Beginning of the Ashur-ul-Hajj
Shawwal is the first of the three months named as "Ashhur al-Hajj" (i.e. the months of Hajj). Although the major acts of Hajj are normally performed in the first ten days of Zulhijjah yet the whole period starting from the first of Shawwal up to the 10th of Zulhijjah is held to be the period of Hajj because some acts of Hajj can be performed any time during this period. For example the Tawaf-ul-qudum followed by the Sai' of Hajj cannot be performed before Shawwal while it can be performed any day after the beginning of Shawwal. Similarly an 'Umrah performed before Shawwal cannot be treated as the 'Umrah of Tamattu: while the 'Umrah performed in Shawwal can be affiliated to the Hajj making it a Hajj of Tamattu: Moreover ihram of Hajj should not be started before Shawwal because it makruh. For these reasons these three months have been named as the 'months of Hajj' and the month of Shawwal has the distinction of being the first of these.
The second meritorious aspect of Shawwal is that it has been chosen by Allah Almighty for the celebration of "Eid-ul-fitr" one of the only two annual festivals recognized by the Shari'ah. This happy day is designed by the Shari'ah as a sign of gratefulness by the Muslims on the accomplishment of Ramadan and as an immediate reward by Allah for those who spent the month of Ramadan in fasting and performing other forms of 'ibadah.
Instead of commemorating an event from the past the Shari'ah has prescribed the first of Shawwal as an annual festival for the Muslims at an occasion when they themselves accomplish a great 'ibadah. This approach reminds the Muslims that they should not rely only on the accomplishments of their ancestors rather they should themselves perform meritorious acts to please their Creator.
In prescribing the ways to celebrate the happy day Islam has adopted another unique approach. The festivals of other religions or nations normally comprise of some acts of rejoicing and enjoyment. The whole happy day is normally spent in dancing singing and playing.
In contrast Islam has prescribed a simple yet graceful way to observe the happy day. First of all it is mandatory on all the well-off Muslims to start their day by paying "Sadaqat-ul-fitr" to the poor of their society so that they too may enjoy the day along with others and may not be worried for earning their livelihood at least on that day of happiness.
After paying the "Sadaqat-ul-fitr" the Muslims are required to proceed to an open place where they can offer the Eid prayer collectively. In this way they are supposed to present themselves before their Creator and offer two rak'ats of this special type of Salah which makes them receive blessings from Allah and start their celebration by these divine blessings.
After the Salah also they are supposed to rejoice the day in a responsible manner without violating the limits prescribed for them and never indulging in the acts prohibited by Allah.
Keeping this point in view we will now discuss specific rules prescribed for observing the day of Eid-ul-fitr.
The Night Preceding 'Eid-ul-Fitr'
It had been the practice of the Prophet Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam that he would not sleep in the night preceding the day of Eid-ul-fitr. This night has been named in a Hadith as the Night of Reward (Lailatul Jaiza). Almighty bestows his rewards on those who have spent the month of Ramadan abiding by the dictates of Shari'ah and all their prayers in this night are accepted. Therefore it is desirable to perform nafl prayers in this night. The Prophet Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam is reported to have said:
Whoever stands up (in worship) in the nights preceding the two Eids expecting rewards from his Lord his heart will not die when the other hearts will die. (Ibn Majah)
To benefit from this opportunity one should perform as much worship in this night as he can and should pray for all his needs and desires.
Before Going to Eid Prayer
The following acts are prescribed as Sunnah at the beginning of the day of 'Eid-ul-Fitr before proceeding to the Eid prayer:
1. To wake up early in the morning.
2. To clean one's teeth with a Miswaak or a brush.
3. To take a bath.
4. To put on one's best available clothes.
5. To wear perfume.
6. To eat a sweet food preferably dates before the Eid prayer.
7. To recite the following Takbir in the low voice while going to the 'Eid prayer:
Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar La Ilaha Ila Allah Wa Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar Wa Lillahi Alhamd
Sadaqat-ul-fitr is an obligation for every Muslim male or female who owns 613.35 grams of silver or its equivalent either in the form of money ornaments stock-in-trade or in the form of some goods or commodities beyond one's normal needs. Every person who owns such an amount has to pay Sadaqat-ul-fitr not only on behalf of himself but also on behalf of his minor children. The prescribed amount of Sadaqat-ul-fitr is 1.75 Kilograms of wheat or its value in money. This amount is prescribed for paying Sadaqat-ul-fitr for one person only. If a person has some minor children the same amount has to be paid on behalf of each one of them separately. The following points must be remembered concerning the payment of Sadaqat-ul-fitr.
