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World: Muslims Celebrate Eid Al-Fitr, Marking End Of Ramadan


For some 1 billion Muslims around the world this weekend brings the celebration of Eid al-Fitr, the celebration of breaking the fast, which marks the end of Ramadan. The fasting and abstinence period of Ramadan ends when the new moon is sighted. Eid al-Fitr is joyous day for all Muslims, including the non-Arabic cultures of inner Asia -- Muslim peoples who sometimes add their own particular touch to the holiday.

13 November 2004 -- In the heart of Asia, the people -- mainly of Persian, Turkic, and other non-Arab descent -- will mark Eid al-Fitr much along with the rest of the Islamic world.

As is traditional, households will be cleaned and decorated ahead of the holiday.

In Tajikistan, Faizullo Zubaidulloh, the imam-khatib, or mullah, of the Dushanbe mosque, described the way Eid al-Fitr traditionally starts for Muslims, not only in Tajikistan, but throughout the Muslim world.

"After waking, they [Muslims] should break their fast, wash themselves well, put on their good clothes, give alms, and then go to mosque to say special holiday prayers. Then they should visit the graves of the relatives but if the graves are far away they can say the prayers in their home. These prayers bring joy to their relatives in the afterlife," Zubaidulloh said.

Children in Tajikistan often go door-to-door in their neighborhoods where people give them sweets or money -- a custom practiced in some other Muslim countries as well.

Zakrullo Ishonj of RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports from Tashkent that the holiday draws thousands of the faithful to mosques around the country.

"This year, all of Uzbekistan’s Muslims gather in mosques under the sunny sky to fulfill their holiday prayers. This year the Sheikh Ziyowuddin mosque is hosting thousands of worshippers who set out to the mosque from early dawn," Ishonj said.

Uzbekistan has seen problems with Islamic extremists in recent years and thousands of people have reportedly been jailed in crackdowns.

One woman, whose own son is among those in prison, said she hoped those innocent Muslims who have been jailed would be freed. She lamented that the holiday, which should be a time of joy, has come to be associated with sorrow for relatives who have died.

"I ask God that those Muslim boys in jails, including my son, would be freed. There are many holidays, but God gave two special holidays [Eid al-Adha is the other]. One bad tradition that has developed in Uzbekistan is that people have become accustomed to visiting each other to offer sympathies for deceased relatives," she said.
"After waking, they [Muslims] should break their fast, wash themselves well, put on their good clothes, give alms, and then go to mosque to say special holiday prayers. Then they should visit the graves of the relatives but if the graves are far away they can say the prayers in their home."


Kemal, from the Turkmen capital Ashgabat, said usually people there congratulate each other on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr -- or Oraz Bairam, as it is called in Turkmenistan.

"The Ramadan holiday is officially celebrated [in Turkmenistan]. Young and old people send greetings to each other. They visit each other," Kemal said.

Visits to or from family members are common throughout the Islamic world on Eid al-Fitr, though the celebration still carries an extra joy for the Muslims of former Soviet Central Asia, where open celebrations of the day were forbidden under Soviet authorities.

With the family assembled the holiday meal is served, the first time many have eaten in the daytime since Ramadan started a month ago. Though sweet deserts are a must for all during the holiday feast, the traditional meal varies from place to place.

(The Uzbek, Tajik, Turkmen, and Kyrgyz services contributed to this report.)
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