Eid in a time of global hardship
Month-long fast of Ramadaan ends in SA today, and Muslims globally will be celebrating
TODAY (and yesterday) almost 2.1 billion Muslims across the globe celebrate Eid al-Fitr – a third of that number are from the African continent – to mark the end of the monthlong fasting period of Ramadaan.
Depending on the sighting of the new moon that ushers in the Islamic lunar month of Shawaal, Muslims in South Africa will celebrate Eid today.
Eid signifies the end of Ramadaan, the obligatory month-long fast from dawn to dusk. The time is devoted to increased prayer, charity and the avoidance of all immoral activities.
The day of Eid starts early in the morning with huge prayer gatherings at open grounds and at mosques across the country.
After the communal prayer, which ends with a sermon, families visit and embrace each other, signifying unity and brotherhood. Gifts are exchanged and there is a festive mood all round.
Afterwards, families sit down to a huge feast.
South Africans of Indian origin usually prepare biryani while hundreds of thousands of African Muslim immigrants and refugees in South Africa usually prepare a rice and meat dish popular in their respective countries.
Over and above the normal charity given in Ramadaan, Muslims have to ensure the needy join in on the celebrations. A special contribution in cash or food parcels is collected by charity organisations well in advance and distributed.
On the day of Eid, Muslim charitable bodies feed tens of thousands, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, at townships across the country.
Hundreds of giant pots of food are prepared for the occasion and planning is done with military precision. An army of volunteers often sign up for the food distribution.
In all Muslim countries, Eid is a three-day public holiday. This includes the Muslim-dominant countries of North Africa such as Egypt, Western Sahara, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt and Morocco.
In East and West Africa, predominantly Islamic countries that would observe a three-day holiday include Djibouti, Sudan, Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Somalia and Zanzibar.
South Africa has a significant Muslim migrant population. One immigrant, Abdulla Saeed, 27, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said he came to South Africa looking for a better life. He had no family here. He lives in Durban and ekes out a living selling cellphone accessories and other bric-a-brac.
“I am looking forward to Eid, but it will also be a sad moment because I cannot spend this special time with my elderly parents and the rest of my family. Fortunately, I have many Congolese Muslim friends here and that will help me cope with the loneliness.”
Around the world, this Ramadaan has been a painful time for Muslims. In Palestine, hundreds have been killed while protesting against Israeli occupation; and demanding their right to return to the land their families were expelled from seven decades ago.
And, shockingly, the Israeli forces killed Razan al-Najjar, a 21-year-old volunteer paramedic; while she was attempting to assist an injured person.
This horrendous act will certainly not deter justice-loving people around the world to intensify their commitment and solidarity with the oppressed in Palestine. Israeli extremism will have to end.
At the start of Ramadaan here, we saw a horrific attack at a Shia mosque in Verulam where one person was killed.
And yesterday, two worshippers and a suspect were killed at a mosque in Malmesbury.
This, fortunately, has driven South African Muslims in the direction of intensifying unity efforts and rejecting sectarianism.
This includes shunning those that stand in the way of unity. Despite some hiccups, a significant step has been the promotion of the Cape Accord, a document that calls on communities to unite against hate speech and discord, and to promote intra-Muslim tolerance and cooperation. While the Accord is currently deeply fractured, it remains critical for the South African Muslim community to drive efforts to unite in rejecting sectarianism and promoting peaceful coexistence.
On the day of Eid, Muslims will also be reflecting on how the madness of extremism needs to stop.
The overwhelmingly majority of Muslims reject extremism and contribute in very meaningful ways to the societies in which they live.
Key to their understanding is the recognition that they live in a plural context and that harmonious coexistence, despite the complex diversity of this world, is possible.
While enjoying the festivities of Eid, this reflection would be important.
The spirit of Eid is also about consolidating and celebrating friendships and familial bonds. A wonderful and joyous day after a month-long fast.
Buccus is senior research associate at ASRI, research fellow in the School of Sciences at UKZN and the academic director of a university study abroad programme on political transformation. Buccus promotes #Reading Revolution via Books@Antique at Antique Café in Morningside
Young Adam Kader gets ready to enjoy some sweetmeats as thousands of Muslims across the country celebrate Eid today, bringing to an end a month of fasting.
Muslims around the world are celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr today, marking the end of Ramadan.