Eid al-Fitr, a central milestone in the Islamic calendar

Eid al-Fitr, a central milestone in the Islamic calendar

Muslims in France and elsewhere fervently await the festival of Eid al-Fitr which this year will be celebrated on April 10 (1). Eid al-Fitr (Arabic term for the holiday of breaking), or Eid el-Fitr (term most generally used in France), is the Muslim holiday marking the breaking of the fast. It is celebrated on the first day of the month of Shawwal, the tenth month of the Islamic calendar: the appearance of the new moon thus marks the completion of the long period of fasting during the blessed month of Ramadan.

Eid el-Fitr, the second festival of Islam, is also sometimes called Eid es-Seghir, the small festival, as opposed to Eid el-Kebir, the big festival (Eid al-Adha), which takes place around two months and ten days later (actually the 10th day of Dhu al-hijja) in commemoration of Abraham's sacrifice. This festival is therefore completely linked to the month of Ramadan and constitutes a moment of intense celebration for the Muslim community.

According to the Sunnah or Prophetic Tradition, on the eve of Eid el-Fitr, Allah calls out to the angels: “O My Angels! What is the reward for these workers who have completed their task (fasting)? » The angels respond that they should be rewarded. The Almighty then responds: “Be witnesses, I have forgiven them all” (reported by Muslim).

Much of the Eid festival is spent in gratitude and praise of Allah, of personal triumph over one's passions during a month long accomplishment executed with the sole purpose of satisfying and serving the Lord.

Multiple names for the same celebration

If Eid el-Fitr is the canonical Muslim name (used in the hadiths), coming from Arabia, as we have seen, in the Maghreb in particular, it is also called the“Eid es-Seghir”.

However, it has other names such as “Idul Fitri” in Indonesia, or “Lebaran” (this term evokes dispersion, implied, after having communicated in fasting). In Malaysia and Singapore, “Hari Raya Puasa” designates this celebration.

In Albanian, this holiday is officially called “Fiter Bajrami” but it is called more often “Bajrami i madh” (the great Bajram), while Eid el-Kébir is called “Bajrami i vogël” (little Bajram) or “Kurban Bajrami” : strangely the meaning is therefore contrary to the name of the Maghreb. The Bosniaks and other South Slavic peoples do not make this inversion: it is “Mali Bajram” (little Bajram) which marks the end of Ramadan. We also say “Ramazanski Bajram” (the Bajram of Ramadan, the term bajram comes from the Turkish word bayram). In Türkiye this holiday is called “Ramazan Bayram” Or “Seker Bayram” (read “cheker yawns rameu”) Or “sugar festival”, referring to sweet foods consumed in the morning. In West Africa, in Senegal or Mali for example, this festival is called the “korité”. For their part, the Nigeriens designate it “Karamas’Sallah” Or “Djingar Keyna”, which means ” small party “.

Three days of festivities

A major festive occasion for the Muslim community, Eid el-Fitr is traditionally celebrated for at least three days. On the day of the festival, it is advisable to eat sweets such as dates before going to the mosque to celebrate collective prayer.

On the morning of Eid, normally at the latest before the start of prayer, Muslims must pay zakât al-Fitr (charity for breaking the fast): this is intended for the poor in the community or the needy also aims to purify the errors committed by the fasting person during Ramadan. But “el fatra”, according to the name given by North African Muslims in France in particular, can also be given during the month of Ramadan and also aims to strengthen ties in the Islamic community. Each head of family is responsible for this and must give a certain amount for each member of the family for whom he or she is responsible, regardless of their age. (2)Many give zakat early in the morning so that the poor can participate in the Eid celebration. However, many believers pay zakât al-Fitr during the last decade of Ramadan by sending money to the country of origin (Maghreb, Comoros, Senegal, etc.) or by sending a check to certain Islamic associations. charities (Islamic Relief, Muslim Hands, Red Crescent, etc.). Let us note in passing that these have experienced significant growth in recent years and regularly solicit donations as part of numerous humanitarian campaigns abroad (Palestine, Darfur, Haiti, Ethiopia, etc.) but also in France (soup kitchens, breakups). fasting during Ramadan…).

After performing the great ablution, Muslims go to the mosques early in the morning to perform the Eid service, perfumed and dressed in their most beautiful clothes. Indeed, in accordance with the Prophetic Tradition, it is a matter of being pleasing to God who is Beauty and appreciate beauty » (“innallah djamîl youhhibboul djamâl”).

Note in passing that the Eid prayer, composed of only two rak'at (units of prayer, composed of a complete series of standing positions, bowing, prostrations and sitting positions), despite its optional character ( Sunnah), is widely followed by believers: many make professional arrangements to attend.

As practiced by the Prophet Muhammad, the faithful recite various invocations on the way to the mosque and sing “Subhanallâhi wal Hamdou lillâhi wa la Ilâha illl lAllahu Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, wa lillahil Hamd” (Glory to Allah, Praise be to Allah, There is no god except Allah, Allah is the greatest, Allah is the greatest. Praise be to Him).

At the end of the prayer and throughout the duration of Eid, Muslims greet and hug each other with the formula: “Taqabballah minna wa minkoum!” » (May God approve your works and ours!) and “Eid Mubarak!” » (May your Eid be a day of blessing!).

For at least three days, we witness demonstrations of joy, exchanges of congratulations between all believers, strengthening the bonds of fraternity in the community.

In addition, gifts are given to the children, feasts are organized; food is also given to the poor or distributed to neighbors (sadaqat). Many decorate their homes to celebrate this blessed holiday. In Muslim countries, mosques and minarets light up at night and the chanting of the Koran often echoes during the day. Muslims also take advantage of this holiday to visit their friends, the sick, and their loved ones.

Each family makes extensive preparations to welcome the guests, and there are usually trays of various oriental pastries, coffee, tea and drinks shared with neighbors and the local community. Many decorate their homes to celebrate this blessed holiday. Children particularly enjoy this celebration, which for them is synonymous with toys, money or gifts offered by adults. Telephone calls are made to distant family and friends and colorful greeting cards are sometimes sent on this occasion.

Spiritually, for Muslims, the holiday of Eid al-Fitr also serves as a time for self-assessment of the past month. It allows you to take stock of the good actions accomplished (or bad) and the changes made within yourself. The faithful then looks to the future with the same level of commitment and determination practiced during the holy month of Ramadan. The second festival of Islam is supposed to mark reconciliation between believers and mutual forgiveness. While fasting on Eid is prohibited, Muslims are encouraged to fast for another six days known as as-sitta al-bid : the latter also called ayyâm essâbirin (the days of the steadfast) are fasted during the month of Shawwal by pious believers, consecutively or intermittently.

* Kamel Meziti, historian, author and former director of the chaplaincy of the Muslim faith of the French Navy

(1) Muslim holidays, Ramadan and the great pilgrimage (Hajj) follow the lunar calendar. Due to the lunar cycle being shorter than the solar cycle, each year Ramadan and therefore Eid al-Fitr begins ten to eleven days before that of the previous year.

(2) This year in France its amount is set between 7 and 9 euros per person in the household.