MOHON maaf lahir dan batin. Forgive me my trespasses in word and deed that I have committed against you in the past year. Thus goes the salutation of every Southeast Asian Muslim on the day of Eid al Fitr (Idul Fitri).
Eid al-Fitr falls on the first day of Shawwal, the 10th month on the Islamic calendar and marks the end of the 9th month of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting from sunrise to sunset.
It is interesting to note that in the Islamic calendar, the “day” begins at sundown or at the precise time of sunset called Maghrib. Like the Jewish calendar, the Islamic religious calendar is based on the lunar cycle. Since the beginning of a religious day starts at sunset the day before, the Muslims break their fast at sunset or Maghrib. It is clearly a misunderstanding on anyone’s part to say that Muslims “fast during the day” and “feast at night” in the holy month of Ramadan.
It must also be noted, therefore, that the first day of the month of Shawwal in the Philippines began yesterday afternoon and Eid al Fitri officially started yesterday June 4 at sunset, upon the breaking of the fast.
By itself, the word “Eid” means a religious festival or fiesta. Eid al Fitr translates into “The Festival Celebrating the End of Fasting”. The other major Islamic holiday we celebrate in the Philippines is Eid al Adha, which means “The Festival of the Lamb”.
Eid al-Fitr is a three-day holiday in Islamic countries and is almost akin to our Christmas, New Year, Easter and All Souls’ and Saints’ Days put together. This is the season when Muslims celebrate with friends and/or return to their hometowns to visit parents, siblings and relatives upon the culmination of a religious rite. They exchange presents, partake of traditional holiday foods, decorate their homes and streets with blinking lights, put up colorful buntings and woven palm leaves (buri or buli) much like our “palaspas” on Palm Sunday. In course of the holiday, it is also a tradition to go to the cemetery to visit their beloved departed.
Only in the Philippines
Remarkably, the Philippines is the only majority Christian country in the world that has declared Eid al Fitr a public holiday. In Europe and the United States, for example, Eid al Fitr is not a public holiday. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed Presidential Proclamation No. 1083 into law on November 13, 2002, giving whoever is the current President the authority to declare Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha as national holidays.
It is but fair to declare Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha as official holidays in deference to our Muslim brothers and sisters who comprise the second largest religious group in our country. The Christian religious commemorations of Christmas, Holy Thursday & Good Friday culminating with Easter, and All Souls & Saints Days are national holidays in the Philippines. In a country that naturally loves fiestas and revelry, celebrating Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha is a sign of solidarity where respect and understanding for each other’s religious beliefs have become a joint celebration. Indeed, much more unity will be achieved the more we know and respect each other’s core values.
Mohon maaf lahir dan batin
Eid al Fitr is a perfect time for Muslims and Christians to reflect not only on celebrations but also on forgiveness. Especially forgiving each other for trespasses done with or without full knowledge on each individual’s part
Oftentimes, many Christians believe it is enough to confess our sins directly to God, or to confess to the priest with a recited penance as the final means of absolution. In fact Catholics, including myself, often forget that full restitution can only come after asking for forgiveness from the person we have hurt. Whether the other party forgives us or not is an exercise in their personal freedom. But on our part, we are assured of God’s forgiveness and we rejoice.
The Muslim practice of asking for forgiveness and forgiving each other, renewed every single year, on the first day of Shawwal is a practice worth emulating. It is an exercise in humility and a reminder to both parties that we are all imperfect.
In the spirit of forgiveness, we then accompany our salutation with wishing our friends and family happiness for the new year. What an uplifting rite of renewal!
To all my Muslim friends, mostly in Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines: Mohon maaf lahir dan batin. Selamat Eid al Fitr!