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The Meaning of Eid and Joy in the Islamic Context

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Eid, in the Arabic language, originates from the word “al-oud,” which has come to signify joy and happiness due to the anticipation and excitement it brings. Eid symbolizes the return of joy, delight, and happiness and is sometimes referred to as “al-Majma” (the gathering) due to the assembly of people and the display of joyous festivities.

The Meaning of Joy:

Since joy is inherently linked to the meaning of Eid, it is essential to examine its linguistic significance as well. In the Noble Quran, joy has been mentioned in both positive and negative contexts.

Joy is criticized and considered false in some verses, such as in Allah’s statement:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْفَرِحِينَ

“Indeed, Allah does not love the exultant,”[1]

Another verse in this regard states:

ذَلِكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَفْرَحُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ

“That is because you used to rejoice on the earth without right.”[2]

On the other hand, joy is praised and associated with truth and satisfaction in other verses, such as in Allah’s statement:

قُلْ بِفَضْلِ اللّهِ وَبِرَحْمَتِهِ فَبِذَلِكَ فَلْيَفْرَحُواْ هُوَ خَيْرٌ مِّمَّا يَجْمَعُونَ

“Say, ‘In the bounty of Allah and in His mercy – in that let them rejoice; it is better than what they accumulate.”[3]

 Additionally, joy is praised in verses such as:

وَيَوْمَئِذٍ يَفْرَحُ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ * بِنَصْرِ اللَّهِ يَنصُرُ مَن يَشَاءُ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الرَّحِيمُ

“And on that day, the believers will rejoice, with the help of Allah, He helps whom He wills, and He is the Almighty, the Most Merciful.”[4]

Thus, the concept of joy, which signifies exhilaration, relief, and delight of the heart, varies in praise and criticism depending on the circumstances and motivations.

In other words, the meaning of joy is singular, but its instances and applications differ based on their underlying motives. At times, it is associated with praise and truth, and at others, it is linked to criticism and falsehood. Joy, in and of itself, is not inherently blameworthy, contrary to the misconception held by some that faith or piety necessitates solemnity, sadness, and the like.

Reasons and Justifications for Celebrations (Eid):

The motives for celebrating differ among individuals. For example, one person may celebrate their success in accomplishing a specific task, such as a profitable business deal, a marriage, passing an exam, or obtaining a certificate, and turn this success into an annual celebration. This type of celebration is typically characterized as individualistic because both the motivation and the positive results are personal.

Human societies have established various holidays and celebrations for different groups of people. There are celebrations for farmers and workers, national independence, and the memory of those who contributed to the success of national projects, among others. These celebrations usually take on a collective nature as the entire community is involved, and the results affect everyone. However, the experience of happiness and joy during these occasions may differ among individuals, depending on their personal connection and emotional involvement in the event.

Each celebration holds significance and meaning in people’s hearts, whether it is individualistic or collective. The importance of the driving event behind the celebration determines its value to the

people involved. The more expansive and inclusive the underlying event, the more significant the celebration becomes. The expressions of joy and happiness correspond to the occasion being celebrated. It is important to note that a rational person does not express joy and delight without a reason, as there would be no happiness to express in the absence of a proper occasion. An individual’s outward demeanor is a reflection of their inner state, and life is full of worries, problems, and sorrows.

The Relationship Between Inner State and Outward Appearance in Expressing Emotions

Expressing joy and happiness without a proper motive, while dealing with the concerns of life, signifies one of two things: either the person lacks the wisdom of rational thought that governs their behavior and actions or they are whimsical, engaging in behaviors without a guiding principle. This characteristic can be seen in those who suffer from a split personality and exhibit contradictory behavior. It is crucial that a person’s appearance should reflect their inner state. If their inner state is in pain, it is only natural that this pain would manifest itself outwardly. Displaying the opposite of their true feelings can be considered a form of self-deception and dishonesty, which ultimately negates the true meaning of celebrations and holidays.

A person who celebrates without a valid reason for their happiness and celebration is not deserving of respect and appreciation, as their personality lacks balance and integrity. Consequently, their celebration and happiness do not merit participation from others.

The Significance of Historical Occasions in Different Cultures and Religions

Based on the existence of objective justifications and significant milestones in the history of nations and peoples, we find that followers of different religions, and even various human groups, mark their history with special occasions that represent important turning points in their political, social, cultural lives, and more. For example, Jews commemorate the Exodus from Egypt, Christians mark the birth of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him), and Muslims have a third calendar starting from Prophet Muhammad‘s Hijra. The Persian calendar begins with the ascension of Cyrus the Great to the throne, and so on for other nations, which celebrate events like their independence or other occasions that constitute national, ethnic, or religious holidays.

