In Islam, the `Eids (feasts) carry a distinctive meaning and spirit. They are totally different from the celebrations of other nations and cultures. For other nations, a holiday is a chance to immerse in worldly pleasures or to involve in prohibited acts to the utmost. It is not the same for Muslims. For Muslims, the `Eid is an occasion to increase good deeds. Each `Eid marks the conclusion of an important worship and marks the determination of Muslims to continue their obedience and submission to Allah.
Answering this question, Sheikh Muhammad Saleh Al-Munajjid, a prominent Saudi lecturer and author, stated,
When Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) came to Madinah, he found that people had two days on which they used to feast. He said, “Allah has given you two days better than these: the day of Al-Fitr and the day of Al-Adha” (Abu Dawud).
Allah has given this Ummah two days for play and leisure. They are actually two days for remembering Allah, thanking Him, and asking Him for forgiveness.
In this world, the believers have three feasts or `Eids: one `Eid that is repeated every week, and two `Eids that come once a year. The `Eid that is repeated every week is Friday (Jumu`ah). The two `Eids that come once a year are as follows:
1. `Eid Al-Fitr (`Eid of breaking Ramadan‘s fast). This comes upon the completion of fasting the month of Ramadan, which is the third pillar of Islam. After Muslims finish fasting the month of Ramadan as enjoined upon them, Allah has prescribed that they should follow the completion of their fast with a feast in which they gather to thank Allah, remember Him, and glorify Him for His guidance. On that `Eid, it is prescribed for them to pray and give charity.
2. `Eid Al-Adha (the Feast of Sacrifice), which is the 10th day of Dhul-Hijjah. This is the greater and the better of the two feasts, and it is linked to the completion of Hajj, for when Muslims complete their Hajj they are forgiven.
Hajj is completed on the Day of `Arafah (the 9th of Dhul-Hijjah) with the standing at `Arafah, which is a major pillar of Hajj. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Hajj is `Arafah” (At-Tirmidhi).
The Day of `Arafah is the day of deliverance from Hellfire, when Allah delivers from Hellfire those who stand at `Arafah and those who do not stand at `Arafah. Hence, the day that follows it is a feast for all Muslims in all regions — for those who attended Hajj and those who did not attend.
It is prescribed for all Muslims to draw closer to Allah by means of the ritual of shedding the sacrificial blood. The merits of this day may be summed up as follows:
1. It is the best of days in the sight of Allah.
Ibn Al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) said in Zad Al-Ma`ad,
The best of days in the sight of Allah is the Day of Sacrifice, which is the greatest day of Hajj as reported in Sunan Abu Dawud, where it is narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The greatest of days in the sight of Allah is the Day of Sacrifice.”
2. It is the greatest day of Hajj.
It was narrated that Ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said, The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) stood between the Jamarat on the Day of Sacrifice during his Hajj and said, “This is the greatest day of Hajj” (Al-Bukhari).
That is because the greatest actions of Hajj take place on this day, when the pilgrims do the following:
a. Stoning Jamrat Al-`Aqabah
b. Offering the sacrifice
c. Shaving the head or cutting the hair
d. Tawaf (circumambulation of the Ka`bah)
e. Sa`i (walking between Safa and Marwah)
3. It is the `Eid of the Muslims.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The day of `Arafah, the Day of Sacrifice, and the Days of Tashreeq are our feast — we, Muslims — and they are days of eating and drinking” (At-Tirmidhi).