Eid al-Fitr: festival of breaking the fast amidst COVID-19

The crowning moment of Eid-al-Fitr is usually the congregation of believers in a park or an open space to break the fast but this year’s festival will not follow the norm due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has resulted in a ban on public gathering in the country.

Though the festival would be held this year, there will not be congregational prayers but individuals or family of less than 25 to congregate to pray to break the fast as a means of adhering to the social distancing and public gathering directive. Also called the “Festival of Breaking the Fast”, Eid al-Fitr is a religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide to marks the end of the month-long dawn-to-sunset fasting of Ramadan.

This religious Eid is the first and only day in the month of Shawwal, the tenth month of the lunar based Islamic calendar, during which Muslims are not permitted to fast. The date for the start of any lunar Hijri month varies based on when the new moon is sighted by local religious authorities, so the day of celebration varies.

As a festival to mark the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting, Eid al-Fitr celebrates the conclusion of the 29 or 30 days of dawn-to-sunset fasting during the entire Ramadan month. It has a particular salat (Islamic prayer) that consists of two rakats (units) generally performed in an open field or large hall.

It may only be performed in a congregation (jamāʿat) and features six additional Takbirs (rising of the hands to the ears while saying “Allāhu ʾAkbar”, meaning “God is the greatest”) in the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam: three at the start of the first rakat and three just before rukūʿ in the second rakat.

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Other Sunni schools or theories usually have 12 Takbirs, similarly split into groups of seven and five. While in Shia Islam, the salat has six Takbirs in the first rakat at the end of qira’a, before rukūʿ, and five in the second. Depending on the juristic opinion of the locality, this salat is either farḍ (obligatory), mustaḥabb (strongly recommended) or mandūb (preferable).

Traditions of Eid al-Fitr

‘Sawm’, which is the practice of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. Muslims believe that it was during the month of Ramadan that the text of the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad SAW (may peace be upon him).

Muslims celebrate Eid Al-Fitr with prayers called “Salat Al Eid” in Arabic.

They gather in mosques or open spaces and offer two units of prayer called “Rakat” but the midst of COVID-19, the Muslim sects have been urged to pray at home which is applied to other religious gatherings as directive to prevent the spread of the virus.

Since the outbreak of the virus in the country, the President Nana Akufo-Addo in consultation with stakeholders and health experts placed a ban on public gathering an s a means of curbing the spread of the virus. The prayers are followed by a sermon, in which the imam asks for forgiveness, mercy, and peace for every being across the world.

Other key elements of the Eid celebrations are giving money to the poor (known as ‘Zakat al-Fitr’, the amount to be given depends on the possessions someone has), sending Eid greetings and feasting with families. For many Muslims, Eid al-Fitr is a festival to show gratitude to Allah for the help and strength he gave them throughout the month of Ramadan to help them practice self-control.

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The phrase commonly used by Muslims as a greeting on this day is “Eid Mubarak”, which in Arabic means ‘blessed festival’. The proper response to Eid Mubarak is “Khair Mubarak”, which wishes goodness on the person who has greeted you.

The first Eid al-Fitr was celebrated in 624 CE by the Prophet Muhammad and his companions after their victory in the battle of Jang-e-Badar, a turning point in Muhammad’s struggle with his opponents among the Quraish in Mecca during in the early days of Islam.

Eid al-Fitr may also be called ‘Feast of the Lesser Bairam, Bairam being a Turkic word for holiday. It may seem odd that the word lesser is used for such a widely celebrated festival, the reason is that the ‘Greater Bairam’ is Eid al-Adha, the other great Islamic festival which is seen as the holier of the two.

At the National level, the prayer is led by the National Chief Imam Osmanu Nuhu Sharubutu an Islamic cleric and the Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission, Maulvi Mohammed Bin Salih

In the Tamale, the Northern Regional Chief Iman, Sheik Alhaji Abdulai Abdul-Salam leads the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr with the offering of prayers in appreciation to God for successfully seeing them through a fasting period. In the Dagbon Kingdom, it would be led by the Over-Lord Yaa Na Abubakari Mahami II.

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