Ask Ali: on Eid Al Fitr and volunteering

Finding balance between fasting and feasting, and how you can help labourers.

Dear Ali: I know that Eid Al Fitr is the feast to mark the end of fasting in Ramadan. But doesn't this contradict what Ramadan teaches about extravagant feasting? PL, Canada

Dear PL: You asked - and answered by yourself - a good question.

Eid Al Fitr is celebrated in the beginning of the Islamic month of Shawal, and that indicates the end of Ramadan. This Eid is not about extravagant feasting, but rather a joyous celebration similar to the concept of Thanksgiving, as we give thanks to God for all the blessings he bestowed on us and for successfully (hopefully) fulfilling the obligations of Ramadan.

Feasting in this sense doesn't mean just serving all sorts of food. It rather means that from this day we are allowed to resume eating during the day. "Fitr" means "to break fast"; therefore, this Eid is the celebration of breaking your fast after Ramadan is over.

What typically happens on the first day of Eid Al Fitr is this:

The men and boys wake up at dawn, get dressed in new clothes and go to the mosque for the fajr and salat prayers Al Fitr. Then they return home to a house that's been perfumed with bukhoor, and join the family for a breakfast that has been prepared by their mother and sisters, who also woke up early.

We take turns visiting and receiving our neighbours and relatives to congratulate them on this occasion. Children particularly enjoy Eid because they receive gifts of money (Eidiyah) from their parents and older relatives.

In our year of 12 months, Muslims officially celebrate only two times: the small Eid, which is Eid Al Fitr, and the big Eid, which is Eid Al Adha. In both the celebratory aspect is not in how much money you spend or food you consume, but in appreciating Allah for his gifts.

People should remember that religion was sent to us perfectly from the one and only almighty God, but that we as worshippers are never perfect. Religious events exist for a good reason, but our acts can distort the meaning of these occasions.

We need to remind ourselves not to spend money and consume food and energy just for the sake of celebrating, but to reunite with our families and strengthen our relationships as human beings.


Dear Ali: I have a lot of free time. Are there any organisations that focus on labourers in need of volunteers? MB, Abu Dhabi

Dear MB: Thank you for wanting to use your time by doing something helpful.

I know of two initiatives that deal with labourers in the UAE. One is Adopt A Camp, which prepares care packages for the workers who built the beautiful cities we live in. The group has been going strong for six years and its Facebook page is very informative.

There is also a new organisation called The Seeds of Change. The nice thing about this group is that you get to utilise your time not only by doing good, but also by meeting and becoming friends with locals and residents. You can follow this organisation on Twitter and Facebook, and spread the word to friends who might be interested in taking part as well.

Of course there also are classic organisations you can support such as the Red Crescent and Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders).


Language lesson

Arabic: Embaraken Eedik

English: Blessed Eid

"Embaraken Eedik" is Emirati dialect to wish someone a happy, joyful and blessed Eid in one phrase that essentially means "Congratulations". So you may say: "Embaraken Eedik" to a male and "Embaraken Eedich" to a female. To reply: "Aleekom o aleena," which means "Blessings (or congratulations) to us and you."

Published: August 24, 2011 04:00 AM


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