We’ve chosen a special place to symbolize how special Eid is for all of us. So for all Muslims, and especially today for new Muslims, we wish you Eid Mubarak.
We’re going to talk for a few minutes about the Eid, and how new Muslims especially can make this Eid special. So there are a number of things we want to say.
First of all, we want to say that in Islam there are two feasts: there is the feast of Eid Al-Fitr, which is the feast that comes after the holy month of Ramadan, and there is the feast of Eid Al-Adha, which is the feast that comes at the end of the Hajj, the pilgrimage.
The first one, Eid Al-Fitr, is the feast of fast-breaking, and Eid Al-Adha, the feast of sacrifice. Two feasts only, there are no other feasts in Islam, and they are very different to the feasts in any other religion. For this feast of Eid Al-Fitr, it’s important to remember that this feast is not related to any historical event, it’s not connected with any theological idea, and it has not been stolen by secular people who have turned the feast into a jamboree of spending and extravagance.
The Real Purpose of Celebrating Eid
This feast comes at the end of Ramadan. It’s the feast of fast-breaking. Now we need to be very clear, it’s not a feast where Muslims say well thank God Ramadan is over, we can eat to our fill. That is not the idea. You completely misunderstand what the Eid is about.
During the month of Ramadan, Ramadan was a gift from Allah, Ramadan was a month of mercy, it was the month of forgiveness, the month of fasting for Allah’s sake, the month of the Quran, the month of prayer, the month of thinking of those people less well-off than we are.
During this Eid, this feast of Eid Al-Fitr, we are thanking Allah All-Mighty for the gift of Ramadan. That’s what the Eid is about. It’s a religious celebration, it’s not a worldly celebration. The purpose of the feast is thanking Allah for allowing us to fast for His sake during Ramadan. So that is what the feast is about.
You know our Christian friends, many of them they’ve had their feast of Christmas stolen from them by big business. You know for months before Christmas, the shops are full of Christmas toys and Christmas cards, and there is pressure on parents to buy all sorts of gifts for their children, getting more food than people can eat.
Well, the Muslim feast is very very simple. It’s so simple as Islam is so very simple. The feast of Eid Al-Fitr is this: we pray in the morning in the mosque, and then we go home and celebrate with our families, and visit our friends. That’s it. Maybe we might buy some new clothes for our children, maybe we have a special meal, but all that extravagance, it’s not a feast of extravagance, extravagant waste in terms of time or money; it’s a time of thinking about Allah.
Prophet Muhammad in Eid
So what did Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him do? How did the Prophet celebrate this Eid?
It’s important for new Muslims to know this, because if we see what the Prophet (peace be upon him) did we can get some idea of how we can celebrate the feast too.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) would spend the night before the Eid prayers in prayer. He would be praising Allah all night long saying Allahu Akbar, praising All-Mighty Allah for the gift of Ramadan. He would then take a bath, a complete bath, ghusl we call it in Arabic, a complete bath to purify ourselves and to make us completely clean for the feast. He would then eat before setting off for the mosque. He would eat an odd number of dates, three, five, seven dates maybe more. But why did he do that?
I think he did it to tell the Muslims Ramadan is over. There is no fasting in Eid, fasting is not allowed in Eid, so he would take the dates before setting off to the mosque, and he would take his wives and daughters with him to the mosque. When he’d get there, he would lead the prayers, he would give the khutbah, the sermon, and when the prayers were finished, he would teach his wives and daughters about Allah, and he would encourage them to give charity, and when it was all finished, he would make his way home by a different route to the one he came.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) would wear a special cloak from Yemen, he would wear a special cloak for the two feasts. So this is what we have, and when we go to the mosque on the morning of the first day of Eid – it’s a three day feast – on the first morning usually there are so many worshippers, the prayers take place outside the mosque, and we begin with Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, seven times, remembering that Allah is the most great, and nothing else in the world is as important as Him.
So we’ve set the scene. We’ve tried to understand what Eid is, we’ve tried to look at what our beloved Prophet, peace be upon him, did, and his companions by the way, peace be upon them all, their tradition was they would put on perfume for the Eid, they would dress in their best clothes. So here we have some hint of what we can do.
My First Eid as a Muslim
So what you can do, we’ll deal with in a moment. I want to tell you first about my own first Eid as a Muslim. Ramadan had been new for me. I’d experienced Ramadan for the first time, and I’d learned how to fast, and it was all very exciting, I wanted to do all things right. You know how as new Muslims we want to do everything right; we want to pray the right way, we want to sit the right way, we don’t want to do anything that all the other Muslims would look at us and say why is she doing that for, or why is he doing that. We want to do everything right.
So my first Eid was quite extraordinary. I was living in London, and I set off early in the morning. I’d read that you wear your best clothes, so I put my best suit on, I wore a tie and my shoes were so clean you could see your face in them, they were like a mirror, and I set off for the mosque, Regent’s Park Mosque in London. I came out in Baker Street station to a sight that I was not expecting.
