With the sighting of the new moon of Shawwal in several Nigerian cities and towns last night, Muslims in this country are today celebrating Eid el-Fitr, which marks the end of the month-long holy month of Ramadan. Sultan Muhammadu Sa’ad, who is also President General of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, announced the sighting of the new moon last night. With this announcement, the month of Ramadan which is marked by intense worship, self-restraint and selfpurification gives way to a day marked by feasting and other acts of worship.
While feasting is the most visible aspect of Sallah Day, it is not the most important. On this day Muslims attend communal prayers, listen to important sermons by religious leaders and give out zakat al-fitr, which is charity in the form of foodstuff. It is also a time to share food and drinks with neighbours and to visit friends and relatives. During Ramadan, Muslims abstained from food and liquids from sunrise to sunset. This was a spiritual practice that trains practitioners to use restraint in the face of insults, unkindness or ignorance. It was also marked by other acts of worship including taraweeh prayers, recitation of the Quran and sadaqah, i.e. charity. The Eid is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an. Sura Al-Baqarah 185 states, “You shall complete the number (of days) and you may glorify God for His guiding you, and that you may be thankful.”
Eid al-Fitr was first celebrated by the Prophet Muhammad and his companions in 624 CE, after the victory of the battle of Jang-e-Badar. Anas said, “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) came to Madinah and the people had two days when they would partake in amusements. He said, ‘What are these two days?’ They said, ‘We used to play and have fun on these days during the Jaahiliyyah. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, ‘Allah has given you something better than them, the day of Adh’haa and the day of Fitr.” Eid-el-Fitr is therefore a day of great merriment and thanksgiving.
Even though the high cost of food and other items this year occasioned by the tumultuous economic times made things somewhat difficult for many wouldbe Eid celebrants, there was a lot of Eid shopping all over the country parents struggled to buy new clothes for their children. However, in the midst of all this gaiety and merriment, there is another very important lesson to remember. While eating and being merry with loved ones, we should remember that there are millions of our countrymen who are forced to observe the Eid in various IDP camps in the North East region and beyond. They have been torn from their homes by a brutal conflict that has lasted many years and in most cases they escaped with only the clothes on their backs. The great spiritual lesson of Ramadan would therefore be lost unless we all rush to the aid of our unfortunate countrymen and share with them whatever little that we have.
The holy month of Ramadan was also a time to reflect on the state of our country, our society and our communities. While Eid marks the end of Ramadan, it marks a new beginning for each individual and for the country, a reason to celebrate and express gratitude on this holiday. Its great lessons of spiritual purity, self-sacrifice and intense prayer are not meant to be abandoned and forgotten until another Ramadan comes around. Instead, these values should be remembered and applied at all times to enhance peaceful coexistence and to be law abiding and shun corrupt acts that almost brought our country to its knees. We wish our readers happy Eid celebrations.