Eid Fitr is one of the two great Islamic festivals, the other being Eid-ul-Azha. Its importance can be judged from the fact that Almighty Allah Himself ordered the believers to celebrate it. It is celebrated at the end of the month of fasting (Ramadan) and has a special significance for the Muslim society. Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) established the Islamic egalitarian society, free of all kinds of exploitation and corruption, and maintaining the sanctity of this society was made the obligation of the believers in every age. For this purpose, the holy month of fasting (Ramadan) was selected to help prepare believers for this responsibility. In this training, during the specific fasting periods believers are required to refrain from enjoying such things, which are otherwise lawful for them.
The purpose of this exercise is mentioned in the following verse of the Holy Quran: "So that you may learn restraint." (2:183)
Believers happily obey these injunctions to please Almighty Allah. Such an exercise has pleasant effects on the practical life of believers and, in their practical life, helps them refrain from adopting corrupt ways.
Some jurists maintain that Itikaf (Etekaaf) during the last 10 days of the month of Ramadan is also a part of this training. In this worship, the believer confines himself in a mosque for the specified period of time.
The Islamic society, established in the light of the above teachings was a symbol of the greatness of Almighty Allah on this earth. Actually it was a gigantic achievement, which deserved all kinds of rejoicing. That is why Almighty Allah Himself asked the believers to enjoy this occasion, In this respect the Holy Quran says: "Say in the grace of Allah and in His mercy in that they should rejoice." (Chapter Yunus, Verse 58)
The celebration of the festival of Eid Fitr is itself a model of an egalitarian Islamic society, and Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) best explained this model by his personal example. It is reported that he used to wear a special dress to grace the occasion, but it was never a costly one and was always within the reach of everybody. Once Umar brought a costly dress for him requesting him to wear it on Eid days and other ceremonial occasions. Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) immediately returned the dress observing that it did not behave a believer to wear such a costly dress. The result was that all the Companions dressed simply on this occasion and consequently this simplicity became a symbol of the Islamic society.
Today, the provision of shelter, dress and food are enumerated as the three basic human needs, and equality in meeting these needs results in all egalitarian society. Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) already solved the issue of shelter once and for all. He himself lived in a simple house and expected his Companions to follow him in this respect. Once when a wealthy Companion built a palatial building, Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) disliked it to such an extent that he socially boycotted that Companion (Sunnan Abu Daud, vol.4, p. 487). As a result of the Holy Prophet's stern attitude in this respect, none of the Companions ever dared to have an edge over his fellow believers in the matter of construction of buildings. Due to this policy, even the poor in the society were able to have shelter for themselves.
By dressing simply on this happiest occasion of Eid Fitr, Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) solved the issue of the second basic need of the society.
The third basic need of society is food. Today this need has attained such an importance that it results in political change in many developing countries. By taking various steps, Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) ensured that nobody was deprived of this basic need in the Islamic society. But the situation on festivals is usually different. On this day, everybody tries to enjoy special dishes, which normally the poor cannot afford. Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) held this point in view, and he made such an efficient arrangement that not only was good food guaranteed for all the poor of the society on that day, but also some of their other needs were met. He ordered the rich believers to pay a fixed amount of money to the poor on that day or before that day. This is known as "Sadaqa-ul-Fitr (Zakat-e-Fitr)", and its rate varies according to the price of grain.
A huge amount of money can be collected under this system which may be sufficient to meet the needs of the poor on this day, and some of it may be saved to meet their needs in other difficult times.
Nowadays in many localities, (Sadaqa-ul-Fitr) is adjusted against the emoluments of the Imams of the local mosques, and the poor in the Muslim society air deprived of a big chunk of money which may practically convert the present-day Muslim society into an egalitarian society.
It may be mentioned here that the sacred festival of Eid Fitr has been selected by Almighty Allah Himself to guide the believers to establish an egalitarian Islamic society on the face of this earth. The Holy Quran was revealed during the month of Ramadan about which it was marked: "It (the Holy Quran) is better than that which they hoard." (Chapter Yunus, Verse 58)
Hoarding symbolizes a non-egalitarian society, which encourages the hoarding of essential articles. This is done to fleece the needy persons. The Holy Quran was revealed to eliminate this evil in all its details, and the month of Ramadan was selected for this purpose. The successful completion of all the various steps for establishing such an egalitarian society deserves rejoicing.
Nowadays the Muslims with great pomp and show celebrate Eid Fitr, but unfortunately its real spirit is ignored. That is why the present-day Muslim society age, instead of becoming an egalitarian one, has been divided into haves and have-nots. This state of affairs has not only robbed the majority of Muslims of their peace of mind, but has also converted them into the weakest nation of the world. Such a situation demands that steps be taken to celebrate this occasion of Eid Fitr in the same sprit as during the life of Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.).
In this way Muslims will be able to convert their present day society into an Islamic egalitarian one. It will prove beneficial for humanity as it proved so during the early periods of Islam.