By Ally Jamah and Maarufu Mohamed
Millions of Muslims countrywide got into joyous celebrations and feasting to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadhan.
That they were, for first time in almost a decade, breaking the fast at the same time, added to the joy of this year’s celebrations.
In Nairobi, thousands of Muslims started streaming into Sir Ali Muslim Club as early as 7am to await the 9am congregational prayers marking Idd-ul-Fitr.
Similar gatherings for prayers were held in Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru and other major towns.
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Men in white robes and women in long, flowing gowns filed into the grounds. Ushers had a hard time controlling and directing the surging crowds. "God is great! Many praises Many praises are due to Him! May He be glorified each morning and evening," the worshippers chanted melodiously in Arabic. Adil Kassim, 11, (in black) with other Muslims in offering prayers during Eid Ul Fitr special prayers at Mombasa Municipal Stadium, on Sunday. Photo: Maarufu Mohamed/Standard
Adil Kassim, 11, (in black) with other Muslims in offering prayers during Eid Ul Fitr special prayers at Mombasa Municipal Stadium, on Sunday. Photo: Maarufu Mohamed/Standard
After the prayers, there were emotional moments as people greeted and hugged each other, uttering congratulations of Eid Mubarak (Blessed festivities).
"I am so happy today that we have successfully completed the month of fasting. I am now looking forward to having a good time with my family and friends for the rest of the day," said Yusuf Abdallah, who attended the prayers.
Unlike regular prayers, Eid prayers are usually held in open grounds to enable as many faithful as possible to meet and pray together.
Sheikh Muhammad Abdi Umal, who led the prayers at Sir Ali grounds urged Muslims not to spoil the festivities by engaging in immoral behaviour but encouraged them to spend time with their families and friends.
"Eid is a time of renewing broken relationships and strengthening family bonds. It is a time of sharing our wealth and our attention with the less endowed people," he said
The Chief Kadhi Sheikh Hammad Kassim, who spoke by telephone from Mombasa, urged Kenyans to continue assisting their fellow citizens suffering the severe impact of the drought and those who lost their homes in the recent fire disaster on Faza Island.
The Eid celebrations were officially announced on Saturday night by the Chief Kadhi and the Imam of Jamia Mosque, Nairobi, Sheikh Muhammad Swalihu, after the moon was sighted in some parts of North Eastern Province, marking the end of fasting.
This was the first time in nearly a decade that Muslim faithful have been in agreement over when to break the fast and celebrate Eid.
Other years have been marked with disputes are different regions claimed to have sighted the moon earlier than others.
Some Muslims would rather go with the sighting of the moon in Kenya, while others accept reports of moon sighting anywhere in the world.
Hundreds of beggars were also lined up on the streets leading to the prayer ground to receive the Zakat Al-Fitr, the obligatory charity that Muslims are required to pay before the Eid prayers to enable financially weak Muslims to share in the festivities.
Most beggars were very cheerful as they stuffed banknotes into their pockets. On average, the obligatory charity is a minimum of Sh300 for each member of the family.
Sheikh Mohamed Khalifa of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya said all Muslims in the Tanzania and Uganda started fasting on the same day and urged them to enhance their new-found unity.
Khalifa said Eid Ul Fitri was the first of two celebrations on Islam with the second celebration known as Eid Ul Adha.
It usually falls on the 10th day of Dhul Hajj, which occurs during Pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
"Muslims are not celebrating the end of fasting, but thanking God for the help and strength that they believe he gave them throughout the previous month in practicing self-control," said Khalifa.
Sheikh Khalifa warned some businessmen against using the name Eid in their entertainment spots and appealed to the youth to desist from the use of drugs and excessive alcohol after Ramadhan.
The Chief Khadi led Muslims in the Eid prayers at the Mombasa Municipal Stadium where he sent a special message of goodwill to all Muslims.
During the start of Ramadhan, Sheikh Kassim had advised the Muslim community to take advantage of the holy month by committing themselves to the teachings of Islamic values.
"Avoid wasting their time and money in extravagance, and support the needy and the poor," said Chief Khadi.
Most eating spots at the Coast town, which had closed for the holy month resumed operation, bringing back relief to lovers of the popular Swahili dishes such as pilau and biriani.
Eid ul-Fitr is a Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadhan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. Id is an Arabic word that means "festivity", while Fitr means "to break fast"; and so the holiday symbolises the breaking of the fasting period. It is celebrated after the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan, on the first day of Shawwal.
Id ul-Fitr is a day long celebration and is sometimes also known as the "Smaller Eid" as compared to the Eid ul-Adha that lasts four days and is called the "Greater Eid" (Arabic: al-‘du l-kabr). Muslims are commanded by the Koran to complete their fast on the last day of Ramadhan and then recite the Takbir throughout the period of Eid. Fasting during Ramadhan is the fifth Pillar of Islam, which Muslims fulfill annually, after faith (Shahadah), prayer (Salah), charitable giving (Zakah), and the pilgrimage to Makkah (Hajj). During the month, Muslims are required to fast for 30 days from sunrise to sunset.