Eid Festive Celebrations

During festive occasions, celebrants express their inner joy and happiness, which is evident on their faces. This sense of delight is not limited to a specific group or community but is shared by all those celebrating, in accordance with the event being commemorated. Often, this happiness is displayed through decorations, food, drink, and clothing. People take this opportunity to renew their wardrobe, enjoy delectable meals and beverages, as well as gather and exchange congratulations and well-wishes with one another.

Certain narrations from the Ahlul Bait (peace be upon them) allude to the idea that these manifestations are essential to the celebration of the occasion. One such narration is from Suwaid ibn Ghafla, who said: “I entered upon the Commander of the Faithful Imam Ali (peace be upon him) on the day of Eid, and I found a tray with barley bread and a plate containing a broth and curdled milk. I said, ‘O Commander of the Faithful, it is Eid, and [you have] a broth?’ He replied, ‘This is the Eid of one whose sins have been forgiven.'”

Another narration from the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) states: “Adorn your Eids with the recitation of the Tahleel, the Takbeer, the Tahmeed, and the Taqdees.”

The True Meaning of Eid: Celebrating with Religious Significance

The Prophet (peace be upon him and his family) and the Imam (peace be upon him) intended to correct the concept of Eid and reveal the true meaning that people should exhibit. The way to express happiness and celebration should not be merely improving one’s appearance but also reflecting the true significance of the occasion by adding a religious dimension that aligns with its meaning.

This, however, does not prevent one from adorning themselves with elegant clothing and maintaining a pleasant appearance. The feelings of joy and happiness should be combined with all the aspects that fill the mind, soul, and spirit. In this context, Imam al-Baqir (peace be upon him) said regarding the verse: خذوا زينتكم عند كل مسجد

Put on your adornment on every occasion of prayer.[5]

“Take the adornments with which you beautify yourselves for prayer during the congregational and Eid prayers.”

Imam al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) also said: “It is fitting for those who go out to celebrate Eid to wear their best clothes and apply their finest perfume.”

In this context, the prayer of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) for the descent of the heavenly table is also relevant. Allah says in the Quran:

وَآخِرِنَا وَآيَةً مِّنكَ وَارْزُقْنَا وَأَنتَ خَيْرُ الرَّازِقِينَ

“Jesus, the son of Mary, said, ‘O Allah, our Lord, send down to us a table from the heavens to be an Eid for us.”[6]

Believers’ Eid

We said that celebrating and expressing joy and delight can manifest in various forms. Some are related to worldly success and material achievements, while others are related to the hereafter, the supreme goal, and the ultimate purpose that one aspires to achieve and reach. Even a person who does not believe in the hereafter has ambitions and hopes that they consider their ultimate goals and objectives, which they strive for in the future of their lives, and seek to accomplish these aspirations and fulfill those hopes.

From here, it is natural that the difference between the two groups is reflected in their objectives and goals, which are shown in the form of celebration and delight.

In harmony with these goals and hopes, a person who does not believe in the hereafter or is deluded by worldly life stops at achieving material accomplishments and temporal successes and does not go beyond them. These people are the true embodiment of those who are content with worldly life and restrict their efforts to obtain it. Their celebrations and holidays align with this perspective, and they fall into the category of the heedless in the divine balance, where they suffer disappointment in the world of truth. Their fate is limited to the fleeting pleasures of this world in exchange for the hereafter, as Allah says:

إَنَّ الَّذِينَ لاَ يَرْجُونَ لِقَاءنَا وَرَضُواْ بِالْحَياةِ الدُّنْيَا وَاطْمَأَنُّواْ بِهَا وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ عَنْ آيَاتِنَا غَافِلُونَ

“Indeed, those who do not expect the meeting with Us and are satisfied with the life of this world and feel secure therein and those who are heedless of Our signs.”[7]

However, the believer does not attach any importance to material successes and worldly achievements, as they do not constitute an ambition or a goal to which they aspire to reach eternity. It is assumed that they have been disciplined by the manners of Allah Almighty and have acquired the morals of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) and his pure household (peace be upon them). They look at worldly life as a deceptive pleasure, considering it as mere play, amusement, adornment, and boasting among people about wealth and children. In their eyes, it is worth nothing except to the extent that they plant righteous deeds in it to reap their fruits in the hereafter. They believe that the hereafter is the true life, and other concepts and laws have shaped their personality, refined their conscience and spirit, governed their intellect over their desires, mastered their passions, and directed them toward the correct divine path.

Thus, the believing individual expresses joy and sorrow, happiness and distress through the satisfaction of Allah Almighty and the harmony between their inner and outer self, driven by their faith. If something brings joy in the course of pleasing Allah and earning His satisfaction, it brings happiness on a psychological level, and its effects are apparent in its outward appearance. Whatever does not bring such joy will have an impact on their appearance, harmonizing with the faith ingrained in their heart.

