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Eid-ul-Fitr : Past and present

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14th-Jun-2018       
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Professor Anwarul Karim, Ph.D :
Muslims all over the world enjoy the Holy Eid-ul-Fitr with religious fervor and festivity.  The meaning of Eid is 'joy'. Fitr speaks of a final breaking from continuous fasting which ends with the appearance of new moon in the Islamic month of Shawal. On this day, Muslims belonging to all countries, celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr as a part of joyous gratitude to Allah, the Creator of the universe and mankind for His benevolence and mercy.  Fasting is a kind of training for all Muslims since the month of Ramadan is considered most valuable and important because of the fact that Allah communicated His message as guidance to all mankind through the Prophet Muhammad, (pbuh) in the form of a religious book, Al Qur'an which was conferred upon the whole mankind as the most dignified property which is kept preserved in heaven (Lau hey Mahfuz). Fasting was made compulsory for all those who preceded Muhammad (pbuh) as Allah's Prophets and their followers. The Holy Quran, as the blessed gift of Allah was bestowed upon the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) on the night of Lailatul Qadr. Lailatul Qadr appears in the odd last days of the Ramadan after the 20th .
Allah says in the Holy Quran in the following words: Oh, ye who believe! Fasting was prescribed to you, as it is prescribed to those before you, That ye may learn self restraint,-  (Fasting) for a fixed number of days; But if anyone of you is ill or on a journey, the prescribed number ( should be made up ) from days later.
For those who can do it (with hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give  more, of his own free will,- It is better for him, And if ye fast, it is better for you, if ye only  know. Ramadan is the month in which was sent  down the Quran as a guide to Mankind, also clear (signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong).  So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting, but if anyone is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (should be made up) by days later. God intends every facility for you; He does not want to put you to difficulties. He wants you to complete the prescribed period and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; And perchance ye shall be grateful. (Sura, Baqara 2 or the Heifer, Section 23, lines 183 -185)
The observance of Eid-ul-Fitr has special significance. It connects Islam in its totality. Islam is the religion of peace and harmony. Adam(As) was the first man created by Allah who came to earth with a message from Allah. Each time the Prophets came they preached Allah's religion. Submission to Allah is the basis of Islam. When one submits completely, one gets peace. Allah taught this to his Prophets including Ibrahim (As) who responded to his order when Allah said to him-'Submit'. Ibrahim submitted to him then and there by saying 'Aslamtu'. He became Muslim. After Nooh(As) and the Great Flood that destroyed the whole earth, a new set of things started with Ibrahim (As). The religion he preached was Islam.
The Holy Ka'bah
The first mosque, the first place of worship and the first house was built by Hazrat Adam (As), the first man created by Allah, in the shape of the House in Heaven, called Baitul Ma'mur at Makkah, now under the province of Hejaz in the western part of Arabia and not far from the Red Sea. The House of Ka'ba was rebuilt by Hazrat Ibrahim (As) and his son Ismail. (The Qur'an: Sura Baqara). He also founded the city of Makkah or Bakkah when he left his son Ismail and his mother in the desert by the order of Allah. Allah made the desert a city of peace for all. And here the Eid-ul-Azha comes into force.
When Allah made the Hajj an obligation, people began coming to Mecca "from every remote path." This is because humanity is one in their being called to worship their Creator. Allah's message is universal. Allah says: "And upon humanity is the pilgrimage to the House, whoever among them is able to undertake the journey." [Surah Al `Imran: 97]
This is compulsory for those who are rich. The intention of Allah as it is detailed in the Quran that the holy 'Ka'ba' should work as the central place of worship for all mankind who are believers in Islam. Islam is the only religion of Allah and no other religion is acceptable to Him. Allah has given the top-most position of the holy 'Ka'ba' for the unity of Islam. Hazrat Musa (Sa) and Isa (As) preached Islam and it was made complete by Allah in the hands of Muhammad (pbuh). Islam, which Muhammad (Am) preached by the order of Allah was a continuation of Islam that was preached by Ibrahim (As) Musa (As), and Isa (As) and all other Prophets from the time of Adam (As).
In this connection, the significance of Eid-ul-Fitr is both material and spiritual. Material, because here on earth, people would be guided as long as they live and performance here would be disclosed on the Day of Resurrection or the Last Day of judgment.
Thus Eid-ul-Fitr which is the concluding part of the month long Ramadan fast or Siam is a kind of training program along with Eid-ul-Azha, (Eid of sacrifice). The whole thing is based on 'Takwa', 'fear of Allah'. In Eid-ul-Fitr, the poor is given 'Fitra'. It is compulsory for all capable Muslims. Both 'Fitra' and 'Jakat' are a kind of mechanism by which the gap between the rich and the poor is minimized. Payment of 'Fitra' to the poor before the 'Eid' prayer is compulsory, and none will be made clean if 'Fitra' remains unpaid.
Reminiscence of childhood
