‘IDU ‘L-FITR عيد الفطر
Lit., “The Festival of the Breaking of the Fast.” It is called also ‘Idu Ramazan, the ‘Idu ‘s-Sadaqah (Feast of Alms), and the ‘Idu ‘s-saghir (Minor Festival). It commences as soon as the month’s fast in Ramazan is over, and consequently on the first day of the month of Shawwal. It is specially a feast of alms-giving. “Bring out your “alms,” said Ibn ‘Abbas, “for the Prophet has ordained this as a divine institution, one Sa’ of barley or dates, or a half Sa’ of wheat: this is for every person, free or bond, man or woman, old or young, to purify thy fast (i.e. the month’s fast just concluded) of any obscene language, and to give victuals to the poor.” (Mishkat, book vi. ch. iii.)
On this festival the people, having previously distributed the alms which are called the Sadaqatu ‘l-Fitr, assemble in the vast assembly outside the city in the Idgah, and, being led by the Imam, recite two rak’ahs of prayer. After prayers the Imam ascends the mimbar, or pulpit, and delivers the khutbah, or oration. We are indebted to Mr. Sell for the following specimen of one of these sermons:-
“In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.”
“Holy is God who has opened the door of mercy for those who fast, and in mercy and kindness has granted them the right of an entrance into heaven. God is greater that all. There is no God save Him. God is great! God is great! And worthy of praise. It is of His grace and favor that He rewards those who keep the fast. He has said: ‘I will give in the future world houses and palaces, and many excellent blessings to those who fast. God is great! God is great! Holy is He who certainly sent the Qur’an to our Prophet in the month of Ramazan, and who sends angels to grant peace to all true believers. God is great! And worthy of all praise. We praise and thank Him for the ‘Idu ;l-Fitr, that great blessing; and we testify that beside Him there is no God. He is alone. He has no partner. This witness which we give to His Unity will be a cause of our safety here, and finally gain us an entrance to Paradise. Muhammad (on whom be the mercy and peace of God) and all famous prophets are his slaves. He is the Lord of genii and of men. From Him comes mercy and peace upon Muhammad and his family, so long as the world shall last. God is greater than all. There is none beside Him. God is great! God is great! And worthy of praise. O company of Believers, O congregation of Muslims, the mercy of the True One is on you. He says that this Feast day is a blessing to you, and a curse to the unbelievers. Your fasting will not be rewarded, and your prayers will be stayed in their flight to heaven until you have given the sadaqah. O congregation of Believers, to give alms is to you a wajib duty. Give to the poor some measures of grain or it money equivalent. Your duty in Ramazan was to say the Tarawih prayers, to make supplication to God, to sit and mediate (i’tikaf) and to read the Qur’an. The religious duties of the first ten days of Ramazan gain the mercy to God, those of the second ten merit His pardon; whilst those of the last ten save those who do them from the punishment of hell. God has declared that Ramazan is a noble month, for is not one of its nights, the Lailatu ‘l-Qadr, better than a thousand months? On that night Gabriel and the angels descended from heaven: till the morning breaks it is full of blessing. Its eloquent interpreter, and its clearest proof is the Qur’an, the Word of God most Gracious. Holy is God who says in the Qur’an: ‘This is a guide for men, a distinguisher between right and wrong.’ O Believers, in such a month be present, obey the order of your God, and fast; but let the sick and the travelers substitute some other days on which to fast, so that no days be lost, and say: ‘God is great! And praise Him. God has made the fast easy for you. O Believers, God will bless you and us by the grace of the Holy Qur’an. Every verse of it is a benefit to us and fills us with wisdom. God is the Bestower, the Holy King, the Munificent, the Kind, the Nourisher, the Merciful, the Clement.”
The Khutbah being ended, the whole congregation raise their hands and offer a manajat for the remission of sins, the recovery of the sick, increase of rain, abundance of corn, preservation from misfortune, and freedom from debt. The Imam then descends to the ground, and makes further supplication for the people, the congregation saying “Amin” at the end of each supplication. At the close of the service the members of the congregation salute and embrace each other, and offer mutual congratulations, and spend the rest of the day in feasting and merriment.
