Is It Okay to Celebrate Hari Raya/Eid While Others Are Suffering Around The World?

Let us reflect on the significance of Eid and celebrate it mindfully while also expressing empathy and solidarity with those experiencing grief and suffering all over the world.
by Ustaz Ahmad Ridha Bin Ramlan 2024-04-05 • 19 min read
Ustaz Ahmad Ridha spent 12 years of his studies at Madrasah Al-Junied Al-Islamiah. He later furthered his studies in the faculty of Islamic Religious Knowledge at the International Islamic University Malaysia, majoring in Islamic Jurisprudence and minoring in Political Science.
2024-04-05 • 19 min read

This article is written in collaboration with Muslim.Sg.

The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated a profound truth for Muslims: regardless of changing circumstances, we can faithfully uphold our religious practices. Ramadan has served as a testament to our ability to observe fasting, engage in Terawih, and partake in Qiyamullail (night prayers) from the comfort of our own homes. Moreover, it has showcased our remarkable resilience in the face of adversity, affirming our ability to triumph over challenges with unwavering strength and positivity.

It has also taught us that our religious observances are not merely celebrations to commemorate a festive and joyous period, but hold bigger significance in the larger scheme of things between the servant and Allah s.w.t. 

A lot has happened in recent months and years. While calamity strikes some parts of the world, others may rejoice in festive celebrations with​ the​ comfort of their families in another part of the globe. In an age of hyperconnectivity, an event that takes place thousands of miles away can instantly be viewed, evoking strong emotions and concern and allowing us to empathically feel the pain of another human being. ​​

Observing Eid Hari Raya while there is sufffering

As the festive period of Aidilfitri approaches, we might find ourselves caught in a dilemma amid a time of great trial and suffering, particularly for our brothers and sisters throughout Palestine, especially in Gaza. The ongoing devastation there, described by the International Criminal Court of Justice on January 26, 2024, as a plausible case of genocide, weighs heavily upon our hearts and minds, as we prepare to celebrate the culmination of Ramadan and our spiritual victories.

Read: Navigating The Crisis In Gaza: A Guide by the Asatizah Youth Network

Although we may not escape the realities of our fellow brothers and sisters facing immense hardships, we can turn our pain into gratitude and emerge positively by recognising the joyous occasion of Eid and praising Allah s.w.t, while also embracing empathy, mindfulness, and solidarity with those experiencing grief around us.

Read: Our Response in Crisis will Demonstrate Our Core Values as Muslims

1. Understanding the Commandment to Celebrate Eid

The celebration in Islam​, or ‘eid’ in Arabic,​ is rooted in the Islamic tradition. This means that its celebration is a religious observance legislated and established from two living sources: the Quran and the prophetic traditions (hadith). In other words, observing Hari Raya Aidilfitri (or Eid-al-Fitr) and Hari Raya Aidiladha (Eid-al-Adha) is part of our submission to Allah s.w.t.

Read: 8 Ways to Get Closer to Allah

To fully appreciate these celebrations, it is important to understand their religious significance. This involves asking ourselves questions like "What am I celebrating?" and "What is the significance?". Indeed, the Quran and prophetic traditions (hadith) mention the importance of celebrating both Eid (Aidilfitri and Aidiladha) on numerous occasions.

For example, in a hadith of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w, Anas r.a. narrated: 

وَعَنْ أَنَسٍ قَالَ: قَدِمَ رَسُولُ اَللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏اَلْمَدِينَةَ, وَلَهُمْ يَوْمَانِ يَلْعَبُونَ فِيهِمَا. فَقَالَ مَا هَذَانِ الْيَوْمَانِ. قَالُوا كُنَّا نَلْعَبُ فِيهِمَا فِي الْجَاهِلِيَّةِ. فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ قَدْ أَبْدَلَكُمُ اَللَّهُ بِهِمَا خَيْرًا مِنْهُمَا: يَوْمَ اَلْأَضْحَى, وَيَوْمَ اَلْفِطْرِ 

“When Rasulullah s.a.w. came to Madinah, the people then had two days on which they were celebrating. The Prophet s.a.w. said, ‘What are these two days?’ They said, ‘We would celebrate these two days in the time of ignorance (Jahiliyyah).’ He s.a.w. said: 
‘Verily, Allah has substituted for you something better than them: the day of sacrifice (Aidiladha) and the day of breaking the fast (Aidilfitri).’” 

