Feast of Fitr (Eid al-Fitr) is celebrated on the first day of Shawwal [i]. It marks the end of Ramadan, the month in which Muslims practice fasting (Sawm). This Feast (Eid) is considered one of the most prominent occasions in the Islamic calendar and is celebrated by all Muslims around the world. But what is it that makes this feast (Eid) a special day for Muslims?
What Does Eid signify in Islamic culture?
“Eid” is derived from the verb “عَوَدَ: Avad’ah” in Arabic, which literally means “to go back”. In Islamic culture, days in which people have been relieved of hardships and catastrophes, and go back to good days of prosperity and happiness, are called Eid.
Why is the first of Shawwal called Eid al-Fitr for Muslims?
Two features make The First of Shawwal, Eid or as we call it the Feast of Fitr:
1. The Physical Hardship of Fasting (Sawm) Is Over
On this day, Muslims are again allowed to eat and drink, and the obligation to fast is lifted from them. In fact, the word “Fitr” literally means “beginning to eat and drink”. And “Iftar” means to start eating and drinking after some time. Now consider Eid al-Fitr something like daily Iftar, but on a greater scale. This is Iftar after a whole month of fasting.
2. Your Efforts Are Rewarded by Allah
Feast of Fitr (Eid al-Fitr) is a special day. A day that is chosen by Allah. After a month of submission to His will and doing what it takes to get nearer to Him, and win His satisfaction, now is the time to enjoy the outcome. Allah pardons our sins, spreads His forgiveness and rains down His blessings.
As He has promised in the Quran, “…forgiveness and a great reward” (35:33) are prepared for those who fast. This is, indeed, a blessing that comes true in this world. A pleasure that Muslims experience in this world, as well as Hereafter.
So why not be happy on this day? This is a new day for Muslims, in which they go back to the time when they had not committed any sins yet. Feast of Fitr (Eid al-Fitr) is a chance for them to start over.
A New Person, A New Life
To start fresh, one should put behind old habits, those actions that harmed one’s self or were harmful to others. Now that we are relieved from the burden of our mistakes, sins, and regrets, born again, pure and innocent, we should protect this gift dearly. From this day on, what counts is our future actions [ii].
Zakat al-Fitr: The Lesson of Fasting in Practice
On the day of Eid, Muslims are required to pay a certain amount of money if they can afford, that is called Zakat al-Fitr. Giving Zakat al-Fitr is obligatory, provided that the person him/herself is not poor. It marks the fulfillment of the act of fasting.
The amount of this kind of charity depends on the type of usual main food consumed by the believer during the year, which may be rice, wheat, barley, dates, etc. . This amount is given to the poor people of the society or those who are underprivileged.
Feast of Fitr (Eid al-Fitr) is the realization of the lessons Muslims have learned during the 30-day fasting of Ramadan. Muslims give away part of what they consume daily of food or drinks to the poor and destitute. And they learn that in this world there are things that are far more important than bodily desires. That is humanity and the love for human beings.
Moreover, Ramadan is a time for Muslims to wash away themselves from the vices of this world. Similarly, Zakat frees the soul from the weakness of depending too much on material matters and thus, is a way to complete the effect of fasting.
Give Thanks to Allah for this Happiness and Relief
Allah has given us the chance to become a new person and mark a turning point in our lives. Shouldn’t we be grateful for this reward? We praise Allah “for He has shown us the Right Path.” And give thanks “to Him for that which He has conferred upon us” [iii]. This is where the prayer of Eid al-Fitr finds its meaning.
Eid al-Fitr Prayer (Salat): A Great Social Occasion
One of the recommended acts on this day is to perform a two-unit (Raka’a) prayer. Muslims all around the world, gather together in their mosques and form a great and unified social occasion. In the Qunut [v] of this prayer, we give thanks to Allah for pardoning our previous sins. And we ask for His help in doing what is good and in protecting our newly gifted purity in the future.
Imam Ali (AS) believed that Muslims should be reminded of the Day of Judgment, at the time of standing for the prayer of Eid al-Fitr. As if they are standing in front of Allah [iv].
Any Day Can Be an Eid, only if…
Eid is a going back, a change to a better self. So whenever one keeps him/herself from committing sins, from lying, backbiting, slandering, offending, etc. he/ she is celebrating an Eid. Similarly, the day of Eid loses its meaning if one goes on to do whatever wrong he/she used to do. As Imam Ali (AS) puts: “Any day that you do not disobey Allah (or commit sins) is your Eid”.
[i] Tenth month of the Islamic Calendar.
[ii] Imam Ali (AS) said: “ O’ servants of Allah! Beware that the least outcome for the fasting men and women is that on the last day of Ramadan, an angel would call upon them that ‘O’ servants of Allah! I bring you the glad tidings of Allah’s pardon of your past sins, so be careful how you act from now on” .
[iii] It is a famous invocation from Imam Reza (AS) remained from Prophet Muhammad’s Sunnah:
"اللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ اللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ لا إِلَهَ إِلا اللَّهُ وَ اللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ اللَّهُ أَكْبَرُ وَ لِلَّهِ الْحَمْدُ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ عَلَى مَا هَدَانَا وَ لَهُ الشُّكْرُ عَلَى مَا أَوْلانَا"
“Allah is Great. Allah is Great. There is no god save Allah. And Allah is Great.Allah is Great. All praise be to Allah. All praise be to Allah for He has shown us the Right Path. All thanks be to Him for that which He has conferred upon us”
[iv] Imam Ali (AS) said: “when you leave your houses to perform Eid’s prayer, remember the time when you are resurrected from your graves and go toward Allah. When you stand to perform the prayer, think of the time you are facing divine justice and are examined for your actions. When you go back to your houses from the prayer, remember the time when you go back to your dwelling places in heaven” .
[v] The action of reciting a supplication while keeping the hands in front of the face, turning the palms facing upwards, and keeping both the hands and the fingers close together in the standing position of prayer (Salat).
 Sheikh al-Saduq, Al-Amali, p.100, hadith no. 10.
 Yasin T. Al-Jibouri, Fast of the Month of Ramadhan: Philosophy and Ahkam, p. 111.
 Nahj al-Balaghah, wisdom no. 428.