Saturday, July 1, 2017

'Eid-ul-Fitr': Origins and Significance

Today is the first day of Shawwal. As some of our brothers and sisters may not be aware, Shawwal is the first of the three months named as “Ashhur al-Hajj” (i.e. the months of Hajj).

Although the major acts of Hajj are normally performed in the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah, yet the whole period starting from the first of Shawwal (i.e. Eid-ul-Fitr) up to the tenth of Dhul-Hijjah (i.e. Eid-ul-Adha) is deemed to be the period of Hajj because some acts of Hajj can be performed any time during this period.

For example, the Tawaf-ul-Qudum (i.e. the Tawaf which is usually performed by those who reside outside Makkah), followed by the Sai’ of Hajj (i.e. the quick seven times walks between the hills of Safa and Marwa) cannot be performed before Shawwal, while it can be performed any day after the beginning of Shawwal. Likewise, an ‘Umrah performed before Shawwal cannot be treated as the ‘Umrah of Tamattu, while the ‘Umrah performed in Shawwal can be affiliated to the Hajj, making it a Hajj-e-Tamattu. Tamattu literally means to enjoy or take advantage of a facility. A pilgrim who performs the Hajj of Tamattu combines both Umrah and Hajj.

Moreover, the ihram of Hajj should not be started before Shawwal, because it is a disliked practice (Makruh). For these reasons these three months have been named as the months of Hajj’ and the month of Shawwal has the distinction of being the first of these. Alhamdulillah.

And today, the first of Shawwal is Eid-ul-Fitr. This is really a great blessing which Allah has bestowed on the Ummah (Community) of His beloved and most perfect Servant and Messenger, Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh). Eid-ul-Fitr comprises of two separate words ʻEid’ and ʻFitr’. ʻEid’ means a recurring happiness or festivity and ʻFitr’ means to break or open the fast. Therefore, Eid-ul-Fitr means the recurring festival of the breaking of the fast.

The Eid-ul-Fitr is a thanksgiving day where we - Muslims - assemble in a brotherly and joyful atmosphere as one united congregation to offer our gratitude to Allah for helping us to fulfil our spiritual obligations as ordained by Him prior to the Eid. It is also a day of Victory for those who have been able to keep every satanic thoughts and acts at bay during the holy month of Ramadan and have enjoyed the performance of all good deeds to please Allah. Indeed, if the acts of worship (Ibadat) and good deeds of this Ramadan are finished and the Eid prayer is now completed, but the Ibadat of the Muslim believer will never finish until death. The believers are required to ever keep the good values and acts which they have learnt to maintain during the blessed month of Ramadan and to keep them alive for the rest of the year until the next Ramadan and so on till their death. Thus, Ramadan comes as a training for the believers to keep them ever on the right path and thus remain in the sight of Allah, ever pleasing and happy.
Origins of Eid-ul-Fitr

Now let us see how was the first Eid-ul-Fitr in Islam was celebrated. It is good for us Muslims to know that the first Eid-ul-Fitr was celebrated by our beloved prophet Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) in the second year of Hijra (i.e. the migration/ journey made by the Holy Prophet (pbuh) from Mecca to Medina). It was during that year that fasting (As-Sawm) during the month of Ramadan was ordained by Allah to the Muslim believers. It was during the course of that same Ramadan that the Muslims fought against the Quraish in the battle of Badr. It has been mentioned in the Hadiths (most probably for the first Eid-ul-Fitr) that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) was so tired and weak that he had to lean on Hazrat Bilal (ra) to stand up and pronounce his sermon.

Some days before the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr, Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) announced the Sadaqat-ul-Fitr (also called Zakat-ul-Fitr or Fitrana), which became obligatory on each Muslim, in which the companions contributed generously. The money received was distributed to the poor before and also after the Eid celebrations.

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) always performed Eid prayers in the open praying area (called Musalla). The open praying area of Medina was at the east gate of the city of Medina. Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) used to recite the Quranic Chapters Qaf (Ch. 50) and Al-Qamar (Ch. 54) during his Eid sermons and he used to exhort them on Taqwa (fear of Allah, righteousness and guarding against evil) and obedience to Allah, and as the women who were commanded to attend the Eid prayers and sermon could not hear his sermon properly, our noble prophet (pbuh) had the courtesy to walk to them by passing the rows of the men and used to exhort to them also, on the need for them to secure their places in Jannah (paradise) and to be protected from hellfire through alms-giving.

