By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, New Age Islam
July 16, 2015
Today when Muslims the world over are in a turbulent situation, which the Prophet (pbuh) prophesied as the age of ‘Fitnah’, we need to revive the inner spirit of Eid, rather than its external form. At a time when the self-proclaimed Islamic caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is hell-bent on disassociating Islam with the spirituality of Eid, it’s really important to know what significance this festival assumes. Clearly, Eid is abhorred by al-Baghdadi because it is an open reminder to the Muslim world of the universal values of Islam: love in place of hatred, patience in place of anger, forbearance in place of warfare, coexistence and inclusiveness in place of exclusivism and intolerance and pluralism in place of supremacism. It comes every year to remind us that if Muslims really cherish to exist in the modern world, they have to rejuvenate the essential messages of Eid.
In fact, this Eid is a reminder for us to take a note of introspection. The end of Ramazan is a prime time for us Muslims to assess the way we have lived our lives over the past months in this year. We need to do an evaluation of where we stand now after remaining hungry and thirsty for so long. We should ask ourselves where we were before the commencement of Ramazan and where we are moving now after passing the thirty long days of fasting. This is the best way we can have the heart to celebrate the divine bliss of Eid with scores of Muslims pooled in blood in their countries. Let this self-criticism lead us to feel truly sorry and remorse for all the wrong our co-religionists have done to their own brethren as well as people from other religious communities. And if we have not yet changed, even at the end of Ramazan, we have no right to say “Happy Eid”.
One of the appalling attitudes that we don’t seem to have changed yet is our heedlessness towards the rights of our neighbours, especially non-Muslims, over us. We enjoyed the blissful sacred days of Ramazan keeping fasts, sharing joys of Iftar (fast-breaking) within our community, donating to the poor Muslims and distributing dates, fruits and foods to our friends and relatives. But while we do all these good and virtuous things, we seldom tend to mete out the same treatment to our neighbours from other faith traditions. Have we forgotten the Prophet Muhammad’s promise towards non-Muslims that he will fight for them if they were not given their rights by Muslims? Shouldn’t we have practically acquainted our non-Muslim neighbours with the beautiful spirit of fasting in Islam? Yes, they don’t keep fasts in the same way as Muslims do by strictly abstaining from food and intimate relations from sunrise to sunset, but they greatly admire it and sometimes they also do it to maintain health, humility and self–restraint.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) greatly stressed on universal brotherhood among all the human being while maintaining their cultural distinctions. Therefore, the Prophet (pbuh), while emphasizing the value of universal brotherhood, used the Arabic word “Ummah”. It includes all religious communities, races, ethnic tribes and social ranks, each with their own cultural, national, linguistic or temperamental features. The Prophet (pbuh) exhorted his followers to behave towards all of them as brothers and treat them as they want themselves to be treated. He inculcated noble humane values through the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr, with an aim to foster universal human brotherhood.
Eid is an Arabic word meaning: something that returns every year, while Fitr means a form of charity from the rich to the poor. Obviously, the full name of this Islamic festival, Eid-ul-Fitr denotes that its prime concern is ‘charity for the poor’. Thus, Eid-ul-Fitr is an occasion that comes every year to remind us of our humane duty towards the weaker sections of society. It returns every year to enliven the spirit of charity, almsgiving, generosity and sharing with the poor and destitute ones. In fact, the sole purpose of this Islamic festival is feeding the poor and assisting the less fortunate ones, and not merely feasting on delicious foods and wearing fancy dresses. But have we really stopped to think how many hungry and less fortunate people are satisfied with our Zakat and Fitrah?
After days and nights of Ramadan are spent in complete devotion to Allah and sincere goodwill for all His creation, Eid-ul-Fitr comes at the end of this month overflowing with joy, ecstasy and charity for the poor. This is precisely why Islam has enjoined upon Muslims on this day to distribute Fitrah (a fixed amount of charity mandatory for every Muslim) to the poor. They are also exhorted to hold delicious feasts and invite friends and neighbours from all faith communities to their tables. Such noble acts on the Eid-ul-Fitr strengthen bonds of love, mutual harmony, human brotherhood, and social integrity among Muslims and other communities.
Eid-ul-Fitr also marks the Prophet’s ambition of spreading social cohesiveness, cultural festivity and national unity and solidarity. According to a Hadith tradition, when the Prophet Muhammad arrived at the city of Madinah, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) strongly felt the need for a feast that could imbibe peace, unity, charity, brotherhood, equality and deep humane emotions. Having received the divine inspiration, Prophet (pbuh) announced: "Almighty Allah has granted two blessed Eids: Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha ..." (Abu Dawud)
The prime objective of Eid-ul-Fitr is spreading the spirit of peace, delight, kindness, compassion, brotherhood and equality among all peoples, irrespective of cast, creed and religion. These great humanitarian values are beautifully reflected in the Prophet’s traditions (Sunnats) on the day of Eid. They are: greeting people time and again, shaking hands and hugging when meeting or parting, visiting and comforting the sick, offering condolences to the bereaved, exchanging gifts with other members of the society, sharing happiness with all means possible. Such acts that strengthen fraternity, brotherhood and charity are greatly valued in Islam, and they are most importantly exhorted on the day of Eid-ul-Fitr. It is not difficult to see why self-proclaimed caliph of the extremist cult, ISIS is vehemently opposed to the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr.
Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is a classical Islamic scholar. He has graduated from a leading Islamic seminary of India, acquired Diploma in Qur'anic sciences from Al-Jamiat ul Islamia, Faizabad, U.P. and Certificate in Uloom ul Hadith from Al-Azhar Institute of Islamic Studies. He has also graduated in Arabic (Hons) and has done his M. A. in Comparative Religion from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.