Due to the nature of the restrictions arising from the COVID-19 lockdown, many within our community have been met with different trials during this blessed month of Ramadan. We remind ourselves and the community of the wisdom of the sages: there are “hidden gifts in all ‘unpleasant’ happenings”, as Shaykh Abdal Qadir al-Jilani has noted, may God have mercy upon him. Those gifts might be purification from sins; or perhaps illumination of the heart; possibly the refining of character; maybe the maturation of virtues; even spiritual openings; and, indeed, the opportunity of constant rise in spiritual degree, and closeness to one’s Lord. We ask Allah to make us of those who are brought near to Him, particularly in these last ten days and ten nights of Ramadan: amin!
But this beautiful and blessed month is coming to an end, and Eid al-Fitr is fast approaching. Many of our community has questions about how we should approach Eid al-Fitr, and as such, we take this opportunity to inform the community, in response to these requests for guidance. May Allah bless us all with His guidance, further and further, amin.
Eid al-Fitr: The ruling
The majority of schools/madhhabs, including our school of Imam al-Shafi’i, indicate that the ruling (hukm) of the prayer of Eid al-Fitr in our school of Imam al-Shafi’i is that the prayer of Eid al-Fitr is that it is an ‘emphasised sunna’ (sunna mu’akkada). That is to say, it is a recommended (not obligatory) prayer that the Prophet, upon him be prayers and peace, never missed, whether he was a resident, or on a trip. As such, if one were not to pray at all, no sin is incurred – but one is greatly rewarded for its performance. The evidence to support this ruling includes the narration from the Prophet, upon him be prayers and peace, where he said:
‘Three prayers are fard (mandatory) upon me but are Sunnah for you, the Witr prayers, the Duha prayers and the Eid prayers’. (Reported in Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al-Bayhaqi and the Majma’ al-Zawa’id).
[The school of Imam al-Shafi’i also includes the opinion that the Eid prayer is a communally obligatory act (fard kifaya), which means that if a group from among the community were to pray it, then the community writ large is left unaccountable for it. If, however, no-one in the community did it at all, then the community writ large is liable. This does not concern us in this particular instance; the preponderant (al-Asahh) opinion in the school that this prayer is an emphatic sunna, rather than a communal obligation. And Allah knows best.]
Where can we pray Eid al-Fitr during lockdown?
It is important to note: neither Azzawia nor the scholars of Azzawia will be facilitating any public prayers on Eid al-Fitr. This is in line with the previous guidance that we have issued over the past month, in accordance with the precepts of our religion, which hold us accountable for safeguarding the health of the community. The lock-down remains in effect, and quite rightly so, given the medical advice that the medical community has provided.
However, we do confirm that in our school of Imam al-Shafi’i, it is permissible to perform the Eid prayers at home, with members of your household that you have been quarantining or isolating with. The following is narrated in this respect: “When Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) missed Eid prayers behind the Imam, then he would gather his household and workers at his house. He would then appoint Abdallah b. Abi ‘Utbah (a freed slave and one of his workers) to lead the Eid prayers (which were, likewise) accompanied by the Takbirs.” (Narrated in Fath al-Bari, Sharh of Sahih Bukhari and al-Bayhaqi).
[As a side note: according to the Hanafi rite of law (madhhab/school of thought), the conditions of the Eid prayer are similar to those of the Friday congregational prayer. This would mean that for those who follow this madhhab, they are unable to pray the Eid prayer at home. Instead, they would be advised to pray Salat al-Duha (the mid-Morning Prayer) in place of Eid al-Fitr prayers if one has missed the Eid prayer. There is significant agreement on this opinion because of the statement of Abdallah ibn Mas’ud (may God be pleased with him) that, “The one who misses the Eid prayers should perform four nafl (superogatory) prayers. The one who does this will receive a significant reward.” (Narrated in Tabrani, Majma’ al-Zawa’id and Al-Awsat fi l-Sunan). This prayer may be performed from after sunrise until the onset of zenith. For this occasion, it may be performed up to four times in a rotation of two raka’at (cycles) each. In each cycle, along with the mandatory Fatiha, any sura (chapter) or verses (ayat) of the Quran may be recited. It is also highly recommended – unlike the Eid prayers – to perform these prayers individually and silently].
What is to be done in the run up to the prayer
There are a number of duties that Muslims should be aware of in the run up to Eid.
1. Zakat al-Fitr: Eid al-Fitr commences from the time of Maghrib following the final fast of Ramadan, as this marks the beginning of the first day of Shawwal. In our school of Imam al-Shafi’i, it is important that the Zakat al-Fitr be paid between the onset of Maghrib and before the Eid prayers the following morning. (According to the Hanafi Madhab the Zakat may be paid any time during Ramadan). During Covid-19 it would be best to delegate a single family member to distribute the Zakat al-Fitr, and preferably to a Muslim organization or institution that deals with such matters.
2. Ghusl: It is mustahhab (highly recommended) to perform the ghusl, with the intention of carrying out a sunna on the day of Eid. This may be performed either shortly before the Fajr prayers or shortly before the Eid prayers (which is preferable).
Sa’id ibn Jubayr narrated the following: “Three things are Sunnah on the day of Eid: to walk to the place of prayer, to perform Ghusl (greater ablution) and to eat before leaving the house on the day of Eid al-Fitr.” (Bukhari).