Everywhere I looked, there were Muslims. Muslims from every nation on earth dressed in the clothes of their country, so we had Nigerian Muslims in bright-colored clothes, we had Muslims from Pakistan, we had Muslims from the Arab world, Muslims from all over the world, western Muslims all dressed in their best. Children with their new clothes on, as proud as can be, old people wearing clothes they’d maybe had for a long time, but they brought them out of the wardrobe especially for the feast.
And another extraordinary thing, there were so many Muslims heading to the mosque that day that the Police were actually directing the traffic to let the Muslims cross the road, can you imagine? There were so many Muslims heading to the mosque. We got to the mosque, and there were thousands and thousands of people praying, both inside and outside. And by the way, new Muslims, you’ll have to learn some special words.
One of the things that we do as Muslims we pray Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar – La ilaha illa Allah. You’ll need to go, perhaps to aboutislam.net and find the words you need to say, they will list them for you, so learn these words in Arabic so that when you’re in the mosque for the Eid prayers you won’t feel left out, so this is tip number one, it is very important, learn those prayers.
So for that first Eid of mine, many thousands of people praying all dressed in their finest, and at the end of the prayers, as well as people greeting one another, congratulating and embracing, we were all also given a gift of books, these had been given by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and everyone present in the mosque was given a set of books, and I still have the books I was given that day.
When it was finished in the mosque, I then went home and with my Muslim neighbors, they were actually Egyptian, we had a breakfast together. The mother of the family was in the kitchen preparing the lamb and the rice for that day’s meal, but we had a lovely breakfast. The children were all dressed in their finest and their new toys, the father was proud of his family and his children and his wife, so we celebrated.
So that was the wonderful part of Eid, but then there was a downside, and I want to tell you about this downside because you need to know as Muslims what you might expect because my first Eid I didn’t know any other Muslims, I was on my own, my family were not Muslim, and once I had breakfast with the Muslim neighbors, the Egyptians, I then went back to my own flat and I closed the door, and that was it. And I felt a little bit disappointed. In fact I felt a bit lonely because the main thing we do as Muslims in the Eid is that we celebrate with family and friends, we go visit our friends and our neighbors. Well if you don’t have any friends and neighbors who are Muslim you can’t do that.
So what I want to do today, and really the purpose of these few words, is to give you a few tips on how to make Eid very special, and not to feel as though you are the only Muslim in the world, and you don’t know anyone else and you feel very lonely, this is very important.
First of all, I’ve got a little idea for you. This is not just for Eid, but this is for any time, and this is for new Muslims to know that they are never alone. The idea is very simple. The idea is this: you know how as Muslim we pray in straight rows facing the Ka’bah. Well if you were to go to Makkah, if you go to the Ka’bah itself, the Muslims there they don’t pray in straight rows, they pray in circles around the Ka’bah, because the Ka’bah is the direction of our prayer, so they are all round the Ka’bah praying in its direction. So the first row nearest the Ka’bah is a circle, and then the row behind them is another circle, and then another circle, and another and another…
Now change the idea to a pool of water. Imagine there is a pool of very still water, and you drop a stone in the water, and the ripples from the stone go out in concentric circles, they go out and out and out. Well, for you if you are a new Muslim living on your own and there are no Muslims anywhere around you and you don’t know any Muslims, just imagine those rows of the Ka’bah who are praying today around the Ka’bah, first one row, then another, then another, those rows keep going out and out and out until they encompass the entire world.
So wherever you are praying today, you’re actually praying on one of those circular rows facing the Ka’bah. So when you pray today, you are not only praying with angels on either side of you, but you are praying too with Muslims on either side of you in different countries all over the world. So that’s a thought as Muslims you are never alone, never ever alone.
What Can You Do for the Eid?
There are a number of things you can do, and don’t expect others to do things for you, do it yourself. For the day of the feast itself, try as best as you can to go and pray in the mosque early in the morning for the Eid prayers, put on your best clothes, dress up, really go to town, put your best stuff on, your best perfume, your after-shave, your beard very clean, your hair… and set off for the mosque. That you can do, no one can change that for you, enjoy the celebration of being with the Muslims; it’s a celebration of the community, the whole Muslim community is together in the mosque.
But what do you do then? What when it’s finished?
Well, there are a number of things you can do. You may be a Muslim family, you may be a family of new Muslims, or you may be just one Muslim on your own, prepare your house, prepare your flat in a festive way. Clean it, prepare for the Eid, physically clean, spring clean the house, get it clean so that you are preparing for something special. Maybe buy some flowers, a vase of flowers in the house, or even a balloon or two if you have children, a few balloons. These are very cheap things, there are silly little things but they help us to realize that there is something special.