Sunday, December 30, 2007

What did you do on Eid?

Picture the scenario on a cold misty November night. The last of the tarawih prayers are offered across the mosques in the country. All eyes and ears are upon the Imam as he takes to the minbar; he awaits confirmation, which is provided by a whisper in his ear. Smiles of jubilation erupt across the congregation as the Imam praises Allah (swt) making supplication that the good deeds of Ramadhan are accepted and announces that the new crescent moon has indeed been sighted and the blessed day of Eid ul Fitr has arrived.

On the day of Eid the Muslims arrive in their droves, dressed in their best garments and glorifying Allah (swt) as the Eid Takbeers reverberate around the Masjid. The sweet smell of musk wafts across the prayer area. The congregation stands shoulder to shoulder for the salah and warmly embrace each other at the end of the Eid Khutbah.

People return home to delicious food and their families. Phone calls are conducted overseas and sweets and gifts are exchanged. Relatives pay visits to one another and the families greet each other with warmth and compassion. This is a typical example of the Eid day, which is probably familiar to many of us.

It's Eid, but not as we know it…
However, there is a more sinister side to the Eid celebrations of the Muslim youth. Having participated in the more "traditional" aspect of Eid during the day with family, the Muslim youth have a second celebration in the evenings. Only this time, family is not invited and the events of the night are not for the fainthearted.

From Wilmslow Road to Edgware Road, Southall Broadway to Green Street, the activity of the Muslim youth is all too familiar. The more "traditional" dress of the day is exchanged for the latest gear. The sweet smell of musk and namaz, topis are replaced by aftershave, gel and lipstick. Hours are spent in preparation but alas this effort is not for the pleasure of Allah (swt).

Limousines and sports cars hired for the day cruise up and down the road whilst others conduct street races. Bhangra music is blasted from tinted windows and Pakistan flags are displayed. The girls are extravagantly dressed and parade themselves in a manner not befitting a Muslim sister. The boys blast their horns in approval in some sort of animalistic mating ritual.

Many hold "Eid Mela parties," where often the Hindu and Sikh youth are also invited. The "Eid Mela" is no more than a glorified nightclub with alcohol and flirting commonplace.

It is not unusual for fighting to erupt amongst the Muslim youth on this night usually involving disputes over girlfriends.

The stench of weed has replaced that of Asian sweets and the latest 'R&B' rhythms have displaced the Eid takbeer. Festivities continue late into the night, with youth travelling from one hot spot to another.

Ramadhan seems a distant memory as does the Tarawih prayers, which many of these youth clamoured to attend. Instead, worship is conducted at the altar of sensual pleasure. The atmosphere surrounding the day of Eid is one of relaxing and "chilling". For some of the youth it is a time to "blaze up" and enjoy themselves.

For many the day of Eid is viewed as the time to unwind after the rigours of Ramadhan and 'let their hair down' and reacquaint themselves with their favourite past times. Hence we see this translating into actions such as cruising down the Broadway, checking out the "talent" and generally living it up.

What happened to Eid?
For many Muslims, the very notion of the alternative Eid causes them to shudder with disgust. However it is an undeniable fact that more and more Muslim youth are being drawn to the occasion. Parents scratch their heads inamazement and some react by locking up their children to prevent them from such activity. However, the youth are victims of western society and in particular one ugly aspect of society; namely secularism.

In the West, religions and festivals are deemed to be a momentary distraction from day to day life. Hence we can see this with the way some Christians treat Lent, as a time for temporary abstinence from worldly pleasures but then they happily return to their lifestyle of old once Lent is over. This is because Christianity does not offer them anything apart from these meaningless festivals and many of them have been transformed into an excuse to get drunk and party. For example, every year St Patrick's Dayis celebrated with copious amount of Guinness, to the extent that this day has become synonymous with the beverage.

This same idea of secularism is responsible for the way Ramadhan and Eid have begun to be viewed by many of the Muslim youth. Hence the Muslim youth are affected by this idea and consequently they just view Ramadhan as a religious festival and as a time to abstain from "worldly" desires and sins. The natural repercussion of viewing Ramadhan as a month of 'restriction" is that its end is something to be celebrated. Hence we can see this idea in the behaviour of the youth on Eid. The day of Eid is now viewed as a time to cut loose, after all the Muslims have fasted and abstained from their desires for one whole lunar month. The idea of secularism dictates that it is time to now return to normal proceedings and abandon religion until the return of the next Ramadhan. Hence the Muslim youth are willing to fast and pray as much as they can during Ramadhan.

They will attend the Jumu'a prayers with zeal and many break off contact with the opposite sex. They are willing to do all of this because they know in their minds that Ramadhan will indeed come to an end. And then restrictions are lifted until the following year. Therefore Eid is viewed as the time to celebrate the end of the restriction and this manifests itself in the festivities of the night. And the vicious cycle continues year after year.

The true Eid
It is an undeniable fact that the day of Eid ul-Fitr is special in Islam and should be celebrated, as the Prophet (pbuh) said: "When I came to you, you had two days which you used to celebrate in jahiliyah. Allah has replaced them for you with better days, the days of slaughter (adhaa) and the day of Fitr." [Al Baihaqi in his Sunan]

However the way the Muslims view Ramadhan and the day of Eid should be in accordance with Islam and consistent with the Hukm Shara [divine rules]. Eid should not be viewed through secular eyes.

If we look to the examples of the Sahabah (companions of the prophet) we can see how they would treat the arrival of Eid. The Sahabah would literally stay up praying and crying all night, for they would feel a genuine loss that the month of Ramadhan was over and that the shayateen would be let free from their chains. It has been narrated that when the Prophet's (pbuh) companions met each other on the Eid day, they would say to each other: "May Allah accept from us and from you". [Related by Ahmad]

Hence we can see that the attitude of the Sahabah was not that the restrictions had been lifted - rather they would lament the loss of the month of Ramadhan and greet each other with humility. The way the Muslims should view Ramadhan is that it is not a time to just "give things up"; rather it is a time to gain reward and forgiveness and this change should be carried throughout the year.

Notwithstanding all of this, the day of Eid is to be celebrated in accordance with the Islamic injunctions. It is narrated by Imam Bukhari, Imam Muslim and Imam Ahmad that Aaisha (ra), the mother of the believers, said, "People from Abyssinia (Ethiopia) used to fence with swords in the masjid on the day of Eid. I used to watch them while I was standing behind the Prophet's shoulders. I kept watching, until I was satisfied and then left."

The celebration of this blessed day must be in accordance with Islam and must not violate any of the commands of Allah (swt).

As Muslims living in the West it has become apparent that not even the days of Eid ul Fitr are safe from the ill effects of secularism. The Muslims must be weary of any attempt to redefine Islam and bracket it with Christianity and other religions.

The Muslim youth must realise that our identity as Muslims is in jeopardy residing in the West. Indeed, the way we view Eid ul Fitr and Ramadhan is not as festivals or empty rituals. The days of Eid should be viewed as an opportunity to gain the pleasure of Allah (swt), to spend time with family and to mark the occasion in a halal manner.

The "alternative" Eid has no place in Islam and would earn the individual the wrath of Allah (swt).

Faisal Chaudury
Source: Khilafah Magazine 2003

1 comment:

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