in milk with dried dates, raisins, almonds and nuts.

After ceremonial washing is performed and a special perfume is applied, Muslims attend prayers at a mosque or a park. Children often attend special fairs where they do things like paint sheep bright colors and ride on rudimentary carnival rides. Customary holiday greeting are exchanged and children receive gifts from their elders, mostly cash, which they spend at the bazaar or mall depending on where they live.

There is a feast in the middle of the day with a slaughtered sheep or goat. Rich people often times host big banquets for or give money to the poor before prayers. The third day is spent visiting relatives and friends. Children receive a great deal of attention on this day and after Ramadan.

Sunnis and Shias (Shiites) Start Eid on Different Days in 2023

In 2023, Sunnis and Shias (Shiites) started Eid on different days. Even though Islam's holidays follow a lunar calendar, some countries rely on astronomical calculations rather than physical sightings of the moon. This frequently leads to disagreements between religious authorities in different countries — and sometimes in the same country — over the start date of Eid al-Fitr. [Source: Abby Sewell, Associated Press, April 21, 2023]

AFP reported: Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest shrines, and other Sunni Muslim countries announced Thursday the holiday of Eid al-Fitr marking the end of the Ramadan fast will begin on Friday. In some countries with a Shia Muslim majority, authorities have said the holiday will start on Saturday. "Tomorrow, Friday, is the first day of Eid al-Fitr for this year," with Thursday the last day of the holy month of Ramadan, the official Saudi Press Agency said on its Twitter account, citing a royal court statement. [Source: AFP, April 21, 2023]

The timing of Eid al-Fitr is determined by the sighting of the crescent moon, in accordance with the Muslim lunar calendar. Authorities in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan and Sudan also announced Eid al-Fitr will start on Friday. Fasting is widely practised in Saudi Arabia, home of the holiest shrines in Islam in Mecca and Medina. Saudis are expected to observe a four-day holiday for Eid al-Fitr.

In Lebanon, Sunni clerics said the holiday will begin on Friday, while some Shia leaders announced a Saturday start to the holiday. Libya, ruled by two rival administrations, will mark Eid on Friday in the country's east and on Saturday in areas under the control of the Tripoli-based government. Statements from Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iraq's highest Shia authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, said Eid would start on Saturday in their countries. In Oman, too, the holiday will start on Saturday.

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Eid feast procession of the Emperor Bahadur Shah in 1843

Eid al-Fitr in 2023

During Eid al-Fitr in 2023, balloons were distributed for free after prayers, marking the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan outside al-Seddik mosque in Cairo, Egypt. People attended Eid prayers at a stadium in the city of Idlib, Syria. A photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, showed Syrian President Bashar Assad praying at the Hafez Assad masque in Damascus. In Kabul children enjoy playing on Nadir Khan hill while Taliban fighters stood guard over people attend Eid al-Fitr prayers in Kabul. In Istanbul, Muslims prayed at Fatih mosque and elsewhere. [Source: Abby Sewell, Associated Press, April 21, 2023]

Associated Press reported: The holiday of Eid al-Fitr ushered in a day of prayers and joy for Muslims around the world. This year, Saudi Arabia and many other Arab countries began their Eid celebrations on Friday, while Iran, Pakistan and Indonesia, among others, set the first day of the holiday for Saturday.

The streets of Arab capitals of Damascus, Baghdad and Beirut were crowded with worshippers heading to mosques and cemeteries. Many Muslims visit the graves of their loved ones after the early morning prayer on the first day of Eid al-Fitr. Visitors toted bouquets of flowers, jugs of water for plants, and brooms to clean gravestones. “After the Eid prayer we always visit our dead … to pray and pay our respects, may God have mercy and forgive them on this blessed day,” said Atheer Mohamed in Baghdad’s Azamiya cemetery. In Afghanistan’s Kabul, where worshippers gathered under the watchful eyes of its Taliban rulers, 35-year-old Abdul Matin said, “I wish that besides security we had good income and good jobs. Unfortunately people can’t afford to buy all their necessities at this difficult time.”

In Basra, Iraq, the faithful ate morning breakfast on the first day of Eid Al-Fitr. In Lebanon, worshippers prayed during morning prayer outside the Mohammad al-Amin Mosque in downtown of Beirut. In Lagos, Muslim women pray in an open ground field. There were celebrations in Turin, Italy. In Sudan, women dressed in pink and gold hijabs.


Unrest, Tragedies and Hope at Eid al-Fitr in 2023

In 2023, The Eid celebrations was marred by conflict in Sudan and troubles and recovery in other countries. Associated Press reported: In Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, staccato blasts of gunfire marked the early hours of the feast day. A deadly conflict in the vast African country that erupted in the past week has forced many people to shelter indoors ahead of the holiday, even as water and food for civilians runs low.