(Sunan Abi Daud)

Throughout history, communities have naturally developed a variety of holidays and celebrations, passing down these cherished traditions to future generations. These festivities have become a common feature for all communities.

The mentioned hadith recounts how, upon the Prophet's migration to Madinah, he found the Ansar (locals of Madinah) joyfully celebrating and engaging in festivities on two specific days, inherited from the pre-Islamic era known as ‘Jahiliyyah’. The Prophet s.a.w. did not reject the concept of celebrations and festivities; instead, he sanctioned their observance, recognising their potential for social and religious enrichment. However, Allah s.w.t. ordained him to substitute the two days associated with ignorance with two significant Islamic festivities: Aidilfitri and Aidiladha, aligning the community's celebrations with core Islamic values and practices.
The essence of celebration in Islam lies in obedience and devotion to Allah. Rather than confining celebration to specific occasions, it underscores the idea that every moment of obedience to Allah is a cause for joy and gratitude.

Imam Al-Ghazali narrated in his renowned work Ihya’ Ulumuddin (Revival of Religious Sciences) that the companion, Ali Ibn Abi Talib r.a, once said: “Every day in which Allah Almighty is not disobeyed is our celebration.”

From this perspective, the statement encourages believers to cultivate a continuous state of mindfulness and God-consciousness, finding joy and celebration in the consistent adherence to the teachings and commandments of Allah. It serves as a reminder of the spiritual significance of putting Allah s.w.t. at the centre of our lives.

Read: Trusting Allah in Difficult Times

2. Understanding the Ideal Outcome of Celebrating Eid

As we have established that the cause of our celebration of Aidilfitri and Aidiladha is a religious commandment, let us explore their objective. What should we achieve through these celebrations?

At the end of the verse about fasting in Ramadan, Allah s.w.t. instructs believers to mark its completion with gratitude:  

وَلِتُكْمِلُوا۟ ٱلْعِدَّةَ وَلِتُكَبِّرُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَىٰكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ 

“so that you may complete the prescribed period and proclaim the greatness of Allah for guiding you, and perhaps you will be grateful.” 

(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:185)

Developing gratitude is the ideal outcome of our celebration of Eid. This is why, at the start of the new day, we celebrate and express our gratitude with the takbir, proclaiming the greatness of Allah and acknowledging His guidance in fulfilling our spiritual development during Ramadan. 

Read: How to Do Takbir

Observing aidilfitri aidiladha eid and giving salam

Experiencing joy and expressing it during Aidilfitri also has its meanings. The Prophet s.a.w. acknowledged this natural feeling of joy and happiness during Aidilfitri in a hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah r.a.: 

لِلصَّائِمِ فَرْحَتَانِ: فَرْحَةٌ عِنْدَ فِطْرِهِ وَفَرْحَةٌ حينَ يَلقى ربَّهُ  

“The one who fasts has two occasions of joy, one is when he breaks his fast and one when he meets his Lord.” 

(Muttafaqun ‘Alayh) 

The first occasion of joy occurs when a fasting individual breaks their fast, experiencing immediate happiness and gratitude for being able to fulfil their physical needs after a period of restraint. This reflects the worldly realm, where the individual is grateful for the ability to partake in what was prohibited during the fast, such as eating and drinking.

The second occasion of joy, as mentioned in the hadith, pertains to the hereafter. It signifies the deep gratitude and joy that the fasting individual will experience when they meet their Lord and receive the abundant rewards that Allah s.w.t. has reserved for them due to their dedication to fasting. 

In conclusion, the observance of the two eids; Aidilfitri and Aidiladha, is legislated to manifest one’s gratefulness towards Allah s.w.t. after the completion of fasting and hajj, respectively, as well as the immense opportunity for forgiveness bestowed upon us during the blessed days.  

