New Moon awakens the feast of Eid al Fitr

April 21, 2023

This Saturday evening, April 22, many Muslim families will be eagerly watching for the sighting of the new crescent moon that marks the end of Ramadan and the feast of Eid-al-Fitr.

One warm, sunny, late afternoon on a Sunday in early November, our 7-year-old son ran shouting into the yard from the orchard, “my brother’s in the creek.” The creek was normally no more than a ditch but following some heavy rains it was too deep for a five-year-old in his heavy winter clothes. There followed an hour of intense anxiety. Then his dad found him shivering in the grass beside the creek. He had been in the creek, but his winter coat floated him safely across. Extreme anxiety was followed by over-flowing gratitude for his life.

The rhythm of our lives reveals times of anxiety, sickness, need and sorrow, and times of plenty, celebration, joy and gratitude. We plan many of our celebration times, but sometimes we wonder why they fall flat. When I try to stay only positive and upbeat, life becomes disenchanted. When I try to fill every moment with abundance nothing feels special – where’s the “treat” when it is anytime?

That is the wisdom of Eid al Fitr following Ramadan.  Ramadan is the important annual month-long fast for Muslims.  Muslims observing the fast do not eat or drink from sun-up until sun-down during this period. They eat before dawn and break the fast every evening at dusk.

If you have ever fasted or dieted you may be able to relate to the experience of having a great hunger for what you can’t have right now.  “Experiencing hunger and thirst is supposed to heighten people’s awareness of the sufferings of the poor, and gain a greater appreciation for what they have.” Ramadan is also a time of giving to charities to help those who are needy.

The end of Ramadan is marked by the much loved and anticipated feast of Eid-al-Fitr.  “People dress in their finest clothes and adorn their homes with lights and other decorations… Special foods are prepared and friends or relatives are invited to share the feast. Gifts and greeting cards are exchanged and children receive presents. Eid al-Fitr is a joyous occasion but its underlying purpose is to praise God and give thanks to him.”

I am reminded of Christmas and Easter celebrations with family and friends. I am reminded of spoken and unspoken gratitude which accompanies our great feasts. I am reminded of the desire to give to others out of my abundant gifts. In our humanity we folk of diverse religions and cultures are not so different from one another.

One notable difference between the celebrations of Eid-al-Fitr and Christmas is timing. Christmas always occurs in the same season every year. In the North we experience Christmas with winter; in the South, in summer; and in Tanzania we experienced it at the end of the dry season.  The dates of Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr are determined by the lunar calendar of Islam … so Eid-al-Fitr can be any season of the year.

Traditions like Ramadan and Eid-al Fitr can give us perspective concerning the rhythms of life; periods of want, plenty, sorrow and joy can happen in any season. There will be accidents like when our son fell into the creek and times of great gratitude as we experienced when he was found safe. Times of hardship give us perspective, creating an inner openness to receive with gratitude the gifts of life, love, family and faith. 

Gratitude Prompt – I give thanks for the ability to appreciate the abundance in my life.