Originally published September 2010
For Converts, Their Families and One’s Co-Workers and Friends
For many of us, the ‘Eid prayer is a simple ritual that we observe twice a year. However, if one recently accepted Islam, or is dealing with the responsibility of his first ‘Eid khutbah, the ‘Eid prayer begins to seem truly daunting. With that in mind, I decided to compile a simple primer on the ‘Eid prayer. I hope this facilitates its observance, making it easy for converts, their families, co-workers and first-time preachers.
What is ‘Eid al-Fitr?
The word ‘Eid in Arabic means holiday and the word fitr means to break. Since this holiday takes place the day after the month of Ramadan ends, this holiday is given the name “the holiday for breaking the fast.”
What happens on that day?
On the day of ‘Eid the entire Muslim community congregates in observance of the ‘Eid prayer.
What time is the prayer?
It can be prayed anytime after sunrise until noon and must be done so in congregation.
Whose invited? Can I bring my non-Muslim friends and family members?
The entire community is encouraged to come, and you are definitely encouraged to bring all of your friends and family to the prayer and the celebrations thereafter!
How does one pray this prayer? Is it different from the Friday prayer?
The ‘Eid prayer is similar to the Friday prayer in its number of cycles (two), in that it is recited out loud, and that both have sermons. However, unlike the Friday prayer, the ‘Eid prayer’s sermon follows the prayer.
The second difference lies in its number of takbirs (when the prayer leader says, “God is the greatest” which starts the prayer). In the ‘Eid prayer there are six additional takbir added to the original in the prayer’s first cycle, and five added to the second cycle of prayer (after one rises from the sitting position to stand for the second cycle).
How it’s done:
The first cycle: there is the opening takbir, then the prayer leaders says “Allahu Akbar” [God is the greatest] six more times, and then recites the opening chapter from the Qur’an followed by a short reading from another chapter of the Qur’an.
After rising for the second cycle: one says “Allahu Akbar” to arise and stands for the second cycle of prayer then states Allahu Akbar 5 more times before reading the opening chapter from the Qur’an.
Note: if one is following the Imam, it is much easier. Just follow him!
Are there any special chapters of Qur’an that should be recited during this prayer?
It was the practice of the Prophet ﷺ to read, after the first chapter of Qur’an, the 87th chapter in the first cycle of prayer and the 88th in the second cycle. Others considered it commendable to recite the 50th chapter from the Qur’an in the first cycle and the 54th in the second. However, if one is unable to read those chapters, there is nothing wrong with reading whatever he knows from the Qur’an.
What if one comes late and misses the extra takbirs?
If one comes after the preacher has already started (for example he has already stated Allahu akbar three times in addition to the opening Allahu Akbar) then that person should begin the prayer by saying, “Allahu akbar” (God is the Greatest) and join the Imam. However once the preacher begins to recite the Qur’an, the latecomer should keep saying “Allahu akbar” in a soft voice until he arrives to the total of 7 extra takbirs (or 5 if he comes late for the second cycle of prayer).
Thus, in the above scenario where the preacher had already said three, the person would have said a total of 4 with him. However, once the preacher started to read Qur’an, the person should say an additional 4 takbir [saying God is the greatest] making it a total of 7.
If it were the second cycle, the person, once the preacher starts reading Qur’an, should add 2 more to reach the total of 5.
If one arrived late and started their prayer with the second cycle, missing the first, then they should say 7 when they stand to complete the prayer after the preacher closes the prayer.
If the person comes late and finds the congregation at the end of the prayer, meaning he missed all of the takbirs, he should arise, after the closure of the prayer, and say 7 takbirs in the first cycle and 5 in the second.
Note: one may pray behind any preacher who observes the takbirs in a different fashion recognized by Islamic ritual law. There is no problem to follow them in this; one should not make it a big issue.
What is the ruling for ‘Eid prayer?
Eid prayer is a highly encouraged act for those ordered to pray the Friday prayer and recommended for those who are not obligated to pray the Friday prayer, according to a group of scholars. However, there are other great scholars who hold it to be a religious obligation.
What should the Preacher talk about?
In addition to what constitutes the normal recognized procedures related to the sermon, one should insure that his sermon is relevant and provides the community with a feeling of empowerment and purpose. It is also good to channel the community into taking part in the different committees and programs that take place in the local mosque. One should also try and make the speech relevant to the attendees by addressing each in drawing valuable lessons that are practical and measurable.
I have a family member or friend who converted to Islam. Although I’m not Muslim, can I congratulate them and offer gifts?
Sure, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that religiously and no Muslim should take offense to it. If they do, please feel free to give their gifts to me!
- To keep night vigil the night before the ‘Eid prayer*.
- To take a ritual bath prior to the prayer.
- To apply perfume [for men only].
- To wear one’s best clothing.
- To return from the prayer using a different route.
- To eat something before the ‘Eid prayer. It is best to eat a few dates and if proven difficult, then drinking some water as this is the sunnah of the Prophet [note for ‘Eid al-Adha the opposite holds true].
- To set out for the Masjid early engaging in takbir. This is truly one of the greatest memories any family can have, so seize this moment and engage in takbir with your families. If you’re solo, then know that you are engaging in takbir with the angels!
- To pray in an open space.
- One should not pray before or after the ‘Eid prayer.
- May Allah bless you and give you the best ‘Eid ever!
*Note: many consider this a comendable act, however the narration attributed to the Prophet [sa], “Whoever brings to life the night of ‘Eid [with worship] his heart will be alive on a day when the hearts will die” is weak as noted in Tadhkirat al-Mawdu’at, vol. 1, pg. 47.