Reproduced from http://www.albalagh.net/general/shawwal.shtml
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.
Keeping this point in view, we will now discuss specific rules prescribed for observing the day of Eid-ul-fitr.
The Night Preceding ‘Eid-ul-Fitr’
It had been the practice of the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, that he would not sleep in the night preceding the day of Eid-ul-fitr. This night has been named in a Hadith as the Night of Reward (Lailatul Jaiza). Almighty bestows his rewards on those who have spent the month of Ramadan abiding by the dictates of Shari’ah, and all their prayers in this night are accepted. Therefore, it is desirable to perform nafl prayers in this night. The Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, is reported to have said:
Whoever stands up (in worship) in the nights preceding the two Eids expecting rewards from his Lord, his heart will not die when the other hearts will die. (Ibn Majah)
To benefit from this opportunity, one should perform as much worship in this night as he can, and should pray for all his needs and desires.
Before Going to Eid Prayer
The following acts are prescribed as Sunnah at the beginning of the day of ‘Eid-ul-Fitr before proceeding to the Eid prayer:
1. To wake up early in the morning.
2. To clean one’s teeth with a Miswaak or a brush.
3. To take a bath.
4. To put on one’s best available clothes.
5. To wear perfume.
6. To eat a sweet food, preferably dates, before the Eid prayer.
7. To recite the following Takbir in the low voice while going to the ‘Eid prayer:
Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar La Ilaha Ila Allah Wa Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar Wa Lillahi Alhamd