Eid-al-Fitr celebration in Saskatoon

Saskatoon's Muslim faithful gather in Prairieland Park exhibition hall for Eid celebration. (Kathy Fitzpatrick/CBC)

Ramadan has ended. For Muslims around the world, including here in Saskatchewan, a three-day festival of eating and visiting has begun.

It's called Eid al-Fitr.

In Saskatoon, an estimated 4,000 people gathered Monday morning in an exhibition hall in Prairieland Park.

They came from across they city, wearing their finest traditional outfits, to celebrate one of the most sacred events in the Muslim calendar, the breaking of their month-long fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

Spiritual workout

They have just spent a month abstaining from food, drink, sex and smoking during daylight hours, from about 3 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. CST.  They have also been praying more, and giving more to charity. It's both a physical and spiritual workout.

"One of the things that Ramadan really teaches is patience," said Omaer Jamil, president of the Islamic Association in Saskatoon. "How to control yourself, hold yourself, not respond if somebody says why aren't you doing like this, do this."

As the city's Muslim community grows, so has this annual gathering, one that brings together people from 60 different countries and all sects of Islam.

"Who doesn't want to celebrate after a whole month of metaphysical exercise?" said Aqeel Wahab, an outreach volunteer with the Islamic Association.

Reaching out to non-Muslim neighbours

Many see it as an opportunity to teach non-Muslims about their faith.

"It's a religion of peace, it's a religion about humanity, and it's a religion about love," said Faizah Jamil, who teaches at Saskatoon Misbah School.

Addressing the crowd, the Imam (prayer leader) said special thoughts go out to their brothers in many of the world's trouble spots, among them Syria and "Palestine". 

There was a similarly large turnout in Regina.

"There's something about fasting for an entire month that makes you more humble," said Munir Hague of the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan. "It makes you realize how other people in the world that don't have food, how they suffer every day."