Technically the word Eid el-Fitr refers to the festival which marks the end of the month-long fasting of the month of Ramadan. It is a celebration of the completion of the training in the “school of Ramadan” where Muslims “attended courses” in patience, perseverance, honesty and the consciousness of the Almighty. The Eid el-Fitr is the occasion on which Muslims are expected to bask in uncommon happiness particularly for their ability to connect with the Almighty and especially at a time when profanity and bestiality have become fashionable. Rejoice, therefore, dear brother, if you succeeded in re-establishing your links with your Creator.
Celebrate, dear Sister! if Ramadan worked for you and imbued you with the spiritual weapons without which life on this earth would be an extension of hell. Muslims should be happy that thanks to Ramadan under no circumstance shall they allow earthly principalities to pollute their souls; never again shall we allow our prosperity to demean our spirituality; never again shall our temporary adversity purblind us to the greater value in walking with the Almighty in the wilderness of this terrestrial life.
However, it is important for us to note that our “graduation” from the “School” of Ramadan is like our arrival to a station which is, in itself, the beginning of another journey. In other words, the whole essence of life and living for the conscious Muslim is all about arrival and departure; we arrive from a religious duty in order to depart for another one. The onset of the Id al-Fitr, like it is for Id al-Adha, implies the undertaking of series of religious duties. Muslim festivals do therefore not end in themselves but means to a more hallowed spiritual-social ends. Each time Muslims prostrate in obeisance to the Almighty, they are expected to rise in order that they might rescue humanity from the multiplexity of maladies confronting the latter.
This is where the uniqueness of this year’s ‘Id al-fitr gains mention. Unlike previous years when believers are expected to go out in their millions to ‘Id prayer grounds to observer Salat, the on-going battle against coronavirus has made that religious obligation highly unrecommended. In different parts of the world, Id prayers are likely not going to be observed. Instead, Muslim faithfuls are expected to continue their spiritual interactions with the Almighty in the safe spaces of their homesteads. Turn your sitting rooms and lounges to Id ground. Even in wars and sick beds, the obligation to observe Salats, once they are, due is a never-ending exercise.
While pondering the above, it is important to bear in mind that just as COVID-19 has not led to the effacement of the sights and scenes of poverty in our society, the obligation to give out Sadaqat-ul-fitr during this period then becomes urgent and important. The Noble Messenger of the Almighty is reported to have said: “Acts of fasting remains suspended between the heavens and the earth until the Sadaqatul Fitr is paid’. This is an act of charity that is usually done before the Id prayers are observed. It is usually paid for and on behalf of all Muslims in a household, the young and the old. It may be paid in kind and this may feature three to four seers of wheat, barley, rice or any staple food. (Sahih Bukhari 24:70). Of recent, Muslims scholars have addressed the necessity of monetizing this act of worship based on existential necessities.
Whether it is given out in cash or in kind, the more important issue is the intention behind the act. Our intention should be the extension of the happiness of the occasion to our brethren who are experiencing adversity. We should desire for our brothers and sisters the same quality of life the like of which the Almighty has been kind to grant unto us. Give your Sadaqatul Fitr, like Ali ibn Abi Talib, in expectation of no appreciation; cultivate the habit of giving, in line with the Prophet’s advise, in such a way that your left hand knows not what your right-hand has handed out.
Brethren as we celebrate the end of this years’ Ramadan, it is important that we constantly keep the virtues that the month has come to inculcate in us under focus. Have more empathy for the poor. Let us sustain the acts of worship which we engaged in during the month. Steadfastness, patience and perseverance should remain our watchwords. Ramadan came to call our attention to the power of the spiritual realm; it came to take us away from concern for the ephemeral for that which is eternal. Ramadan came to teach us that our salvation here on earth and in the hereafter lies in how steady we are in focusing on The Almighty, how grateful we are for His blessings, and how patient shall we continue to be when, as is occasionally the case, the tide of time becomes turbulent and troublesome. Supplicate to the Almighty to grant us relief from COVID-19; that He grants you and me the favour and privilege of witnessing many more of this glorious month in life. Aaamin.
Oladosu is a Professor of Middle Eastern, North African and Cultural Studies Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan.