What is Eid al-Fitr?


By Bud Houston, Director of Research, Global Gates

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 It is bitter-sweet when something of significance comes to an end. During Ramadan, Muslims spend time alongside friends and family fasting, attending the mosque, and doing good deeds. For many Muslims, the most spiritual and communal time of the year is Ramadan. Yet, the month always comes to an end. At the end of the month, they thank God and celebrate being able to observe the entire month faithfully. This celebration is called Eid al-Fitr.

 Eid al-Fitr, or the “Festival of Breaking the Fast,” is one of two significant holidays Muslims celebrate. The festival is a national holiday in many countries with large Muslim populations. Celebrations of Eid al-Fitr typically last for three days, one day fewer than those of Eid al-Adha. Therefore, many refer to Eid al-Fitr as the Lesser Eid.

 Some Islamic scholars believe that Prophet Mohammed and his followers celebrated the first Eid al-Fitr in 624 after the battle of Jange-Badr. There is no explicit instruction regarding the observation of Eid al-Fitr in the Quran. In the Hadith, Imam al-Rida said, “The day of Fitr is appointed as a celebration so that Muslims may gather together for the sake of God and praise Him for the blessings they have been given. And Eid is the day of gathering, breaking the fast, and giving charity. And it is a day of happiness and a day of worship.”

 Muslims follow the Islamic lunar calendar. Therefore, the date of Eid al-Fitr fluctuates compared to our Gregorian calendar. A lunar year has 12 months but roughly 354 days, about 11 days fewer than a solar year. As a result, each year, the dates of Islamic holidays advance by 10-11 days. Moon-sighting committees worldwide declare the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Eid al-Fitr. Generally, it begins when the committee sees the new moon over Mecca.

 During Ramadan, Muslims try to earn their reward by being moral, keeping the fast, doing good deeds, and attending the Mosque. In contrast to the calm and strict observance during Ramadan, celebrating Eid al-Fitr is with joy and festivities. There are many traditions and religious rituals that are observed on Eid al-Fitr.

 The religious practices include special Eid prayers often held outdoors, in large venues, or at the mosque. On the way to Eid prayers, they will recite the Takbir. The Takbir is the name for the Arabic phrase ʾAllāhu ʾakbar, meaning "God is the greatest." After the prayer, it is common for the Imam to give a sermon. The sermon often focuses on instruction about other Eid obligations like giving the Zakat (almsgiving). After the prayer service, many prominent mosques host festivals and carnivals with food, games, rides for children, bazaars, and other vendors.

 It is customary for families to have large elaborate feasts in addition to community gatherings. Muslims wear new outfits during Eid al-Fitr. It is also a time of gift-giving. Kids look forward to Eid al-Fitr, as it is typical that children receive the most attention. On this day, Muslims are encouraged to settle disputes as it is the time of forgiveness.

 Knowing about your Muslim friends' holiday will allow you to connect, build relationships, and influence them toward Jesus. Here are some ways to use Eid al-Fitr to start and further spiritual conversations.

 Pray for them by name.

  • Leading up to Eid al-Fitr, ask what they will do for the celebration. If they invite you to join them, plan to participate.
  • On Eid al-Fitr, greet your Muslim friends with “Eid Mubarak,” meaning have a blessed Eid.
  • Ask, “What spiritual truth did you learn during Ramadan?”
  • Ask your friend if they know the story Isa (Jesus) told in the Injil about a great feast. If they are receptive, tell the story found in Luke 14:12-24
    • You can ask follow-up questions like, Why do you think people rejected the invitation? If Isa invited you to a banquet, would you go?
  • Ask, “Did you have any holy dreams during Ramadan?”
  • Ask, “Do you think God forgave all your sins during Ramadan?”