Muslims celebrate Eid al Fitr holiday with festivals and prayers.webp

Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr holiday with festivals and prayers – The Associated Press

BEIRUT (AP) – The holiday of Eid al-Fitr ushered in a day of prayer and joy for Muslims around the world on Friday. The celebration was marred by tragedy amid the outbreak of conflict in Sudan, while in other countries it came amid hope for a brighter future.

After the fasting month of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr with festivals and family visits. The start of the holiday is traditionally based on new moon sightings, which vary by geographic location.

In the Sudanese capital Khartoum, choppy gunfire marked the early hours of the holiday. A deadly conflict in the vast African country that erupted over the past week has forced many people to seek shelter indoors ahead of the holiday despite water and food shortages for civilians.

In Jerusalem, thousands of worshipers gathered at Islam’s third holiest shrine, Al-Aqsa Mosque, where tensions with Israeli authorities have been simmering for the past month. The grounds are also home to Judaism’s holiest site.

After the holiday prayers, a clown entertained children and a woman painted the green, red, black and white Palestinian flag on a girl’s cheek. Some participants stepped on an Israeli flag and unfurled banners in support of Palestinian militant groups.

The streets of the Arab capitals of Damascus, Baghdad and Beirut were crowded with believers heading to mosques and cemeteries. Many Muslims visit the graves of their loved ones after morning prayers on the first day of Eid al-Fitr. Visitors carried bouquets of flowers, water jugs for plants, and brooms to clean tombstones.

“After Eid prayer, we always visit our dead … to pray and pay our respects, may God have mercy on them and forgive them on this blessed day,” Atheer Mohamed said at Azamiya Cemetery in Baghdad.

The Islamic holidays follow a lunar calendar. However, some countries rely on astronomical calculations rather than physical sightings. This often leads to disagreements between religious authorities in different countries – and sometimes in the same country – about the start date of Eid al-Fitr.

This year, Saudi Arabia and many other Arab countries began their Eid celebrations on Friday, while Iran, Pakistan and Indonesia, among others, set the first holiday on Saturday.

In Sudan, the holiday was marred by a week of furious fighting between the army and its rival paramilitary forces, engaged in a violent struggle for control of the country. The fighting has killed hundreds and injured thousands.

In a video message released early Friday, his first speech since fighting broke out, Sudan’s top general Gen Abdel-Fattah Burhan marked the somber tone of the holiday. “Ruin and destruction and the sound of bullets have left no room for the happiness that everyone deserves in our beloved country,” he said.

The day before, the Sudanese military ruled out negotiations with the rival paramilitary force known as the Rapid Support Forces, saying it would only accept its surrender if the two sides continued fighting in central Khartoum and other parts of the country, threatening ruining the country Attempts to negotiate a sustainable ceasefire.

But elsewhere in the region, recent rapprochement between arch-rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran has raised hopes for peace.

In Yemen, the Saudi-Iranian rapprochement raised the possibility of an end to the civil war that had turned into a proxy conflict that had riven the impoverished country since 2014.

Saudi officials and Iran-backed Houthi rebels recently started talks in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a. In the final days of Ramadan, the warring factions exchanged hundreds of prisoners captured during the conflict.

However, the moment of hope was tarnished by a late Wednesday stampede at a charity event in the rebel-held capital that killed at least 78 people and wounded 77.

This year’s Eid al-Fitr also followed increased violence in Israel and Palestine.

Alaa Abu Hatab and his only remaining daughter began the holiday in the Palestinian Gaza Strip by visiting the graves of his wife and four children, who were killed in an Israeli airstrike on the day of Eid al-Fitr in 2021. This attack also killed Abu Hatab’s sister and her children.

“Because they were killed on Eid, I miss them especially during Eid al-Fitr. I miss their laughter,” said Abu Hatab, who was standing at his family’s grave with his six-year-old daughter Maria. The holiday has become a “scene of pain and loss,” he said.

In Kabul, Afghanistan, where believers gathered under the watchful eye of the Taliban rulers, 35-year-old Abdul Matin said: “I wish we had a good income and good jobs in addition to security. Unfortunately, people cannot afford everything they need during this difficult time.”

Many in Turkey and Syria are still mourning the loss of loved ones lost in the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the two countries on February 6, killing more than 50,000 people.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday performed morning Eid prayers at Hagia Sophia, the 6th-century Byzantine church in Istanbul that was converted into a mosque in the 15th century. It became a museum in 1934 and was converted into a mosque three years ago.

Erdogan, who faces elections next month amid an economic crisis and the aftermath of the earthquake, handed out chocolates and pastries to journalists outside the mosque, which has been renamed the Holy Ayasofya Mosque.


Associated Press journalists Ali Abdul-Hassan in Baghdad, Tia Goldenburg in Jerusalem, Fares Akram in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Rahim Faiez in Kabul, and Andrew Wilks in Istanbul contributed to this report.