Why Muslims celebrate Eid’l Fitr, the end of monthlong fasting

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Why Muslims celebrate Eid’l Fitr, the end of monthlong fasting
Here’s what Muslims and non-Muslims can learn from the feast of Eid’l Fitr, especially as the world battles COVID-19

MANILA, Philippines – Beyond it being a public holiday and the end of monthlong fasting for Muslims, many Filipinos in predominantly Catholic Philippines know little about the Islamic feast of Eid’l Fitr.

Why do Muslims celebrate Eid’l Fitr?

Muslims celebrate Eid’l Fitr to thank Allah for the fruitful fasting month of Ramadan and to remind themselves of the lessons of fasting: obedience to God and compassion for the poor and hungry.

Eid’l Fitr, also known as Hari Raya Puasa, literally means “Festival of Breaking Fast.” It marks the end of Ramadan, the month when Muslims are required to fast from food, sex, and even water from sunrise to sunset.

Eid’l Fitr is celebrated on different dates each year, depending on the sighting of the new moon in the 10th month of the Islamic calendar. It is observed for 3 days. 

This year in the Philippines, the celebration of Eid’l Fitr is set on Sunday, May 24. Had not rain blocked the sighting of the new moon, the feast would have been celebrated a day earlier. The Eid’l Fitr holiday declared by President Rodrigo Duterte falls on Monday, May 25, the second day of the celebrations.

Traditionally, Muslims gather in mosques to pray on the first day of Eid’l Fitr, and also visit and feast with family and friends. This year, the feast is taking a different turn as public gatherings remain banned in many parts of the world, including the Philippines, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The values of Eid’l Fitr stay timeless, however, with or without COVID-19. Muslims said lessons from fasting can even help the world cope with this deadly disease.

What we can learn from Eid’l Fitr

Liyana Asmara, a Muslim interfaith advocate in Singapore, explained to Rappler that one of the values commonly associated with Eid’l Fitr is gratitude. 

“Eid’l Fitr is a victorious celebration for those who hustled both physically and spiritually during the fasting month. You express your gratitude to God by observing a special prayer during Eid’l Fitr and opening your house for a treat for families, friends, and neighbors,” Asmara said.

Part of the celebration, Asmara added, is “looking presentable” before others, and observing good manners when visiting family and friends.

Dr Dimapuno Datu-Ramos Jr, spokesperson of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, said the following values are likewise emphasized during Eid’l Fitr:

  • compassion for one another, “since our fasting makes us experience how the poorest of the poor live on a daily basis, without having access to clean water and food”
  • generosity especially to the poor, “which is our acceptance that worldly wealth is from God, and that we have no right to deprive our brothers and sisters in faith of what God meant to be shared by all”
  • kindness and selflessness, “because we are enjoined to avoid hurtful words and actions all throughout Ramadan, as to not invalidate our sacrifices”

Eid’l Fitr in the face of COVID-19

In the context of COVID-19, Datu-Ramos said Eid’l Fitr reminds him of the value of humility, which he learned deeply during Ramadan this year. 

“I was overwhelmed by the feeling of helplessness during this pandemic when no clear future can be determined by even the smartest scientists on the planet. Money, social status, educational attainment – everything became virtually useless as we try to battle an invisible enemy, which was able to bring even G7 countries to their knees,” Datu-Ramos said. (READ: [REFLECTIONS] Ramadan and isolation in the time of COVID-19)

Datu-Ramos said humility has eased his doubts and anxiety in this time of COVID-19. “If we learn to place our lives in the hands of a higher entity who has infinite mercy and love, the feeling of hopelessness disappears,” he said.

He added that compassion for others is key: “When it comes to human suffering, such as hunger and extreme poverty, compassion for your fellow men is the greatest sacrifice you can give and offer to our God.” (READ: [REFLECTIONS] How Ramadan can prepare us for a post-pandemic life)

For Asmara, the challenges of COVID-19 can teach Muslims and non-Muslims a deeper sense of gratitude during Eid’l Fitr.

“I believe it is important to gather and look at what we have rather than what we don’t,” she said. “COVID-19 is a challenging situation for every one of us. Some lose jobs, some face pay cuts. Despite these, what are the things we can be grateful for?”

Speaking in the context of Singapore, Asmara continued: “We are still alive, we are in a safe environment, we don’t suffer from people looting or doing anything that can potentially harm society as a whole. The highest level of gratitude is to be thankful for what we received and what was denied from us, believing what was taken away will be replaced with something better and we will work to achieve it.”

Zia Alonto Adiong, a parliament member of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said people can also draw lessons from the suspension of traditional Eid’l Fitr rituals due to COVID-19. (WATCH: Rappler Talk: Ramadan in the time of COVID-19)

Adiong said that although Muslims cannot gather in mosques this year, the situation bridges people all the more. “The connection we have is the faith we have in each other, the faith that binds us as a common people, that though we may be separated physically, our faith and our prayers are in unison,” he told Rappler.

“The essence of Eid’l Fitr is to acknowledge that all of us are part of a much larger human family and what we do affects everyone entirely, in one way or the other,” Adiong said. – Rappler.com

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email pat.esmaquel@rappler.com