This year celebrations for the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan will be muted as lockdowns remain in place for many countries and the risk of new waves of coronavirus remains high.
With Eid just a few days away, many Muslims across the world are getting used to the idea that this year’s celebration will be unlike any other, and not in a good way.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought normal life to a standstill, including religious practice, with communal prayers and nightly Ramadan prayers impacted by the restrictions brought in to stifle the spread of the pandemic.
Eid al-fitr, one of Islam’s two major religious holidays, is also certain to be affected by the pandemic, as even those countries that have been relatively successful in combating the virus seek to keep the risk of further contagion contained.
Here we answer some of the most pressing questions about this year’s Eid.
What is Eid al-Fitr?
Eid al Fitr, meaning ‘Festival of Breaking the Fast’, celebrates the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Eid is announced at the beginning of the tenth month of the Islamic calendar called Shawwal, which follows the month of Ramadan. The sighting of the moon is therefore important in announcing the start of a new lunar month.
This year’s celebration is set to start on the evening of Saturday 23rd May but may differ due to the methodology involved in moonsighting.
How will this year’s Eid be different?
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted ordinary life, especially social interactions. Eid is normally a festival that involves large meals with extended families and visits to the houses of relatives and friends.
To mitigate the impact of the coronavirus, many Muslim countries have announced either the cancellation of communal events, such as the Eid prayer, or limited services.
In Turkey, communal prayers have been cancelled, and will instead be replaced with special prayers broadcast from the minarets of mosques so that people get some sense of the occasion.
Other countries will also be implementing such suspensions of the Eid prayer, and are advising their citizens not to gather for any events, whether they be celebratory or religious.
In Pakistan, a country that has not fully implemented a lockdown, Eid prayers will commence but under strict social distancing measures.
Sermons will have a time limit, appropriate distance will have to be maintained between worshippers, and communal areas will have to be disinfected both before and after the services.
Why is Eid important?
Eid follows Ramadan, which marks the month in which the Qur’an was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammed, who Muslims consider the final prophet and who they honour by adding the term ‘peace be upon him’.
There are two Eids in Islam. Eid al Fitr, also referred to as the smaller Eid, and Eid al Adha or 'Festival of the Sacrifice'.
Muslims celebrate Eid to show thankfulness to Allah for allowing them to finish and be able to fulfil their obligation by fasting, completing good deeds in the month that Muslims consider as being better than 1,000 months.
Eid is also an opportunity for Muslims to show thankfulness to God in the hope of having past sins forgiven and a chance to wipe the slate clean.
How do you wish someone a ‘Happy Eid’?
Regardless of the social distancing measures enforced, people will still be looking to mark the occasion. They can do this over the phone or messaging apps.
Each country has its own variation of Eid greetings, but the most common are ‘Eid Mubarak’ or ‘Eid Saeed’, which mean ‘Have a blessed Eid’ and ‘Happy Eid’ in Arabic respectively.
In Turkey, people will commonly say ‘bayraminiz kutlu olsun’, which means ‘may your Bayram (Eid) be blessed’. To which the response is ‘Allah razi olsun’ or ‘may God bless you’.