POV: The new moon is sighted and the Namibian Islamic Association announces the commencement of the new month. It’s time for girls to decorate their hands with henna tattoos and it’s time for men to get their trims. The time has come for aunties to roll their sleeves up and put some love and sweat into dishes of delicious food.
It’s the time when mosques all around the country are packed with worshipers who are sad that the holy month is ending. And worshipers who are happy about new beginnings. Yes, this is the time when Muslims all around the world are celebrating Eid!
What is Eid?
One of the biggest celebrations in the Muslim calendar is known as “Eid-Al-Fitr”. From Arabic to English, it directly translates to “the festival of the breaking of the fast”, which is accurate as Eid takes place at the end of Ramadan. Essentially, Eid is a time of happiness and peace; when Muslims unite to worship and thank God. The festival lasts for three days from the end of Ramadan.
What is Ramadan?
The ninth month of the Islamic calendar is considered the holiest time of the year since Muslims believe the first verses of the Islamic holy book, the Qur’an, were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad during this month. During this month, healthy adult Muslims fast from dawn till dusk while engaging in a multitude of worship, charity and self-improvement.
Fasting during Ramadan includes abstinence from drinking, eating and immoral acts. Plus, it’s an obligatory act for all healthy adult Muslims to worship. Fasting serves to make Muslims feel closer to God, strengthen their spiritual health and self-discipline, and allow them to develop good habits and break bad ones.
How does Ramadan work?
During this holy month, Muslims wake up before dawn to fill their stomachs in order to abstain from food and water until sunset. The early morning meal is known as “sehri” or “suhoor”, and the meal at the time of breaking fast is called “iftaar” or “futoor”. Muslims are also encouraged to give to charity, strengthen their relationship with God and show kindness and patience.
How are the dates for Ramadan and Eid set?
The Islamic calendar is rooted in the lunar calendar which relies on the phases of the moon. Each month begins with the sighting of the new crescent moon and is either 29 or 30 days long. Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic year. So Eid falls at the beginning of the 10th month, known as Shawwal. Different countries around the world will see the new moon earlier than others due to their geographical position. This year, in Namibia, Eid took place from 2-5 May.
However, the lunar calendar is around 10 days shorter than the Western calendar, which is based on the sun’s cycle. Therefore, Ramadan starts about 10 days earlier than the previous year, and it keeps moving to be earlier and earlier with each year that passes, thereby changing the date of Eid as well.
Eid in Namibia
Although Namibia is a non-Muslim country where Muslims are the minority, celebrating Eid has never been the struggle that Muslims in oppressive countries face. In other countries with a larger Muslim community, Eid is a national holiday and shops organize marketing campaigns for the occasion. The Eid celebrations here in Namibia could be considered miniscule.
In the U.K cars parade through the streets of Muslim neighborhoods and have mass prayers with thousands of people. In Palestine, thousands of Muslims gather at the famous Al-Aqsa mosque to sing and watch fireworks pop and color the night sky on the last night of Ramadan. Of course, in New York, the Empire State building flashes green for Eid!
But even without a big commotion, the fact that Namibian Muslims can practice the religion freely, without fear, is a blessing in itself. The situation is actually much better than the islamophobia that Muslims in other places experience. The small communities unite under the Namibian Islamic Association can make the most out of their Eid.
How was Eid celebrated?
Namibian Muslims, like their fellow brothers and sisters in faith all around the world, attended Eid prayers at their mosques or on an open field early in the morning. As tradition would have it, they left their homes wearing new clothes, smelling divine and eating something sweet on their way to the special Eid prayer. Before Eid prayers, it’s compulsory for every Muslim to make a donation to charity called Zakat al-Fitr to help feed the less fortunate.
As Eid is not recognized as a public holiday in Namibia, a lot of Muslims were forced to work through these days of joy. Afterwards, many people enjoyed large meals with friends and family, sharing food with anyone they can, as another tradition. Furthermore, it’s also very common for elders to give money to children and younger members of the family.
And on social media, Muslims took over TikTok and filled up their Instagram feeds with their ‘Eid pictures’ to share their joy and their Eid outfits.
The second Eid, known as Eid-ul-Adha, will take place from 9-13 July 2022! Don’t forget to wish your Muslim friends a Happy Eid and plan to stop by for the traditional Eid feast! Your support will be welcomed and valued as the practicing Muslim community in Namibia is quite small.