On Eid, Muslims forgive and forget each other’s mistakes. Their friendship and brotherhood are, as if, renewed. A new look – festive and heavenly look – appears on the face of the earth.
Eid al-Fitr from Socio-Economic and Religious Perspectives
After a month-long fasting of Ramadan, Allah (Glorified be He) gifts the Muslims with a festival called ‘Eid al-Fitr (Festival to Break Fast). That is the first day of Shawwal, the tenth month of the Islamic Calendar. No fasting is allowed on this day (Jami` at-Tirmidhi 772). This day of festival is crowned with certain characteristics, which I would like to reflect upon below.
Glorification of Allah
Ramadan is a month of forgiveness and blessings from Allah. It is a great fortune to be able to avail of this month and to complete the fasting. Once we have completed it, we should be grateful to Allah and glorify Him in heart and by tongue (by saying takbir).
To quote the Holy Qur’an, “(Allah wants you) to complete the prescribed period (of fasting), and to glorify Him for having guided you so that you may be grateful to Him” (Qur’an 2:185). That is why it is sunnah to say takbir on the Eid Day (Sabiq 2005). It is said that it is also a sunnah to say takbir on the Eid night after sighting the new crescent. And the takbir is this: “Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar, laa ilaaha ill-Allah, Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar, wa Lillaahi’l-hamd (Allah is Most Great, Allah is Most Great, there is no god except Allah, Allah is Most Great, Allah is Most Great, and all praise be to Allah) (Islam Question and Answer, n.d.).
Besides this, on Eid Day, there is a two-raka’t Eid prayer with extra takbirs. According to one Hadith, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said the Takbir in the ‘Eid prayers seven times in the first Rak’ah and five times in the second. (Ibn Majah 1338). This prayer with extra takbir could also be the takbir as mentioned in the above verse of the Holy Qur’an.
Socialisation with People
Eid Day is a day of socialisation with families, relatives, friends, and community. That is why Muslims should go to Eid prayers after taking a bath, using perfume, and wearing the best of garments. The Prophet (PBUH) used to wear the most beautiful garment and a special cloak on Eid Day (Sabiq 2005). The Prophet himself did and encouraged others to do so probably because it would give a festive sense and wholesomeness as they were going to meet and pray together with many other people.
In order to meet as many people as possible, the Prophet used to pray Eid Salah on the outskirts of Madinah except once when he prayed in the mosque because of rain (Sabiq 2005). Again, to go to the Eid prayer, the Prophet (PBUH) used to take one route and came back home through another route (Sunan Ibn Malah Book 5, Hadith 1357; Sunan Ibn Majah Book 5, Hadith 1360). The probable reason for his doing so was that he could see or visit and network with as many people as possible.
Even though weak, the following Hadith informs us of this fact that “when the Prophet (ﷺ) went out on the two ‘Eids, he would pass by the house of Sa’eed bin Abul-‘As, then by the people of the tent, then he would leave by a different route, via Banu Zuraiq, then he would go out by the house of ‘Ammar bin Yasir and the house of Abu Hurairah to Balat” (Sunan Ibn Majah Book 5, Hadith 1357).
This (socialisation) is one of the main aims of this great day. And to take part in this, the Holy Prophet (PBUM) asked Muslim men, women, and children to come to the Eid prayer place. Of course, he asked women to come with hijab on and advised the menstruating women to stay aloof from the prayer, but to take part in the supplication (Sunan an-Nasa’i 1558).
At the place of Eid prayer and also elsewhere, Muslims greet, shake hands with (and sometimes hug) each other with smiles on faces regardless of their social hierarchy. They forgive and forget each other’s mistakes. Their friendship and brotherhood are, as if, renewed. A new look – festive and heavenly look – appears on the face of the earth. On this day, Muslims open their doors to relatives, neighbours, friends, acquaintances, and even non-Muslims. Professor Bhala’s (2016, p. 339) American experience is here:
“On that (Eid Day) morning a fantastic array of delicacies is served buffet style…It is a great honor for a guest – particularly a non-Muslim – to be invited by a Muslim family to share either in an Ifter Buffet or the Eid al Fitr celebration. The invitation should be treated as such and as a gastronomic matter, it would be a sin to reject it.”
Added to the social networking, the Prophet (PBUH) allowed small children to sing and beat drums to celebrate this Day (Sunan an-Nasa’i 1593).
Sharing Joy and Festivity with the Poor and the Needy
A major feature of Eid Day is that it is obligatory, according to majority scholars, for every Muslim, men and women, young (even a newborn baby) and old to pay zakat al-fitr if they possess food in excess of their need (Rahim 2020). In this sense, there may be a few people who do not have to pay zakat al-fitr. In other words, only those who qualify for sadaqah are exempted from this obligation (Ibn Rushd 1994).
