Breaking bread together: An American convert’s take on Eidul Fitr
When I was younger, family gatherings were the highlight of our year. My siblings and I would don our finest clothes, heading out to these events with so much joy and anticipation, you’d think we were meeting the president.
Our family get-togethers celebrated an array of life events both planned and impromptu. My parents, my siblings and I would climb into our beat-up car and drive to our destination, gushing about all the ways we were going to have fun.
Celebrations like these are a means for humans to get together, and communal gatherings are essential to our survival and wellbeing. They help us unite across geographies and solidify bonds of family and friendship. As this year’s Eid approaches, I return to this idea of gathering our community and the fellowship born from Eid celebrations all over our planet. Thought I’m also wondering, where do my family and I fit? Where will we end up celebrating Eid this year?
While there is nothing like sitting and breaking bread with those you love, and making new connections with strangers you’ve just met, sometimes we are the strangers. Eidul Fitr is one of the most sacred holidays in Islam, not only because it marks the end of the holy month of Ramazan, but also for the purpose it serves as an opportunity to gather.
Like other celebrations that mark the passing of time, such as weddings and births, Eidul Fitr gives us a reason to come together and commune with one another as equal servants of Allah(SWT). It’s a built-in excuse to joyously proclaim our fellowship within the growing Muslim community across the globe. Similarly, Eid represents one of Islam’s mechanisms to ensure the gathering of its people under the banner of fellowship and mutual assistance.
Yet, Eid is always a tough time for me. Fellowship is often not that forthcoming for converts to Islam, no matter how many years have passed since they uttered the sacred words that bind us together as an ummah. Since most Muslims are tied to their communities through bonds of kinship, nationality or race, converts are often left to their own devices to find places to celebrate Muslim holidays.
In the United States, where Muslims are a minority and often suspect, suspicion has become part of our community in a post-9/11 world. The suspicion emanates as much from within our community as it does from the outside. Muslims have grown to fear strangers, and with good reason. The surveillance of our communities has come in various shapes and guises, from federal investigations linked to the global ‘war on terror’ to local municipalities recruiting spies.
On a sunnier note, this year’s Eidul Fitr is special because it will be the first Eid for my youngest daughter and more than likely the one she’ll least remember. Having a new baby in the house gives me added reason to seek community not just for myself but for her too. As she grows and learns what it means to be a Muslim, she’ll need help and it takes a community of believers to sustain faith and practice. I want her to grow up in a safe and loving environment where she has a diversity of friendships.
For some folks who live as part of a Muslim majority, this may sound a bit strange. However, for those of us living as minorities, our Muslim friends and family are doubly important. They link us to Islam in ways both direct and subtle, and their fellowship works within us with every laugh and smile we share. A Sufi sheikh I used to visit would tell me that while I sat in his presence, he was working on polishing my heart.
Celebrations like Eidul Fitr, where we can gather as a community, do a little bit of the same. They are opportunities for us to gather and practise our adab (manners) and work on each other’s hearts. With acts of kindnesses small and large during Eid, Muslims erase the suspicions and fears that our communities harbour. We also wash ourselves with the mercy and blessings that only come to us when we gather in strength and worship, eat and celebrate. Some hadith say that when two or more gather to remember Allah (SWT), the angels come to bear witness and that when we remember Allah, Allah remembers us. Remembrance is also a theme that runs throughout the Holy Quran (2:200, 5:7,7:205, 11:120).
In the Holy Quran, it’s mentioned to not forget the blessings Allah (SWT) has blessed us with, along with how Muslims take a pledge to Him by bounding ourselves by hearing and obeying. Also being aware of the fact that He knows everything, even the secrets hidden in our hearts (5:7).
Eid provides us with an opportunity to come together and remember Allah (SWT), but it also gives us a chance to remember one another and build community by establishing new bonds with our fellow Muslims or strengthening old ones. Eidul Fitr, then, is not only a celebration to mark the end of Ramazan, but also a communal act of remembrance and worship.
This post originally appeared here.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.