Eid-al-Fitr: The Festival of Breaking the Fast

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Hundreds gather at mosques around the world each night during the month of Ramadan to observe the Taraweeh prayer. The photo shows the gathering at Masjid al Wali in Edison, New Jersey on a regular Ramadan night. (Photo courtesy of Masjid al Wali facebook page)

By Chaitram Aklu

Beginning Sunday May 1 in the evening and ending in the evening on Monday May 2 (pending moon sighting), the 1.9 billion (2020 estimate) Muslims around the world will celebrate Eid-Al-Fitr or the Festival of Breaking the Fast.

The festival brings to an end the holy month of Ramadan during which Muslims fast daily from sunrise to sundown. Fasting or practicing Sawm during Ramadan, is one of the five pillars of Islam. In July the greater Eid-Al-Adha will be celebrated. In some countries both festivals are national holidays.

The Muslim population is spread around the world and make up 24.7 percent of the global population. There are about 50 countries in the world which have Muslim majority populations. The Maldives has the highest Muslim population with 98.40 percent of its total of 540 985 population. Indonesia, with 231 million is the world’s most populous Muslim country. The United States has 3.45 million Muslims of all ages with over 400 000 in the New York Metropolitan area, according to the Pew Research Center in 2021.

This “Festival of breaking the fast” and the “Sugar Feast” is huge and varies by country and geographic region, but wherever it is celebrated it is a great Eid – feast with food, celebrations and greetings. There are dishes of all kinds and varieties, giving of gifts, and well wishing. Haji Azwin Baksh, my Guyanese-American Muslim brother who made his hajj in 2016, shared that the most popular food among a wide variety of sweetmeats is vermicelli pie, made with condensed milk and dried fruits – currants, raisins, and cherries.

Haji Azwin wants “all to ask Allah for forgiveness for all their past sins.” “I implore all to practice Zakat, give to charity, especially to those in need.” Many practitioners of the faith give according to needs instead of wants – food, clothing, or money to help the needy take care of their needs. At the same time they seek supplication – the mercy and forgiveness of the Almighty.

Islam, which means “submission to the will of god,” is the second largest religion in the world, and the fastest growing. According to published sources, the religion began in the seventh century in Mecca, in what is now officially The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. However, Muslims regard Islam as a return to the original faith of the Abrahamic prophets, such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, and Jesus, with the submission (Islām) to the will of God.

Iftar – breaking of the fast at Masjid al Wali, Edison, New Jersey.

Muslims believe that it was during Ramadan that the Prophet Mohammad received the teachings from the Quran, Islam’s holiest book. The Quran held by followers of the religion as a guide for mankind and a means for judging between right and wrong. The holy book demands followers must: “Show forgiveness, speak for justice and avoid the ignorant.”
A good practicing Muslim, must follow the five pillars of Islam: Shahada – believe in god and Mohammad; Salat – pray five times daily; Zakat – give charity to those in need; Sawm – fast during the holy month of Ramadan; and Hajj – make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in the life time.

Eid-Al-Adha the Greater Eid – Falls on the 10th day of Dhul Hijjah (The Month of Pilgrimage) which is the 12th and final day of the Islamic calendar – calculated by the phases of the moon and celebrates the Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael. This year Greater Eid falls on Sunday July 10. Hajj is the once in a lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca, the birth place of Islam and undertaken by Muslims who are both physically and financially able to ascend this pillar. It takes seven days to complete and ends with making an animal sacrifice on the last day – Eid-Al-Adha. Haji Azwin informs that the pilgrimage, though physically challenging, leaves one feeling cleansed and free of internal burdens.

For those who have not or cannot make the pilgrimage, they can still make the sacrifice by having a sheep, goat or bull slaughtered, and share the meat among family, friends and the less fortunate.

EID-MUBARAK – Best Wishes for a Blessed Celebration.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the position or policy of the THE WEST INDIAN.