Issues related to Eid-ul-Fitr

Written by Muhammad Hanif

Literally, Eid-ul-Fitr (or Id al-Fitr) means "the feast of breaking the fast". Eid means "recurring happiness or festivity". The first sight of the new moon of Shawwal (the tenth month of Islamic calendar) in the sky signifies the end of the sacred month of Ramazan (also spelt as Ramadan) and announces the arrival of Eid-ul-Fitr. In the Muslim world the festival of Eid is anticipated with greater delight.

The festival is marked by the special Eid prayer which is performed in a prayer ground or a mosque. On this occasion the Muslims gather together in a great thanksgiving congregation. They give thanks to Allah Most High for giving them opportunity to fast during the holy month. Also, they beg Him for forgiveness of shortcomings and sins. After the performance of the prayer the Muslims wish greetings of Eid and embrace each other.

Traditionally, the Eid festival is celebrated during the first three days of the month of Shawwal. It is a time of official receptions and private visits, when friends greet one another, presents are exchanged, new clothes are worn, and the graves of relatives are visited. Also, children are given gifts of cash and new clothes.

Historical background

The two Eid festivals – Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha – were prescribed in the second year of the Prophet's Migration to Madina (Hegira). In a tradition Anas (may Allah be well pleased with him) narrates:

When the Holy Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) came to Madina, the people engaged in games on two days.

'What is the significance of these two days?' the Messenger asked the people.

'We used to engage in games (and amusement) on these days in the pre-Islamic time,' came the answer.

'Allah has exchanged these days for two days better than them: the day of sacrifice (Eid-ul-Azha) and the day of the breaking of the fast (Eid-ul-Fitr),' Allah's Messenger informed them.

(Sunan Abu Dawud)

Legal status of Eid prayer

The performance of Eid prayer is wajib (strongly recommended but short of obligatory) for the residents of a city, according to imam Abu Hanifa. Allah's Messenger always performed it.

Preparation for Eid

It is preferred to take a bath, use perfume, wear one's most beautiful clothes on the occasion of Eid. Jafar ibn Muhammad relates from his father on the authority of his grandfather who said:

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) would wear a Yemeni cloak on every Eid.

(Imam Shafii)

In another report Hassan Sibt narrates:

Allah's Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) ordered us to wear the most excellent clothes we could find for the two Eids and to use the finest perfume.

(Mustadrak Hakim)

Breakfast on Eid-ul-Fitr morning

People should eat before going to offer Eid-ul-Fitr prayer but not do so on the occasion of the Eid-ul-Azha. It is sunna to eat an odd number of dates before going to offer Eid-ul-Fitr prayer; on the occasion of Eid-ul-Azha one should delay the eating until one returns from the Eid prayer.

According to Anas (may Allah be well pleased with him):

On the Day of Fitr, Allah's Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) would not go out until he had eaten some dates.

In another report by Anas (may Allah be well pleased with him):

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to eat an odd number of them. (Sahih Bukhari)

Later on a special celebratory meal is eaten during daytime, the first daytime meal after the passage of a whole month.

Payment of zakat-ul-fitr

A very important aspect of Eid is charity, which all the Muslims are expected to extend to those in need. Zakat-ul-fitr is a type of charity which must be paid by every Muslim, young and old, male and female at the end of the month of Ramadan.

(Sahih Bukhari)

Its purpose is to purify fasters from any indecent act or speech and to help the poor and the needy. It must be paid before the performance of Eid prayer; if anyone pays it after the prayer it will be counted just as charity, not as Zakat-ul-fitr.

Where to perform Eid prayer

It is preferred to assemble in an open field and offer Eid prayer but it can be performed in a mosque as well. Keeping in view the great increase in population, it does not seem feasible for the people of a city to assemble in an open area at daybreak and pray together.

Traditions of the Messenger say that we must not offer any ritual prayer before and after Eid prayer. According to Ibn Abbas (may Allah be well pleased with him and his father):

On the day of Eid the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) went out to the place of the Eid ritual prayer. (There) he did not offer any ritual prayer before or after the Eid prayer.

(Sahih Bukhari)

Going to and returning from the prayer ground

One should go to the Eid prayer by one route and return by a different one.

According to Abu Huraira (may Allah be well pleased with him):

When the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) went out by one road for Eid prayer, he returned by a different one.

(Sunan Tirmizi)

In another report Jabir (may Allah be well pleased with him) narrated:

On the day of Eid, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) would return by a different route.

