This year, the month of Ramadan concludes on April 21. Upon concluding the fast, Muslims will celebrate with Id al-Fitr, which means the Festival of the Breaking. In many Muslim majority nations, this holiday lasts three days. People gather in celebration and give gifts to family and friends. The holiday marks the conclusion of a month of rigorous denial and devotion.
Id al-Fitr (the Festival of the Breaking), as well as Id al-Adha (Festival of the Sacrifice), have Jewish roots. In Medina, Muhammad observed that the Jews fasted during the great celebration of Atonement. According to Islamic tradition, Muhammad inquired from the Jews about the reason for their fasting. He was informed that it was a remembrance of their deliverance from Egyptian slavery. When the Jews refused to join this new religion of Islam, Muhammad commanded his followers to fast as did the Jews, thus shifting the fasting from the Day of Atonement to the month of Ramadan.
In the place of the Jewish sacrifice on the Day of Atonement, Muhammad introduced Id Al-Adha (the Festival of Sacrifice) where an animal is sacrificed to commemorate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Ishmael to God. As Christians who believe the Bible, we know that these events did not occur in Mecca, and that it was Isaac, not Ishmael, who was supposed to be the sacrifice. Sobhi Malek makes an astute observation:
As misplaced as these ritual and beliefs may appear in light of biblical material, they are, nevertheless, profoundly insightful. Deep within the psyche of Muhammad and the Arab people, and subsequently all Muslims, whether Arab or not, is an intense longing to be counted in the family of Abraham, the Friend of God.” (Healing the Broken Family of Abraham: New Life for Muslims, p. 29)
Our prayer is that Muslims will experience the true “breaking” off of sins through the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, who was sacrificed on the cross in payment for their sin!
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed (broken), that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. (Rom. 6:6-8)
Muslims are attempting to please Allah and gain merit through their works, including fasting during the month of Ramadan, but Muslims can only be made “alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:11).
What can we do to impact our Muslim neighbors during the holiday of Id al-Fitr or Id al-Adha, which comes sixty days later?
These holidays are open doors to build relationships and trust with Muslims. As they are celebrating their holidays, you can visit them and offer your greetings and best wishes. You may even want to bring them a small gift of sweets or a dessert. As you build a friendship, it is not unusual for them to invite you to join them in this celebration of Id al-Fitr. It is also a great opportunity to ask questions about Islam in a way that will help you gain respect from the Muslims as well as build trust. It will also give you an opportunity to share about the Gospel and pray with them. May the Lord lead you to opportunities this Id al-Fitr to share with Muslims the true breaking that can happen through Jesus Christ.