"Syawal: The Dos" By Mufti Taqi Usmani
Shawwal is the first of the three months named as "Ashhur al-Hajj" (i.e. the months of Hajj). Although the major acts of Hajj are normally performed in the first ten days of Zulhijjah, yet the whole period starting from the first of Shawwal up to the 10th of Zulhijjah is held to be the period of Hajj because some acts of Hajj can be performed any time during this period. For example, the Tawaf-ul-qudum, followed by the Sai' of Hajj cannot be performed before Shawwal, while it can be performed any day after the beginning of Shawwal. Similarly, an 'Umrah performed before Shawwal cannot be treated as the 'Umrah of Tamattu: while the 'Umrah performed in Shawwal can be affiliated to the Hajj, making it a Hajj of Tamattu: Moreover, ihram of Hajj should not be started before Shawwal, because it makruh. For these reasons these three months have been named as the 'months of Hajj' and the month of Shawwal has the distinction of being the first of these.
The second meritorious aspect of Shawwal is that it has been chosen by Allah Almighty for the celebration of "Eid-ul-fitr", one of the only two annual festivals recognized by the Shari'ah. This happy day is designed by the Shari'ah as a sign of gratefulness by the Muslims on the accomplishment of Ramadan, and as an immediate reward by Allah for those who spent the month of Ramadan in fasting and performing other forms of 'ibadah.
Instead of commemorating an event from the past, the Shari'ah has prescribed the first of Shawwal as an annual festival for the Muslims at an occasion when they themselves accomplish a great 'ibadah. This approach reminds the Muslims that they should not rely only on the accomplishments of their ancestors, rather, they should themselves perform meritorious acts to please their Creator.
In prescribing the ways to celebrate the happy day, Islam has adopted another unique approach. The festivals of other religions or nations normally comprise of some acts of rejoicing and enjoyment. The whole happy day is normally spent in dancing, singing and playing.
In contrast, Islam has prescribed a simple yet graceful way to observe the happy day. First of all, it is mandatory on all the well-off Muslims to start their day by paying "Sadaqat-ul-fitr" to the poor of their society, so that they, too, may enjoy the day along with others, and may not be worried for earning their livelihood at least on that day of happiness.
After paying the "Sadaqat-ul-fitr", the Muslims are required to proceed to an open place where they can offer the Eid prayer collectively. In this way, they are supposed to present themselves before their Creator and offer two rak'ats of this special type of Salah, which makes them receive blessings from Allah and start their celebration by these divine blessings.
After the Salah also, they are supposed to rejoice the day in a responsible manner, without violating the limits prescribed for them and never indulging in the acts prohibited by Allah.