In Sudan, the holiday was eclipsed by a week of raging battles between the army and its rival paramilitary force, which are locked in a violent struggle to control the country. The fighting has killed hundreds of people and wounded thousands. In a video message released early Friday, his first speech since the fighting broke out, Sudan’s top general Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan marked the somber tone of the holiday. “Ruin and destruction and the sound of bullets have left no place for the happiness everyone in our beloved country deserves," he said.

The day before, Sudan’s military ruled out negotiations with the rival paramilitary force, known as the Rapid Support Forces, saying it would only accept its surrender as the two sides continued to battle in central Khartoum and other parts of the country, threatening to wreck international attempts to broker a sustainable cease-fire.

Yet in other parts of the region, the recent rapprochement between arch-rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran has kindled hopes for peace. In Yemen, the Saudi-Iranian rapprochement raised the possibility for an end to the civil war that had turned into a proxy conflict and torn the impoverished country apart since 2014. Saudi officials and Iran-backed Houthi rebels recently began talks in Yemen's capital of Sanaa. During the last days of Ramadan, the warring sides exchanged hundreds of prisoners captured during the conflict. However, the moment of hopes was marred by a stampede late Wednesday at a charitable event in the rebel-held capital that killed at least 78 people and injured 77.

In Turkey and Syria, many are still mourning loved ones lost in the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the two countries on Feb. 6, killing more than 50,000 people. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday performed morning Eid prayers at Hagia Sophia, the 6th century Byzantine church in Istanbul that was turned into a mosque in the 15th century. rdogan, who is facing elections next month amid an economic crisis and the fallout of the earthquake, handed out chocolate and pastries to journalists outside the mosque, renamed Holy Ayasofya Grand Mosque.

Eid al-Fitr in Jerusalem in 2023

Associated Press reported: In Jerusalem, thousands of faithful gathered at Islam's third holiest shrine, the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, where tensions with Israeli authorities have seethed in the past month. The compound also hosts Judaism's holiest site. Following holiday prayers, a clown entertained children and a woman painted the cheek of a girl with the green, red, black and white Palestinian flag. Some attendees trampled on an Israeli flag and unfurled banners in support of Palestinian militant groups. [Source: Abby Sewell, Associated Press, April 21, 2023]

This year’s Eid al-Fitr also came on the heels of intensified violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Alaa Abu Hatab and his only remaining daughter started the holiday in the Palestinian Gaza Strip by visiting the graves of his wife and four children who were killed in an Israeli airstrike on the day of Eid al-Fitr in 2021. That strike also killed Abu Hatab's sister and her children. “Because they were killed in the Eid, I miss them especially during Eid al-Fitr. I miss their laughter,” Abu Hatab said, standing by his family’s grave with his six-year-old daughter, Maria. The holiday has become a “scene of pain and loss,” he said.

Palestinians attended Eid al-Fitr holiday celebrations by the Dome of the Rock shrine in the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City. There, Palestinians brandishes toy guns and waved the flag of the Hamas militant group in protest against Israel.

Eid al-Fitr in the U.S. in 2023

In 2023, Associated Press reported: In the United States, celebrations among the Sudanese community were tempered with concern for the homeland. They still gathered in large numbers for Friday prayers at the Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring. “We are not in a mood to do anything joyful, but we’re doing (these celebrations) for the kids,” said Shaza Ahmed, who is among an estimated 20,000 Sudanese in Maryland and Virginia [Source: Abby Sewell, Associated Press, April 21, 2023].

In Tennessee, where school state testing was underway, Imam Ossama Bahloul, the resident scholar at the Islamic Center of Nashville, said that for the first time, his daughter missed the holiday prayer with the family so she could take an exam. In Minneapolis, Friday public school classes were called off for the first time to mark the holiday. About 10 percent of students are Muslim, said Jaylani Hussein, director of Council on American-Islamic Relations-Minnesota. “In Minneapolis, you can be unapologetically Muslim,” Hussein said.

In Dearborn, Michigan, employees have Eid al-Fitr off as a paid holiday for the first time. Mayor Abdullah Hammoud said the precedent was not planned but that it was important for Muslim employees "to feel included and enjoy the holiday with their families.”

Eid al-Fitr in 2022 at the End of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Describing Eid al-Fitr in 2022, Associated Press reported: At the largest mosque in Southeast Asia, tens of thousands of Muslims attended prayers Monday morning. The Istiqlal Grand Mosque in Indonesia's capital Jakarta was shuttered when Islam’s holiest period coincided with the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and was closed to communal prayers in 2021. “Words can’t describe how happy I am today after two years we were separated by pandemic. Today we can do Eid prayer together again," said Epi Tanjung after he and his wife worshipped at another Jakarta mosque. “Hopefully all of this will make us more faithful.”[Source: Mariam Fam, Niniek Karmini and Kathy Gannon, Associated Press, May 2, 2022]

Millions of Indonesians have crammed into trains, ferries and buses ahead of Eid as they poured out of major cities to celebrate with their families in villages in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country. The return of the tradition of homecoming caused great excitement after two years of subdued festivities due to pandemic restrictions. “The longing for (the) Eid celebration in a normal way has finally been relieved today although the pandemic has not yet ended,” said Hadiyul Umam, a resident of Jakarta. Many in the capital flocked to shopping centers to buy clothes, shoes and sweets before the holiday despite pandemic warnings and food price surges.

