Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Ramzan special: The mutliple benefits of Fitra

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: As the Id approaches, millions of poor people in the country eagerly wait for the distribution of Fitra as it helps them join the festivities with others. Fitra is a compulsory charity to be paid before the Id prayers by every Muslim, who is not poor. In fact, Id-ul-Fitr derives its name from Fitra. It means the feast of alms-giving or charity.
According to a rough estimate, at least Rs 20 crore is spent on Fitra by Muslims in Andhra Pradesh alone. The distribution of Fitra starts on the 27th day of Ramzan and ends before the start of the Id prayers. Fitra is calculated at the rate of 2.045 kgs of staple food grains a family eats. If a family consumes rice worth Rs 18 a kg, the fitra for every individual member in that family works out to around Rs 37.
Says Hafiz Shujat Hussain, "fasting during Ramzan does not attain perfection without Fitra. This charity should be distributed either in kind or cash to the deserving people before the Id prayers. Some Muslim scholars say if it is not possible for some reason to distribute the fitra within the stipulated period, the amount may be set apart and disbursed when the needy are available".
Id-ul-Fitr is the biggest festival of Islam. It is also one of the two great Ids celebrated all over the Muslim world, the other being Id-ul-Azha or the festival of sacrifice.
According to Islamic scholar Moulana Abdul Kareem, Id-ul-Fitr or Ramzan Id as it is locally called, was first celebrated in Islamic history in the second year of Hegira (Muslim calendar) since fasting was made compulsory from that year. Since Id-ul-Fitr is the thanksgiving to the Almighty after the completion of the Blessed month of Ramzan, during which fasting is a must on all Muslims, Muslim elders generally believe that the first Id was celebrated by the Prophet and his companions in the second year of Hegira.
Stating that Muslim festivals are not just occasions for celebrations with tasty foods, costly clothes and meeting friends and relatives, senior advocate AK Basha points out that the concept of Fitra has been introduced to remove economic and social imbalances in society. Fitra will help the poor to purchase new clothes and other requirements and they too will join the celebrations. The poor will have at least two square meals on the Id day. All the members of a family should pay the Fitra to the deserving and needy; first preference goes to the poor neighbours, then relatives and friends.
There is a belief among Muslims that a non-Syed cannot give Fitra to a Syed whereas a Syed can give Fitra to Syeds and non-Syeds.
Besides striving to remove economic imbalances in society, Fitra serves as a platform for social unity and oneness of the mankind. In the Id prayers all - the rich and the poor, man and child, the mighty and the low - stand together in one line invoking the favour and mercy of God on all the earthlings, forgetting their petty physical differences.
Once the Id prayers are over, Muslims return to their houses and join the Id celebrations with their family members. Before returning home, many march to the nearest graveyard to offer prayers to their beloved ones. Offering prayers at graveyards and distributing alms among the poor waiting outside is regarded as a pious deed.
In a Muslim family the Id begins with the early morning prayers. After the prayers, members take bath and wear new clothes. They consume special porridge prepared from vermicelli. While the women offer prayers at home, the men and children visit the nearest Idaho for the annual Id prayers, which is obligatory on all adult Muslims. Some visit mosques but the congregation at the Idgah is preferred.

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