Eid: Days Of Joy And Celebration

In Arabic the word "eid" means "customary joy and sadness; a day for gathering together."

According to Mahmud of Kashgar, bayram, the Turkish word for eid, is originally from the Persian bezrem/bezram, and it means a day of entertainment. The pronunciation as bayram is from the Oğuz Turks.

The outstanding characteristic of bayram is eating and drinking. The reason for this should be sought in its preparing a basis for entertainment. Because it can be seen that in religious holidays unrelated to entertainment eating and drinking are also necessities of bayram. In fact, although it is permissible for Muslims to fast throughout the year, it is prohibited to fast on the first day of eid after the Ramadan fast and on the four days of the Eid ul-Adha.

Arabian Holidays Before Islam

There is not sufficient information available regarding Arabian holidays during the Age of Ignorance. However, it is known that there was no holiday celebrated together by the Arabs, who had no national unity among themselves and who lived in tribes during this time. It is known that every tribe and city organized ceremonies according to their own traditions. Every tribe had at least one idol and special days of celebration dedicated to each idol. In addition, bazaars and fairs were set up on these days; religious holidays were celebrated with entertainment that included poetry, music, alcohol and women. The only holiday that can be said to have been celebrated in common by the tribes was the hajj or pilgrimage, the biggest holiday in the Hijaz region, Mecca in particular. During the month of Dhil-Q'ada two fairs were held, one in Ukaz and the other in Majanna, and then there was a fair in Dhul-Majaz and after that Arafat would be visited. On these days people put on their best clothes, refrained from cruelty and injustice, and hosted "guests of the Kaaba" who had come from afar to the Meccans. A festival celebrated once a year near Mecca was the Zatu Anwat holiday. Zatu Anwat was a large, green tree. Every year the Arabs hung their income and swords on the branches of the tree, bowed down in the surroundings and made sacrifices. Again, according to references, when they were going to circumambulate the Kaaba, they would hang their blankets on this tree and show their respect to the Kaaba by entering the Harem area like that. In addition, they held a ceremony once a year around the Zamzam well, and thus they believed the water would not decrease throughout the year.

The people of Medina did not have a national holiday of their own; they celebrated two famous Magian holidays they took from the Persians. The first of these was Nawruz which designated the beginning of spring, and the other was the Mihrijan holiday at the beginning of autumn. It is also known that the people of Medina took some holidays like yevmu's-seb'  and yevmu's-sebasib from Jews and Christians in other cities; however, there are no details as to how these were celebrated.

Holidays in Islam

There are two major holidays in the Islamic religion: Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha. Both holidays began to be celebrated in year 2 of the Hegira. On the Ramadan holiday or Eid ul-Fitr Muslims carry the joy of having spent the previous month in worship and the hope that they will receive Allah's mercy. The Eid ul-Adha carries the memory of the Prophet Abraham's wanting to sacrifice his son Ishmael, Ishmael's accepting this, and Allah's allowing him to sacrifice an animal instead for the great loyalty they showed. Muslims' making a sacrifice on these days shows their joy for these two prophets successfully passing Allah's test. In addition, it should be said that these two holidays played a role in the Islamic society's being cleansed of traces of former times and taking on an individual identity. In fact, the Prophet, who after migrating to Medina saw that inhabitants there were celebrating Nawruz and Mihrijan holidays taken from Persia, prohibited the celebration of these two festivals from Persia: "Allah changed those two holidays with two better ones, the Eid ul-Fitr and the Eid ul-Adha" (Musned, III, 103, 235, 250; Ebu Davud, "Salat," 45; Nesai, "Salatu'l-ideyn," 1). It is possible to say that these two Islamic holidays begin with the eid salat based on the hadith: "The first thing you should do on these days is make salat" (Buhari, "îdeyn," 3; Muslim, "Edahi," 7). Together with this, the day of arafa belonging to Eid ul-Adha has a special good characteristic, because waqf al arafa, one of the hajj's most important pillars, is performed on this day. In one hadith it is stated that taking advantage of eid nights is a special virtue (Ibn Mace, "Siyam," 68).  A sacrifice is made after the eid salat by those who are able to. Muslims try and pass these days joyfully by visiting each other, eating, drinking and having fun in a permissible fashion. The Prophet Muhammad said, "The day of Arafa, the day of sacrifice and the days of tashriq are holidays for us Muslims. These are days of feasting" {Ebu Davud, "Savm," 50; Tir-mizî, "Savm," 59; Nesai, "Menasik," 195). For this reason, fasting on the first day of Eid ul-Fitr and the four days of Eid ul-Adha is deemed makruh according to the Hanafi school and haram according to the Shafi and Hanbali schools. Sharing the view of the Shafi and Hanbali schools on this topic, the Maliki consider fasting on the fourth day of the Eid ul-Adha to be makruh, not haram.