However, this does not mean that the believer completely withdraws from worldly life. Instead, they strive to strike a balance between the demands of this life and the requirements of the Hereafter, as long as it aligns with their inner self. They embody Allah’s statement in the Quran:

وَابْتَغِ فِيمَا آتَاكَ اللَّهُ الدَّارَ الْآخِرَةَ وَلَا تَنسَ نَصِيبَكَ مِنَ الدُّنْيَ

“Seek, through that which Allah has given you, the home of the Hereafter, and do not forget your share of the world.”[8]

Ultimately, they utilize the blessings of this world in service of the highest aim, the most honorable purpose, and the attainment of Paradise.

Muslim Eid Festivals:

In harmony with its understanding of the universe, humanity, and life, Islam has established festivals that are considered to achieve the objectives of the prophets’ missions (peace be upon them all), which include attaining happiness and salvation in the Hereafter and great success in the eternal Paradise, in addition to achieving well-being and prosperous life in this world. This is not only for the individual but also for the Muslim community and all of humanity if they follow the path and guidance of Islam.

Islamic festivals can be classified into two categories, both of which stem from the purpose and objectives for which a specific celebration is held. One category is individual and personal, though it does not lack a collective dimension, while the other category is communal but also has an individual aspect.

The First Category:

The first category includes Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha:

A – Eid al-Fitr:

Eid al-Fitr is considered by Islam as the fruit of a spiritual journey in which the believer spends an entire month in obedience to Allah Almighty. They are accompanied by descending and ascending angels who spread their wings to provide shade, protection, and blessings. During this time, the heavens are open, the devils are chained, and the doors of mercy and forgiveness are wide open, enabling the believer to overcome their desires and temptations.

Fasting is one of the most important physical acts of worship and spiritual exercises, as it involves restraining desires and controlling passions. This practice allows the soul’s abilities to be freed, elevated, and refined towards the realm of spirituality and divine mercy when fasting is done according to its conditions and adhering to its boundaries and rules. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny) narrated that Allah says (Hadith Qudsi from Allah), “Every deed of the son of Adam is for him, except fasting, for it is for Me, and I will reward it.” Fasting involves striving against one’s self, battling the devil, and elevating spiritual qualities while exposing oneself to divine subtleties.

When a person completes this spiritual and striving journey over an entire month of the year, they achieve the desired goal and attain virtuous qualities that qualify them to follow the straight path of truth. They thus deserve to celebrate and express their joy and gratitude to Allah Almighty. Among the most prominent manifestations of Eid for Muslims are the glorification (Takbir), affirmation of the oneness of Allah (Tahlil), and praise (Tahmeed).

It is narrated from Imam al-Rida (peace be upon him) when asked why Eid al-Fitr was made a celebration, he replied, “So that Muslims have a gathering where they come together and present themselves to Allah Almighty, praising Him for what He has bestowed upon them. It is a day of celebration, a day of gathering, a day of breaking the fast, a day of charity, a day of longing, and a day of supplication. It is also the first day of the year when eating and drinking are permitted, as the first month of the year for the people of truth is the month of Ramadan. Allah Almighty wanted them to have a gathering on that day where they praise and sanctify Him.”

For this reason, it is narrated from Imam Ali (peace be upon him) that the one who truly deserves joy and celebration on Eid is the believer who has completed their spiritual journey through fasting and obedience to Allah Almighty. Those who do not possess this quality have no Eid. Imam Ali (peace be upon him) said during one of the Eids, “It is an Eid for those whose fasting is accepted by Allah and their night prayers are thanked, and every day in which Allah is not disobeyed is an Eid.”

Imam al-Hasan (peace be upon him) once passed by a group of people playing and laughing on Eid al-Fitr. He stopped and addressed them, saying, “Allah made the month of Ramadan a racecourse for His creation to compete in obeying Him to seek His pleasure. Some people have raced ahead and succeeded, while others have fallen short and failed. It is truly astonishing to see people laughing and playing on a day when the righteous are rewarded, and the wrongdoers lose. By Allah, if the veil were lifted, they would know that the righteous are preoccupied with their good deeds, and the wrongdoers are preoccupied with their misdeeds.” Then he moved on.

