By: Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani (edited by Bilal Ali)
Shawwal is the first of the three months named Ashhur al-Hajj (the months of hajj). Although the major acts of hajj are normally performed on the first ten days of Dhu ‘l-Hijjah, yet the whole period starting from the first of Shawwal up to the 10th of Dhu ‘l-Hijjah is held to be the period of hajj because some acts of hajj can be performed any time during this period. For example, the tawaf al-qudum followed by the sa’i of hajj, although impermissible before Shawwal can be performed any day after Shawwal begins. Similarly, an ‘umrah performed before Shawwal cannot be treated as an ‘umrah of tamattu‘ while an ‘umrah performed in Shawwal can be affiliated with the hajj, making it a hajj of tamattu‘. Moreover, the ihram of hajj is considered undesirable before Shawwal. For these reasons, amongst others, the three months that follow Ramadan have been named the “months of hajj” and the month of Shawwal has the distinction of being the first of these months.
The second meritorious aspect of Shawwal is that it has been chosen by Allah Almighty for the celebration of ‘Id al-Fitr, one of the only two annual festivals recognized by the Shari’ah. This joyous day is intended by the Shari’ah to serve as a sign of gratitude by the Muslims on the accomplishment of Ramadan and as an immediate reward by Allah for those who spent the month of Ramadan in fasting and performing other forms of ritual worship.
Interestingly enough, instead of commemorating an event from the past, the Shari’ah has prescribed the first of Shawwal as an annual festival for the Muslims on an occasion when they themselves have accomplished and completed a momentous form of worship. This approach reminds the Muslims that they should not rely only on the accomplishments of their ancestors. Rather, they should themselves perform meritorious acts to please their Creator.
In prescribing the methods to celebrate this happy day, Islam has adopted another unique approach. The festivals of other religions or nations normally comprise of solely acts of rejoicing and enjoyment. The whole day of celebration is normally spent in dancing, singing and play.
In contrast, Islam has prescribed a simple yet graceful way to observe the joyous day. First, it is mandatory on all wealthy Muslims to start their day by paying sadaqat al-fitr to the poor of their community, so that they, too, may enjoy the day along with others and not be concerned about earning their livelihood on at least this one day of happiness.
After paying the sadaqat al-fitr, the Muslims are required to proceed to an open place where they can offer the ‘Id prayer collectively. In this way, they are expected to present themselves before their Creator and offer two raka‘ahs of this special type of prayer which allows them to receive blessings from Allah and commence their celebration with divine blessings.
After the salat also, they are expected to rejoice in a responsible manner, without violating the limits prescribed for them or indulging in any acts prohibited by Allah. Keeping this point in view, we will now discuss specific rules prescribed for observing the day of ‘Id al-Fitr.
The Night Preceding ‘Id al-Fitr
It was the practice of the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, that he would not sleep on the night preceding the day of ‘Id al-Fitr. This night has been named in a hadith as the Night of Reward (Laylat al-Ja’izah). Allah Almighty bestows his rewards on those who have spent the month of Ramadan abiding by the dictates of the Shari’ah and all their prayers in this night are accepted. Therefore, it is desirable to perform nafl prayers on this night. The Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, is reported to have said:
Whoever stands up (in worship) on the nights preceding the two ‘Ids expecting rewards from his Lord, his heart will not die when the other hearts will die. (Ibn Majah)
To benefit from this opportunity, one should perform as much worship on this night as possible and pray for all one’s needs and desires.
Before Going to ‘Id Prayer
The following acts are prescribed as sunnah at the beginning of the day of ‘Id-ul-Fitr before proceeding to the ‘Id prayer:
1. To wake up early in the morning.
2. To clean one’s teeth with a miswak or a brush.
3. To take a bath.
4. To put on one’s best available clothing.
5. To wear perfume.
6. To eat sweet food, preferably dates, before the ‘Id prayer.
7. To recite the following takbir in the low voice while going to the ‘Id prayer:
Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar La Ilaha Illa Allah Wa Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar Wa Lillahi al-Hamd
Sadaqat al-fitr is an obligation for every Muslim, male or female, who owns 613.35 grams of silver or its equivalent, either in the form of money, ornaments, stock-in-trade, or in the form of some goods or commodities beyond one’s normal needs. Every person who owns such an amount has to pay sadaqat al-fitr, not only on behalf of himself but also on behalf of his minor children. The prescribed amount of sadaqat al-fitr is 1.75 kgs of wheat or its value in money. This amount is prescribed for paying sadaqat al-fitr for one person only. If a person has children who are dependents, the same amount has to be paid on behalf of each one of them separately. The following points must be remembered concerning the payment of sadaqat al-fitr:
1. Sadaqat al-fitr obligatory upon each adult male or female separately, and the relevant adult person himself is responsible to pay it. The husband is not required to pay sadaqat al-fitr on behalf of his wife nor is the wife required to pay it on behalf of her husband. Similarly, a father is not bound to pay sadaqat al-fitr on behalf of his adult children or vice-versa. However, if the head of the family, by his own free will, wishes to pay sadaqat al-fitr for each one of the members of his family, he should seek their authorization for that purpose. In this case the sadaqat al-fitr paid by him will be valid on their behalf. If he did not pay the sadaqat al-fitr on behalf of any of the members of his family, he will not be responsible for it. Rather, it is the duty of every adult member of the family to discharge his own obligation or to request the head of the family to pay it on his or her behalf.
