The Muslim holy month of Ramadan ended last night with the formal announcement by the Sultan of Sokoto and President General of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs [NSCIA], Sultan Muhammadu Sa’ad, of the sighting of the new moon of Shawwal. Today is therefore being marked in Nigeria and in some other parts of the Muslim world as Eid ul-Fitr.
Eid ul Fitr day is the first in the month of Shawwal 1440 AH, which is the 10th month in the Islamic calendar. It begins with a feast to end the period of Ramadan fasting from sun up to sun down during the month, which this year lasted 29 days. Ramadan was the holiest season of Muslim worship and supplication; it was a time of self-reflection and intense worship that brought spiritual solace and purity to the faithful.
The date of Eid ul-Fitr depends on the lunar calendar, and celebration of the festival starts early in the day by attending the Eid prayer, often wearing new attire, at a mosque or outdoor communal prayers, listening to a khutba (sermon) and giving out Zakat al-Fitr, i.e. charity in the form of food. Food, gifts and cards are often exchanged among friends and family.
During the festival, families are urged to forgive those who have wronged them and aim to give presents to loved ones. Its importance is tied to the gratitude given to Allah for providing them with the strength to successfully fast and refrain from Haram behaviour. The day is spent with friends and family as they get together indulging in eating and handing out gifts. In essence, Muslims celebrate the blessings bestowed upon them by Allah (SWT).
Eid ul-Fitr celebrations traditionally last for three days. In Nigeria, the Federal Government has already declared today, Tuesday and tomorrow, Wednesday as public holidays to mark the occasion. Another important tradition is Zakat al-Fitr, the act of giving charity to the poor at the end of Ramadan.
Islam enjoins zakat al-fitr on the Muslims; it is a help from the rich to the poor, and it is to be given before Muslims set out for the Eid prayer ground. Zakat al-fitr must be given on behalf of all Muslims, young and old, male and female in the giver’s household. It is also obligatory to give it before the Eid prayer, and it is not permissible to delay it until after the Eid prayer. There is nothing wrong with giving it one or two days before the Eid.
Voluntary fasting is prohibited on Eid ul-Fitr day as Muslims are encouraged to feast and celebrate the completion of a month of worship and abstinence from food. Eid ul-Fitr is also a time to visit friends and relatives, and celebration for families could extend to two or three days. Children receive new clothes, jewelry, toys and other gifts, and parents teach the importance of following the Islamic obligations of fasting, prayer and reading the Qur’an.
This Eid-ul-Fitr day, one should reflect on one’s condition of spiritual improvement and resolve not to lose what one has gained but rather, not only to maintain it, but aim for even higher spiritual development through righteous conduct, prayers and seeking the Grace of God. This is the spirit of Eid-ul-Fitr.
We felicitate with the Nigerian Muslim Ummah on this year’s Eid el-Fitr. The disciplined act of worship, sacrifice, tolerance, accommodation, good neighbourliness and being one’s brother’s keeper that prevailed during the month of Ramadan must not be discarded because the holy month is over. The real spirit of Ramadan is to sustain these virtues throughout the year. This country needs continuous prayers, sacrifice and good conduct at all times from the faithful, so that the Almighty will intervene in our affairs.
At the Eid prayer grounds today, Muslims should also reflect on the sad state of insecurity in the country and should pray for an end to kidnapping, banditry, cattle rustling, clashes between farmers and herders and insurgency. Happy Eid el-Fitr.