On Monday, Aug. 20, Harlem will celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr at the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building. Eid-ul-Fitr is the Islamic celebration that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
From 6 to 8 p.m., the annual Eid Celebration will feature entertainment, food and a series of prayers in honor of one of Islam’s holiest days.
“This is a 1,400-year-old tradition among the Muslims that’s celebrated throughout the world,” said Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, who’s attended the Eid Celebration at the State Office Building since it began five years ago. An imam is an Islamic religious leader. “So for Muslims the time is just as joyous and celebratory as perhaps the Christmas season is for Christians or the Chanukah season is for Jews.”
But Harlem’s Eid Celebration is not a Muslim-only event. Organized by Sen. Bill Perkins, the event is meant to bring all of Harlem’s diverse community together.
“We have a very important Islamic community in my district,” Perkins said, “and we are involved with them as we are involved with all other faith-based communities.”
Hundreds of people, young and old, gather outside the State Office Building to enjoy music and hear verses from the Quran, the word of God for Muslims. Gifts are also exchanged. “The idea is to make it public, as opposed to something in the closet, if you will,” said Perkins, who also fasts during Ramadan. Several Harlem mosques also co-sponsor the event.
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, a month with special significance marked by abstaining from food.
“Muslims who are able to do so physically without endangering their health fast from sunup to sundown,” said Imam Abdur-Rashid, from the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood Inc. at 130 W. 113th St. Ramadan is also marked by increased worship and reading of the Quran that’s meant to foster generosity.
“Ramadan helps us to control our behavior,” said Imam Ababacar Dabo from the Murid Islamic Community in America, also a co-sponsor of the celebration. “We can learn how we may help the needy, the homeless. Because hunger is not good for anyone.”
At sundown, Muslims traditionally break their fast by eating dates and drinking water, Imam Abdur-Rashid said. This is followed by an evening prayer, then dinner.
The end of Ramadan is an Eid, which means holiday in Arabic. “We live in a very vigorous and austere period of fasting. And so at the end of the sacred month it’s a natural human tendency to celebrate,” said Imam Abdur-Rashid.
At the Eid Celebration, prayer begins after the entertainment. Prayer rugs are provided, laid facing east toward the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Mecca is where Muhammad, the Islamic prophet, was born.
The celebration is then moved to the third floor of the State Office Building where food, mostly West African and African-American cuisine, is served.
“It’s a nice time for the Muslim community, which is often not represented,” said Cordell Cleare, Perkins’ chief of staff. The Eid Celebration is meant to dispel negative misconception people may have about Muslims, Cleare said.
Perkins said he also hopes the Eid Celebration will make it easier to pass legislation that will make Eid-ul-Fitr recognized as a school holiday. Ramadan doesn’t fall on the same month every year.
This time around, Eid-ul-Fitr is in the summer, and the Imams of Harlem expect everyone to join the festivities. “All kinds of people come to celebrate with us Muslims–Christians, all kinds of people. We have one God,” said Imam Ababacar Dabo. This will be his third time attending the Eid Celebration. “It’s good to celebrate Ramadan with other people. “It’s very wonderful.”