By Aruna Turay
It is hard not to be impressed by the dedication shown by Muslims who have been fasting for Ramadan during the stresses and disruptions of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ramadan 2020 started on 23rd April and since then, Muslims have been abstaining from all food and drink between dawn and sunset. Of the two Islamic religious festivals celebrated each year, Eid-al Fitr comes first.
Eid al-Fitr is also called the ‘Festival of Breaking the Fast’ and, unsurprisingly given the name, celebrates the end of the month-long fast of Ramadan.
It coincides with the end of Ramadan and is celebrated during the first three days of Shawwal, the tenth month of the Islamic calendar. In Sierra Leone and some other parts of the world, Eid-al Fitr will last for one day, and is predicted to start on 23rd May and end on the evening of 24th May.
Like the start of Ramadan, this is subject to the official sighting of the moon, and may vary in different countries. One thing about this religious Eid is that it is forbidden to fast.
Eid al-Fitr will generally be celebrated with meals with communities, and it is sometimes referred to as the Sugar Feast, alluding to the fact that many Muslims will indulge in some sweet treats after their fasting.
Eid al-Fitr is a time when presents are given, new clothes are worn, and the graves of relatives are visited.
In addition, it is normal for men to greet other men with a big hug, and women to do the same to other women in a bid to create goodwill between all – though with Coronavirus restrictions still in place, that part of the festival won’t be happening this year.
There will also be a special prayer, which this year will likely be done at home between families and friends who have isolated with one another, as Mosques remain closed because of Coronavirus.
Because one of the five Pillars of Islam is giving to charity – Zakat – many Muslims will also celebrate by giving to charity and helping out others. During Eid, there is a type of charitable giving called Zakat al-Fitr, which takes place at the end of Ramadan, or given out just before the end so that everyone can celebrate during Eid-al Fitr.
As well as Eid al-Fitr, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha each year. Eid al-Adha stars on the evening of July 30 and ends on August 3 this year. The festival revolves around the story of Allah appearing to Ibrahim in a dream and asking him to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, as a sign of his faith.
It has similarities to the Christian and Jewish tales where God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac but spared him from doing so. During Eid-al Adha, some Muslims traditionally sacrifice animals, in Sierra Leone this is done in a respective homes and the meat is divided up among friends and family.
Eid al-Fitr means ‘Feast of breaking of the fast’ whilst Eid al-Adha means ‘Feast of the Sacrifice’. Like many things in the Islam religion, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha are determined by the Islamic lunar calendar.