Eid Al-Fitr: TIME TO REJOICE! [Archives:1999/03/Viewpoint]

January 18 1999

Right now, over a billion Muslims worldwide are celebrating Eid Al-Fitr holidays. This is one of the key religious occasions that are festive.

For a whole month during Ramadhan, pious Muslims have refrained from indulging in life. During day-time, they have been fasting – no food, no drinks, no sex, no smoking, etc. They have spent long hours praying and trying very hard to dig deep into their inner souls to reach out to God. During Ramadhan, they have accepted an austere lifestyle, though some could afford better.
Ramadhan was a tie to mend fences and to let by-gones be by-gone. It was a time for reconciliation and forgiveness, In short, people were supposed to be more selfless.

Eid Al-Fitr comes with its sumptuous meals, delicious cakes, cookies, and other sweet dishes. Most families would slaughter a sheep or at least buy meat on the occasion.
People dress in new and colorful clothes, or at least clean ones, and become their best – at least in terms of looks.
Eid Al-Ftr comes with its festive mood as people travel around the country, visit relatives and friends. Some go hunting or simply shooting, etc.
There is a lot of merriment, music, dancing, and fanfare.

The celebration extends for three days, but many people extend the festivities a few more days. All businesses – government or private are closed. Most urban dwellers are originally from villages. Therefore, those who can afford the expenses, pack up and go to the countryside. It is a costly venture, but quite worth it if you have the resources. That explains the fall in urban traffic as well as the hustle and bustle

The enjoyment and fun of Eid Al-Fitr, however, is limited to those who can afford them. For the majority of the Yemeni population, unfortunately, this is all off-limits. The occasion calls for new expenditures which the low-income people of Yemen cannot afford. Some 30-40% of the Yemeni population is already too burdened and cannot afford the ordinary costs of life, let alone incurring new expenses.

In the old days, strong kinship bonds and an extended family system enticed the well-to-do members of society to attend to the needs of the less fortunate relatives. In this way, everybody celebrated and enjoyed the holidays. However, as social values change, the degree of obligation and commitment within our community has softened and loosened. Thus, the poorer members of society can no longer fall back on richer relatives. More unfortunately, the government has not yet developed a social security system which attends to the needs of the poor and vulnerable.

The very essence of Eid Al-Fitr is communal happiness. An individual or a small group of people cannot have fun if most of society is deprived. The key words here are compassion and solidarity among people to ensure harmony and peace in society.