Next Thursday marks the end of the Muslim fast of Ramadan and the festival of Eid El Fitr. We asked Andrew Reid, who with his family, spent 11 years serving in Egypt, to explain what the festival means.
I knew Eid El Fitr was getting close when Mt Pasta-Rice-Oil appeared. My office in Cairo was behind a shopping mall. During the final days of Ramadan, fatigued shoppers emerged with shopping trolleys overflowing with pasta, oil and rice, delicately manoeuvring them to the car before Mt Pasta-Rice-Oil erupted onto the footpath.
On Eid morning, the muezzins replaced the usual dawn call to prayer with an extended mix—99 Allahu Akbars to celebrate the end of the fasting month.
On Eid morning, the muezzins replaced the usual dawn call to prayer with an extended mix—99 Allahu Akbars to celebrate the end of the fasting month, one for each of Allah’s names. It woke up even the veterans, who could sleep through the regular dawn mix. Soon enough, the kids would be out on the streets with their Eid presents—usually a toy gun for boys and a doll for girls, together with new clothes and crisp new banknotes. The Ramadan TV soap operas finished up for another year, only to be endlessly repeated until a new crop arrived the following Ramadan.
“Kul sana winta tayyib!” I would call my Muslim friends throughout the day and offer them this standard greeting, together with a wish for God’s blessing to be on them and their family. Even as social media use increased, a Facebook or WhatsApp greeting was no substitute for a personal phone call.
Ending the Fast
Many people travelled to their family home in a regional city to share the Eid festivities. Eid was an annual magnetic force, pulling Muslims back to their family home—a bit like an Aussie Christmas or an American Thanksgiving. After the hardships of Ramadan—fasting, disturbed sleep, uneven tempers and traffic chaos—it was important to celebrate your perseverance with family. Even some of the Christians from a Muslim background we knew yearned to join in the Eid celebrations with their families. Sadly, many of their families had cut them off after trusting in Jesus and some had to relocate for safety reasons.
Our number of Muslim enquirers would increase significantly during Ramadan.
Muslim religiosity returns to normal levels at Eid after a peak during Ramadan. Good deeds done in Ramadan are believed to earn bonus points with God. Thus there would be an outbreak of veiling amongst women who would normally go about unveiled; more regular prayers; increased attendance at the mosque; giving to the poor and recitations of the entire Quran. Even Christians notice that the spiritual intensity goes up a few notches during Ramadan. That means both more opportunities to share the good news but also more spiritual attacks in areas like health, relationships and persecution. At Arab World Media, where I worked, our number of Muslim enquirers would increase significantly during Ramadan. But normal service resumed at Eid.
Making the Most of Eid
So, if you have Muslim neighbours or friends, how could you make the most of the opportunity presented by Eid El Fitr? The huge variety of Muslims living in Australia means many different traditions, so my Egyptian experiences won’t work for everyone. But making a point to greet them on the day (Friday 13th May) and ask about their family celebrations would be a great start. If they’re having a big meal, you could ask if they know the story Jesus told in the Injeel (gospel) about a feast. If they’re receptive, you could share the parable from Luke 14:12-24 and ask questions like, “Why do you think people rejected the master’s invitation? What is the banquet they are attending?”
I’m praying that I might have that opportunity with our local Afghani restaurant owner and my Iranian work colleague. Perhaps you could think and pray about who God might give you the opportunity to share with this Eid.