Idul Fitri: Of being Victorious and Asking Forgiveness

Azis Anwar Fachrudin | CRCS | Article


Idul Fitri, also called Lebaran in Indonesia, is about to come. People will observe local traditions such as visiting family and close relatives to strengthen relationships (silaturahim) — preceded by the annual mudik tradition, an exodus to people’s hometowns in the last week of Ramadhan, and going to cemeteries to pay homage to ancestors.

There will be many Idul Fitri gatherings, known as halal bihalal, an Arabic phrase that, despite being lexically incorrect, refers to an event or ceremony in which people exchange apologies and forgiveness.

Indonesian popular greetings will include “Minal ‘aidin wal-faizin, mohon maaf lahir batin,” which is somehow unique to Indonesians and means “may we be among those returning [to the pure, natural state of humans] and coming out victorious [over ego, lust and other negative desires, through fasting]; forgive me physically and spiritually.”

Derived from the greeting, Idul Fitri is thus also referred to as the “day of victory”. Yet victories against anger and the temptation to spread slander have been questionable this year.

Arguably it is during this year’s Ramadhan that the annual debate on whether restaurants or food stalls may operate during daylight hours of the fasting month has reached its most intense level, if not most annoying, in Indonesia’s history.

This is largely due to noisy and uncontrollable social media that reacted to the broadcast news on raided food stalls. And worse, some Muslim websites spread slander and hoax news related to the owners of the raided and forcefully closed food stalls.

In fact, this is a new concern in the development of Indonesian Islam: “Islamist” websites and social media accounts have ironically become funnels or broadcasters of slander (against respectable, moderate Muslim leaders) and hoax news (particularly related to political chaos in the Middle East or the crisis of Islamic identity). Among the probable explanations: They are dedicated to strengthening Muslims’ “victim mentality” or narratives of “Islam under siege”.

The fact that these things happened during Ramadhan elevates an irony related to what the fasting month is about — the uproar of support for the raids on food stalls reflects the fact that many Muslims were focused on whether other people’s stomachs were fasting, and forgot that their own mouths and judgement needed to fast too.

This irony recalls a saying of the Prophet Muhammad, as often recited by preachers: “Many of those who fast see their fasting bring them nothing except hunger and thirst”, i.e. being strict in formalities but ignorant of the relevant values.

So how can Muslims be victorious if during fasting their ego can’t even withstand open food stalls, and instead must show its arrogance and desire of dominance? It has been commonly known among Muslims that the greatest jihad (struggle) is that against one’s own ego.

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The writer is a graduate student fellow at the Asia Research Institute, the National University of Singapore, and a master’s student at Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta



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