Professor Dr. Anwarul Karim
Eid-ul-Fitr stands as the day of complete submission and gratitude to Allah, the Most Magnificent and Most Gracious and also as the day of festivity dedicated to the Almighty Allah. The Muslims all over the world unite on the occasion to submit themselves to Allah for successfully fulfilling His order for a month-long fasting beginning from the time when one takes Sahri at the stipulated time ‘until the white thread of dawn appear distinctly’ and ending with the appearance of night till sunset, each day, until the shawal moon is visible after the end of the month of Ramzan.
Eid-ul-Fitr also stands as the day of paying ‘Sadaqatul-Fitr,’—‘Fitra’ a kind of practice involving the rich to share a bit of wealth to the poor so that the less fortunate can join in the festivity with pleasure. It is compulsory for Muslims to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. It must not be taken as a kind of mercy, but as it is ordained by Allah.
Fasting during the Ramzan is a month -long training for the Muslims to properly understand its implication and to follow the orders of Allah as detailed in the holy Quran and Sunnah. The month of Ramzan is the most significant because of the fact that the holy Qur’an was first revealed to Hazrat Muhammad (Pbuh), the last Prophet of Allah, slowly and stage by stage as both guidance and blessings to the mankind. The rest eleven months would help one follow how to lead one’s life in accordance with the Qur’an and the Hadith — the Traditions of the Prophet (Sm). The Qur’an was revealed in the night of Lailatul Qadr, the Night of Power and the Blessed Night during one of the nights of the last ten days of Ramzan. The rozadars have to find out the blessed night on any of the unequal dates of the Ramzan (21, 23, 25, 27, and 29) in the last part of the month.
Fasting in the month of the Ramzan ordained by Allah
Allah says in the Holy Qur’an :"O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous. But to fast is best for you, if you only knew." "The month of Ramadhan is that in which was revealed the Qur'an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights the new moon of the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey—then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and wants for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that (to) which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful." (Sura Al-Baqarah 2 : 183,184 &185)
We understand from the above verses of the Holy Qur’an that these make it clear, fasting is ordained by Allah compulsorily to all Muslims except exemptions from fasting on ground of illness and journey. Fasting has been ordained for Muslims as they are to be righteous.
One of the most important features of the month of Ramzan is that the Holy Quran was revealed to Prophet Mohammed (Pbuh) during this time. This Book of Guidance is an invaluable treasure for all mankind. By Muslim, it is understood that one who submits to Allah completely and carry out Allah’s order and guidance.
"Allah is with those who restrain themselves." (Sura Nahl 16: 128)
Fasting teaches restraint in all matters of life as detailed in the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith. Fasting is a noble act and it is liked by Allah (Swt). Takwa or fear of Allah and restrain is the basis of all good activities of human beings.
Revelation of the Qur’an in the Lailatul Qadr
"Undoubtedly I have revealed the Holy Quran in the Glorified Night (Lailatul Qadr). Do you know of this Glorified Night? The Night of Al-Qadr is better than a thousand months. Therein descend the angels and the Rooh Jibreel (Gabriel) by Allah’s Permission with all Decrees, there is peace until the appearance of dawn." (Sura Al-Qadr 97:1-5)
Allah, the Creator of the universe and all things there in, made the night most important to pay highest respect to it so much so that prayer in this night is worth praying more than a thousand months.
Muslims are thus urged by Allah and His Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) to find out the holy night in the last ten days of the month of Ramzan. It has become a test for Muslims to devote earnestly to look for the night as the night of Salvation.
Allah, The Lord of the Universe and of all created beings makes the importance of the Holy Night very clearly in the Surah al-Dukhan, Chapter 44.
In Surah al-Dukhan (smoke) Allah further detailed his instruction.
Verses 1 – 6:
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
1. Haa Mim
2. By the manifest Book that makes things clear.
3. We sent It down on a blessed night. Indeed, We are ever warning.
“We sent It (i.e., the Holy Qur’an bearing testimony to the veracity of the Prophethood of the Prophet of Islam (Sm) down on a blessed night.”
4. Therein (the blessed night) is decreed (and explicated) every (momentous) matter of Ordainments (as per Divine Wisdom).
5. As a Command (the Revelation of the Qur’an on the Night of Decree and the Decree of every matter on that night) from Us. Indeed, We are ever sending (all the Messengers).
6. (Revelation of the Book and sending Messengers is) a Mercy from your Lord. Indeed, He is the All-Hearer, the Omniscient.
This is clear from the above verses that the holy Qur’an was revealed on the blessed night, known as Lailatul Qadr (Shab-e Qadr) and everything or matters are settled as desired by Allah on the same blessed night for human beings and also for all other creations. It suggests that our future courses of action are also settled during this period of time.
And the prayer during the night has thus been recommended by Allah and it is worth praying more than thousand months. .
Siyam (Sawm) or fasting begins with the appearance of the moon in the month of the Ramzan for a month until the moon reappears in the month of Shawal for Eid-ul-Fitr-- festival after the breaking of the fast.
The month for renewal of yearly spiritual commitment to Allah
Ramzan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and it is traditionally a sacred period devoted to prayers, fasting, reciting the Quran, Tasbih Tahlil and charity. It is the month for renewal of yearly spiritual commitment to Allah.
Quotations on Ramzan from the Holy Quran at a glance
"O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous" (Sura Al-Baqarah 2:183)
With the above verse, the Holy Quran makes it clear that fasting was ordained compulsory to Muslims as it was ordained for other Ummats before and that they have to fast if they are to be righteous.
