THE fasting month of Ramadan came to an end on Wednesday with a day of feasting called Eid ul Fitr. Eid ul Fitr or the ‘festival of fast breaking’ is the most celebratory of all Muslim festivals.
It is significant as much for its timing as for its religious implications. The festival marks the beginning of celebrations and merriment.
Eid ul Fitr is synonymous with joy and thanksgiving. On this day it is customary to greet one another by saying Eid Mubarak, which directly translates as blessed festival but means may you enjoy a blessed festival.
The day begins just after sunrise with the compulsory prayer which is usually read outside. As the name suggests, Eid ul Fitr is a day filled with a lot of feasting.
Breakfast is the meal that sets the tone for the day; the tables are heavy with a variety of meats and sweet dishes.
Every table has a jug of Eid milk, which is a sweet, warm milk drink flavoured with almonds and vermicelli. Lunch is usually a traditional briyani meal, followed by tea with savouries and biscuits, and then supper.
It is customary on this day for families and friends to get together and exchange gifts or plates of sweetmeats.
The highlight of the day for children is collecting money (Eidie) and gifts, especially for those young ones who attempted to fast during the month.
Those less fortunate are not left out of the celebration with many families feeding the poor in their homes or visiting orphanages to share a meal.
Wits lawns may be a more subdued place next week, with less hubblies bubbling and coloured with more girls covered in head scarves, as the Muslim students enter their fasting month.
Next week marks the beginning of Ramadan, when Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking, intimacy and intercourse, from before the break of dawn until sunset.
Saum (fasting) is one of the five pillars of Islam that is obligatory for every responsible and fit Muslim. This month of fasting is a unique moral and spiritual characteristic of Islam.
In a different routine, Muslims wake up at pre-dawn (4.30 am) to partake in the early morning meal called Suhur.
Iftaar (the sunset meal) is the time of day that most look forward to, not only because one can indulge in the many delicacies that are synonymous with Ramadan but also because it is the time of day when the prayer of a fasting person is said to be answered.
Fasting is not just a test on the body but also of the mind and soul. One doesn’t just abstain from food and liquids but from seeing, hearing and doing evil as well. A fasting Muslim is taught how to practise self-restraint, patience as well as appreciation in this month.
Muslims break their fast with dates and water, along with a variety of different snacks and savouries.
The fasting day does not end at sunset, but continues to additional night time prayers (Taraweeh) that are read after the fifth compulsory daily prayers.
This month is also special as it is the month when Islam’s Holy book (the Quraan) was revealed. A lot of emphasis is placed on reciting as much of the Quraan as possible during this month.
Ramadan lasts 29 or 30 days depending on the moon’s position and ends with the feast on the Islamic holiday of Eid ul-Fitr.