Celebration: Eid-ul-Fitr, the Feast of Fast-Breaking
Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community (Georgia Chapter) greeting each other with “Eid Mubarak” after the Eid Service is over. (Photo: Sarah Baktiari, Norcross Patch)
A look at how various Muslim communities in the Atlanta area celebrate.
After a month long of fasting during Ramadan, Muslims across the globe join in the festivities of Eid-ul-Fitr, also known as the “Feast of Fast-breaking.” During Ramadan, Muslims faithfully practice patience and restrain from eating, drinking, and carnal pleasures for the sake of God, and focus on spiritual fitness.
Hazeem Phudiapura, President of the Georgia Chapter of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, declares Ramadan to be “a real test of endurance both physically and spiritually.” Sharing memories of Ramadan from his time in Chennai (India), he explains that the extreme humid conditions of that city made it extra challenging to fast during summer. “When the fast is completed the first few drops of water that quenches the severe thirst makes a Muslim humbled before his Creator for his basic sustenance.”
Eid literally means joy or happiness, and marks a celebration of this month-long effort to please the Creator.
Ramadan gives each Muslim the opportunity to reflect and work on self-purification at their personal level. But when the whole Muslim ummah (community) works towards its spiritual goals, it brings a sense of collectiveness to the community. “Eid is a unique celebration since we get to meet so many people at once. It brings a good sense of unity,” says Mehwish Pall of Lawrenceville, a Georgia State University student. So, Eid-ul-Fitr is not only a joyous time for an individual but also a time to show gratitude to God for the blessings that Ramadan brings.
It is also important to note that apart from this month of fasting, Muslims can fast at any time of the year. The only exceptions are the days of Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha, the “Feast of Sacrifice” which comes around ten weeks after Eid-ul-Fitr and marks the end of Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca (in Saudi Arabia).
Eid Day (first day of the month Shawwal) usually begins with special prayers performed in congregation. Like Friday prayer, the Eid prayer is always done in congregation and it is different from the five daily prayers since there is no Adhan (call to prayer). The Eid-Gah (Eid venue) may be a mosque, hall, or even an open space that could accommodate the expected number of people. The Eid service generally consists of a short prayer followed by a sermon. Then it is time to greet each other by saying Eid Mubarak while exchanging hugs.
After the service, it is time for get-togethers and family reunions. “I really miss my family and going to see relatives on Eid,” shares Rejowana Majid, who lives in Alabama with her husband. “Back home, even when my mother always cooked food for Eid, we made sure not to eat at home. We would be full at the end of the day from going around eating house to house.” She came to the U.S. from Bangladesh last year after getting married. Talking about Bangali clothing traditions for Eid, she says that it is customary for married women to wear a saree on Eid while it is preferred for single girls to dress up in shalwar qameez.
Mouna Elharisse of Duluth, sharing about Eid, said, “We would go to our parents’ house first to greet them Eid Mubarak and also to give them some money.” She is originally from Lebanon and has been living in the U.S. for a little over a decade. She explains that it is customary in Lebanon to give gifts to parents on Eid. Food takes center stage at Mouna’s home like any Eid party. Her family’s favorite desserts include date kaak, a delicious date-filled bread and makrout which is a pastry baked with sesame seeds. Sawayian (vermicelli cooked in milk and sugar) is considered an essential dessert for Eid among South Asian Muslims. Other favorites include jalaybi and different varieties of mithaee (traditional sweets).
(Photo: Sarah Baktiari, Norcross Patch)
In many Muslim countries, Eid is celebrated for three days with government-sanctioned holidays but here in the U.S, since Eid is not recognized as a federal holiday, local Muslims either take the day off from work/school or go back to work after the Eid service.
It was sunnah (practice) of the Prophet of Islam to wear new clothes on Eid. Therefore, Muslims make an extra effort to buy new clothes for this special occasion. It is common for Muslim families from the Indian subcontinent to wear traditional Indian clothing like shalwar qameez, sarees, chooridar pajamas and kurtas. Girls and women accessorize with matching bangles and henna.
Muslim children especially look forward to Eid-ul-Fitr since they receive Eidee (Eid gift) from their elders. In some parts of the world, this Eidee comes as money while in others it takes shape of actual gifts and candy just like on Christmas.
Festivities of Eid begin even before Ramadan is over. In some Muslim countries, markets host special vendors that sell Eid-related items. Even here in the Atlanta metro area, local Muslim businesses hold special events, such as “Eid Bazaars” to sell products like clothes, shoes and accessories. In countries like India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, as soon as the moon sighting for Eid is announced, families go out for Chaand Raat, where they do their last minute Eid shopping. Women wear bangles for the next day and apply henna on their hands and feet.
There is a large African American Muslim community here in the Atlanta metro area. Hawa, a Marietta resident, is originally from Ghana. Her memories of Eid in Ghana include going to a park for a picnic with the whole community and enjoying the whole day with food and a variety of games for children. She especially remembers enjoying meat pie for Eid.
Just as Islam encourages its followers to be charitable and compassionate all year long, it reminds them to increase in charity manifold to receive superior blessings from God during Ramadan. In fact, each family member (including newborn children) is obligated to donate towards a special charity fund called Fitrana at a prescribed rate so that the less fortunate and poor are able to join them in Eid celebrations. This collection is done during Ramadan.
In addition, some communities like the Ahmadiyya Muslims also collect donations for the “Children’s Eid Fund” during Ramadan so that children in poor nations, particularly those living in Africa, could be sent Eid gifts before the day of celebration.
Khadijah Adeola Ogunfuyi is a premedical student at Georgia Gwinnett College. She was born in Atlanta but her parents are Nigerian. She says that “Different people celebrate differently, but in my country people usually slaughter rams, goats, etc., and pass the meat out to family, poor people, friends, strangers on the streets, regardless of faith. It’s as if everyone is family and no one is an outcast.”
Khadijah calls Eid “A day of love, peace, and sharing where we all unite as one.” This is a little ironic since these days many Muslims in Turkey, Egypt, and Syria are hit hard with political instability and lack of peace. Therefore, this year’s special prayers will include all those who are suffering across the world so that they can once again enjoy Ramadan and Eid.
Saima Ahmad is a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Writer’s Group. Follow her on Twitter @S_Ahmad3.
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