It’s okay for women to congregate with the rest for Idd prayers
By Ethel Omenda
Idd-ul-Fitr is a Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadhan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. Idd-ul-Fitr literally translates to “festival of charity.” The holiday symbolizes the breaking of the month of fasting and is celebrated on the first day of the tenth Islamic month of Shawwal. Since it is a day of joy for all: Young and old, men and women, rich and poor alike, Marhaba was privileged to talk to Sheikh Juma Amir, Assistant Imam at Jamia Mosque, Nairobi to get an insight and answers on questions women raise when marking this great occasion.
According to Sheikh Juma several sunnahs (traditions) should be observed before marking Idd prayers. These include taking a bath in the morning (Ghusl); eating at least three dates or ‘light’ breakfast to symbolize the breaking of the month of Saum before living for prayers. It is also recommended, says Sheikh Juma, for the family to wear clean clothes before leaving the house for prayers. For those who have not paid Zakat-ul-Fitr they must do so before the Idd prayers. Muslims should recite the Takbir aloud while walking to the grounds where Idd prayers are held. Idd prayers are usually held in expansive grounds in order to accommodate as many faithful as possible. One should use a different route coming from prayers from the route he took to prayer ground. According to the teachings of lslam, the holy Prophet Mohammed (S.A.W) allowed everyone to congregate in open grounds to enable every Muslim in the society to be able to observe this important occasion.
A hadith narrated by Umm Atiyah (ra) says: “The Messenger of Allah (S.A.W) commanded us to bring out on Idd-ul- Fitr and Idd-ul-Adha, young women, hijab-observing adult women and the menstruating women. The menstruating women stayed out of actual Salat but participated in good deeds and supplication (dua).” I (Umm Atiyah) said to the Holy Prophet (S.A.W): “O! Messenger of Allah, one does not have an outer garment.” He replied: “Let her sister cover her with her garment.” (Muslim). On the day of Idd, every believing man, woman and child must go to the prayer ground and participate in this joyous occasion. “Thus the wisdom behind it is that every Muslim including women in their menses or those who are experiencing nifas (blood discharge after birth) can come to prayer grounds but not perform acts of worship,” says Sheikh Juma Amir.
“It is also another way of forging Muslim unity and an opportunity to get to know how your neighbours are fairing in life and give them assistance,” adds Sheikh Amir. Asked to comment on whether women can combine the six days fasting of Shawwal with the compensation of days missed in Ramadhan due to menstruation, Sheikh Amir warned about mixing up the two.“Haiwezekani kulipa deni la Ramadhani na mfungo wa siku sita za Shawwal kwa mpigo moja. Mwanzo funga sita za Shawwal, kisha lipa deni la Ramadhani. (It is not permissible to compensate for days missed in Ramadhan together with the six days of Shawwal. Complete the six days of Shawwal first and compensate for Ramadhan after.) Although Idd-ul-Fitr is considered the ‘lesser Idd’ compared to Idd-ul-Adha (‘greater Idd’), Sheikh Amir explains that there are a lot of spiritual rewards (thawabs) to be reaped by ‘topping up’ Ramadhan with another six days fasting in Shawwal. “A Muslim who has observed fast for 30 days of Ramadhan and fasts for another six days during the month of Shawwal, he is deemed to have observed fast for the whole year.” On the controversial issue of women using medication to ‘postpone’ their monthly cycle so as to complete the month of Ramadhan without periods, Sheikh Amir is categorical that it is not right to tamper with the natural way Allah has set their bodies to function.
“Retention of this blood in a woman’s body can have adverse effects,” notes Sheikh Amir. “It can lead to other medical complications.” In the course of the three days in which Idd is celebrated, Sheikh Amir advises women who cannot participate in prayers to do other things which would earn them thawabs just as well. “They can visit the sick in hospitals as a way sharing the joys of marking the end of the fasting period.” Such acts should not end there: “Muslims should invite their neighbours as a way of forging peaceful coexistence with others,” he says.