B – Eid al-Adha:

As for Eid al-Adha, it is also the result of a journey of worship in obedience to Allah Almighty, symbolized by migrating towards Him and abandoning everything that connects one to the worldly life. The pilgrim removes all worldly adornments and wears the garments of ihram, which are not much different from their shroud when they die. This clothing serves as a reminder and symbol of death. The pilgrim prepares to meet their Creator, obedient and humble, moving between the sacred sites and purified places. When they complete their journey by stoning the pillars (symbolizing the devil) and emulating Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) in sacrificing an animal, they emerge from the experience celebrating their success and joy, having earned Allah’s forgiveness.

Imam al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) narrated from his father (peace be upon him) that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his family) said, “The Hajj and Umrah pilgrim will have one of three qualities: either it will be said to them that Allah has forgiven their past and future sins; or it will be said to them that their past sins are forgiven, so they should start anew; or it will be said to them that they are preserved among their family and children, which is the least of these blessings.”

Thus, it can also be said that the Day of Sacrifice (Eid al-Adha) is an Eid for those who have been forgiven by Allah. It cannot be a celebration for non-believers or those who do not expect Allah’s forgiveness or those who have not performed the deeds that put them in a position to receive forgiveness and mercy.

The Second Category

Ghadeer Eid:

If Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha represent the first category, which includes individual goals and personal objectives that a believing person strives for in their journey towards Allah, then Ghadeer Eid represents the second category. This category aims to achieve the ultimate goal of human creation. While it includes organizing people’s lives on various political, social, and organizational levels, it also encompasses the goals of the first category. This is because the acceptance of one’s deeds in the hereafter depends on accepting the guardianship (Wilayah) of Imam Ali (peace be upon him). Imam al-Baqir (peace be upon him) said, “Islam was built on five pillars: guardianship (wilayah), prayer, charity, fasting, and pilgrimage. Nothing has been emphasized more than guardianship on the day of Ghadeer.”

In another narration by Imam al-Sadiq (peace be upon him), he said, “The foundation of Islam is three: prayer, charity, and guardianship. None of them is valid without the other two.” There are many narrations on this subject.

These honorable narrations highlight the importance and significance of wilayah (guardianship). The emphasis on wilayah, to the extent that it becomes more important and superior to the other four pillars, is because it forms the basis of organizing individual and collective life on both worldly and otherworldly levels.

The belief in wilayah constitutes the main axis in the intellectual and civilizational struggle between Islam and other systems. Without wilayah, religion becomes merely a relationship between a person and their Lord, without a social system to correct the general course of human life. In this case, Islam would become a form of Christianity in a new guise. Some narrations have been put forth to justify this view, such as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him and his progeny) saying, “You know better about your worldly affairs.” However, those who study the Quranic verses and the purified prophetic tradition know without a doubt that this view contradicts the spirit of Islam and its essence. Therefore, the emphasis on wilayah and explaining its importance serves to rectify this view and restore the truth to its rightful place.

As long as the guardian (wali) is the key to the pillars of Islam and the guide to them, there must be a protector for every law to safeguard its legislations, enforce its limits, and guide those who err back to the path of truth and righteousness. This necessitates that the protector or guardian must be knowledgeable about the details of the Sharia and capable of distinguishing truth from falsehood. This unique characteristic cannot be attained by people without the assistance of revelation and its explicit stipulations. It is like prophethood in this aspect, as it is implausible that Allah would leave His religion and His Sharia at the mercy of people’s whims and interests, especially when they are newly acquainted with the religion and it has not yet taken root in their hearts and polished their consciences. This would be a deficiency in the purpose of religion and a waste of its goal for which prophets were sent.

Therefore, the guardian (Wali) is the foundation of the true religion, the focus of hope, and the realization of the prophets’ dream of establishing justice among people, organizing their affairs, and guiding them on the straight path of Allah. In addition, the validity of deeds on an individual level and their acceptance depends on believing in the guardian, which qualifies the individual to enter the bliss of paradise on the Day of Resurrection.

This explains the narration from Imam al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) quoting his forefathers and the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) who said, “The day of Ghadeer is the best of my nation’s holidays (Eids). It is the day when Allah commanded me to appoint my brother, Ali ibn Abi Talib, as the leader of my nation so that they may follow him after me. It is the day when Allah completed the religion and perfected His blessings upon my nation and chose Islam as their religion.” On this day, humanity attains all that it aspires for in terms of worldly goodness, as justice is established among people, and the oppressed are given their rights. People enjoy safety, comfort, and well-being, and the believers’ deeds are accepted, which qualifies them to win paradise on the Day of Resurrection. This is the otherworldly and individual aspect of Ghadeer Eid.

This unique characteristic, which encompasses both individual and social dimensions, is lacking in both Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, despite their importance on a personal and individual level.


References

  1. 28:76.
  2. 40:75.
  3. 10:58.
  4. 30:04.
  5. 07:31.
  6. 5:114.
  7. 10:07.
  8. 28-77.
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