Man is naturally disposed to celebrations. Festive celebrations are rooted in the distant past since man has specified certain days for commemorating a day or event such as victories and births, with ceremonies and rejoicing. Each community has designated specific days of festivities when people wear their best, manifest their joy and put away their cares on these occasions.
When the Prophet emigrated to al-Medina, he found that the people there observed two feasts of pagan origin which they observed with festivities and play. He did not renounce the idea and sanctioned celebrations with national, social and religious characteristics. He substituted these days with another two connected with two of the greatest Islamic rites—the day of breaking the fast (after Ramadan) and the day of sacrifice.
Allah established the day of breaking the fast after Ramadan a feast for Muslims. On this day, people exchange felicitations and visit each other. On this day they express their mercy and affection, display their finery and enjoy the blessings of Allah.
On this day, they express their love and brotherhood all for the sake of Allah. And by the mercy of Allah, this joyous day is commenced with the prayer of ‘Eid, which Muslims from all the different social classes offer at the same time in congregation; they glorify and praise Allah and thank Him for guiding them. They are compassionate towards their poor and needy brothers offering them food and money to spare them the need to beg on this day. On this day, Muslims set aside their worldly troubles to pray with their brothers and exchange felicities and goodwill, thereby combining between communion with Allah through acts of worship and fellow Muslims through cooperation, mercy and fellowship.
The day of ‘Eid ul-fitr invokes Divine bounties which include:
– It is the first day following the month of Ramadan. On this day, restrictions relating to food and drink and sexual intercourse (for married couples) are lifted after a period of voluntary abstention by which Muslims declare their willingness to forsake these pleasures for the greater purpose of attaining the pleasure of Allah and His forgiveness. On this day, Muslims rejoices over having fulfilled their duty of obeying Allah and for attaining its reward attested to by the words of the Messenger who said, “A faster has two moments of joy: one when he breaks the fast (at the end of the month) and another when he meets his Lord.”
Commemorating this event
It is recommended to commemorate this day by making dhikr, praying or observing other acts of worship, especially offering salat ul-tasabih (Tasabih prayer) due to its excellence expressed in the hadith, “Whoever spends the eve of the two ‘Eids worshipping Allah and hoping to attain its reward, his heart will remain after he ceases to exist/ die along with him.” It has been suggested that a dead heart refers to a heart that is passionately fond of this world, or disbelief, the horrors of the day of resurrection. Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them both) said that a heart is kept alive by offering the night prayer in congregation, resolving to pray the dawn prayer in congregation and by making supplications in both.
The takbirs said in the ‘Eid
The takbirs of the two ‘Eids are a sunnah according to the opinion of the majority of scholars. After the verses on fasting, Allah the Almighty says,
(He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify him in that He has guided you. [Al-Baqarah, 185]
The takbirs referred to in this verse are those performed on ‘Eid ul-fitr while that mentioned the verses on pilgrimage refer to ‘Eid ul-adha. Allah says,
Remember Allah during the appointed days. [Al-Baqarah, 203]
To attain benefits and celebrate God’s name, on specified days, over the livestock He has provided for them. [Al-Hajj, 28]
He has thus made them subject to you, that ye may glorify Allah for His guidance to you. [Al-Hajj, 37]
Ibn Hazm said, “The takbirs made on the eve of the day of ‘Eid al-fitr are obligatory but those made on the eve of ‘Eid ul-adha are praiseworthy. Allah the Almighty says, And to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful. [Al-Baqarah, 183]
Therefore, takbirs become obligatory upon the after completion of the fast of Ramadan. One instance of takbir fulfills the obligation.”
To make takbir is to exalt Allah and in the context of ‘Eid, it is to exalt Allah and establish His greatness through the words ‘Allahu akbar’ which denote Allah’s Divine oneness. This is because the superlative form necessitates the diminution of everything else and any diminutive entity is not deserving of divinity. Allah is free from imperfections and, for this reason, takbir was legislated in prayers to nullify prostrations to other than Allah; in hajj when sacrificing to nullify what people used to sacrifice to their idols; and at the end of the month of fasting indicating that Allah is worshipped through fasting and that He is the One True God in the face of the falsehood of the idols.
It is because of this that Muslims were instructed to make takbir en route to the ‘Eid prayer and for the imam to make takbir in the ‘Eid sermon.
It is recommended to start making takbir when the sun sets on the eve of the day of the two ‘Eids. A person is to keep making takbir at his home, on the road and in mosques and markets by raising his voice (for men) and uttering the relevant expressions until the imam of the ‘Eid prayer announces the start of prayer. A person, who is not praying behind an imam, is to continue his takbir until the imam finishes the ‘Eid prayer and sermons.
Nothing specific concerning the phrasing of takbir has been mentioned in the sunnah. However, some of the Companions such as Salman al-Farsi used to make takbir saying:
Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar. La ilaha illa Allah. Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar, wa lillahi al-hamd (Allah is the greatest, Allah is the greatest, Allah is the greatest. There is no god save Allah. Allah is the greatest, Allah is the greatest, praise be to Allah).
The order to do this is non-specific since the textual basis for it is unrestricted. Allah the Almighty says, [He wants you to complete the prescribed period] and to glorify Him for having guided you. [Al-Baqarah, 185]
Unrestricted matters must remain unrestricted until something in Islamic law comes to restrict them. Since long ago, Egyptians have used the well-known takbir phrasing of:
Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar. La ilaha illa Allah. Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar, wa lillahi al-hamd. Allahu akbarkabira wa al-hamdullahi kathira wa subhana Allahu bukratan wa asila. La ilaha illa Allah wahdah. Sadaqa wa’dah wa nasara ‘abdah, wa a’azza jundahu wa hazama al-ahzaba wahdah, la ilaha illa Allah. Wa la na’budu illa iya mukhliseen lahu al-deena wa law kkariha al-kafirun. Allahuma salli ‘ala sayidina Mohammed wa ‘ala ali sayidina Mohammed, wa ‘ala as-habi sayidina Mohammed, wa ‘ala ansari sayidina Mohammed, wa ‘ala azwaj sayidina Mohammed, wa ‘ala dhuriyyati sayidina Mohammed wa salim tasliman kathira.
(Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar. There is no god but Allah. Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar, praise be to Allah. Allah is ever greatest, much praise be to Allah. Glory to Him day and night, there is no god but Allah. He fulfilled His promise, gave victory to His slave, strengthened His army, and He alone we worship, being sincere in our religion even though the believers are averse. O Allah! Make your prayers and blessings be upon our master Mohammed, upon the family of our master Mohammed, upon the companions of our Master Mohammed, and upon the supporters of our master Mohammed, and upon the wives of our master Mohammed and upon the descendants of our master Mohammed, in abundance).
It is a valid legal formulation and Imam Al-Shafi’I commented upon it saying, “If one says Allahu akbar as people do nowadays, it is a good thing. If he adds more takbirs then it is also good. Any remembrance of Allah he adds I deem good.”
Adding praise and blessings upon our master Mohammed and his family, Companions, supporters, wives and descendants at the end of takbirs has a legitimate legal basis. The best form is one that combines mention of Allah and His Prophet. Praising him opens the doors of acceptance for our deeds; the scholars have said that saying prayers upon the Prophet are always accepted—even from hypocrites—since it is related to his Excellency, our master the Prophet.