1. Sadaqat-ul-fitr is obligated on each adult male or female separately and the relevant adult person himself is responsible to pay it. The husband is not required to pay Sadaqat-ul-fitr on behalf of his wife nor is the wife supposed to pay it on behalf of her husband. Similarly a father is not bound to pay Sadaqat-ul-fitr on behalf of his adult children or vice-versa. However if the head of the family by his own free will wishes to pay Sadaqat-ul-fitr for each one of the members of his family he should seek their authorization for that purpose. In this case the Sadaqat-ul-fitr paid by him will be valid on their behalf. If he did not pay the Sadaqat-ul-fitr on behalf of any of the members of his family he will not be responsible for it. Rather it is the duty of every adult member of the family to discharge his own obligation or to request the head of the family to pay it on his or her behalf.
2. It is a Sunnah that the Sadaqat-ul-fitr is paid before performing the 'Eid prayer. It can also be paid before the 'Eid day but it is not advisable to delay it up to the performance of'Eid prayer. However if a person has failed to pay on its proper time he should pay it as soon as possible whereby the obligation will stand discharged.
3. The Sadaqat-ul-fitr is not necessary on behalf of a child who was born after the break of dawn in the 'Eid day nor is it necessary to pay Sadaqat-ul-fitr on behalf of a person who dies before the dawn of the Eid day.
4. Sadaqat-ul-fitr should be paid only to a person who is entitled to receive Zakah.
The 'Eid Prayer
The second obligation on 'Eid day is to perform the 'Eid prayer. Some rules in this respect are mentioned hereunder:
1. The Eid prayer is Wajib (obligatory) on every male Muslim.
2. The Eid prayer can be performed any time between the Ishraq and Zawal.
3. It is preferable that the 'Eid prayer is performed at an open field and not in a mosque. However if it is difficult for any reason to perform it in an open field it can also be performed in a big mosque.
4. It is not advisable to hold the 'Eid prayer in every mosque rather it is preferable that the people from several small mosques get together to either perform it in an open field or in its absence in a big mosque which can accommodate a large number of people.
5. No Nafl Salah can be performed before the 'Eid prayer neither in one's home nor at the place of' Eid prayer. Similarly Nafl prayer cannot be performed after the Eid prayer at the same place. However it can be performed after one comes back to his home.
6. The Eid prayer has neither Adhan nor Iqamah.
How to Perform Eid Prayer
The Eid Prayer has two rak'ah to perform in the normal way with the only addition of six takbirs three of them in the beginning of the first rak'ah and three of them just before ruku' in the second rak'ah. The detailed way of performing the 'Eid prayer is as follows:
The Imam will begin the prayer without Adhan or Iqamah. He will begin the prayer by reciting takbir of Tahrimah (Allahu Akbar). You should raise your hands up to the ears and reciting the takbir you give a little pause during which you should recite Thana' (Subhanak Allahumma.......)? After the completion of Thana' the Imam will recite takbir (Allahu Akbar) three times and after reciting each Takbir (Allahu Akbar) in a low voice you should bring your hands down and leave them earthwards. But after the third takbir you should set them at the level of your navel as you do in the normal prayer.
After these three takbirs the Imam will recite the Holy Qur'an which you should listen quietly. The rest of the rak'ah will be performed in the normal way.
After rising for the second rak'ah the Imam will begin the recitations from the Qur'an during which you should remain calm and quiet. When the Imam finishes his recitation he will recite three takbirs once again but this time it will be before bowing down for ruku'. At each takbir you should raise your hands up to the ears and after saying "Allahu Akbar' bring them down and leave them earthwards. After these three takbirs have been called and completed the Imam will say another takbir for bowing down into the ruku' position. At this takbir you need not raise your hands. You just bow down for your ruku' saying 'Allahu Akbar'. The rest of the Salah will be performed in its usual way.
Khutbah: The Address of 'Eid-ul-fitr
In this Salah Khutbah is a Sunnah and is delivered after the Salah unlike the Salah of Jumu'ah where it is Fard and is delivered before the Salah. However listening to the Khutbah of 'Eid Salah is wajib or necessary and must be heard in perfect peace and silence.
It is a sunnah that the Imam begins the first Khutba by reciting takbirs 'Allahu Akbar' nine times and the second Khutbah with reciting it seven times.
Note: The way of 'Eid prayer described above is according to the Hanafi school of Muslim jurists. Some other jurists like Imam Shafi'i have some other ways to perform it. They recite Takbir twelve times before beginning the recitations from the Holy Qur'an in both rak'ah. This way is also permissible. If the Imam being of the Shafi'i school follows this way you can also follow him. Both ways are based on the practice of the Prophet Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam.
Six Fasts in the Month of Shawwal
It is commendable to keep six fasts in the month of Shawwal. The Prophet Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam has said:
Whoever completes fasts of Ramadan then adds to them the fast of six days in the month of Shawwal it will carry the thawab of fasting for the whole year. (Sahih Muslim)
This hadith had described the great thawab of six fasts of this month. Therefore the Muslims should take this opportunity of acquiring such an enormous reward from Allah. It is more preferable to start these fasts from the 2nd of Shawwal and keep fasting up to the 7th of it. However if they are kept in other days it is hoped that the requirement of the above hadith may also be fulfilled.