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Eid al-Fitr is the "feast of breaking the fast" celebrated on the first day of Shawwal after sighting the crescent moon. Shawwal is the tenth month of the Islamic Hijri calendar and follows Ramadan, the month of fasting.

According to the Hadith traditions, the Prophet of Islam would pray at the sight of a new crescent, "O God, make this moon a moon of peace for us".

This expression of the Prophet of Islam summarises the true spirit of Eid, which is a harbinger of spiritual values, fraternity, and harmony.

A social occasion

Eid is celebrated by Muslims worldwide as a day of hope, gratitude, and togetherness. Giving charity to the destitute and the needy, celebrating the relations, and exchanging gifts with the near and dear ones are synonymous with the festival of Eid.

The atmosphere at this time of the year rekindles fond childhood memories for all of us. I reminisce how the local markets used to come alive and bustle with activity on the nights of Ramadan. Post iftar, families and friends would go to the market to prepare for the upcoming festivities.

The children look forward to the fun-filled day of Eid not only as a day of meeting everyone and enjoying their favourite dishes but also as a day of receiving Eidi from the older members of the family.

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The practices observed on the day of Eid are quite simple. First, family and friends visit the nearby Mosque or Musalla for two raka'at (units) of Eid Prayers in congregation.

The prayers are offered in the early part of the day, where they call to mind those teachings of Islam that advocate peace and spirituality. They pray to God to bestow His blessings on humanity and promote hope and well-being in society.

Blessed Eid

After completing their Eid prayers, people visit relatives and neighbours to offer Eid greetings and greet each other by saying "Eid Mubarak." The word Mubarak means "blessed", and the wish for a "Blessed Eid" is meant to nurture brotherhood and fraternal values amongst one another.

Generally, it is held that Eid al-Fitr is the Eid of sweets. Though it is not a religious part of Eid al-Fitr, they represent the spirit of Eid. Because, in every culture, the exchange of sweets signifies good wishes. The sweets distributed on the day of Eid fosters love and hope.

The Prophet of Islam also encouraged exchanging gifts to mark love and unity. Eid, therefore, becomes a melting pot for instilling these virtues in society.

Eid is celebrated together with the near and dear ones. In some parts of the world, Muslims organise Eid get-togethers (also known as Eid Milan in the Indian sub-continent), where they invite their family and friends and people from all walks of life to come and join the festivities of Eid. The joy of breaking the bread together fills the atmosphere with contentment and happiness.

The celebration of Eid immediately follows the final day of fasting. Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr represent two fundamental aspects of Islam. Ramadan represents the responsibilities of the believers in this world, and Eid al-Fitr represents the reward for their good deeds, which will come to pass in the world hereafter.

Ramadan also encourages giving away in charity. Just as water washes away impurities, giving charity is the Islamic way of purifying one's wealth. But this deed does not end here.

A person cannot offer Eid prayers until he sets aside a Fitrah, a mandatory amount to be offered to the needy and the destitute by the head of every household on behalf of every member of the house. This act reminds every Muslim that one of the noblest deeds in front of God is helping others.

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An act of giving

The Prophet of Islam said that charity is prescribed for every descendent of Adam. Charity is not simply a monetary act of giving. It encompasses every aspect of social living, as is alluded to in the following Hadith. A companion of the Prophet of Islam once asked him how charity could be given daily.

The Prophet of Islam replied to him saying, "Your smiling in the face of your brother is charity, commanding good and forbidding evil is charity, your giving directions to a man lost in the land is charity for you, your seeing for a man with bad sight is a charity for you, your removal of a rock, a thorn or a bone from the road is charity for you, your pouring what remains from your bucket into the bucket of your brother is charity for you." 

Embracing these values with a heightened consciousness of self-restraint and self-discipline, Ramadan allows a believer to emerge as a better version of himself.

Imbued with these teachings, as we prepare to mark the Eid celebrations this year, let us resolve to continue to live as peaceful, giver and duty-conscious members of society and to promote Eid's spirit throughout the year.

Raamish Siddiqui is a lawyer, author and Islamic thinker. Twitter: @raamishs