Read: Extending Hari Raya Celebration To Others

3. Practising the Etiquette of Celebrating Festivities  

Adab (etiquette) covers multiple aspects of our lives, such as how we eat, speak, interact with others and observe festivities. Syed Naquib Al-Attas defines Adab1 in his work, Islam and Secularism, as the “acquisition of the good qualities and attributes of mind and soul." These good qualities and attributes will facilitate us in being mindful of our conduct, and it may even be a factor or a catalyst to cultivate goodness in others. 

​​Being mindful of others in our observance of festivities is one way to instil and preserve within us a sense of empathy and compassion towards our surroundings and calamities around the world. This will also keep us aligned with the set of religious objectives and principles upon which Islamic festivities are legislated and grounded. 

It is truly heart-wrenching to navigate our celebrations during times of crisis. When we bear witness to creations of Allah s.w.t. grieving and suffering, our response has to extend beyond empathy to encompass a deep sense of compassion and call to action. 

It is absolutely crucial to keep those in need in our prayers, especially when we come together to proclaim the greatness of Allah s.w.t. on the morning of Aidilfitri and Aidiladha. When we visit our loved ones, let us offer them our deepest empathy, prayers, and support within our means. We can engage in meaningful conversations with our friends and family to continue to raise awareness, foster understanding and inspire action.

We can also consider being moderate in our spending and allocating a portion of our Raya budget for donations to charitable causes, including organisations aiding those affected by crises, reflecting a deeply compassionate and balanced approach to our celebrations. 

Any time is a good opportunity to do good. Allah s.w.t. says in the Quran:

 لَّيْسَ ٱلْبِرَّ أَن تُوَلُّوا۟ وُجُوهَكُمْ قِبَلَ ٱلْمَشْرِقِ وَٱلْمَغْرِبِ وَلَـٰكِنَّ ٱلْبِرَّ مَنْ ءَامَنَ بِٱللَّهِ وَٱلْيَوْمِ ٱلْـَٔاخِرِ وَٱلْمَلَـٰٓئِكَةِ وَٱلْكِتَـٰبِ وَٱلنَّبِيِّـۧنَ وَءَاتَى ٱلْمَالَ عَلَىٰ حُبِّهِۦ ذَوِى ٱلْقُرْبَىٰ وَٱلْيَتَـٰمَىٰ وَٱلْمَسَـٰكِينَ وَٱبْنَ ٱلسَّبِيلِ وَٱلسَّآئِلِينَ وَفِى ٱلرِّقَابِ وَأَقَامَ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ وَءَاتَى ٱلزَّكَوٰةَ وَٱلْمُوفُونَ بِعَهْدِهِمْ إِذَا عَـٰهَدُوا۟ ۖ وَٱلصَّـٰبِرِينَ فِى ٱلْبَأْسَآءِ وَٱلضَّرَّآءِ وَحِينَ ٱلْبَأْسِ ۗ أُو۟لَـٰٓئِكَ ٱلَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا۟ ۖ وَأُو۟لَـٰٓئِكَ هُمُ ٱلْمُتَّقُونَ 

Righteousness is not in turning your faces towards the east or the west. Rather, the righteous are those who believe in Allah, the Last Day, the angels, the Books, and the prophets; who give charity out of their cherished wealth to relatives, orphans, the poor, (needy) travellers, beggars, and for freeing captives; who establish prayer, pay alms-tax, and keep the pledges they make; and who are patient in times of suffering, adversity, and in (the heat of) battle. It is they who are true (in faith), and it is they who are mindful (of Allah).” 

(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:177) 

As the verse above implies, we do not need to wait for a perfect place or time to do good deeds. We can leverage our Hari Raya celebration to help those in need.

Among the etiquette of celebrating festivities is to observe the commendable acts that are mentioned by our Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. such as enlivening the night of Eid with acts of worship, including prayers and remembrance of Allah s.w.t. This is based on the hadith of the Prophet: 

مَنْ قَامَ لَيْلَتَىِ الْعِيدَيْنِ لِلَّهِ مُحْتَسِبًا لَمْ يَمُتْ قَلْبُهُ يَوْمَ تَمُوتُ الْقُلُوبُ ‏‏‏ 

Whoever spends the nights of the two Eid in praying voluntary prayers, seeking reward from Allah, his heart will not die on the Day when hearts will die.” 

