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Happy Eid-ul-Adha!

Posted Nov 19 2010 8:42am
I began writing a whiny post the night before Eid (which thankfully I did not publish). Khaled had pulled an all-night-awake session after a long time. I was tired, nothing was prepared, no laundry was done. I had planned to decorate the house, make a giant dinner or breakfast, go out for eid prayers and so on. However the next day I was so exhausted, we did not leave the house until mid day and by then I was already done with eid, without having done any of those things on my list.

What I had done however was bought a few gifts for friends, neighbours and made some goodie bags for our little playgroup. The sight of that gave me some comfort and a sense of accomplishment.

But things turned around as the day progressed and seeing some familiar faces greeting us with smiles was enough to last us late in to the night. Who would have thought. Alhamdulillah. All praise is for Allah.I bear witness that there is none to worshipped save Allah, One, with no partners and I bear witness that our Master, Prophet, and Beloved Muhammad (s) is the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him).

My mom got Khaled an Arabic style "Thoub" complete with Shumaag and Ogal, from her recent trip to Saudi Arabia. We managed to get the Thoub on him, but I knew the Shumaag and Ogal (head gear) would be pushing things too far.

Here he is expressing his extreme dislike for his clothes. I knew it was not because he was uncomfortable, but a departure from the routine of jeans and shirt. So we persevered and a few hours later, Khaled was very comfortable, running around, inventing new ways to run/jump/hop in his peculiar little outfit.

He wears traditional gear really well. I think its his dark hair, skin and brown eyes that kind of match everything else.

These are not our traditional clothes because we are not Arab, but it was fun and different!

Over the years I have often lamented about being away from family during Eid. I have missed our family traditions, the bringing of the animals, the caring for them, being really sad when they are slaughtered, distributing meat, cleaning up after, visiting countless relatives, entertaining countless guests. I know some people still manage to do some of these things in foreign countries, but we don't have family here or do any of the traditional things associated with Eid-ul-Adha.

My family used to make a big deal out of Eid. My earliest memories of watching cows and goats being sacrificed is I think from when I was 6 years old or possibly younger. I know where meat comes from and that a life is taken when meat is acquired for making burgers and ribs and steaks.

The atmosphere has changed even in Pakistan and among young people in Pakistan. To them sacrifice has either become a big joke or something to be reviled. Many people will refuse to eat the meat of the sacrificed animal, think its cruel, or show disrespect to the animals by mistreating them, treating them as just a commodity to be bought and showed off around to neighbours and friends. Affluence and a deviance from Islamic values is the main reason for these attitudes, in my opinion anyway.

It is not a sacrifice if you hand the money over to someone, not knowing what is being sacrificed. It is charity and yes you have sacrificed your wealth, but I think Eid-ul-Adha taught me a lot more than just charity. I remember we used to get to know the animals that were brought to our home, sometimes weeks in advance. We would clean them, feed them, walk them around and fall in love with them. We knew they were going to give their lives in the way of Allah and it was a noble thing and this made them special and valuable and worthy of a lot of respect.

We would not slaughter one animal in front of another. We bathed, dressed up, prayed and we would cry when our animal was killed and our parents made sure we watched and appreciated that the animal had just given up its life. We were then involved in cleaning up, rationing the meat, distributing it to relatives and the needy. We would give respect to the animal by including some of its meat in our breakfast and other meals. We would feed it to our guests.

Every part of the animal, even its skin and intestines are used for some purpose, by someone and it is your responsibility to make sure that it goes in the right hands and is utilized. You are not allowed to sell any part of the animal you sacrificed, but the poor can sell the bits that are given to them by others.

It was a gift from Allah and something to be extremely grateful for. It was a huge blessing.

It was not disgusting, cruel, a joke, a mockery, or some kind of display of wealth or a feast to be arrogant about. It was a celebration, a charity, and most of all a remembrance of Allah, a remembrance of the great sacrifice, obedience and humility of His servants Ibrahim and Ishmael (peace be upon them).

I am so happy I got to experience that as a child, even if I don't experience it now. I grew up with it, and those lessons are a part of who I am. The traditions may no longer be part of my life, but remembrance of Allah is always part of our lives.

Those of us who are away or are forgetting what Eid is about or feel it was only about feeling good, getting presents, having a big social event or whatever, need to engage more in the remembrance of Allah on this occasion. We need to spend more time pondering and reflecting on His bounties and blessings.

I saw a really great lecture online a few days before Eid by Dr Bilal Philips, in which he talked about the remembrance of God and breaking free of the shackles of culture and tradition. Basically it was about how Muslims are these days more concerned about cultural and traditional practices and forgetting that every act is to be done under the umbrella of remembrance of God, and everything else is just a ritual. It becomes meaningless if you forget Allah during it or do it for some other reason other than remembering Allah.

It was a stern reminder of the community's deviance from the real reason for our practices (be it Eid, or education or whatever). He did not speak about Eid, but whatever he said I could easily apply it to Eid. I am thankful I stumbled on that lecture because it helped me realize that Eid away from family, may not be the "SAME" as eids of the past, but is absolutely nothing to be depressed about. If anything it becomes a sort of adventure in to finding new ways follow the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

I heard of families seeking out farms in the GTA where local farmers will allow them to perform the ritual sacrifice (not exactly the way it should be done), but something close to it. I was quiet intrigued and I think next year inshallah we will give it a go!

(If anyone is interested in the Shackles of the Mind lecture, by Dr Bilal Philips, you can find it on Facebook on his page.)
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