Tagged: Idul Fitri

Happy Idul Fitri

idul fitri
Seeking forgiveness and a pure heart.

It’s a special time to be here on this last day of Ramadan – the eve of 1431 H Idul Fitri.

Children are singing Muslim songs and prayers from the mosques, there are parades in the street, and fireworks are exploding everywhere.

There is truly a spirit of reverence and celebration in the air here in Jogjakarta.

One of the gifts of traveling around the world is witnessing first hand how other people celebrate their religious faith. I don’t have to rely on the image that news outlets present – I can see it for myself, and draw my own conclusions.

Over the years I have seen many Idul Fitri celebrations, and have had the pleasure of sharing it with the many Muslim friends I have made.

Idul fitri family celebration
The Susanti family was kind enough to share their 1431 H Idul Fitri celebration with me.

It always delights me to hear the conversation because it is not so different than at similar gatherings in my own family. The spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude is also familiar, from my own family gatherings. In fact, everything is pretty much the same, except the occasion.

That’s why it really annoys me to hear about people like Terry Jones, the pastor of that small Florida church who is planning to burn the Quran on September 11th. It’s such small mindedness and disrespect for other people, their culture, and their religion that keep the world in the state it is.

How can we possibly have peace, without respect?

To imply that the September 11th attacks were a Muslim crime is absurd. Holding that line of thought, maybe we should burn Shinto and Buddhist holy books to punish the Japanese for attacking Pearl Harbor. Most of Hitlers forces were Christian – what are we going to burn for that one?

As an American, I am truly ashamed to share the same nationality with Terry Jones and the members of his church – the Dove World Outreach Center. And, as a Christian, I’m as offended by this act of violence in the name of Christianity, as all the Muslims I know are when violence is perpetrated in the name of Islam.

Idul Fitri is a celebration of faith, gratitude, and of joy. It’s been my experience that people everywhere celebrate those three things in different ways.

To coin a phrase from my Thai friends – we’re all “same same but different.”

When we, as a people, accept that we’re never going to be the same – never going to live by the same set of principles – no matter how much we bully and intimidate each other, we can move forward in finding sustainable ways to live happily together.

I don’t profess to know all the steps from where we are now, to a world of harmony and peace, but I do know the first step must be respect.

Travel if you can – meet more of the people you’re sharing the Earth with. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.


What is 1431 H?

It’s the Islamic year.

Many people don’t realize there are many calendars in use around the world – the Gregorian calendar that is most commonly used in international commerce is not the only one. The Eastern Orthodox, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, and Baha’i are among those who follow their own calendars.

cresent moon,islamic symbolThe Islamic calendar is based on the year when the Prophet Muhammad traveled from Mecca to Medina.

The abbreviation “H” means Hegira, or flight to escape danger.

It’s a lunar calendar – each lunar month begins when the crescent of the new moon first appears, which is why the crescent moon is the symbol of Islam.

Ramadan and Idul Fitri

Indonesian Muslim girls
Reconnecting with friends...

Visitors to Indonesia this time of year hear a lot about Ramadan and Idul Fitri.

Travelers know Muslims don’t eat from sunup to sundown during Ramadan – translating into difficulty in finding food throughout the day in some locations.

Some communities ask non-Muslims to refrain from eating and drinking in public places.

From the outside looking in, it can seem like quite an inconvenience to some travelers, and they are happy to see the end of it, only to be unexpectedly inconvenienced again by Idul Fitri, or Lebaran as the holiday is also known.

But what does Ramadan, and the holiday that follows it – Idul Fitri – really mean to Muslims, and how can non-Muslim travelers gain a greater appreciation for what’s going on around them while they’re scurrying around looking for a restaurant that’s open?

Ramadan is a yearly period of reflection and self-evaluation. Muslims take a long, hard look at their lives, and try to make corrections in areas they feel they need to improve themselves.

iftar indonesia
A group of friends gather for Iftar - the breaking of the fast.

They look at relationships that have gone wrong, offer forgiveness when they have held a grudge, and seek forgiveness for wrongs they have committed against others.

One’s habits are scrutinized, and the unproductive ones disposed of.

Ramadan is also a time to reconnect with friends and family by gathering with them for the daily Iftar, or breaking of the fast, at sunset.

Ramadan is not simply refraining from food and drink during the day – it’s also a cleansing of the thoughts – negative thoughts, actions, and words are avoided. It’s a time Muslims forge their faith, and temper their obedience to Allah (God).

When Muslims go about their day during Ramadan, they try not to fall into the usual human habit of talking about other people. They try not to look at the opposite sex in a lustful way. They try to add an extra measure of honesty in their business dealings. They try to keep away from what they consider sinful behavior, and they try to treat others with more love and respect. In short, they make a serious effort to be perfect people.

Fasting is also a time to experience what it’s like not to have food, and helps them develop a sense of empathy for the less fortunate, as well as gain a greater sense of gratitude for what they have. Ramadan is a time when charitable giving is at its highest, in a way that’s similar to Christmas for Christians.

These are some lofty goals – just thinking about developing ones character into perfection is a bit daunting, let alone setting out to accomplish it. Personally, I applaud the courage it takes to look at one’s self with a critical eye, and the audaciousness it takes to head down the path of change.

How successful are they? Who am I to say? For me, it’s the intention that counts. I don’t mind waiting until evening for my favorite restaurant to open when I know what people are striving for.

Here in Jogjakarta, the ceremony of Grebeg Syawal concludes Ramadan with a parade of traditionally uniformed Kraton guards (Kingdom guards).

After Ramadan, Idul Fitri is a time when families and friends gather from far and wide to celebrate having completed this difficult time. Indonesia is on the move – public transport is packed, traffic is snarled, and hotel rates triple. For the tourist it’s a good time to lay low, somewhere quiet, until it’s over.

This year Ramadan began on August 10th and will conclude on September 9th. Idul Fitri will be September 10th and 11th, but the week following Idul Fitri will also be a busy (and expensive) travel period in Indonesia.