Thousands celebrate Eid
Rwandan Muslims yesterday celebrated the annual Eid al-Fitr, with thousands converging at the Kigali Regional Stadium in Nyamirabo for early morning prayers.
The beginning of the three-day festival marked the end of the holy month of Ramadan, observed by the Muslim community worldwide.
In Rwanda, like elsewhere, the festival was characterised by family reunions, sharing and giving to the poor.
At Nyamirambo, the Mufti of Rwanda, Sheikh Abdul Karim Gahutu, congratulated the Muslim faithful upon completing the holiest month of Ramadan, considered a period of spiritual reflection devoid of worldly pleasures and recommitment to Allah.
The celebratory mood is expected to go on today with government having declared Monday a public holiday.
Gahutu rallied Muslims to fear God and to observe their obligations to the nation.
He also castigated the allegations contained in an addendum to an interim report by the UN Group of Experts on the Congo accusing Rwanda of involvement in the DRC conflict, describing them as fabricated lies serving one purpose – blackmail.
Gahutu said what’s happening in the Congo was an internal business for the Congolese to solve.
He urged the country’s Muslim community to steer clear of those blackmailing their country, and instead work hard with dignity and love for the country “God blessed you with.”
The Group accused Kigali of aiding M23, a rebel outfit fighting Kinshasa government.
Rwanda has strenuously denied the accusations and presented a rebuttal to the UN Sanctions Committee, which the outgoing German Ambassador to Rwanda, Frans Makken, described as “very serious and satisfactory”.
Sheikh Gahutu prayed to God to enable the national leadership to remain firm in the wake of such allegations.
Sheikh Gahutu reflected on the recent aid suspension by some donor countries over the alleged rebel links, stressing that Rwandans need to work even harder and ready themselves to sacrifice for their country.
“Islam teaches us to work hard for this world as if our stay is permanent,” the Mufti told the faithful who braved a chilly morning to attend prayers to mark the end of the Holy Month of Ramadan.
A regional subcommittee composed of seven defence ministers meeting in Goma last week said an African neutral force, working under the auspices of both the African Union and the United Nations, would be deployed in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to help restore peace in the volatile region.
Sheikh Gahutu urged the Muslim faithful and Rwandans, generally, to hold the unity, peace and development of their country so dear and close to their hearts.
The Mufti counselled the youth against drug abuse and urged them to desist from engaging in activities likely to harm their health.
Most of the Muslims The New Times interviewed had varied experiences with the fasting period but all agreed on one thing: fasting brought them closer to God and to each other.
“We need to fast to come closer to God. During fasting we consume less so commodity prices went down,” 24-year old Habib Sengabo said, standing at entrance of the stadium.
Nadia Mukashyaka said, “I fasted and came here very morning to worship my God. The God I adore so much”.
Eid-al-Fitr is the first day of the Islamic month, the month that follows Ramadhan. It marks the end of fasting.
Many Muslims attend communal prayers, listen to a khutba (sermon) and give zakat al-fitr (charity in the form of food) during the festival.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim year that lasts around 30 days, during which strict fasting is observed from sunrise to sunset and although it is a time of deprivation, Muslims consider Ramadhan to be a joyful season.
Ramadan, the ninth lunar month of the Islamic calendar, is considered the most sacred, for Muslims believe it was a night in this month that the Quran (the religion’s Holy Scripture was revealed to Muhammad, his Prophet, by angel Gabriel).
The night is called Laylat al-Qadr or the Night of Decree. This year, the night of 14 August was the anniversary of the Laylat al-Qadr.
The festival, commonly abbreviated to Eid, consists of offering prayers at mosques followed by sumptuous meals.
The three-day festival is also known as the Festival of Fast Breaking, as it comes at the end of a holy period in the Islamic calendar that calls for all devout Muslims to abstain from food, drink and other worldly pleasures from dawn to dusk.
The practice of a month-long fast during Ramadan is also believed to propitiate divine blessings, as are acts of charity, donation and kindness.
Unlike the first day of Ramadan which is observed with a sighting of the crescent moon in the western sky at sunset, Eid al-Fitr falls on the last Friday of the holy month (or on the first day of the month that follows Ramadan.