Muslims break fast with Eid
Eid ul Fitr is a time of great celebration for members of the Muslim faith around the world, but it is also a time of reflection and self-assesment.
So believes Shabnam Jheengoor, a Muslim in Bermuda who is originally from Mauritius, an island located approximately 2,000 kilometres to the south eastern coast of Africa.
She cares for her two small children, while her husband, Belaid, works for Pricewaterhouse Coopers. She has lived in Bermuda for six years.
“Eid marks the end of Ramadan and a month of fasting,” she said. “In Bermuda, most people would have celebrated it yesterday, but it is actually a three-day celebration.”
She said the celebration was quite simple, with family and friends getting together at the mosque early in the morning for prayers. There is a short address given by the Imam, a worship leader in the mosque. Some people take a few hours away from work.
“We are very multicultural [in Mauritius],” she said. “We have Hindus, Muslims and Christians in our community so we understand each other’s celebrations. Most people would take the day off for Eid, but here it is kind of limited, and people tend to take only a few hours off and then go back to work. The celebration itself can be 45 minutes long. Usually, it is done in the open air, like in a park, or in a mosque if the weather is bad as it is this week.”
In Mauritius, Muslim people would visit family and old friends during Eid and send greetings. Sometimes gifts are exchanged, but it is by no means a focal point of Eid. Usually, family and friends will get together for a meal.
“In Mauritius, typical everyday cuisine might be curries, but not spicy ones,” said Mrs Jheengoor. “The food in Mauritius tends to be very plain. We might make a lentil soup, for example, or sauteed vegetables. For Eid we might make something special like biryani. It is quite popular in India and Pakistan. It has chicken, spices, meat and rice and potatoes.”
Mrs Jheengoor said often in the morning of Eid her mother would make a sweet vermicelli dish. The noodles are boiled in milk and then sugar, spices, raisins and almonds are added.
“Quite a few people would make it,” said Mrs Jheengoor. “People would try to make a sweet dish. It is good, because it is a very easy dish. It doesn’t take long to make if you are in a hurry to get to early-morning prayers. It is probably the easiest thing you could make. I have two kids, I am not making anything in the morning of Eid. I have to wake up and give them both a bath. I will be concentrating on that rather than the food.”
She continued: “The most important thing about Eid is how we celebrate it rather than why we celebrate it.
“Eid is very much linked to Ramadan. It marks the end of a fast. Fasting is an article of our faith. It is one of the five pillars of Islam. The other pillars are testimony of faith, pilgrimage, prayers and giving to charity. The month of Ramadan is the month that the Koran, our holy scripture, was revealed.”
During Ramadan most Muslims don’t eat or drink anything between sunup and sundown. The elderly, the sick, children and pregnant women are exempt from fasting.
“It is not about remaining hungry or thirsty all day long,” Mrs Jheengoor said. “It is about increased prayers. I would wake up at 4am and my husband wakes up earlier and would pray for two hours. Then we would read the Holy Koran. We go all day long and have five prayers in the day.”
At sunset, the fast might be broken with a simple meal, often with friends and family. This evening meal after a fast is known as iftar.
“We try to go over the Holy Koran two or three times during Ramadan,” she said. “It is quite a big book so we read as much as possible. We read it and the translation, understand it and try to apply it to our lives.”
There is another holiday that comes after the pilgrimage in two months time called Eid al-Adha.
“Since there are only two celebrations, it is a moment of joy for us,” said Mrs Jheengoor. “During Ramadan we emphasise charity. Eid is like Thanksgiving in the western world, where we give thanks to God that we are able to fast.
“We are saying thank you to God for having given us the strength to fulfil our fast. Because it marks the end of a fast it is a day we assess ourselves from before the month of fasting to where we are now. We look at where we are spiritually and where we are as a human being.
“Ramadan comes as a boost to your spirit and soul and you try to improve yourself.”