Muslims expect to celebrate Eid this Sunday

2012-08-19 10:00
Imraan Buccus
Almost 2.1 billion Muslims across the globe will celebrate Eid al-Fitr – a third of that number are from the African continent – to mark the end of the month-long fasting period of Ramadan.

Depending on the sighting of the new moon that ushers in the Islamic lunar month of Shawaal, Muslims in South Africa will celebrate Eid, possibly this Sunday.

Eid signifies the end of Ramadan, the obligatory month-long fasting period where Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. The time is devoted to increased prayer, charity and the avoidance of all immoral activities.

The day of Eid starts early in the morning with huge prayer gatherings at open grounds and at mosques across the country. After the communal prayer which ends with a sermon, families visit and embrace each other, signifying unity and brotherhood. Gifts are exchanged and there is a festive mood all round.

Afterwards families sit down to a huge feast. South African Indian Muslim families usually prepare biryani and sweetened saffron rice while hundreds of thousands of African Muslim immigrants and refugees in South Africa usually prepare a rice and meat dish popular in their respective countries.

Over and above the normal charity given in Ramadan, Muslims have to ensure the needy join in the celebrations. A special contribution in cash or food parcels is collected by charity organisations well in advance and distributed.

In Durban, the al-Ansaar Foundation – a charitable body – is preparing to feed up to 40 000 people, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, on Eid day at several townships in the area.

Hundreds of giant pots of food are being prepared for the occasion and planning is done with military precision. An army of volunteers have signed up for the food distribution.

In all Muslim countries, Eid is a three-day public holiday. This includes the Muslim-dominant countries of North Africa such as Egypt, Western Sahara, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt and Morocco. In East and West Africa, predominantly Islamic countries include Djibouti, Sudan, Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Somalia and Zanzibar.

There are also significant Muslim populations in as many as 28 African countries including Nigeria, Ethiopia and Kenya. According to an estimate, Muslims in Africa account for about a third of all Muslims worldwide.

South Africa’s Muslim population has been bolstered by hundreds of thousands of African immigrants, including those from the India and Pakistan.

One immigrant, Abdulla Saeed (27) from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said he came to South Africa looking for a better life.

He had no family here. He lives in Durban and ekes out a living selling cellphone accessories and other bric-a-brac.

“I am looking forward to Eid, but it will also be a sad moment because I cannot spend this special time with my elderly parents and the rest of my family. Fortunately, I have many Congolese Muslim friends here and that will help me cope with the loneliness.”

» Imraan Buccus is research fellow in the School of Social Sciences at UKZN