3. Don your best clothes – we are doing this for the sake of Allah, and showing our honouring of the Eid, rather than that of people. Al-Hasan al-Sibt stated that “The Messenger (upon him be blessings and peace) ordered us to wear our best clothes for the two Eids, to use the best perfume we had, and to sacrifice the best animal we could find.” (Narrated in al-Hakim).
4. It is recommended to eat an odd number of dates if available, or any sweet substance (provided this does not involve any negative health impact on the person in question). Anas b. Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) “never left for Eid prayers except that he had eaten some dates.” He (ra may Allah be pleased with him also narrated that the Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) “…always ate an odd number of dates.” (Narrated in Bukhari).
5. It is preferable to pray the prayer after approximately 15 to twenty minutes after sunrise (5 to 10 minutes after sunrise in the case of Eid al-Adha), though there are minor differences between the schools on when the time for the Eid prayer begins. The major stipulate that the prayer may be carried out from after sunrise until the onset of zenith (just before the time of the midday prayer, salat al-Dhuhr), provided one has enough time to complete the prayer before the zenith occurs. (The Shafi’i school has opinions within it that would allow the prayer to be prayed until maghrib).
6. Immediately before the commencement of the prayers, all able individuals should recite the Takbir at least three times each. The following is the Takbir for Eid: Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar. La ilaha illallah Wa Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar wa lillahi al-Hamd.
How is the prayer carried out?
1. There is no specific Adhan or Iqamah for the Eid prayers. Rather, the people are gathered in rows simply by the imam saying ‘al-salatu’ jami’a’ (the prayer is gathered).
2. An imam is appointed from among those present. All may attend the prayers – men, women, children. Some might not know that it is in fact a Sunnah for women to attend the Eid prayers. It is narrated by Jabir ibn ‘Abdallah (may Allah be well pleased with him) that “The Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) stood up to perform the prayer of Eid al-Fitr. He first performed the prayer, then delivered the Khutbah (sermon). After completing the Khutbah he descended from the pulpit and approached the women. He gave them some advice while he was leaning on Bilal (may Allah be well pleased with him). Bilal then spread out a garment upon which the women placed their fitrah (alms).” (Narrated in Bukhari).
3. The prayer proceeds as follows:
i) In the first raka’ (cycle) – before the Fatihah – perform the Takbir seven times. Recite the Fatihah, followed by a surah of the Quran. It is recommended to recite Surah al-‘Ala (Chapter 87), but any other surah would suffice. Perform ruku’ (bowing) and sujud (prostration) as usual in order to complete the first cycle.
ii) In the second raka’ perform the Takbir five times. This is followed by the Fatiha and a second surah. It is recommended to recite Surah al-Ghashiyah (Chapter 88); but, once again, any other surah would suffice.
It is sunna to raise the hands for every takbir.
[One should note, this is the method of the Eid prayer as stipulated in the rite (madhhab) of Imam al-Shafi’i. There are legitimate differences of opinion with respect to the number and way the Takbirs are performed amongst different madhhabs. These are largely technical in nature, but this is not the place for such a comparative study.]
iii) At the end of the second cycle, perform the Taslim (Assalamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullah) – first to the right and then to the left as usual, followed by a short Du’a.
4. It is also important to know that there are no Sunnah prayers either before or after the prayers of Eid al-Fitr. According to Abdallah ibn ‘Abbas, “the Messenger left for the site of the Eid prayer and prayed two Raka’at (cycles) for the Eid prayer, without performing anything before or after it. (On this occasion) Bilal (ra) was with him.” (Bukhari).
5. The sermon (khutba) following the Eid prayer is a recommended act, but it is not a necessary one in order for the Eid prayer to be valid. If one will perform the khutba, they should acquaint themselves with its correct conduct.
Following this, all those present should greet one another with a phrase such as,”Eid Sa’id” (‘a joyous Eid’) or “Eid Mubarak” (‘a blessed Eid’), and “Taqabbal Allah minna wa minkum” (May Allah accept from us and from you [our worship]). If one wishes to say something similar, or in another language with a similar meaning, this would be fine.
Customarily, Eid greetings are given for three days, although it may be given thereafter if one did not have the opportunity. In these difficult times, and in adhering to the respect we ought to have for concerns around public health, it would be best to give such greetings from a distance or via electronic means. In doing so, you will also receive the reward, insha’Allah, of the one who serves one’s community by protecting them.
اللهم إنّكَ عَفُوٌ كريمٌ، تُحِبُّ العَفْوَ فاعْفُ عنا
“O God, indeed You are Pardoning and Generous; You love to pardon, so pardon us.”
اللهم إنّي أسْألُكَ العَفو وَالعَافِية والمُعَافاة الدَّائِمة في الدِّينِ والدُّنْيا والأخِرَةّ
“O God, I ask You for pardoning, good health, and constant well-being in my religion, worldly affairs, and afterlife.”
We ask Allah that He bless our community, all the Muslims, and humanity at large, during this time, and thereafter. To all of you, may your last ten days of this month be truly blessed, and your Eid full of light.
Shaykh Seraj Hendricks
Shaykh Ahmad Hendricks
Dr Hisham A. Hellyer
13 May, 2020