The parking lot at the Foundation for Islamic Education Villanova Masjid on Montgomery Avenue was packed Thursday morning with area Muslims celebrating Eid al-Fitr — the Festival of Breaking the Fast.
During Ramadan, which lasts one month according to the lunar calendar, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, said Bala Cynwyd resident W. John Yahya Vandenberg, who is active in Philadelphia area Muslim community groups and currently is on the board of the Nationalities Service Center in Philadelphia.
About 200,000 Muslims live in the Philadelphia area. (Full disclosure: Vandenberg is a friend.)
No eating. No drinking. No smoking.
“Those are the physical aspects,” Vandenberg said Thursday evening. There are spiritual aspects, too.
“We get so busy and this is one month of the year that Muslims are encouraged to think about God more and think about their faith more, think about people who need charity, think about family and really have a lot of shukr.” That’s Arabic for being grateful for what you have.
Even when he is fasting — especially when he is fasting — Vandenberg said he is reminded of what he has when he sees a person on the street with a sign asking for food.
Eid al-Fitr began Wednesday at sundown. Thursday morning, Muslim families went to their mosques and made a donation for breaking the fast and for other causes such as the mosque’s upkeep. A special prayer is recited and the imam gives a sermon.
Then it’s celebration time, with a dash of reflectiveness still in the mix. And eating time. Muslims must eat on Eid al-Fitr.
“It’s a great time to spend with family,” Vandenberg said. And that’s what he, his wife, their two daughters, and their grandmother have done — been together, visiting other loved ones.
“We’ve gone to two or three different houses today to spend time with friends,” he said.
Children might get candy or gifts. They definitely get to enjoy playing together, Vandenberg said, as mom and dad “get used to having caffeine during the day again.”
Eid al-Fitr lasts three days. So if you see a Muslim friend or coworker, wish them Eid Mubarak, Arabic for “Blessed Eid” or Eid Said, which means “Happy Eid.”