As I look at my grand children preparing themselves for the forthcoming Eid-ul-Fitr in Dhaka with pomp and grandeur, I feel very nostalgic as I look back to my childhood days, how we enjoyed Eid-ul-Fitr in our time! My experience is two-fold. One, when we observed Eid in the mufassil towns and the other, when we enjoyed it in village home when we visited it during Eid holidays.  As a boy I looked for the coming of Eid with much enthusiasm. It was a day of days to me. My father, a government officer used to take me to the market and bought for me a new pajama and a colorful panjabi along with a cap called Turkish 'Fez', similar to almost  one that was  reportedly used by Kamal Pasha of Turkey. It was a red cap with a loose string. As I grew old, I could understand the importance of the cap connected with Khilaphat movement during the British rule in India. Muslims faced negligence by the British in comparison to neighbouring community.  I found in those days it was a kind of custom when parents used to take their wards to the market place and used to buy new clothes. Similar things happened with others also. Husbands and wives and their parents including relations were greeted with new clothes. Maids and others were also no exception to this practice.  Payment of Jakat by the rich in cash was also done as a practice but here too, there had been exception. Jakat is a compulsory thing for Muslim fixed by Allah. It is Tk.2.5% per hundred out of one's savings.  Many did not follow this to the letter. Had it been so there would have been a different society. Kazi Nazrul Islam, our National Poet in his poems and songs called for payment of Jakat by the rich with a clean mind. This he did because of his belief in a classless society.
Moon sighting and aftermath
The most glamorous moment for us in our childhood was the sighting of new moon. People used to come out from the house and gathered in a body at the open space looking at the sky discovering the appearance of the Eid moon.  The moon was so small that it was very difficult to locate. And if anybody could discover it he would jump and shout at the top of his voice attracting others who had been looking for Eid moon. And then came moments of joy and happiness from other corner, 'yes, yes, we have sighted the moon, All praise to Allah.'  Sometimes the sighting of moon became and people took it as a fun. In fact, it was a treat to eyes as everybody stood in the open space or the rooftop of the house looking for new moon to appear as it connected a great festival of reunion among all Muslims irrespective of class distinction. As soon as the new moon was sighted, the whole town was burst into merriment, greeting people by embracing each other. Islamic song was broadcast by Radio, 'Joyous Eid came after Ramadan fasting'. (O mon Ramjaner oi rojar sheshey elo khushir Eid). The music was made public by the use of microphone.  It was indeed a very joyous moment for all. Parents and all seniors found the youngsters kissing their feet for blessings, we did it out of respect. On the other hand juniors used to receive money from the seniors as gift known as 'Salami'.  All were very happy because they could break fasting for and as they could successfully fulfill the orders of Allah by observing Ramadan fasting for 30 or 29 days as it corroborates with the lunar month. Girls, irrespective of age were found making the palm colorful with mehendi. All were then in festive mood. Seniors were busy preparing themselves for Eid marketing, cleaning and arranging rooms of the house as guests would be coming on the Eid day.   The moment was considered vey Holy and sacred. The Eid prayer was held in the open field participated by not only of town people but also by people belonging to neighboring and adjacent areas. The field was well decorated. It was also made very attractive. There was a gate with a write-up, 'Eid Mubarak'. A kind of make-shift shops with sweets and other things that could attract children were all around the field.
In the afternoon, various kinds of games were arranged.  Festival football match was held. In villages, Hadudoo or kabadi games were organized. Riverside villages organized boat race. In some villages, bull or cock fighting were also arranged. Hindus and other communities also attended these programs. There was peace and harmony and there was no communal violence.
It is an official holiday in Muslim-majority countries.
The Eid prayer is generally performed in congregation in open areas like fields. In case, where there is no Eidgah Eid prayer is also held at mosques. There is no direct call to prayer on the occasion of Eid prayer; it is quite different from other type of regular Salat prayers. It has only two units of prayer with an additional six incantations. The Eid prayer is followed by the sermon as it is done in the Friday prayer or Jum'a. On this occasion, the Imam, on behalf of all attending Muslims pray to Allah for forgiveness, mercy, peace and blessings for everyone in the world.
Eid and the Muslim world :  Palestine, Syria and Myanmar
In many countries of the world, the Muslims are almost held in chains like Muslims in Palestine.  They face death almost every day by Israel and are under constant threat of bombing. In Syria also, same thing is being happened.  The Mosques are bombed. Muslims are killed when they are in prayers. The condition of Rohingyas is most critical and unfortunate. They have been a victim of genocide and are being expelled by their country because of Muslim identity. The Ramadan fasting and the Eid are compulsory to all Muslims. But what would be the fate of the unfortunate Rohingyas who are still in Myanmar ? Would they be allowed to perform Eid with safety ?
Conclusion
The West and the non-Muslim-power mongers in other countries are bent on crushing Muslims in the world.  It is a crime against humanity. The United Nations and the relevant Organizations relating to Human Rights program did a poor job in protecting Muslims from the blood thirsty anti Muslim countries like Israel, Myanmar and others. We are also very sorry that the OIC could not prevent these things. They could justify their existence properly. Bangladesh, however, did a good job as they sheltered the Rohingya Muslims and hopefully, here in Bangladesh, they would be able to perform their Eid somehow. We thank the government for their timely effort and saving the lives of the poor Muslims under their care. Under these circumstances, we must get back to the Quran where Allah has asked Muslims of the world to unite themselves under the Holy Ka'ba.

(The writer is a former Visiting Scholar, Harvard Divinity School and Center for World religion, Harvard and Pro-Vice Chancellor, Northern University Bangladesh, Banani, Dhaka. e-mail: ranwar.karim@gmail/ yahoo.com)

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