2. It is a sunnah that the sadaqat al-fitr be paid before performing the ‘Id prayer. It can also be paid before the ‘Id day, but it is not advisable to delay it up to the performance of the ‘Id prayer. However, if a person has failed to pay it on its proper time he should pay it as soon as possible whereby the obligation will stand discharged.
3. The sadaqat al-fitr is not necessary on behalf of a child who was born after the break of dawn on the day of ‘Id, nor is it necessary to pay sadaqat al-fitr on behalf of a person who dies before the dawn of the ‘Id day.
4. Sadaqat al-fitr should be paid only to a person who is entitled to receive zakat.
The ‘Id Prayer
The second obligatory act on ‘Id day is to perform the ‘Id prayer. Some rules in this respect are mentioned hereunder:
1. The ‘Id prayer is wajib (obligatory) on every male Muslim.
2. The ‘Id prayer can be performed any time between the sunrise and when the sun reaches its zenith (beginning of the zuhr prayer time).
3. It is preferable that the ‘Id prayer is performed at an open field and not in a masjid. However, if, it is difficult for any reason to perform it in an open field, it can also be performed in a large masjid.
4. It is not advisable to hold the ‘Id prayer in every masjid. Rather, it is preferable that the people from several small masjids get together to either perform it in an open field or, in its absence, in a big masjid which can accommodate a large number of people.
5. No nafl salat can be performed before the ‘Id prayer, neither in one’s home nor at the place of ‘Id prayer. Similarly, nafl prayer cannot be performed after the ‘Id prayer at the same place. However, it can be performed after one comes back to his home.
6. The ‘Id prayer has neither an adhan nor an iqamah.
How to Perform the‘Id Prayer
The ‘Id prayer consists of two raka‘ahs that are performed like any other prayer with the exception of the addition of six takbirs, three of them in the beginning of the first raka‘ah and three of them just before ruku‘ in the second raka‘ah.
The detailed method of performing the ‘Id prayer is as follows:
The imam begins the prayer without adhan or iqamah. He will begin the prayer by reciting the takbir tahrimah (Allahu Akbar). One then raises their hands up to the ears, reciting the takbir. After a brief pause, one will recite the thana’ (subhanak Allahumma…). After the completion of the thana’, the imam will recite takbir (Allahu Akbar) three times and after reciting each takbir (Allahu Akbar) in a low voice, one brings their hands down and leaves them. After the third takbir, one then sets them at the level of the navel as in the normal prayer.
After these three takbirs, the imam will recite the Qur’an which one listens to quietly. The rest of the raka‘ah will be performed in the normal fashion.
After rising for the second raka‘ah, the imam will begin the recitations from the Qur’an during which one remains quiet. When the imam finishes his recitation, he will recite three takbirs once again, but this time before bowing down for ruku‘. At each takbir one will raise their hands up to the ears, and after saying “Allahu Akbar” bring them down and leave them earthwards. After these three takbirs have been called and completed, the imam will perform another takbir for bowing down into the ruku‘ position. At this takbir one will not raise their hands, but simply bow down for ruku‘ saying, “Allahu Akbar”. The rest of the salat will be performed in its usual manner.
Khutbah: The ‘Id al-Fitr Sermon
Khutbah is a sunnah for ‘Id salat and is delivered afterwards, unlike the salat of Jumu‘ah where it is fard and is delivered before the salat. However, listening to the khutbah of ‘Id salat is wajib (necessary) and must be observed in perfect silence.
It is a sunnah for the imam to begin the first khutbah by reciting takbirs nine times and seven times in the second khutbah.
Note: The method of ‘Id prayer described above is according to the Hanafi school of Muslim jurisprudence. Other jurists, like Imam Shafi‘i, prescribe slightly different methods. They perform takbir twelve times before beginning the Qur’anic recitations in both raka‘ahs. This method is also permissible. If the imam, being Shafi‘i, follows this method, one may also follow him as both methods are based on the practice of the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace.
Six Fasts in the Month of Shawwal
It is commendable to keep six fasts in the month of Shawwal. The Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, stated:
Whoever completes fasts of Ramadan then adds to them the fast of six days in the month of Shawwal, it will carry the reward of fasting for the whole year. (Muslim)
This hadith describes a tremendous reward for the six fasts of this month. Muslims should, therefore, take this opportunity to acquire such an enormous remuneration from Allah. It is more preferable to start these fasts from the 2nd of Shawwal and keep fasting up to the 7th. However, if they are kept on other days, it is hoped that the requirement of the above hadith will also be fulfilled.