WASHINGTON – Tens of thousands of American Muslims gathered early on Thursday, August 8, in different mosques across the country to celebrate `Eid al-Fitr holiday, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
“`Eid prayers here are attended by Muslims from more than 40 different backgrounds and national origins,” Esam Omeish led the prayers at a ballroom at a hotel in the northern part of the US state of Virginia, told Voice Of America.
“That much diversity does not exist elsewhere except during the Muslim pilgrimage to Makkah.”
`Eid Al-Fitr is one the two main Islamic religious festivals along with `Eid Al-Adha.
Marking the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, it was marked on Thursday with `Eid prayers early in the morning.
After special prayers to mark the day, festivities and merriment start with visits to the homes of friends and relatives.
During `Eid days, families and friends exchange visits to express well wishes and children, wearing new clothes bought especially for `Eid, enjoy going out in parks and open fields.
Imam Hassan Qazwini, President of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michgan, said his center has to offer consecutive `Eid prayers to accommodate the thousands of Muslim participants.
“We perform `Eid prayers five times because in such a holy occasion we have more than 7000 worshippers celebrating the end of Ramadan at the center,” said the imam.
After `Eid prayers, children receive gifts or money from their parents, wear new outfits and enjoy their time with their families and friends.
“We put on our best clothes,” said Aziza Khan, a mother of two who attended with her children.
“Everyone comes dressed up. All the kids are excited, and they love showing off their new outfits. It’s just a sea of gorgeous colors.”
In different American states, Muslims have also tried to make the religious occasion special for everyone, including the less fortunate by gathering charitable contributions.
“Before `Eid celebrations, we collect ten dollars from each fasting Muslim to buy food and new clothes for poor Muslims in the community,” Imam Shaker Elsayed of Dar Alhijra Islamic Center in Northern Virginia explained.
Sharing Muslims their `Eid, US President Barack Obama has congratulated Muslim Americans and Muslims around the world on behalf of the American people.
“Michelle and I send our warmest greetings to Muslims celebrating `Eid al-Fitr here in the United States and around the world,” the president said in a statement.
“For millions of Americans, `Eid is part of a great tapestry of America’s many traditions, and I wish all Muslims a blessed and joyful celebration. `Eid Mubarak.”
Imam Abdulla Khouj, president of the Islamic Center in Washington, DC, believes the Ramadan and `Eid greetings offered by consecutive American presidents since early 1990s have helped raise awareness about Islam among Americans.
"When the president of a great country acknowledges the fact that people are fasting and somehow shares with them their feelings, that makes them feel that they are welcome in this country," Imam Khouj said.
The tradition of greeting Muslims on their `Eid is not new to the American administration.
Since 1992, US presidents have issued `Eid greetings each year to the more than 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide.
Since 2001, US Postal Service has been marking `Eid by issuing a special stamp with traditional Islamic greetings in Arabic.
“This presidential tradition is the best proof of religious tolerance in the US,” Sami Elenazi, a new resident originally from Saudi Arabia, said.
“Although I am a newcomer to this country, I felt at home celebrating the end of Ramadan.”
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