Social and economic significance of Eid-ul-Fitr20 April 2023
Dr Matiur Rahman :
At the end of Ramadan, Eid-ul-Fitr returns with a happy message. Muslims celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr after a long month of fasting. Eid festival is not only religious but also has social and economic significance. And the festival of Eid is universal. The social meaning of Eid is a celebration, and the linguistic sense is repeated return. So every year, the happy Eid returns to the life of Muslims.
Eid in Bangladesh is celebrated in a grand and festive atmosphere. On this day everyone wears good clothes according to their ability. Good quality food is arranged at every home. Relatives and neighbors also join in this joy. Poor people also celebrate this day with due dignity and joy. On this day, Muslims pray in Eidgah or mosque.
Irrespective of rich and poor, everyone exchanges Eid greetings. In this era of information technology excellence, the emotions and joy of Eid are shared through social media. The wealthy in society distribute Zakat and Fitra to the poor according to their ability, which is religiously obligatory for the rich.
The history of Eid and Eid festivals in the Bengal region is not known accurately even today. The history of fasting and Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations in Bangladesh is somewhat known from various historical books, sources and communications. Historians and scholars have noted that the festival of Eid is an integral part of classical Islam.
Although Islam arrived in Bengal in the twelfth century, there is no evidence that classical Islam was closely followed for four to five hundred years. There was no such event as the Eid festival in Bengal then. The reasons could be two: the Muslims of rural Bengal were poor, and the sense of individual community among the Muslims was not strong. As a result, the conditions for establishing religious festivals on a social basis have not been created. And it is well known that no festival celebration can be found without a solid social base. The Eid festival was not seen in greater Bengal in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
The elite class (Nawab or Badshah) used to celebrate Eid, but it was limited to them and the upper classes. Eid could not play a unique role as a social festival forordinary people. However, religious reform movements in Bengal throughout the 19th century greatly affected urban life and rural affluent or educated society. Other religions' strict codes of conduct helped spread Islam in Bengal. As a result, Islam religion's various rituals and festivals started to be prevalent. Ordinary people began celebrating these festivals.
However, Eid-ul-Fitr is a festival of love and union, a celebration of building peace and harmony among people. It brings joy to all. Eid brings welfare to all people. Its appearance in national life can be seen everywhere. In all cases, its positive effects are significant. People of different religions also enjoy the direct and indirect benefits of Eid festival.
Apart from social importance, it has economic relevance and significance. Eid festival-centered arrangements are not less. Keeping ahead of Eid, the Eid market is strengthened, supporting the country's economy. Economists and business leaders believe about 50 thousand crore takas have recently been traded in the Eid market. Eid-centric transactions are increasing yearly due to reduced poverty, increased per capita income and improved standard of living.
On the occasion of Eid, expatriates send many remittances to the country. The rural economy is also boosted as the inflow of foreign money increases during Eid. The banking sector is also strengthened. On this occasion, the country's commercial banks have about 10 times more transactions than at other times.
Everyone wants to be close to their loved ones to enjoy this joyous festival during Eid. Many people of Bangladesh live in Dhaka and other cities in search of livelihood. And most of their families and relatives live in villages. So they return to the village on the occasion of Eid. Most families find it impossible to celebrate Eid without returning home. So they returned to the village to enjoy the joy of Eid with their family and relatives.
Apart from this, many people can visit their relatives' homes because Eid has relatively more holidays. Because of this, people travel more during Eid. As a result, domestic passengers suffer yearly due to various problems, including not getting seats in trains, buses and launches. Other issues are carrying excess passengers, traffic jams, road accidents etc. High fares and schedule disruptions in public transport make commuters suffer. Moreover, many people were killed and injured in road accidents before and after Eid. So, instead of the joy of Eid, the shadow of sadness descends on their family.
While most of the country's people rush to the villages risking their lives and suffering, several rich people leave the country to enjoy Eid abroad. This disparity between the rich and the poor questions the sense of unity and brotherhood of the Eid festival.
Officials and employees of public and private institutions get a festival allowance for celebrating Eid. Still, many low-income people, including day labourers, farmers, and rickshaw pullers, are deprived of these allowances. Moreover, while people of other professions can enjoy the Eid holidays for a few days, farmers and day labourers also have to work on the festival day. Meanwhile, due to the non-receipt of salaries and bonuses before Eid, many private sector workers and their families' Eid festival fades away.
Even on the happy day of Eid, many helpless-poor people spend their days starving or half-starved. Besides, many street children pass Eid day by collecting papers and selling bidis and cigarettes. The joy of Eid is beyond their reach. It becomes impossible for them to wear new clothes, entertain or enjoy pleasure. They visit various children's entertainment centres, including zoos and children's parks,not for fun but for their survival, in search of livelihood. But due to the kindness of the rich, some poor people celebrate Eid by wearing new clothes and eating good food. Along with the rich, the joy of Eid also flows into the homes of the poor.
The main lesson of Eid is to build a sense of brotherhood and national unity. Forgetting the old days of hatred and violence, Muslims bind each other in the bond of love in the equality festival. National unity, amity and brotherhood are consolidated in the holy Eid-ul-Fitr. But the difference can be seen in the words and behaviour of our political leaders. Even on this sacred festival day, they behave politically hostilely.
Disunity is heard instead of national unity in their voice! Political unrest has further depressed the nation in recent time. Due to this political crisis, the national harmony of Holy Eid is highly disrupted. On the one hand, the joy of Eid among the ordinary people has been limited due to the increase in the prices of goods, corruption at all levels, and socioeconomic inequality and on the other hand, the programme of political disunity among the national leaders has dimmed the thrill of Eid.
Eid is the main joyous festival in Muslim society. And at the root of this festival is social unity. Human and social relations are developed through the exchange of greetings, sincerity and sympathy during all events of Eid-ul-Fitr. This is the social significance of Eid-ul-Fitr. So that every Muslim worldwide can enjoy the joy of Eid-ul-Fitr, it has been said to give a higher rate of charity, zakat and fitra in the month of Ramadan. During the Eid festival, shopping increases which boost the economy. This is the economic significance of Eid-ul-Fitr. Holy Eid is a unique symbol of human harmony, where rich and poor, educated and uneducated, and black and white meet in the same row.
But nowadays, people are moving away from the real significance of Eid. As a result of strife, violence and hatred, society is being corrupted. The festival of Eid has now become very formal. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Eid festival has not gathered much in the last two years. Also, ordinary people are suffering due to the increase in prices of daily commodities. So it has become difficult for them to celebrate the Eid festival. But the social and economic significance of the Eid festival cannot be denied.
(The writer is a researcher and development worker).