Today marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting for Muslims, and a 3-day celebratory holiday called Eid-al-Fitr. After living so many years in Muslim countries I miss the celebrations and the time off. I miss the beautiful clothes and the spirit of festivity. To my delight, as I rushed to catch the subway, I almost bumped into a beautiful Pakistani couple. She had on an emerald-green shalwar chemise with gold embroidery and he was splendid in a Jinnah suit. Their little boy was equally dressed up and belonged in a Pakistani wedding. In delight I greeted them with the traditional “Eid Mubarak!” which basically means “Have a feast blessed by God!” although I welcome readers to correct me!
While Ramadan creates a sense of lethargy and far less activity, Eid-al-Fitr will change the landscape and bring on the festivities and food! Menus and cuisine vary according to country, with Egypt serving special sweets called “Kahk” and date-filled cookies and Pakistan serving huge plates of biryani (spicy rice and chicken) and kheer , a sweet rice dish.
Hospitality, always a high priority, is even more visible and there is a special charity expected during Eid-al-Fitr.
I remember this holiday from the time I was young. My first memory probably comes from Hyderabad, Pakistan where my father took my brothers and me out to watch Eid prayers at a large mosque. Thousands of men, all dressed in new clothes, and all bowing in unison with no sounds but the Call to Prayer and their personal quiet murmurings “Bismillah, ir Rahman ir Rahim” (In the Name of God, most Gracious, most Compassionate) made a strong impression on me as a child. The picture has stayed with me through all the Eid celebrations I have witnessed through the years. As a child and as an adult I have been welcomed into many homes during Eid al Fitr to celebrate with Muslim families. In my adult years, I have to confess that I have never reciprocated by inviting a Muslim family to dinner on Christmas. It is not something of which I am proud.
The lens through which we view the world is shaped by many things. I think I speak for many of us who grew up in the Muslim world, but were not Muslims, that we are often perplexed by the vehemence and hostility with which people respond to the Muslim world. This was not something that our parents taught us, not something that we were familiar with as children. While no one can deny nor justify the horror of terrorism and events in this country on 9/11, equating all Muslims and fearing them as terrorists is like equating all Christians as Westboro Baptist church.
An NPR story that came to my attention through my brother Stan called A Ramadan Story Of Two Faiths Bound In Friendship : NPR speaks to something more familiar. That is friendship between people with a recognition that there are distinct differences between Islam and Christianity. My friend Nancy, who grew up in Al Ain but went to school in Pakistan, commented on the article that “Sheikh Zayed made a compound, land AND a chapel available to the handful of missionaries who set up the Oasis Hospital in Al Ain in 1960. He wanted health care for the people, and he wasn’t threatened by their faith” My brother recalled “a story 150 years ago when Kyrgyz welcomed Mennonite farmers newly arrived in Central Asia. They offered them the use of their mosque for their Sunday meeting until they had their own place of worship.”
To build relationships with people of other faiths is not compromising our faith. Rather, it’s living out a faith that is not threatened but firm.
I am not a Muslim, but today I wish my Muslim friends Eid Mubarak and am grateful to them for what I have learned through the years about devotion, faith, and hospitality.
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. – Micah 6:8
- Most Muslims to Begin Eid Holiday Tuesday – Voice of America (blog) (news.google.com)
- Muslim holy month of Ramadan ends with new moon sighting (theglobeandmail.com)
- Ramadan holy month ends with Saudi moon sighting (seattletimes.nwsource.com)