RALEIGH (WTVD) --Wednesday marked the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting and thousands of Muslim families celebrated.
The holiday is called Eid al-Fitr and to better understand what it means to many who are celebrating, ABC11 went to the festivities organized by the Islamic Association of Raleigh at the NC State Fairgrounds to ask the organization's chairman, Mohamed Elgamal, what the celebration is all about.
What is Eid?
"Well there are two days in the Islamic calendar. One of them is today which marks the end of Ramadan, which is the month of fasting, and the other one is the Eid of sacrifice, we call it Eid uh-Adha which is about two months and ten days from today," he explained.
"So today is Eid al-Fitr and I think after a whole month of fasting the people are celebrating. They gave to the needy, they fast for 30 days, they actually did lots of good deeds, so they are really celebrating these things," he continued.
"Eid today, which is the feast, is a day of festivities and of family. People visit each other and it's actually, they do nothing except being happy and they actually forgive each other for everything that happened in the past, so it's a new beginning also for people to be good together."
"So today we had over 10,000 people in this building, and we thank Allah, we thank God, for giving us all these blessing which we have, good health, good country, and a good state, so we are blessed to have all these good things.
"So it's time actually to thank the creator for giving us all these blessings, so again it's time for reflection on all the good things that we have."
Tell me a little bit about the celebration?
"At almost 7:30, we opened the doors for this building, so the people started to come and at 9 o'clock we had prayers and we had a ceremony by Imam Mohamed AbuTaleb. It was a very good ceremony and actually people loved it," said Elgamal.
"The people were very happy and they congratulated each other, hugging and smiling and handshakes, and after that the people go and have breakfast together because it's around 10 o'clock, and people will come back here around 11 o'clock."
"As you can see in the background, lots of kids are happy, playing with the inflatables here, and with their families, and after that the people also maybe have dinner together, or visiting, just having maybe coffee and tea together or some sweets together."
"So it's a time actually to celebrate, and I think this is also a time, an important time for reflection. We reflect on so many things happening in the United States and around the world."
"In the United States, we are really blessed to have a good country, and we have peace here at least. Some other people don't have that good things that we have, so we pray for them to have better peace, and we also pray to defeat the terrorism around the world, including ISIL."
"They have nothing to do with Islam, and we are against really, them, against any kind of violence, against any sort of terrorism. So we pray that peace will be all over the world, so we pray for peace."
"We pray for prosperity, for happiness, good health, for each other, for everyone and I think that's what we're really doing today."
Muslims celebrate end of Ramadan
"Worshipers commemorate the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting, with a day of celebration and happiness called Eid. The day begins with a communal prayer praising and thanking God for His blessings, and praying for the well-being of others and especially those in need. After a month of not eating or drinking during the daytime hours, Muslims enjoy food, sweets, and fun and share with those who are less fortunate," explained Mohamed AbuTaleb, Imam at IAR.
What happens during Ramadan?
"But during Ramadan also, we provided the homeless and the needy with iftar, which is food, every day, and those needy, they are non-Muslims and Muslims as well, but we don't distinguish between Muslims and non-Muslims."
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"We don't force our principals on other people. We just abide by our religion . . . only on us, we don't really ask other people to change their faith, but if they want to change, well, that is their decision. There is no compulsion in Islam at all."
During Ramadan, the Islamic Association of Raleigh invited local law enforcement to break the daily fast with you for a meal you call Iftar. Why?
"I really believe it takes the community together to fight the extremists, and that includes us. It includes law enforcement, so we really work together with law enforcement - either Raleigh Police Department, Chapel Hill Police Department, Durham Police Department, Cary Police Department, FBI, SBI and all sorts of law enforcement."
"So in Ramadan we just like to share because they are protecting us, and just to show our appreciation and gratitude we invite them to have Iftar with us during Ramadan and they did and it was really good."
"It was good, so this means in a symbolic way that we are together. We are fighting together, we are on one team, not us against you or vice versa."
What would you like people to know?
"The month of Ramadan, the fasting is not only in the Islamic religion. It is in Judaism and Christianity. It's not something new to people of faith, but it takes different forms. We fast from . . . before dawn, until the sunrise."
"And I think it has lot so benefits, health benefits, but most importantly it's also, it purifies the soul of the person. It reminds me more of the needy people - if you're hungry during the day or thirsty, only during the day."
"And we have to remember those who are really hungry all the time and thirsty all the time, and the people who don't even have water, or clean water or even food to eat, so it's a very clear reminder that we really have to take care of these people, as the creator also is taking care of us."
Several people shared what Ramadan means to them. Watch what they had to say below.
A man named Mohamed Okasha translated Aupgarn's comment made in Arabic. Okasha tells us Aupgarn said "Eid for us is happiness, after we fast for 30 days, we gather for Eid prayer, meeting all of our friends, wearing new nice clothes, everything is new. We make sweets and things like that, a tradition that is made for this occasion."
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