Why Prophet Muhammad SAW founded the tradition of Eid-ul-Fitr?

By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi

Islam is based on a social system that seeks to establish a humane, well-cultured and sympathetic society. Therefore, it stresses the importance of universal social values through different ways. Eid-ul-Fitr is one of such ways to imbibe the basic social values among people in a festive spirit. To build an ideal Muslim society, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) exhorted love, mercy, generosity, compassion, unity, brotherhood, humility, modesty, and sincerity. The observance of Eid, in its broader sense, symbolizes the very bright sides of an Islamic society. These social virtues are reflected in the true Islamic values being displayed on the day of Eid in a way that pleases others and does not cause harm to anyone. Giving in charity, donating scores of money, distributing food items and sharing joys with family, friends and especially with the destitute and hapless people are the core values of Eid-ul-Fitr.

The origin of Eid-ul-Fitr marks the Prophet’s ambition of spreading social cohesiveness, cultural festivity and national unity and solidarity. According to a hadith tradition, when the Prophet Muhammad arrived at the city of Madinah, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) strongly felt the need for a feast that could imbibe peace, unity, charity, brotherhood, equality and deep humane emotions for helping the poor. Therefore, having received the divine inspiration, the Prophet (pbuh) announced that “Almighty Allah has granted you two blessed Eids: Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha …” (Abu Dawud, “Salat”, 245; Nisai, “Idayn”, 1).

Islam lays great emphasis on establishing universal brotherhood among the members and different classes of human society. Therefore, the Prophet pbuh, while stressing on the need of brotherhood, used the Arabic word “Ummah” that  includes peoples from all religious communities, races, ethnic tribes and social ranks, each with their own cultural, national, linguistic or temperamental features. He exhorted his followers to behave towards all of them as brothers and treat them as they want themselves to be treated. Besides, he tried to inculcate a set of human values among his followers in a bid to encourage universal human brotherhood. Some of those prophetic traditions (Sunnats) are greeting people time and again, shaking hands and hugging when meeting or parting, visiting and comforting the sick, offering condolences to the bereaved, exchanging gifts with other members of the society, sharing happiness in their ceremonies such as weddings and births etc. Such acts that strengthen fraternity and brotherhood are greatly valued in Islam, and they are most particularly exhorted among Muslims on the day of Eid-ul-Fitr.

Eid-ul-Fitr has been instituted in Islam to spread the spirit of peace, delight, kindness, compassion, brotherhood and equality among people irrespective of cast, creed and religion. Since it is also observed as a festival of distributing charity to the poor, its full name is Eid ul-Fitr. The word Fitr or Fitra means a form of charity from the rich to the poor to help them celebrate Eid with the fullest festive spirit. This is precisely why Islam has enjoined upon Muslims on this day to distribute fitrah (a fixed amount of charity mandatory for every Muslim) to the poor, hold delicious feasts and invite friends and neighbours from all faith communities. Obviously, such noble activities help us strengthen bonds of love, mutual harmony, human brotherhood, and social integrity.

The Islamic festival of Eid-ul-Fitr is not all about dressing up in fancy clothes, having delicious feasts and pursuing mundane pleasures and delights, it rather calls for promoting humane and noble values in society. It signifies living with the true spirit of brotherhood and showing a great and large heart to the poor. It is actually meant to achieve the highest spiritual status thorough the selfless services towards the less fortunate ones.

At a time when Muslims are living in a turbulent phase of history characterized by the Prophet (pbuh) as the time of fitnah, they need to revive the inner spirit rather than the external form of Eid. This Eid is an open reminder of us Muslims to incorporate the magnanimous social values of Islam in our practical life, if we really wish to exist in the modern world. We have to rejuvenate the essential messages of Eid: love in place of hatred, patience in place of anger, forbearance in place of warfare, inclusiveness in place of exclusiveness and humility and not suprimacism.

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