Eid Preparations

Getting ready for eid, wearing clean and beautiful clothing on these days, having a gusul ablution, brushing one's teeth, using nice scents, wearing a smile, eating something sweet like a date before the eid prayer, eating sacrificed meat before anything else on Eid ul-Adha, walking to the eid prayer, if possible, and using another road to return, giving a lot of alms, giving fitr alms before the eid prayer, and making takbir are all mandub (recommended). Making tashrik takbir after the fard eid prayer is obligatory according to the Hanafi school; sunnah (practices of the Prophet) according to the Hanbali and Shafi; and mandub according to the Maliki.

Entertainment and some games that are within Islamic limits are permissible on eid days. On one eid day when the Prophet was with Aisha two girls were singing some tunes regarding the Buas War.  When Abu Bakr wanted to intervene, Muhammad (pbuh) said, "Every nation has a holiday; this is our holiday" (Buhari, "ideyn," 3; Mus­lim, "Salatu'l-'ideyn," 16). Also, it is known that the Prophet accompanied Aisha, who wanted to watch the spear and shield games being made at the masjid on eid (Buhari, "ideyn," 2; Muslim, "Sa-latu'l-'ideyn," 17).

It should be indicated that in addition to the two major holidays, Friday is also a holiday for Muslims. In one hadith it was said regarding Friday, "Undoubtedly, there is a day Allah designated as a holiday for Muslims. Someone coming to the Friday prayer should wash and rub on a beautiful scent if he has some; I also recommend using miswak".

It should be indicated that in addition to the two major holidays, Friday is also a holiday for Muslims. In one hadith it was said regarding Friday, "Undoubtedly, there is a day Allah designated as a holiday for Muslims. Someone coming to the Friday prayer should wash and rub on a beautiful scent if he has some; I also recommend using miswak" (Ibn Mace, "kâmetü's-salât," 3).

Eid Celebrations

With both social and religious aspects, Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha celebrations were held during the Age of Happiness in a broad space called musalla. The celebration began with the eid salat which women and young girls also participated in. It is known that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) wanted eid to be celebrated with a large crowd and with great enthusiasm (see Musned, V, 84, 85; VI, 33, 55, 72, 91, 113, 134, 143, 204, 209, 235, 409; Darimi, "Salat," 223; Buhari, "Ha­yiz," 7, 23, "Ideyn," 12, 15, 20, 21, "Salat," 2, "Hac," 81; Muslim, "Salatu'l-îdeyn," 11, 12, 22). In fact, he even permitted folk dancing done with weapons. He watched a group of people from Ethiopia making spear-shield games on the dirt floor of the Masjid-i Nabawi and he did not approve of Umar's intervention. In addition, he permitted women slaves to play the tambourine beside Aisha although he did not watch them (Buhari, "ideyn," 3; Muslim, "Salatu'l-ideyn," 16-20). The Prophet's eating a date before going to the musalla is a sunnah which led to the custom of offering sweets on eid.

Summarized from Sargon Erdem, TDV İslam Ansiklopedisi, “Bayram” article, vol. 5, Istanbul 1992.


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