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Current Issue
Spring, 2014
Volume 40, Number 1
imageofweek From the Archive
In this 1996 image, children attend a festival in New York celebrating Greek heritage. (photo: Karen Lagerquist)
  
17 August 2012
Elias D. Mallon, S.A., Ph.D.




In this image from last month, Palestinian girls in Jerusalem hold torches during a celebration to mark the breaking of the fast during the holy month of Ramadan.
(photo: CNS/Ammar Awad, Reuters)


Last month, as Muslims began to mark Ramadan, we posted some interesting facts on the season from Fr. Mallon, our education and interreligious affairs officer. This weekend, as the season draws to a close, he shares some further thoughts.

Every year Muslims observe the holy month of Ramadan. During this month Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, engage in works of charity and attempt to spend more time in prayer and in reading the Qur’an. At the end of each day, Muslims observe what is called the iftar or breaking of the fast for that day. The daily iftar is generally a joyful event. At the end of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate ‘eid ul-fitr (Eidul [or sometimes Id] Fitr), the joyful time of the close of the month of fasting.

There are only two major holy days in Islam. The most important is ‘eid ul-’adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, at the closing of the annual pilgrimage and ‘eid ul-fitr, the Feast of the Breaking of the Fast at the end of Ramadan.

Of the two feasts, ‘eid ul-’adha is theologically the more important and is referred to sometimes as the “greater feast” and ‘eid ul-fitr is referred to as the “lesser feast.” However, the situation is much like that of Christians with Easter and Christmas. Easter is the primary feast of the Christian faith. Nonetheless, for the vast majority of Christians it is Christmas that bears most of the traditions and which has an emotional hold on their religious imagination. So too with Muslims: this feast marking Ramadan’s end creates a bigger stir. For Muslims ‘eid ul-fitr is a time for new clothes, family gatherings, exchange of gifts, decorating with lights, etc. While ‘eid ul-fitr may be the “lesser feast,” it is the one which Muslims celebrate with the greatest amount of joy. In many places, the opening of ‘eid ul-fitr is announced with the firing of a canon. Muslims go to the mosque to greet the beginning of the feast with special prayers and then return home to feasting and celebrating which can last for up to three days.



Tags: Jerusalem Interreligious Islam Palestinians Ramadan
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