"...But to fast is best for you, if you only knew." (Sura Al-Baqarah 2:184)
In those days some might question the benefits of fasting apart from blessings. Science and medicine today have all but confirmed that there are numerous health benefits to fasting for a month in a year. It is a great way to cleanse the stomach and also has many health benefits for the brain.
"The month of Ramadhan (is that) in which was revealed the Qur'an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights (the new moon of) the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey - then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and (wants) for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that (to) which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful." (Sura Al-Baqarah 2:185)
"Allah is with those who restrain themselves." (Sura Nahl 16: 128)
Fasting teaches restraint— the ability to control worldly desires and spends time in prayer and meditation along with the day today life. For a Muslim, every day work is a kind of ibadath. or prayer.Fasting is a noble act that is much beloved by Allah (Swt).
Observance of Eid-ul-Fitr as blessings from Allah
Eid-ul-Fitr is thus an important occasion for Muslims of the world to show their gratitude to Allah for His blessings. Eid begins on the morning of ¬¬ Shawal after Ramzan as a prayer in an open field or occasionally in mosques where Muslims assemble with clean dress or new clothes to say Eid prayer. The Imam makes a speech or Khutba to the people attending it, giving meanings and purpose of Ramzan and Eid-ul-Fitr. After the Eid, people greet each other by embracing. There after goes the feast,visiting friends and relations to convey good wishes.
The first Eid-ul-Fitr was celebrated by the Prophet Muhammad (Sm) with people who accepted Islam and they included many of his friends and relatives after the victory of the battle of Badr.
To all Muslims, Eid-ul-Fitr is an important show of gratitude to Allah for the help and strength He gives throughout the preceding fasting month to practice self-control and other things as directed by Him and His Prophet. A celebration or feasting marks the end of fasting and starts with a new promise of life which one learns from the observance of fasting.
The joyous occasion, which means "Festival of breaking the Fast’, is celebrated as a reward from Allah as it marks the end of fasting. During the Eid Muslims greet one another, exchange good wishes , visit and feast people irrespective of class, caste and creed. There is no distinction amoug people–rich and poor, class or caste and creed. The rich provides ‘Fitra’ or ‘sharing’ of his fortune/festivity with those who are less fortunate than him/ her as a part of his/her duty.
Lessons to learn from Ramzan and Eid-ul-Fitr
I. Allah as the Supreme Being and Sovereign
To take Allah and none else as the Supreme Being and Sovereign and He is the only Law giver to all mankind. He teaches Islam or ‘Peace’ to all mankind, taking Him as the Lord of Life on earth and hereafter. One is to submit to Him and none else, neither the angels nor the spirits nor any kind of idols. Each one to accept the Prophet as the Messenger of Allah from the beginning of Hazrat Adam and down to the last and the greatest Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh).
II. Man is the best of creations
Allah has given Man the power over all other creations including earth, water, air and fire. Allah has given the power to surmount the Satan. Allah is the Supreme guardian of human beings.
III. Obedience to parents
Obedience to parents (more particularly the mother) is also ordained by Allah. There is no distinction between man and women in respect to prayer. Man is the care taker of women in family life.
IV. Takwa or ‘fear of Allah’ is the basis of all training
The purpose of the Ramzan fasting and the Eid is a systematic training for a month that covers the rest of the eleven months. Most important things to follow are to obey Allah as the Most Supreme, to submit to obey His Prophet for guidance as ordained in the holy Qur’an and Sunnah to protect mankind from the Satan and evil activities, to pay Jakat and Sadaqah as kind of duties to the less fortunate in the society. Here one is to help develop equality, fraternity or brotherhood, not making any kind of distinction among people—irrespective of caste and creed and racism, such as black and white, and communalism. To treat all fellow human beings with equality and respect is the characteristic of Islam. These also include self-restraint from greed, self-purification from immorality and injustice, Allah-consciousness, compassion, the spirit of caring and sharing, the love of humanity and the love of Allah. One is to develop manners and moral fortitude, to treat all equally with love and care. Everything that looks obscene and impure, must be discarded. A Muslim is not allowed to go near to all these.
Ramzan teaches us how to develop a sense of empathy within us and to share the pains and sufferings of those who are less fortunate and cannot meet both ends together because of poverty and remain hungry on most occasions and also the pangs of thirst when one is forced to without food and drinks.
Fasting recommends patience, unselfishness, and gratitude. When we fast we feel the pains of deprivation and hunger, and learn how to endure it patiently. The meaning of this powerful experience in a social and humanitarian context is that we are much quicker than anybody else in sharing and sympathizing with the oppressed and needy around the world, and thereby responding to their needs. It is the month to visit the poor, the sick, and the needy to share their sorrows. In this month the Muslims believe that they are blessed.
That Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) brought equality among people of the world for the first time was admitted by Swami Vivekananda and he also made speeches eulogizing Hazrat Muhammad (Pbuh). Recently I was greeted by a follower of Swami Vivekananda from West Bengal over phone and was all praise for our Prophet (Sm) for introducing equality and fraternity abolishing slavery, caste and class distinction for the first time in the world and said that Islam upheld peace in the world.
(The writer was formerly Treasurer and Vice Chancellor (In-charge) Islamic University (2004-2007) and Visiting Scholar, Divinity School, Harvard University, USA and founder Director, Lalon Academy, Kushtia and presently Chairman, Folklore Research Institute. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)