We are on the eve of the blessed ʿĪd al-Fiṭr day which heralds a day of celebration and thanks for those who have spent the past month fasting. During the course of this month, the believers have obeyed the instructions which Allah has given to them and they have strived hard towards attaining a higher state of piety. Through their efforts, they have prepared themselves for a new phase in their spiritual, social, and political lives. With the dawning of the month of Shawwāl, the month of Ramadan has ended and the blessed ʿId al-Fiṭr has arrived. Moreover, Fasting on this day has been prohibited by Allah. Another interesting point is that Allah has designated the moon as a means of keeping time through the passing of the various months. This has given our lives order and we are able to engage in various acts of worship through the use of this natural calendar.
In light of this important day, let us now see what insights Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has to offer us. Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has researched this issue and he has explained some of the more important aspects which relate to it. When we examine the issues related to this day, we are able to find out the various purposes, philosophies, and secrets which this day holds. This day is typically a day of celebration for the Muslims, but it is much more than this. Let us now delve deeper in to the meaning of this day and the practical issues surrounding it for the Muslims:
The Meaning of ʿĪd in Lexicon
The Arabic term “ʿĪd” derives from the root word ʿAwd, which means a type of return. Thus, the word ʿĪd is used to refer to any day wherein the problems of a people or a group are resolved and their state returns to a state of victory and ease (which they used to enjoy before their time of hardship). In addition, when we consider the religious context of this day, we find that after the Muslims have obeyed Allah for an entire month, busied themselves in fasting, and purified their souls from various types of impurities and sins, they have in reality rid themselves of the hardship of sins and they have returned to the victory and ease related to a state of purity. This is why such days are known as days of ʿĪd.
Similarly, we find that the day when the spread table was sent down for Prophet Jesus (ʿa) was a day of return to a state of victory, purity, and faith in Allah and it was for this reason that it was named as a day of ʿĪd. According to various traditions, the descent of the spread table took place on a Sunday and this may be one of the reasons why Sundays are considered to be a holy day for the Christians. Furthermore, Imam ʿAli (ʿa)has mentioned the following in a famous tradition: ‘Any day where one does not sin is a day of ʿĪd’. The reality is that a day when sins are put aside is a day of victory, purity, and a return to our original nature (Fiṭrah).
ʿĪd al-Fiṭr: A Symbol of Man’s Absolute Obedience to the Commands of Allah
It is evident that the day of ʿĪd al-Fiṭr is a day of celebration and happiness for the Muslims of the world. At the same time, we must ask the key question of why this is so? Where is this issue derived from? In response to this question, Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has delved in to some of the instructions narrated from Imam ʿAli (ʿa): “ʿImam ʿAli (ʿa) is narrated to have stated the following in regards to one of the days of ʿĪd (ʿĪd al-Fiṭr):- “Today should only be celebrated as a day of ʿĪd by those whose fasting and nightly worships have been accepted by Allah”. The Imam (ʿa) is then narrated to have mentioned: “[Therefore], any day where one does no disobey Allah is a day of ʿĪd”.
The reality is that all the people on this earth have s e l e c ted certain days of happiness and celebration from themselves. These are days such as the Iranian New Year (ʿĪd Nawrūz) where the coming of spring is celebrated as a renewal of the world of nature. New plants are seen, trees begin to blossom, and the natural world experiences a rebirth once again. In other nations, certain important national or scientific achievements are noted and those days are celebrated each and every year. Interestingly, the key difference between the Islamic days of celebration and the celebrations of other communities is that Islamic celebrations are based on the obedience of Allah.
On the day of ʿĪd al-Fiṭr, after one month of fasting and obeying Allah, and spending every day and every night in Allah’s worship, the Muslim community takes this day as a day of celebration. It is a day of celebration of obeying Allah and being victorious over Satan and his various insinuations. In light of this issue, it can be said that this celebration after one month’s fasting during the blessed month of Ramadan is, in effect, a celebration of victory over the lower desires of the self; it is a celebration of obedience to Allah’s command. Therefore, such a day is only a celebration for those who have been victorious in fulfilling their obligatory duties as ordained by Allah. It is only a day of celebration for those who have comprehended the true philosophy of the month of Ramadan. As for those who have not upheld the sanctity of this holy month, they have nothing but a day of disgrace and sorrow; for such people, such a day is not a day of celebration whatsoever.
