Understanding the Difference Between Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha

President William Ruto hosting Iftar Dinner at State House, Nairobi on April 8, 2024.

Monday, June 17th marks the celebration of Eid-ul-Adha here in Kenya, one of the two major Islamic festivals observed globally each year.

Alongside Eid-ul-Fitr, these festivals hold deep religious significance within the Muslim community, though they differ significantly in their meaning, rituals, and historical origins.

Meaning and Significance

Eid-ul-Fitr, known as the "Festival of Breaking the Fast," celebrates the conclusion of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. It is a time for Muslims to express gratitude for the spiritual growth and self-discipline achieved during the fasting period.

In contrast, Eid-ul-Adha, also called the "Festival of Sacrifice," honours the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son Ismael as an act of obedience to Allah's command. This Eid points to the values of devotion, selflessness, and compassion towards others.

Historical Context

Eid-ul-Fitr finds its roots in the early teachings of Islam, where Prophet Muhammad emphasised fasting during Ramadan as a pillar of faith. The month is revered as the period when the Quranic revelations began.

Eid-ul-Adha's origins trace back to the story of Prophet Ibrahim, who demonstrated unwavering faith and obedience through his willingness to sacrifice his son, Ismael. Allah intervened and provided a ram as a substitute, cementing the Eid's emphasis on sacrifice and divine mercy.

Muslims praying in Mombasa County on April 10, 2024.
Muslims praying in Mombasa County on April 10, 2024.
Hassan Joho

Timing and Observances

Eid-ul-Fitr commences immediately after the sighting of the new moon, marking the start of the Islamic month of Shawwal.

Conversely, Eid-ul-Adha falls on the 10th day of Dhul Hijjah, coinciding with the completion of the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Both festivals begin with communal prayers, but

Eid-ul-Adha uniquely includes the tradition of Qurbani, the sacrifice of an animal whose meat is distributed among family, friends, and the less fortunate.

Both Eids follow the Islamic lunar calendar, which differs from the solar calendar by approximately 11 days annually. This variance causes the dates of Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha to change each year.

Rituals and Customs

During Eid-ul-Fitr, Muslims dress in new clothes, share festive meals, and exchange gifts as symbols of joy and unity. It is customary to offer Zakat al-Fitr, a form of charity, before the Eid prayer.

In contrast, Eid-ul-Adha's central ritual is Qurbani, which symbolises the willingness to sacrifice cherished possessions for the sake of Allah. The meat from Qurbani is shared to ensure no one is left without during this time of celebration.

Both Eids are observed globally, uniting Muslims in shared celebrations of faith and community.

In essence, Eid al-Fitr is a joyous celebration of overcoming challenges and strengthening faith through Ramadan. Eid al-Adha, on the other hand, is a solemn reminder of Prophet Ibrahim's sacrifice and a call to emulate his devotion and commitment. While both Eids involve prayers, feasting, and family gatherings, their core meanings and rituals differ significantly.

Understanding these distinctions allows us to appreciate the richness and depth of Islamic traditions, where celebrations are deeply intertwined with faith, sacrifice, and compassion.

Photo of Muslims Conducting prayers
Photo of Muslims Conducting prayers