August 18, 2012 ·10 Comments
XINING — After a month of fasting, hundreds of thousands of Muslims in northwest China’s Qinghai Province flocked to mosques to celebrate the end of Ramadan on Saturday.
Ma Guoqing got up at 6 a.m., washed himself and cleaned his house for the celebration of Eid al-Fitr, the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Ma, 57, a villager of Taerwan Village in the Hui-Tu Autonomous County of Datong in northwest China’s Qinghai Province, donned his new festival outfits and joined over 4,200 others at the local mosque to welcome the first day of fast-breaking festival.
Due to different religious sects, Qinghai starts the festival on Saturday, while other Muslim-populated regions, including Xinjiang and Ningxia, will celebrate the festival on Sunday.
Ramadan is a festival of fasting and spiritual reflection. During Ramadan, the ninth month of the year on the Muslim calendar, Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex from sunrise to sunset.
“This is one of the most sacred and honorable festivals for our Muslims,” said Ma, taking off his shoes and laying a rug on the floor before turning toward Mecca to pray to Allah.
Meanwhile, more than 150,000 Muslims filed into Dongguan Mosque, located in the provincial capital of Xining, to attend the fast-breaking service and hear imams preach.
Although there was a light rain in the morning, rugs brought there by worshippers stretched for miles along on the streets outside the mosque.
Just 10 days before the festival, the mosque set up three donation sites to collect money for the poor.
“Giving to charity is a merit for Muslims,” said Ma Yong’an, who is in charge of one donation site in Dongguan Mosque, adding that his site can collect about 1,000 yuan (157 U.S. dollars) every day.
“Ramadan and the fast-breaking festival can purify the souls of the Muslims and strengthen their respect for Allah,” said Mian Weizhong, a professor at Qinghai Normal University.
After the service, worshippers will visit cemeteries to honor their deceased relatives in accordance with traditional customs.
The fast-breaking festival will last for three days. People will visit their relatives and friends and share delicacies that were prepared at least a week before the holiday.
Yang Zhonghui, 37, a villager of Taerwan, remembered that his family could only buy about 1 kilogram of meat and a little dessert to offer to guests during the festival 20 years ago.
But, with improvements in the quality of life, he can not only serve his guests decent food, but also make efforts to realize his dream of going to Mecca.
In recent years, more and more people have seen their incomes rise by engaging in transport work and running restaurants. Six villagers may have the opportunity to go to Mecca this year, according to Huang Shengfu, the Communist Party of China’s committee secretary of the village.
According to statistics, nearly 14,000 Chinese pilgrims visited Mecca in 2011.
August 18, 2012Follow @somalilandpress
By Hassan Ali