The head of a family must pay for the dependents like wife, children, and servants (Sabiq 2005). Legally speaking, it is due at the sunset of the last day of Ramadan or, according to another view, in the morning of the Eid Day before the Eid prayer (Ibn Rushd 1994). However, “its payment may be voluntarily advanced any time during the month of Ramadan, which is good for the poor who may have to prepare food for consumption” (Ibn Rushd 1994, p. 328 footnote 208). It must be paid at the latest in the Eid Day morning before (Eid) prayer. Its payment after prayer will not be considered to be zakat al-fitr, rather charity like other charities (Sunan Abi Dawud 1609.
Zakat al-fitr is payable for one who has fasted for the month to cleanse herself/himself from any indecent act or speech and for the purpose of providing food for the needy (Sunan Abi Dawud 1609). It is also due from one who has not fasted due to underage or illness or infirmity. As such, the common purpose of the payment of zakat al-fitr both for one who has fasted and one who has not is to help the poor and the needy, both Muslims and non-Muslims (Sabiq 2005). Of course, preference is due to the Muslims so that they can enjoy the happiness and festivity of Eid Day.
To quote the Holy Prophet (PBUH), “Make them free from want on this day” (Ibn Rushd 1994, p. 328; Sabiq 2005, p. 388). At another place, he (PBUH) is reported to have said, “The fasting of the month of fasting will be hanging between earth and heavens, and it will not be raised up to the Divine Presence without paying the Zakat-al-Fitr” (Abdullah 2018). Even though this Hadith is a weak one, in view of the fact that paying zakat al-fitr is obligatory according to majority Islamic scholars and it is the right (haqq) of the poor, it may be argued that its non-payment is an unjust act (zulm) on behalf of the fasting person. It amounts to taking other’s property unlawfully, which is prohibited by the Holy Qur’an (2:188). As such, the content of the Hadith seems to have the truth in it. In other words, the non-payment of zakat al-fitr may deter the acceptance of fast.
Thus, zakat al-fitr has a few important religious, economic, and social roles to play. It cures the defects of fast, helps the poor and the needy financially, and gives them a share of the joy and festivity of the Day of Eid. In this context, the following words are very much pertinent,
“The obvious benefits of Zakat al-Fitr is that it provides food for the poor and cleanses us of wrongdoings committed during Ramadan. However, the wisdom of this charity runs much deeper. Not only does it humble the giver by showing them that their money is a blessing from Allah (swt) and that the poor have a share to that money, but it also brings together all fibres of the Ummah. Even as we are preoccupied with the thoughts of the upcoming Eid celebrations we are urged to think of our brothers and sisters around the world who are struggling and to share the joy of Eid with them as well” (Hands 2016).
Apart from the zakat al-fitr, Muslims are encouraged to give in charity on Eid Day as evidenced from the Prophetic traditions (Sunan an-Nasa’i 1575; Sunan an-Nasa’i 1576). This is a giving beyond any particular rate specified, such as for zakat or zakat al-fitr. This is the type of charity that Allah calls a “goodly loan” from His servants (Qur’an 57:11), which He will repay multiplying from tenfold to more than seven hundredfold and will also grant the donor “a generous reward coupled with satisfaction and prosperity” (Jalalayn 2017).
To conclude, on Eid Day, Muslims glorify Allah for the ability of fasting and win His forgiveness, socialise with their families and friends, and gladden the poor and the needy by sharing their wealth. Thus, it connects Muslims both with Allah and people delighting thereby the Heaven and the earth. At this sight, the Heavenly beings (angels) become “greatly pleased and happy” (Hadith reported in Targheeb cited in Kaandhlawi 1998).
The Holy Qur’an
Books of Sunnah:
Jami` at-Tirmidhi 772 https://sunnah.com/.
Sunan Abu Dawud https://sunnah.com/.
Sunan Ibn Majah https://sunnah.com/.
Sunan an-Nasa’i https://sunnah.com/.
Abdullah, A. (2018), ‘Evaluating Zakat-ul-Fitr Distribution’ at https://www.islamicity.org/15606/evaluating-zakat-ul-fitr-distribution/.
Bhala, R. (2016). Understanding Islamic Law (Shari’a). Durham (US): Carolina Cademic Press.
Hands, M. (2016), ‘Zakat al-Fitr: A Small Act with a Big Impact’ at https://muslimhands.org.uk/latest/2016/06/zakat-al-fitr-a-small-act-with-a-big-impact.
Ibn Rushd, M. (1994) (tr. Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee). The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer (Bidayat al-Mujtahid wa Nihayat al-Muqtasid), vol. 1. Reading (UK): Garnet Publishing.
Islam Question and Answer, n.d. found at https://islamqa.info/en/answers/48969/when-should-the-takbeer-for-eid-al-fitr-begin.
Jalalayn (2017). Tafsir al-Jalalayn (trans. Feras Hamza). Amman (Jordan): Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought at https://www.altafsir.com/.
Kaandhlawi, M.Z. (1998). Faza’il-E-A’maal. New Delhi: Idara Ishaat E Diniyat.
Rahim, M.A. (2020). Hadeeth Shareef (in Bangla). Dhaka: Khairun Publishers, vol. 2.
Sabiq, S.S (2005). Fiqh-us Sunnah: Abridged Version (ed. Badr Azimabadi). New Delhi: Adam Publishers & Distributors.