5 Unknown Facts of Global Eid

by Helmy Sa'at and Farida Haji

With an estimated 1.8 billion Muslims in the world today, the intersectionality of cultures and traditions has produced a multitude of Muslim identities in the various pockets of Islamic communities scattered across the globe.

What is the significance of such lived realities? Fact: The global ummah as an entity is not a monolith. The richness of the culminations of heterogeneities – the meshing of diverse cultural traditions and practices with faith and spiritual piety over time – is evident. This shows that Islam has been woven intricately after many generations, which displays the eternal beauty and resilience of the faith.

1. Muslim Malaysians start Eid celebrations by performing Eid prayers in the morning. Mosques across the country would witness a sea of worshippers donning their traditional outfits in eye-catching colours. The baju raya generally either has five buttons symbolising the five pillars of Islam or one button to signify the oneness of God.

A portrait of young couple of malay muslim in traditional costume with his son during Eid al-Fitr celebration by traditional wooden house.

During house visits later in the day, children would most look forward to green packets containing money distributed by the elderly out of the generosity of their hearts, which adds to the special month of Syawal for the little ones.

2. More than 12 hours or 11 thousand kilometers away from Malaysia, Muslims in the United Kingdom has their own set of traditions when it comes to Eid celebrations. For the diverse migrant communities, what most would look forward to is the celebrations pouring over into communal spaces, such as, parks and open spaces.

Typically, Eid in the park is one of the many manifestations of communal celebrations. Such carnivalesque settings not only bring together the many different cultures, but also cementing relationships of Muslims from varied backgrounds while inviting their non-Muslim counterparts to partake in the celebrations and learning more about Muslims in the larger community.

3. India is home to over 200 million Muslims. Eid is typically welcomed with Biryani (savoury) and Sheerkhurma (sweet). The massive sub-continent is a grand menu that has over 30 types of Biryanis to offer! As you move along from one state to the other, the flavours change, but the spirit of celebration is just as energetic and colourful.

Fun Fact: Many Muslims enjoy left-over Biryani, the reason is the more it simmers, the richer the taste. There is a thin layer of rice often called khurchan or kopti. It is the last layer of rice that is stuck to the bottom of the vessel. It is typically rich in flavour and aroma (sometimes dripping in oil!). Do not mistake it for burnt rice; however, if it truly is burnt rice, you would have to call for help to clean the vessels!

Traditional delicacies enjoyed during Eid celebrations

4. Meanwhile, in Egypt, fish is the highlight of Eid celebrations along with other traditional delicacies! Most would visit cultural sites or hop onto a cruise on the River Nile after spending a day with their family members. Likewise, Muslims in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, also indulge in similar fashion. Other than fishing in the Red Sea, families would also indulge in an adventure cruise as per tradition.

5. And, last but not least – Iceland. With an estimated 1,500 Muslims out of its population totalling more than 350,000, Eid is still celebrated in the capital Reykjavik! The close-knit community would typically congregate in one of the few mosques in the city. The joyous celebration would entail sharing of delicacies in addition to exchanging of gifts among friends and loved ones.

What are some of the niche traditional celebrations specific to your community? After sharing this article with your friends and family, do head over to the Comments section below to share your thoughts and traditions! Be a part of the bigger conversation.