Most Sunni Muslims mark the end of Ramadan today. In Iran, as in Pakistan and Oman, people will have to wait until tomorrow. In Indonesia more than 120 million people are on the move, Saudi Arabia boosts security as almost 21,000 mosques and areas of prayer get ready for the festival. This Eid is the first since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted allowing communal gatherings.
Riyadh (AsiaNews) – With the sighting of the first moon, most Sunni Muslims celebrated Eid al-Fitr today, marking the end of Ramadan, while Shi‘as will have to wait until tomorrow -.
In Islam, the holy month of fasting and prayer represents one of the five pillars of the religion, a time of communal celebrations. This year it is especially important after lockdowns and restrictions were imposed following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like in the past, this year’s Eid comes amid lights and shadows in the Muslim world, with violence breaking out in Sudan but some hope in renewed relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran and some signs of peace in Yemen.
At Eid, Muslims thank Allah for giving them strength and blessings, hopeful that the month of fasting brought them closer to God and perfection.
The Prophet Muhammad was the first to celebrate Eid in AD 624, setting the stage for Islam’s rise in the aftermath of a victory in a battle.
Celebrations vary among Sunnis and Shi‘as and depending on the places of origin. Muslims gather in mosques or in the open air, eat their first meal in daylight. The festival is also an opportunity for interfaith meetings.
In Yemen, recently struck by a tragic accident that left scores dead, religious authorities announced the start of Eid today.
In Indonesia, the Religious Affairs Ministry said that Eid will start tomorrow morning, while Muhammadiyah, the country’s second-largest Islamic organisation with 60 million members, set today for the start. Because of the difference, the country’s security minister urged those breaking their fast today to do so at home out of respect for those who will fast for one more day.
The government expects some 123 million people to be travelling in a country of 17,000 islands with 18 million departing from metro Jakarta alone.
While Saudi Arabia and Iran appear to be mending diplomatic fences, especially over Yemen, religious differences remain.
A point of reference for Sunnis, Saudi Arabia celebrated the end of Ramadan today as did the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Afghanistan. In Iran, Oman and Pakistan, Muslims will have to wait until tomorrow because in those countries, the new moon was not visible.
To ensure public safety, Saudi authorities deployed thousands of agents - men and women - to monitor some 20,700 mosques and outdoor areas dedicated to prayer.
Some extra zealous Muslims will fast for another six days based on the belief that a good deed for Islam is rewarded 10 times.
For many, Eid also provides an opportunity to remember and support the victims of the tragic earthquake in Syria and Turkey on 6 February, which claimed tens of thousands of lives.
For the Emirates News Agency (WAM),[*] Eid celebrations in the quake-affected areas will be tinged with sadness at the absence of loved ones and apprehension at an uncertain future,
For The National, “in contrast to years gone by, the spectre of Covid has receded sufficiently to allow communal prayers, family visits and group iftars to take place without restrictions.”
The Emirati newspaper goes on to say that, “This social aspect of Ramadan cannot be overlooked and millions of Muslims will be happy that the disease – although not eradicated – no longer disrupts Eid celebrations”.
[*] Wakalat Anba'a al Emarat.