Mrs. Meer Hasan Ali, in her Observations of the Musalmans of India, says:-
“The assemblies of the ladies on this feastival are marked by all the amusements and indulgence they can possibly invent or enjoy in their secluded state. Some receiving, others paying visits in covered conveyances; all doing honor to the day, by wearing their best jewellery and most splendid dress. The Zananah rings with festive songs and loud music, the cheerful meeting of friends, the distribution of presents to dependants, and remembrances to the poor; all is life and joy, cheerful bustle and amusement, on this happy day of festival, when the good lady of the mansion sits in state to receive presents from inferior and to grant proofs of her favor to others.”
Mr. Lane, in his Modern Egyptians, vol. ii, p. 238, thus describes the ‘Idu ‘l-Fitr, as kept in Egypt:-
“Soon after sunrise on the first day, the people having all dressed in new, or in their best clothes, the men assemble in the mosques, and perform the prayers of two rak’ahs, a Soonneh ordinance of the ‘eed; after which, the Khateeb delivers an exhortation. Friends, meeting in the mosque, or in the street, or in each other’s houses, congratulate and embrace and kiss each other. They generally visit each other for this purpose. Some, even of the lower classes, dress themselves entirely in a new suit of clothes, and almost everyone wears something new, if it be only a pair of shoes. The servant is presented with at least one new article of clothing by the master, and receives a few piaster from each of his master’s friends, if they visit the house; or even goes to those friend to congratulate them, and receives his present; if he have served a former master, he also visits him, and is in like manner rewarded for his trouble; and sometimes he brings a present of a dish of sweet cakes, and obtains, in return, money of twice the value, or more. On the days of this ‘eed, most of the people of Cairo eat salted fish, and thin, folded pancakes, and a kind of bun. Some families also prepare a dish consisting of stewed meat, with onions, and a quantity of treacle, vinegar, and coarse flour; and the master usually procures dried fruits, such as nuts, raisins, &c., for his family. Most of the shops in the metropolis are closed, except those at which eatables and sherbet are sold; but the streets present a gay appearance, from the crowds of passenger in their holiday clothes.
“On one or more days of this festival, some or all of the members of most families, but chiefly the women, visit the tombs of their relatives. This they also do on the occasion of the other grand festival. [‘IDU ‘L-AZHA.] The visitors, or their servants, carry palm branches, and sometimes sweet basil, to lay upon the tomb, which they go to visit. The palm-branch is broken into several pieces on the tomb.”
“Numerous groups of women are seen on these occasions, bearing palm-branches, on their way to the cemeteries in the neighborhood of the metropolis. They are also provided, according to their circumstances, with cakes, bread, dates, or some other kind of food, to distribute to the poor who resort to the burial-ground these days. Sometimes tents are pitched for them; the tents surround the tomb which is the object of the visit. The visitors recite the Fat’hhah, or, of they can afford it, employ a person to recite first the Soorat Ya’-Seen, or a larger portion of the Kuran. Often a khutmeh (or recital of the whole of the Quran) is performed at the tomb, or in the house, by several fickees. Then men generally return immediately after these rites have been performed, and the fragments or leaves of the palm-branch laid on the tomb; the women usually go to the tomb early in the afternoon; some of them (but these are not generally esteemed women of correct conduct), if they have a tent, pass the night in it, and remain until the end of the festival, or until the afternoon of the following Friday; so too, do the women of a family possessed of a private, enclosed burial-ground, with a house within it, for there are many such enclosures, and not a few with housed for the accommodation of the females in the midst of the public cemeteries of Cairo. Intrigues are said to be not uncommon with the females who spend the night in tents among the tombs. The great cemetery of Bab en-Nusr, in the desert tract immediately on the north of the metropolis, presents a remarkable scene on the two ‘eeds. In a part next the city-gate from which the burial-ground takes its name, many swings and whirligigs are erected, and several large tents, in some of which dancers, reciters of Aboo-Zyed, and other performers, amuse a dense crowd of spectators; and throughout the burial-ground are seen numerous tents for the reception of the visitors of the tombs. About two or three days after the ‘eed above described, the ‘Kisweh,’ or covering of the Kaabah, which is sent annually with the great caravan of pilgrims, is conveyed in procession from the citadel of the metropolis, where it is manufactured at the Sooltan’s expense, to the mosque of the Hbasaneyn, to be sewed together and lined, preparatively to the approaching pilgrimage.” [KISWAH.]
The visiting of tombs on the occasion of the two festivals is not a custom in India. It is generally done in the Muharram, both by the Sunnis and the Shi’ahs.
Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam