Happy Eid al-Fitr 1435

Posted on July 28, 2014

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Today, 28 July, is the day that U.S. Muslims celebrate the Feast of Breaking the Fast, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan this year.

Eid mubarak!  Today begins a three-day holiday of prayer, charity, feasting, visiting, and gift-giving as Muslims celebrate the end of the difficult month of Ramadan, which requires abstaining from food, drink, smoking, and all pleasures of the flesh during daylight hours. Note that Eid al-Fitr comes 11 days earlier this year than it did last year on our calendar; this is because the Muslim calendar is lunar, not solar, so the lunar months creep backward through the seasons over time.

When Ramadan falls in the summer season, with its long hot days and short nights, it can be especially hard.  With the ritual sighting of the moon last night, all of that comes to an end for this year.  At last, the month of Shawwal has arrived, ushering in the three months of Hajj… the time for the pilgrimage to Mecca, a rite that all able-bodied Muslims are expected to perform at least once in their lifetimes, after which they may be known by the honorific “Hajji” (or Hajja, for women).

When I was in Saudi Arabia, I was lucky enough, from time to time,  to be invited into some local Muslim homes during Ramadan.  My supportive boss encouraged it; things were different in those days.  As I helped one family preparing their meal for the upcoming evening, the wife brought me a tray with refreshments and orange juice.  “But, it’s Ramadan!”  I protested.  “Are you Muslim?”  she asked.  “No, but…”  “Well, then, eat!” she insisted.  I felt a little self-conscious, but we were in her home and she would not have her foreign guest going without proper hospitality, no matter what requirements might be set for herself.

I had a lot of positive experiences with the Saudis I met, and am sorry that that seems lost now in all the turmoil since 9/11.  To me, it feels like a personal loss, an experience that I can never have again and that others will never have the chance to know.  In the spirit of that traditional hospitality and kindness of the pre-9/11 era, and in the hope that the many peaceful moderates of the world will find the courage to stand up to the violence of the fewer (but noisier) extremists out there, Eid mubarak.

Curious about the Feast of Breaking the Fast?  You can read more about Eid al-Fitr traditions at the Albawaba website.

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