1. Eid is a time of celebration but is it meritorious to remember those who are less fortunate than ourselves on this day?
Yes. Eid is not simply a matter of celebration and joy. It is also a chance to share the feelings of those around us. That is why the sacrifice is offered and shared with friends, even with non-Muslims. We are not stopped from sharing with those of our neighbours who are non-Muslim. Charity is very important and meritorious on the two Eids. It is an affirmation of our responsibility to the community in which we are living.
(4 - Important Days 4)
2. What is the background and significance to the "six", post-Ramadhan fasts that many people in my family observe every year?
The significance of fasting for 6 days after Ramadhan is enshrined in one of the Prophet's, upon whom be peace & blessings, traditions. The Messenger of God, upon whom be peace & blessings, is reported to have told someone that "Fasting throughout Ramadhan followed by 6 days during the month of Shawwal would be rewarded as if one has fasted all the year round".
Muslim scholars calculated that Ramadhan plus 6 extra days amounted to exactly one tenth of a calendar year. Hence, for someone fasting this period to benefit with the same reward as a whole year's fasting meant ten times as much reward. The Ulama' worked it out in the following way: someone fasting during Ramadhan (for 1 month) is granted 10 times reward - equivalent to a 10 month fast. Similarly, a Muslim who fasts for 6 days in the following month of Shawwal is rewarded the same as (6x10=60 days), or 2 months of fasting. The 10 months added to 2 months amounts to 12 months, or 1 year. Thus, 1 year's regard for fasting for Ramadhan and part of Shawwal. Fasting during Shawwal is considered to be the continuation of the moral and spiritual lessons learned during Ramadhan.
These fasts do not necessarily have to begin after Eid ul-Fitr. Fasting on the day of Eid is not allowed so one day's break is compulsory. The 6 fasts can be done during any other time during the month of Shawwal.
(163 - Siyam 5)