Narrated by Ibn Abbas (ra): The Prophet (pbuh) offered a two Rakat (cycles) prayer on the Day of Eid-ul-Fitr and he did not pray before or after it. Then he went towards the women along with Bilal and ordered them to pay alms and so they started giving their earrings and necklaces (in charity). (Bukhari & Muslim).

It is mentioned in the Hadiths how Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) celebrated his Eid. Narrated by Hazrat Aisha (ra), the wife of the Holy Prophet (pbuh):

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) came to my house while two girls were singing beside me the songs of Buath (a story about the war between the two tribes of the Ansar, the Khazraj and the Aus, before Islam). The Prophet (pbuh) lay down and turned his face to the other side. Then Abu Bakr came and spoke to me harshly saying, “Musical instruments of Satan near the Prophet (pbuh)?” 

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) turned his face towards him and said, “Leave them.” 

When Abu Bakr became inattentive, I signalled to those girls to go out and they left. It was the day of Eid, and the Black people were playing with shields and spears; so either I requested the Prophet (pbuh) or he asked me whether I would like to see the display. I replied in the affirmative. Then the Prophet (pbuh) made me stand behind him and my cheek was touching his cheek and he was saying, “Carry on! O Bani Arfida,” till I got tired. The Prophet (pbuh) asked me, “Are you satisfied (Is that sufficient for you)?” I replied in the affirmative and he told me to leave. (Bukhari & Muslim).

This incident is mentioned differently in another Hadith where it is narrated that Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) made Hazrat Abu Bakr (ra) understand that ʻeach nation has an Eid, and this is our (i.e. the Muslims’) Eid’. Therefore, it does not befit us to break the heart of anybody by denying them on that special day a little pleasure which is not that much harmful, and besides, it was being played by little girls and Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) did not have the heart to hurt their feelings.

The Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has given us the best example a human being can have to accede to the presence of Allah in the best way. His Sunnah (way of behaving/ practices) and Hadiths (i.e. the valuable words he uttered for the preservation of Islam) should ever be kept alive by all Muslims alike.

Insha-Allah, we must prove to the world that Islam is really the religion of peace and brotherhood, that our Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was indeed the best role model for mankind. We must discard the notion of a blood-thirsty prophet which these people have in their minds concerning our noble prophet (pbuh). We need to portray such good examples that they would be left with no option but to label us as peacemakers and not rebels and blood-thirsty killers.

We, Muslims have a vital work to do on earth. Each one of us has the duty to give the message of the unicity of Allah (Tawheed) to the people and invite them to submit to Him, but before preaching to others, we need to first of all refine ourselves with such excellent qualities which shall reflect the beauty of Islam in the eyes and hearts of people. Like you know, our noble prophet (pbuh) was the personification of the Holy Quran. Whatever Allah commanded him to do, he excelled all others in the execution of those commandments. He needed to fulfil those divine obligations so that we may see and even read about his words and practices and we emulate him. That is how, the perfection of humankind can be achieved by us, only by following his example and giving the world a piece of that magnificent and blissful state, for it is through submission to Allah alone that we can reach to the high levels of divine love and be in His Presence.

This is indeed what I wish for each one of my sincere disciples and followers, and all those who take immense pleasure in listening to my advices and putting them into practice. As the Khalifatullah of this era, I am here to give you the glad tidings of the love and mercy of Allah which await you if you submit to Him alone and obey His commandments. Those who do so shall never ever be losers. On the contrary, they shall be the winners, especially so in the final resting place which is Paradise, the paradise of Allah's love and pleasure.

I thus end this Eid-ul-Fitr Sermon on these words and wish all my beloved disciples and followers and all my other Muslim brothers, sisters and children an Eid Mubarak. May Allah accept your sacrifices, forgive all of you and admit you in His mercy and love. Indeed those whom Allah loves shall never ever be unhappy. There shall be an everlasting Eid for them, but as the word Eid also involves a certain degree of unhappiness, this is indeed the efforts and trials that they have to go through so as to achieve to the highest standard of the esteem and love of Allah. Insha-Allah, Ameen. Once again, Eid Mubarak to all of you.

--- The sermon delivered by Khalifatullah Hadhrat Munir Ahmad Azim Saheb (atba) of Mauritius on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr, on 26 June 2017(01 Shawwal 1438 AH).