Muslims in Malaysia were also in a celebratory mood after their country’s borders fully reopened and COVID-19 measures were further loosened. Ramadan bazaars and shopping malls have been filled with shoppers ahead of Eid and many travelled to their hometowns. “It’s a blessing that we can now go back to celebrate,” said sales manager Fairuz Mohamad Talib, who works in Kuala Lumpur. His family will celebrate at his wife’s village after two years of being apart due to earlier travel curbs. There, he said, they will visit neighbors after the Eid prayers, chanting praises of Prophet Muhammad, and sharing food at each stop. “It’s not about feasting but about getting together,” he said ahead of the holiday. With COVID-19 still on his mind, the family will take precautions such as wearing masks during visits. “There will be no handshakes, just fist bumps.”

In Pakistan, beauticians painted the hands of customers with traditional henna in preparation for the upcoming Eid al-Fitr holidays at beauty saloons in Karachi and people bought sweets at a shops in Peshawar. In Malaysia, Muslims wearing protective masks prayed at National Mosque in the morning of the Eid al-Fitr in Kuala Lumpur. In Jakarta young boys lit smoke bombs.

Inflation Hurting Eid al-Fitr Celebrations in 2022

Describing Eid al-Fitr in 2022, Associated Press reported: For the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr, the smell of freshly baked orange biscuits and powdered sugar-dusted cookies typically fills the air in Mona Abubakr’s home. But due to higher prices, the Egyptian housewife this year made smaller quantities of the sweet treats, some of which she gives as gifts to relatives and neighbors. The mother of three has also tweaked another tradition this Eid, which began Monday in Egypt and many Muslim-majority countries and marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. She bought fewer outfits for her sons to wear during the three-day feast. “I told them we have to compromise on some things in order to be able to afford other things,” she said. [Source: Mariam Fam, Niniek Karmini and Kathy Gannon, Associated Press, May 2, 2022]

Muslims around the world are observing Eid al-Fitr in the shadow of a surge in global food prices exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. Against that backdrop, many are still determined to enjoy the Eid amid easing of coronavirus restrictions in their countries while, for others, the festivities are dampened by conflict and economic hardship. The war in Ukraine and sanctions on Russia have disrupted supplies of grain and fertilizer, driving up food prices at a time when inflation was already raging. A number of Muslim-majority countries are heavily reliant on Russia and Ukraine for much of their wheat imports, for instance.

In Syria’s rebel-held northwestern province of Idlib, Ramadan this year was more difficult than Ramadans past. Abed Yassin said he, his wife and three children now receive half the amounts of products — including chickpeas, lentils, rice and cooking oil — which last year they used to get from an aid group. It has made life more difficult.Syria’s economy has been hammered by war, Western sanctions, corruption and an economic meltdown in neighboring Lebanon where Syrians have billions of dollars stuck in Lebanese banks.

In the Gaza Strip, though streets and markets are bustling, many say they cannot afford much. “The situation is difficult,” said Um Musab, a mother of five, as she toured a traditional market in Gaza City. “Employees barely make a living but the rest of the people are crushed.” Mahmoud al-Madhoun, who bought some date paste, flour and oil to make Eid cookies, said financial conditions were going from bad to worse. “However, we are determined to rejoice,” he added. The Palestinian enclave, which relies heavily on imports, was already vulnerable before the Ukraine war as it had been under a tight Israeli-Egyptian blockade meant to isolate Hamas, its militant rulers.

Afghans are celebrating the first Eid since the Taliban takeover amid grim security and economic conditions. Many were cautious but poured into Kabul’s largest mosques for prayers on Sunday, when the holiday started there, amid tight security. Frequent explosions marred the period leading to Eid. These included fatal bombings, most claimed by the Islamic State affiliate known as IS in Khorasan Province, targeting ethnic Hazaras who are mostly Shias, leaving many of them debating whether it was safe to attend Eid prayers at mosques. “We want to show our resistance, that they cannot push us away,” said community leader Dr. Bakr Saeed before Eid. “We will go forward.” Violence wasn’t the only cause for worry. Since the Taliban takeover in August, Afghanistan’s economy has been in a freefall with food prices and inflation soaring. At a charity food distribution center in Kabul on Saturday, Din Mohammad, a father of 10, said he expected this Eid to be his worst.

Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons except soap opera, BBC

Text Sources: Internet Islamic History Sourcebook: sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Arab News, Jeddah; “Islam, a Short History” by Karen Armstrong; “A History of the Arab Peoples” by Albert Hourani (Faber and Faber, 1991); “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); Metropolitan Museum of Art, Encyclopedia.com, National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Library of Congress and various books and other publications.

Last updated April 2024

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