Eid-ul Fitr one of the two main Muslim religious festivals. Eid and fitr are arabic words. Eid means festival and fitr means to open, to break fasting, to go back to normal situation. Eid-ul Fitr is the day of joy on the 1st of the month of Shawwal, when people return to the normal routine of life after completing the siam (restraint) and fasting in the holy month of ramadan. The month of siam begins after the appearance of the new moon of the month of holy Ramadan and roza (fasting) closes on sighting the new moon of the next month of Shawwal. During this month Muslims keep anger, sex, senses and emotions, illusions and jealousy under restraint. For this reason, the word fitr is used in the sense of victory also.
Eid-ul Fitr is the latest among the main religious festivals. Observance of this great festival of piety had begun only 1380 solar years ago. Eid-ul Fitr started being observed as a festival immediately after the Hijrat (migration) of the Prophet Muhammad (Sm) to Madina. The hadith narrated by Hazrat Anas (R) depicts the following: 'after the great Prophet (Sm) arrived at Madina, he observed that the people of the town celebrates two special days with fanfare. He then asked, what were these daysFoodgrain The local people replied that they had been celebrating these two days since the Jaheli era. Then Rasulullah (Sm) said, 'Allah gave you two other good days instead of these two. These are the days of eid-ul azha and Eid-ul Fitr (Sunan Abu Daud, Quitabul Eidayan)'. It is noteworthy that the people of Madina used to observe two days, one named Nauroj that followed the full moon of autumn and the other Mihirjan that followed the full moon of spring and the celebrations included joy and delight, sports and funs of vulgar taste. These rites and rituals of the pre-Islamic era were contrary to the norms of Islam. Nauroj introduced by Jarathustra was the New Year's Festival. But the duration of that festival was six days, only one of which was the nauroj-e-amma that the common people could celebrate. The remaining five days were earmarked for the elite and the rich people only. Similarly, the six-day festivities of Mihirjan also had only one day for celebrations by the common people. Thus these two festivals were marred by class differences, gaps between the poor and the rich, vanity of the riches and open demonstration of vulgarities.
The Arabs inspired by the ideals of Islam started observance of Eid-ul Fitr and Eid-ul Azha at the instructions of Rasulullah (Sm). This led to the introduction of Eid-ul Fitr, a festival of harmony free from class differences, filth and vulgarism.
It must be pointed out that as an Islamic festival, observance of Eid-ul Fitr is confined to Muslims only. But since Islam is a religion of peace and friendship and Eid means joy, Eid in effect brings joy and good wish to the whole mankind.
Eid-ul Fitr is celebrated in Bangladesh with great eclat. On this day everyone tries to dress well and prepare improved foods according to their ability. Relatives and neighbours also share the joys of this festival.
Muslims perform two rakats of Eid Namaz on the day and exchange greetings with all. They exchange salam and greetings by embracing one another irrespective of status or age. They also visit the graves of the relatives and pious Muslims. Nowadays exchange of Eid cards has come in vogue. It is a religious obligation on the day to pay fitra to the poor at a fixed rate. Also food and clothes are distributed to the poor.
The government declares holiday for three days on the occasion. People who live in towns but have their families or parents in villages go to their country homes to meet relatives and celebrate the festival together.
Different newspapers publish articles on the life and philosophy of Hazrat Muhammad (Sm), the significance of Eid, and the ideals of Islam. The radio and television broadcast special programmes. Congregational prayers are held in all rural and urban places. In Dhaka, the Eid congregations are held at the national Eidgah, all major mosques including the baitul mukarram. The biggest congregation of the country is held at Sholakia in kishoreganj, where about half a million people join the Eid prayer.
Eid festival is observed in the rural areas with great fanfare. Special groups of people from a para or mahalla (ward) are formed in some villages. These groups are called malat, each headed by a mulla, who usually conducts the Eid prayers of the malat. He is invited to all houses of the malat and is also given some honorarium. After the Eid prayers in the morning everybody returns home and begin visiting each other's home and eat shirni. Every member of a malat visits every other's house and eats shirni and thus become each other's friends.
Eid fairs are organised at many rural places. These fairs are basically gatherings that promote friendship among the rural people. The fairs are arranged on the bank of a river or under a big banyan tree near the local bazaar. Handicraft items and foodstuffs such as chira, muri, khai, manda, and sweets are sold in the fairs. Nakshi pankha, dolls, and decorated pottery as well as musical instruments such as flute, drum, ektara are also sold. Some fairs have merry-go-rounds, puppet shows and bioscopes. In addition, shows of spiritual songs such as Marfati and murshidi are also staged in the Eid fairs. In some areas of the riverine Bangladesh boat races are organised. Arrangement of prizes for boats that win the races are specially encouraged. The rich people of the villages give the prizes.
In some rural areas sports competitions are also organised on this occasion. Games like hadudu, kabadi, and dariabanda entertain the spectators. Football and cricket matches are also organised. These games create a festive atmosphere. After enjoying the fanfare of the Eid festival, people return to their work places with renewed enthusiasm. [Shabbir Ahmed and Syed Ashraf Ali]