Commentary

Eid Messages from the Region

Middle East In Focus

Middle East In Focus

Tuesday marked the first day of Eid Al Fitr. Leaders and simple citizens alike have taken the opportunity on this holiday to send greetings and visit one another. According to Mohammad Ghazal of Jordan Times, “Eid Al Fitr starts with the sighting of the new moon at sunset on the preceding day, in accordance with the teachings of Prophet Mohammad. Accordingly, Muslims declare the start, as well as the end, of the fasting month on the basis of the sighting....Religious authorities in Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest shrines, said the new moon had been sighted and that Ramadan ends on Monday with the feast to follow the next day. Egyptian state television, quoting Islamic authorities, also declared that Eid Al Fitr will be on Tuesday. The Palestinian Authority, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, among other Muslim countries, also announced the end of Ramadan.”

M.D. Humaidan in an article on Arab News reflecting on the social significance of Eid, believes Eid celebrations “are also a clear expression of social solidarity and tolerance, and are occasions for family reunion where people renew their brotherly bonds....The Eid represents a special event for the children. They go out in their new dresses to the playgrounds scattered all over the city. They climb traditional seesaws made of wood to play Al-Tadriyah or Al-Madraiha. The children also receive their Eid presents, which are sums of money they gladly receive from parents, brothers and neighbors. It is a tradition in Jeddah that families and friends visit each other to convey congratulations on the happy occasion. They will be served sweets, chocolates and cakes. The Eid greetings will continue during the second and third days.”

In the UAE, the daily Khaleej Times reports on the Eid Al Firt in Dubai and elsewhere, noting, “Dhiyafat Al Eid, the Arabic tradition of welcoming guests, was celebrated across musallas, mosques, and malls, marking the second day of Eid Al Fitr. Shoppers were welcomed at malls with sweets, Arabic coffee, and dates from 4pm till midnight at The Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates, Mirdiff City Centre, Dubai Outlet Mall, Dubai Festival City, Al Ghurair Centre, and Mercato Mall. Terminals 1 and 3 of the Dubai International Airport also welcomed travelers with Eid sweets, commemorating Emirati hospitality. Eid sweets were also distributed at prayer venues. A wide array of fireworks is set to light up Dubai’s night sky from September 1 to 3 marking Eid Al Fitr.”

Nearby in Kuwait, residents also celebrated Eid and according to Arab Times, “Detained military personnel [were] pardoned…. Kuwait was a bubble of joy the past few days as Muslims celebrated Eid Al-Fitr, which marked the end of Ramadan, the month when able-bodied Muslims fast from earthly pleasures, such as food and drink, during daylight hours as well as reflect on their faith and try their best to lessen the burden of those less fortunate….His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah performed Eid Al-Fitr prayers at the Grand Mosque on Friday, in the company of His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.”

Likewise, Ammon News reported, “The [Jordanian] King Abdullah II on Tuesday joined worshippers in performing Eid Al-Fitr prayers at Qasr El Hashemyya. A number of princes, the prime minister, the senate president, the president of the judicial council, Royal Court chief, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, directors of general intelligence, public security, civil defense, and gendarmerie and senior officials also preformed the Eid prayers.”

But elsewhere, the religious festivities were an occasion for reflection of the changes the region has undergone over the last few months. Abdel-Rahman Hussein provides in Al Masry Al Youm a succinct summary of Egyptian newspaper coverage under the rubric “An Eid without Mubarak.…Today’s newspapers all lead with Eid celebrations, alternatively describing it as the revolution’s first Eid, the first Eid without Mubarak, and the first Eid after the fall of the previous regime. The coverage of early-morning Eid prayers is extensive, with prayers at Tahrir Square being featured most prominently, as well as Mostafa Mahmoud Square and other public spaces in Alexandria and other governorates….Another aspect of Eid coverage in many papers concerned how former Mubarak regime members spent the day behind bars in Tora prison....The opposition Al-Wafd reports that the jailed officials were prohibited from performing Eid prayers due to regulations that prisoners are not allowed to leave their cells before 8 am.”

Asharq Alawsat posts an article by Reuters about Libya, another country undergoing similar albeit more dramatic changes: “Libyans delighted at Muammar Gaddafi's downfall celebrated the end of Ramadan feast on Wednesday, even though the ousted leader remains on the run and forces loyal to him are defying an ultimatum set by Libya's interim council. In the capital's newly renamed Martyrs' Square, hundreds of people gathered for morning prayers to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the Muslim fasting month....Fatima Mustafa, 28, a pregnant woman wearing a black chador, said: ‘This is a day of freedom, a day I cannot describe to you. It's as if I own the world. I'm glad I haven't given birth yet so my daughter can be born into a free Libya.’”

In Syria, Bashar al-Assad tried to convey a sense of normalcy as he and other government officials attended to the Eid Al Fitr prayer. The Syrian daily Cham Press reports, “A number of Islamic men-of-religion and citizens also performed the Prayer along with His Excellency President al-Assad. Damascus Grand Mufti, Sheikh Bashir Ied al-Bari, gave a religious ceremony on this blessed occasion in which he spoke about the importance of amity and cooperation among Syrians as ‘one body’ and ‘one heart.’”

Across the border in Iraq, according to AK News, “the PKK promises an Eid cease-fire [against the Turkish military]. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) will cease all military activities during Eid celebrations, the chief spokesman for the guerrilla group said today....Ahmet Deniz of the PKK told AKnews, ‘The HGP [PKK's urban wing] congratulates all Kurds and Muslims of the world on the occasion of the Ramadan Eid (Eid al-Fitr) and has decided to stop all its activities for this period.’”

Iranian religious and government leaders have tried to strike a more conciliatory tone. Yuram Abdullah Weiler writes on Tehran Times that “Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar year and the month of fasting, is a time that should bring all Muslims together....As Muslims united in the Holy Quran and the Prophet Muhammad (S), our numerous commonalities far exceed the minor theological differences between Sunni and Shia Islam. We all believe in the unity of Allah (SWT), we all believe in the prophethood, and likewise, we all believe in the afterlife….So let us all take advantage of the unity inherent in fasting for the holy month of Ramadan, put aside our theological differences, and renew our efforts to unite our Muslim ummah against the common enemy.”

Finally, Mehmudah Rehman in a Gulf News special, captures the bittersweet feelings shared by most observers: “I have to confess Eid is my favorite time of the year, and it's not just because of the delectable delights, (now lawful at all hours) on offer, although I suppose that, too, plays a significant part, especially if the aforementioned delectable delights were not created in my kitchen….This year though, as I go through the motions of getting everyone's outfits (and the house) ready for Eid, something doesn't feel right....As we speak, millions in Somalia are being affected by the drought, and they starve, without having a wonderful iftar meal to look forward to….There's war in Libya, ethnic violence in Pakistan, gross injustice in Palestine and a dreaded hurricane in America. Only God knows how many souls are suffering. And in places where there is no obvious calamity, there are hearts leaden with grief concealed behind the facade of perfect smiles. May this Eid bring true joy to everyone, bliss that warms the heart and touches the soul.”