Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha

“Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, and Eid al-Adha: Fasting and Feasting”

by Jackleen Salem

Chapter Summary

Jackleen Salem describes what it is like to fast from dawn to sunset during the Islamic month of Ramadan—a practice that most Muslims associate with the very heart of their faith. Salem takes us to “Little Palestine” in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, where we follow Aminah Salah and other Muslims as they set aside more time to read the Qur’an, go to the mosque for extra prayers, share huge family meals during the evenings, and buy lots of presents for the kids in preparation for the big party, or eid, that ends the month of fasting. We then join Aminah Salah and 15,000 other people at communal prayers in Toyota Park on the day of Eid al-Fitr, which literally means the festival of the breaking of the fast, and then afterward to the family’s now traditional consumption of nachos and cheese at the Bridgeview Mosque Foundation’s community party. Salem then explores what is technically, from the standpoint of authoritative Islamic religious traditions, the larger of the two main eids. Eid al-Adha, the festival of the sacrifice, commemorates the occasion on which God tested Abraham’s faith by asking him to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, but at the last minute, replaced Ishmael with a ram. Instead of focusing only on the celebration of Eid al-Adha in Chicago, Salem explores this holiday around the country with Muslims from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.

Discussion Questions

  • What religious practices besides fasting are part of Ramadan? Why are these practices meaningful to the Muslim Americans discussed in Jackleen Salem’s chapter?
  • What is Eid al-Fitr and what are the different ways that Muslim Americans celebrate it? What social functions does Eid al-Fitr serve, in your view?
  • What is Eid al-Adha? Identify what is similar and what is different in how Muslim Americans mark this holiday.

Group Exercises

  • View the interview with the National Football League’s Husain Abdullah above. Compare his experience of fasting to experiences detailed in the chapter.  Does he interpret the experience in similar ways? How so?
  • New York City public schools now give all children a day off for both Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. Check out this AJ+ news story.  Should other school districts across the country let out for these Islamic holidays? Will the recognition of these holidays reduce anti-Muslim prejudice in your opinion?
  • Investigate the celebration of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, and Eid al-Adha in your school or community group. Compare and contrast it with the celebration of Aminah Salah’s family and other Muslims in the chapter.
  • Written for a younger audience, Nadia’s Ramadan Lesson Planning Guide is still a useful introduction to Ramadan.
Jackleen Salem (Ph.D., Wisconsin-Milwaukee) has published numerous book chapters and articles on Arab American immigrants in the United States. She is currently revising her history of one Chicago Muslim community into a book.