(Sahih Bukhari)

Moreover, recitation of takbirs while going to and returning from the place of prayer is the Prophetic sunna.

Azan and Iqamat

According to Ata (may Allah be well pleased with him):

Ibn Abbas and Jabir ibn Abdullah (may Allah be well pleased with both of them) said:

(In the time of the Prophet – Allah bless him and give him peace) there was no call to prayer (azan) on the day of the breaking of the fast (Eid-ul-Fitr) or the day of sacrifice (Eid-ul-Azha).

(Sahih Bukhari)

In the course of the sermon, the prayer leader pauses between two parts of the sermon and sits on the pulpit for a while. According to Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas (may Allah be well pleased with him):

The Prophet prayed Eid prayer without any azan or iqamat. He would deliver two sermons standing and would separate them by sitting between them (briefly).

(Musnad Bazzar)

The takbeers during Eid prayer

The Eid prayer consists of two cycles (rakat) during which the six additional takbirs are said. (Musannaf Abd-ur-Razzaq) Three takbirs are said after the opening takbir and before the Qur'anic recitation in the first rakat. During the second rakat, takbirs are said before the takbir which is customarily made for bending in the ruku. One should raise one's hands during each pronouncement of the takbir.

The prayer leader observes a brief pause between takbirs; the worshippers in between the takbirs recite nothing. The Messenger would be silent for a short period of time between the takbirs, and nothing has been reported from him concerning what he recited during that pause.

Sermon of Eid prayer

Listening to the sermon after the performance of Eid prayer is sunna. According to Abu Saeed Khudri (may Allah be well pleased with him):

On the day of the breaking of the fast (Eid-ul-Fitr) or the day of sacrifice (Eid-ul-Azha), the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) would go to the place of prayer and begin with the prayer. When he finished, he would face the people while the people were sitting in rows, and he would admonish them, advise them and exhort them (to do good works).

(Sahih Bukhari)

According to Ibn Abbas (may Allah be well pleased with him and his father):

I attended the Eid with the Messenger of Allah, Abu Bakr, Umar and Usman; all of them performed the prayer before delivering the sermon (khutba).

(Sahih Bukhari)

When the sermon is over, worshippers socialize with each other.

Recreation on Eid

Recreation and amusement, if one does not transgress the bounds of Islamic law, are permissible on the festive occasion of Eid. In this connection a hadis reported on the authority of Anas can be quoted:

When the Holy Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) came to Madina, the people engaged in games on two days.

'What is the Significance of these two days?' the Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) asked the people.

'We used to engage in games (and amusement) on these days in the pre-Islamic time,' came the answer.

'Allah has exchanged these days for two days better than them: the day of sacrifice (Eid-ul-Azha) and the day of the breaking of the fast (Eid-ul-Fitr),' Allah's Messenger informed them.

(Sunan Abu Dawud)

Another hadis in Sahih Bukhari also justifies recreation, but it must stay within moral bounds. The mother of believers Aisha (may Allah be well pleased with her) narrates:

Allah's Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) entered the house and I had two girls (not adult yet) who were singing about the battle of Buath. The Prophet lied down on the bed and turned his face to the other direction. Abu Bakr entered and spoke harshly to me: "Musical instruments of Satan in the presence of Allah's Messenger!" Allah's Messenger turned his face to him and said: "Leave them." (In one report the Prophet said to him: "O Abu Bakr, every people have a festival and this is our festival.") When Abu Bakr became inattentive, I signalled to the girls to leave. It was the day of Eid and the Africans were performing with their shields and spears. Either I asked him or the Prophet asked if I would like to watch them (I cannot recall now). I replied in the affirmative. At this the Prophet made me stand behind him…. He was saying: "Carry on, O tribe of Arfada," until I tired. The Prophet asked: "Is that enough for you?" When I replied "Yes," he said: "Leave (then)."

(Sahih Bukhari)

Also, Aisha (may Allah be well pleased with her) reports that Allah's Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) said on the same day:

Let the Jews of Madina know that our din (religion) is spacious (and has room enough for relaxation and recreation), and I have been sent with an easy and straight forward religion.

(Fath-ul-Bari)

Congratulation on Eid

The Muslims should congratulate one another on the occasion of Eid. The traditional greeting for Eid-ul-Fitr is Eid Mabarak ("May Allah make it a blessed feast").

According to Jubair ibn Nufair:

When the Companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) met each other on the day of Eid, they would say to each other: "May Allah accept it from us and you."

(Fath-ul-Bari)

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