From all parts of the world, from south to north and west to east, Muslims celebrated Eid this year at the Islamic Center of Bloomington. At the moment when the Imam said, "God is great," they all repeated it devotionally. And their smiles told each other, "I'm happy."
Some wore traditional clothing, while others wore suits and ties. The clothes offered an "international fashion show," according to Mohamed, a member of the Muslim community. "All people here might know where they are from according to their clothes."
The Eid is the day that comes after the holy month of Ramadan, which is the ninth month of the Islamic (lunar) calendar. Eid in Arabic means "returns annually with refreshing faith." It is celebrated on the first day of Shaw'waal, the 10th month, which means "festivity," which this year was on Sept. 20.
This holiday symbolizes the breaking-of-the-fasting period and of all evil habits in Muslim culture. Eid comes two times every year -- once after Ramadan and again when Muslims make the pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca.
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast and participate in religious activities, such as charitable giving and peace-making. "It is a time of intense spiritual renewal for those who observe it," said Abdul Karim Baram, the Imam and Khateeb in the Masjed (the person who delivers the Eid sermon in a mosque). "At the end of Ramadan, Muslims throughout the world observe a joyous three-day celebration called Eid al-Fitr. It is a show of joy at attaining spiritual prosperity after a month of fasting."
Eid-al-Fitr (the Festival of Fast-Breaking) is a joyous day, he continued. "It is a true Thanksgiving Day for Muslims. On this day, Muslims show their real joy for the health, strength and the opportunities of life, which Allah (God) has given to them."
Before the Eid prayer begins, every Muslim who is able must make a contribution, called Zakat al-fitr, to help the poor celebrate Eid. This equals about 2 kilograms (4.4 lb) of a basic foodstuff (wheat, barley, dates, raisins, etc.), or its cash equivalent, and is collected at the mosque.
"This is distributed to needy local Muslims prior to the start of the Eid prayer," Baram explained. "It can be given at any time during the month of Ramadan and is often given early, so the recipient can use it for Eid purchases."
When the new moon rises on the last day of Ramadan, the Eid has come. After announcing Eid, Baram said, "Muslims are commanded by the Quran to complete their fast on the last day of Ramadan and then recite the Takbir (collectively reciting "God is great.") all throughout the period of Eid."
Typically, Muslims wake up early on Eid and have a small breakfast, preferably of the date fruit, Baram said. Then they attend a special prayer congregation at mosques or open areas, like fields, squares, etc.
The Eid prayer is followed by the khutbah (sermon) and then a supplication asking for forgiveness, mercy and help for all living beings across the world. The khutbah also instructs Muslims on the performance rituals of Eid. It is then customary to greet and embrace the persons sitting on either side. Common greetings are the Arabic greeting "Happy Eid" and "Blessed Eid." Many countries have their own greetings based on local language and traditions.
Afterward, Muslims socialize with each other, taking pictures or helping distribute Eid foods, which include coffee and tea, cakes, fruits, bread, pastries and pies. Balloon makers create different-shaped balloons for the kids.
Muslims then visit their families, friends, acquaintances, sharing food and drinks, which are served to all those who visit Muslim places on this festival. Some also visit the graveyards.
Matthew Cascio, a new Muslim who converted to Islam this year, had never celebrated Eid before. "I heard people talk about it and knew that it was a celebration but never had any explanation given to me," he said. "Everyone would just tell me, 'We eat so much food,' and 'You will see a lot of Muslims that you have never seen before.' I was excited to see what this Eid was that everyone was talking about."
"Eid to me is the accumulation of all the worship and love for Allah you have built up over Ramadan and sharing it with all your brothers that you love."- Matthew Cascio, new Muslim convert
Cascio described his first Eid. "During Ramadan I felt that the community was very close and that everyone was making their prayers and coming to the masjed, and Eid was the climax of all of this. That day, the masjed was very full of people, and I didn't know most of them. In Eid, I had a chance to talk to almost everybody. We sat together for a few hours with some other brothers and just talked about Islam and got to know each other. We laughed and joked around a little bit, and then we left."
About his feeling after celebrating his first Eid, Cascio said, "Eid was not what I had expected it to be. I was thinking that it would be a big spiritual experience and that I would have an overwhelming feeling. It was more of a calm and relaxing feeling once everyone left the masjid and it was only I and three other brothers. That was my favorite part of Eid, when all the people had left, and there was not anyone running around and telling you, 'Happy Eid,' then moving to the next brother and telling him, 'Happy Eid.'
"To me Eid was not about the ceremonial prayer and that everyone came to Eid. It was about the whole month that we spent worshiping Allah and getting stronger in our faith. I don't feel that Eid is one day. The celebration might be one day long, but Eid to me is the accumulation of all the worship and love for Allah you have built up over Ramadan and sharing it with all your brothers that you love."
Baram emphasized that for Muslims living in North America, it is a challenge to maintain Islamic holidays and traditions in a predominantly non-Muslim environment. "It is particularly difficult for children, who see their friends and classmates celebrating Christmas with lots of funs, gifts and excitement, while Eid is not celebrated in the same way. "
Anas Alahmed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.