(Sunan Ibn Majah) 

Enlivening the night of Aidilfitri includes performing our Isya’ prayers in congregation, reciting the takbir with our family and relatives at home or at the mosque and many other activities. We should make prayers together in congregation for those in suffering and in need.

Read: 3 Things You Can Do To Make Hari Raya A More Meaningful Celebration

Additionally, performing the Aidilfitri prayer in congregation is an established sunnah of the prophet s.a.w. 

وَعَنْ كَثِيرِ بْنِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ عَنْ أَبِيهِ عَنْ جَدِّهِ أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ كَبَّرَ فِي الْعِيدَيْنِ فِي الْأُولَى سَبْعًا قَبْلَ الْقِرَاءَةِ وَفِي الْآخِرَةِ خَمْسًا قَبْلَ الْقِرَاءَةِ.

Kathir b. ‘Abdallah on his father’s authority quoted his grandfather as saying that “The Prophet s.a.w. would proclaim the takbir ‘God is the Greatest’ at the two celebrations. Seven times in the first raka'at before reciting (Al-Fatihah), and five times in the last raka’at before reciting (Al-Fatihah).” 

(Sunan At-Tirmizi) 

Read: 3 Ways to Avoid Turning Your Hari Raya into A Nightmare

Imam Al-Ghazali mentioned in his book الآدب في الدين (The Etiquette In The Religion) on the etiquette of observing Eid

Observing its night, performing ablution in its morning, maintaining bodily cleanliness, ensuring a pleasant fragrance, continuing the Takbir (saying "Allahu Akbar"), increasing remembrance (of Allah), practising humility, glorifying and praising (Allah) amidst the repetitions of Takbir, listening to the sermon after the prayer, eating a small amount before going out if it's for breaking the fast, taking one path to the place of prayer and returning by another, and departing with empathy, fearing backbiting.” 

As you have witnessed above, many of the sunnah and etiquette of Hari Raya enjoin communal unity and harmony. The strength of a united community should not be overlooked, and it is a blessing from Allah s.w.t. This could all be significant opportunities for us to help those in need in any way we can.

Read: Sunnah Acts of Hari Raya Aidilfitri

Eid Aidilfitri Aidiladha prayers


Adhering to these recommended acts coupled with the etiquette that come along with norms in observing Aidilfitri and Aidiladha (visiting, eating, having conversations, etc) will keep us grounded with the essence and significance of Eid

As complex human beings, we possess a beautiful ability to experience a range of emotions, such as happiness, gratefulness, guilt and dismay at the same time. By showing concern for the struggles of others, we can observe festivities and celebrations responsibly and mindfully for the sake of Allah s.w.t, with sensitivity and empathy towards those suffering around the world. 

Dua is powerful, as Imam Ash-Shafi’i mentioned in his compiled works of poems (Diwan)1

أَتَهزَأُ بِالدُّعَاءِ وَتَزدَرِيهِ * وَمَا تَدرِي بِمَا صَنَعَ الدُّعاءُ 
سِهَامُ اللَّيلِ لَا تُخطِئ وَلكِن * لَهَا أَمَدٌ وَلِلْأَمَدِ انقِضَاءُ 
فَيُمسِكُهَا إِذَا مَا شَاءَ رَبِّي * وَيُرسِلُهَا إَذَا مَا نَفَذَ القَضَاءُ 

Do you mock the supplication and belittle it? 
While you do not know what it has the power to do! 
The arrows of the night (dua) do not miss target 
But they have a set limit, which shall come to end 
So if my Lord wishes, He holds it back 
And if the decree is to be fulfilled, He sets it forth.

Let’s continue to uplift those who are suffering through our actions, thoughts and prayers. 

And Allah knows best.

Read: 5 Powerful Duas for Protection Against Harm




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