In light of this, Imam ʿAli’s (ʿa) statement where he said: ‘The day of ʿĪd al-Fiṭr is a celebration for those, whose fasting and obedience has been accepted’ becomes more evident and easier to understand. Those people who did not fast or whose fasts were mixed with various sins and disobedience to Allah, and so their fasts were not accepted, cannot be happy on a day such as the day of ʿĪd al-Fiṭr. Such happiness is for those whose obedience has been accepted by Allah.
Based on this line of reasoning, any day where an individual does not sin, where they refrain from disobeying Allah from the time they wake up until the time they go to sleep, is considered a day of celebration for them. In other words, we can consider all of the days of the year to be potential days of celebration (ʿĪd) so long as we can maintain this condition. If the people can continue the state which they attain during the month of Ramadan, by performing good deeds, then this important principle can continue to be maintained.
The Congregation Prayer of ʿĪd al-Fiṭr: A Symbol of the Connection between Politics and Religion
It is quite evident that the blessed prayer of ʿĪd al-Fiṭr is one of the important keys in strengthening the unity amongst the members of the Muslim community. It is also an important key in the resolution of the various problems which the Muslim community faces all around the world. The reality is that this prayer is a potent religio-political phenomenon where the most important issues facing the Muslim world can be explained to the people. It is an event where the dangers which the Muslim world faces can also be explained to the people. This is a reality which is undeniable.
In light of this issue, Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has explained the necessity of fulfilling this important reality: ‘It is worthy that the Friday prayer leader explains the various issues pertaining to the religious and worldly lives of the Muslims during the course of his sermon. He should convey to the Muslims what problems and dangers they are facing, both domestically and internationally. He must explain the things which the Muslims are confronted with, both in relation to their worldly lives, as well as their religious lives. He must explain to the Muslims how they must keep (or attain) their independence from foreign powers. He must explain to them how they must maintain positive relations with other nations, as well as how to keep foreign powers from meddling in their political, religious, and economic affairs.
In short, the congregation prayers of ʿĪd al-Fiṭr are one of the key precepts of Islam which the Muslims have, unfortunately, grown negligent of. This is similar to their negligence towards other political aspects of Islam such as the one realized in the form of the Friday prayers, amongst other things. When we look at the religion of Islam, we find that politics and religion are considered one and the same. Anyone who reflects for the slightest amount of time on the judicial, political, social, or economic aspects of Islam will quickly come to realize this reality. Anyone who assumes that Islam is separate from politics has neither understood Islam nor have they understood politics.
ʿĪd al-Fiṭr: A Key Element in Combatting the Oppressive Superpowers
Indeed, the blessed day of ʿĪd al-Fiṭr serves some key religious and devotional functions. Yet, the congregational prayer of ʿĪd al-Fiṭr also has key political and social outcomes which help to strengthen Islam as a whole. One such congregational prayer has the power to shake the foundations of an oppressive and tyrannical government. In light of this issue, Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has invited everyone to attend this auspicious event towards combatting the oppressive superpowers and putting them in check.
In further explaining this perspective, Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has stated that: Though the prayers of ʿĪd al-Fiṭr are recommendable religious acts, they are amongst the highly recommended Islamic practices; they are, in fact, considered as a sign and symbol of the religion. When we are reciting this prayer, we say- Oh Lord, today is the day of our ʿĪd and it is a means of honor for the Prophet (ṣ), and a means of honor and greatness for Islam. It is a good deed sent ahead for us to be redeemed on the Day of Judgment.
In addition, this congregational prayer is a thorn in the eyes of the oppressors and it is something through which Islam and the Muslims are given honor and greatness. Due to this reason, it is necessary for those who have been fasting in the month of Ramadan to participate in this spiritual event. Through their participation, they can neutralize the plots of the enemies against Islam, making them hopeless of achieving their aims.
ʿĪd al-Fiṭr: A Practical Manifestation of the Worship Implemented by the Muslim Community
It should be noted that the day of ʿĪd al-Fiṭr is considered as a holy day in the religion of Islam, in which the Muslims are required to perform certain acts of worship. Strengthening the fulfillment of these acts of worship can, in turn, be considered as a sign that the Muslims have been successful in their fasting and other acts of worship during the month of Ramadan. In light of this issue, Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has emphasized the importance of this day and its related actions, and he has in fact considered it to be one of the most important religious occasions of the Muslim community.
