Eid means recurring happiness or festivity. The ‘Eid Prayer is very important for all Muslims. It has the merits of the daily prayers, the effects of the weekly convention (Jumu’ah) and the characteristics of annual reunions between Muslims.
There are two such ‘Eids. The first is called ‘Eid-l-Fitr (the Festival of Fast – Breaking). It falls on the first day of the month of Shawwal the tenth month of Muslim year, following the month of Ramadan in which the Qur’an was revealed and which is the month of Fasting.
The second is called ‘Eid-l-Adha (the Festival of Sacrifice). It falls on the tenth day of Dhul-Hijjah, the last month of the Muslim year, following completion of the course of Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), an extremely devotional course.
The Islamic ‘Eids are unique in every way. To them there can be no similar in any other religion or any other sociopolitical system. Besides their highly spiritual and moral characteristics, they have matchless qualities:
1- Each ‘Eid is a wholesome celebration of remarkable achievement of the individual Muslim in the service of God. The First ‘Eid comes after an entire month of “absolute” fasting during the days of the month. The second ‘Eid marks the completion of Hajj to Mecca, a course in which the Muslim handsomely demonstrates his renouncement of the mundane concerns and hearkens only to the eternal voice of God.
2. Each ‘Eid is a Thanksgiving Day where the Muslim assemble in a brotherly and joyful atmosphere to offer their gratitude to God for helping them to fulfil their spiritual obligations prior to the ‘Eid. This form of thanksgiving is not confined to spiritual devotion and verbal expression. It goes far beyond that to manifest itself in a handsome shape of social and humanitarian spirit.
The Muslims who have completed the fasting of Ramadan express their thanks to God by means of distributing alms among the poor and needy on the First ‘Eid. Similarly, the Muslims who have completed the course of Hajj at Mecca, as well as those who are at home, offer their sacrifices by slaughtering oblations to be distributed among the poor and needy.
The distribution of alms and oblations constitutes a major part of the ‘Eid’s highlights. This Islamic form of thanksgiving is a wholesome combination of spiritual devotion and humanitarian benevolence, a combination which cannot be found except in Islam.
3. Each ‘Eid is a Day of Remembrance. Even in their most joyful times the Muslims make a fresh start of the Day by a plural session of worship to God. They pray to Him and glorify His name to demonstrate their remembrance of His favors. Along with that course, they remember the deceased by prayer for their souls, the needy by extending a hand of help, the grieved by showing them sympathy and consolation, the sick by cheerful visits and utterances of good wishes, the absentees by cordial greetings and sincere considerateness, etc. Thus the meaning of Remembrance on the Day transcends all limits and expands over far-reaching dimensions of human life.
4. Each ‘Eid is a Day of Victory. The individual who succeeds in securing his spiritual rights and growth receives the ‘Eid with a victorious spirit. The individual who faithfully observes the duties, which are associated with the ‘Eid, is a triumphant one. He proves that he holds a strong command over his desires, exercises a sound self – control and enjoys the taste of disciplinary life. And once a person acquires these qualities he has achieved his greatest victory; because the person who knows how to control himself and discipline his desires is free from sin and wrong, from fear and cowardice, from vice and indecency, from jealousy and greed, from humiliation and all other causes of enslavement. So, when he receives the ‘Eid, which marks the achievement of this freedom, he is in fact celebrating his victory, and the ‘Eid thus becomes a Day of Victory.
5. Each ‘Eid is a Harvest Day. All the good workers in the service of God all the faithful believers reap the fruits of their good deeds on the Day, as God grants His mercy and blessings abundantly. The Islamic society, on the other hand, collects the due subscriptions to religious brotherhood and social responsibility, in which subscriptions are paid in the form of mutual love, sympathy and concern.
Every member of the Islamic society will be reaping some fruits or collecting some revenue in one way or another. God gives infinitely, especially to those who are sincerely concerned with the general welfare of their fellow believers. Those beneficiaries who cannot give will receive, along with God’s enormous grants, the contributions of their fellow benefactors. The haves and have-nots will all enjoy the providence of God in a most plural fashion, and the Day will indeed be a Good Harvest Day.
6. Each ‘Eid is a Day of Forgiveness. When the Muslims assemble in the congregation of the Day, they all wholeheartedly pray for forgiveness and strength of Faith. And God has assured those who approach Him with sincerity of His mercy and forgiveness. In that pure assembly and highly spiritual congregation any true Muslim would feel ashamed of himself before God to hold any enmity or ill feelings toward his brethren.
A true Muslim would be deeply impressed by this brotherly and spiritual assembly, and would overcome his ill feelings if he has been exposed to any. Consequently, he would find himself moving along with others responding to the spirit of the Day to purify his heart and soul. In this case, he would forgive those who might have wronged him; because he himself would be praying for God’s forgiveness, and would do his best to acquire it.
The spirit of this highly devotional assembly would teach him that if he forgives he will be forgiven. And when he forgives, the virtue of forgiveness will be mercifully exercised by God, and widely exchanged between the Muslims. And that marks the Day as a Day of Forgiveness.
7. Each ‘Eid is a Day of Peace. When the Muslim establishes peace within his heart by obeying the law of God and leading a disciplinary life, he has certainly concluded a most inviolable treaty of peace with God. Once a person is at peace with God, he is at peace with himself and, consequently, with the rest of the universe. So when he celebrates the ‘Eid in the right manner, he is actually celebrating the conclusion of a Peace Treaty between himself and God, and this marks the ‘Eid as a day of Peace.
That is the proper meaning of an Islamic ‘Eid: a Day of Peace and Thanksgiving, a Day of Forgiveness and Moral Victory, a Day of Good Harvest and remarkable Achievements, and a Day of festive Remembrance. An Islamic ‘Eid is all this and much more; because it is a Day of Islam, a Day of God.