The Purification of the Soul- the Most Important Blessing of the Day of ʿĪd al-Fiṭr
The acts of worship which are performed on the day of ʿĪd al-Fiṭr possess great blessings for the Muslim community and these are matchless in their essential quality. One of the acts which bring about a purification of the soul is the giving of the obligatory charity called Zakāt al-Fiṭrah. This is a charity which is given to the poor and it can be considered as one of the most important acts on this blessed day. Thus, while interpreting the fourteenth and fifteenth verses of Surah ʿAlā (‘Certainly those who purify themselves are the saved ones.’ ‘And he who brings to mind the name of his Lord and then prays’. ), Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi stated::
“These two verses indicate that the prerequisites of salvation, success, and victory are found in three things, namely: purification, the remembrance of Allah, and praying. As far as the issue of purification is concerned, there are many different meanings which have been mentioned for it. Some of these are as follows:
1. The first meaning is the purification of the soul from polytheism.
2. The fourteenth verse of Surah ʾAʿlā can also be taken as referring to the purification of the heart from various moral impurities and corruptions, as well as the performance of various pious actions. Furthermore, it can be clearly understood from other verses of the Quran where the issue of “salvation” (Falāḥ) is discussed, that salvation is directly related to pious actions (examples of these are the initial verses of Surah Muʾminūn), or the ninth verse of Surah Shams which mentions it in relation to piety: The one who purifies himself from evil actions and beautifies himself with piety is the one who is saved.
3. The third meaning is that it is a reference to the charity (Zakāt al-Fiṭrah) given on the day of ʿĪd al-Fiṭr. Muslims are obligated to first pay this charity and then begin their congregational prayers. We have many traditions from Imam Sadiq (ʿa) which have corroborated this specific meaning. In addition, this same meaning is also found in the sourcebooks of the Ahl al-Sunnah as narrated from Imam ʿAli (ʿa). When we look at the Quranic verses in regards to this issue in light of this specific meaning, we can understand the purification to be in reference to the Zakāt al-Fiṭrah, the mentioning of the name of Allah to be in reference to the Takbīrs which are recited, and the prayers are in reference to the prayers of the day of ʿĪd al-Fiṭr.
Zakāt al-Fiṭrah, the Most Important Financial Obligation of the Day of ʿĪd al-Fiṭr
It is noteworthy that one of the conditions of having one’s fasting accepted during the month of Ramadan is the giving of the Zakāt Fiṭrah charity. This is an issue which is obligatory according to the Quran and the Islamic traditions which have been narrated to us. One of the effects of giving this charity is that it will protect an individual against various calamities during the coming year. Through paying this small amount of money, the individual has in essence insured themselves from the various evils which could happen to them.
The Zakāt Fiṭrah is a part of the broader Zakāt category of charity. This type of charity is obligatory upon every physically mature, mentally capable, and financially capable Muslim. When the day of the ʿĪd al-Fiṭr arrives, every individual who fits these conditions must pay for himself/herself, as well as everyone who is their dependent living in their house; this includes small children, as well as the elderly. The amount of this charity for each person is one Ṣāʿ, and it can be paid in various forms, including wheat, barley, dates, etc… It is interesting to note that there are no differences between the Shia and the Sunnis in regards to this issue.
From this perspective, it is clear that paying this charity acts as a type of insurance for the one’s health, as well as the health of their entire family. Thus, the more that an individual gives in regards to charity, the more they have insured themselves against the various difficulties and evils which can happen to them. At the same time, those who cannot financially afford to pay this charity (meaning their normal expenditures are more than their income), are not obligated to pay and in fact, they can become a recipient of this charity.
A Final Word
The day of ʿĪd al-Fiṭr is a day of receiving one’s reward from Allah. When this day arrives, the believers have spent the past month fasting from dawn till dusk; they have strived hard against their lower desires. In a sermon delivered by Imam ʿAli (ʿa), he is narrated to have likened the Day of ʿĪd al-Fiṭr with the Day of Judgment. He asks the people that when they go towards their places of prayer, they should keep the Day of Judgment in mind. When they have finished their prayers and they have heard the lecture, they should remember the hour when the judgment will be concluded and some of the people will be sent towards the paradise.
According to Imam ʿAli (ʿa), the least reward that a fasting person will receive is that on the last day of the month of Ramadan, an angel will call out: Oh servants, glad tidings upon you that your Lord has forgiven your sins and your scroll of deeds has been cleansed of your sins. So be careful that your purified scroll of deeds is not sullied once again with the corruption of sins. In light of this reality, it must be mentioned that the month of Ramadan is a type of spring… it is a spring in the servitude of Allah. Therefore, we must be careful that these newly blossomed trees are not ruined. We should be careful to attain piety and purity through our obedience to Allah and we should continue to maintain this state…