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Eid in the West – Retaining Our Sense of Community

Eid in the West – Retaining Our Sense of Community
Being in a non-Muslim country is one of those valuable blessings in disguise, bringing with it a whole catalogue of da’wah opportunities.

Eid Al Adha creeps up on us every year. Unlike Eid Al-Fitr, we don’t have a month-long warning of Ramadan to help us mentally prepare for the celebration. This lack of warning is even more prominent in non-Muslim countries, when some Muslims struggle to find the means and opportunity to participate in Eid festivities.

When Muslims are a minority, Eid day can bring an array of challenges for us to maneuver. However, there are some blessings in disguise that we often overlook. These blessings are rooted in our sense of community, both with our Muslim brothers and sisters, and our non-Muslim neighbors – Eid brings with it an opportunity for unity.

Isolation

As a revert, I have many happy memories of the weeks leading up to Christmas. A sense of excitement and serenity filled the air as the world slowed down; people were friendly, parents light-hearted and calm, decorations and celebratory songs filled the streets and shopping centers.

Next to these memories, Eid seemed a little anti-climactic. The world rushes by without even stopping to take a breath, and our sacred celebrations are mildly acknowledged with a few ‘Eid Mubarak’ signs over the chapatti flour in the supermarket.

Finding the time to actually celebrate can be the biggest challenge. Some schools and workplaces are mercifully providing a single day for families to spend together, but as we know, Eid festivities can stretch to more than that. Having to campaign and sometimes fight for time off to celebrate Eid can be disheartening, and the isolation only increases when we are sat at work, knowing Muslims worldwide are enjoying their celebrations.

However, it is not as bleak as it seems. Being in a non-Muslim country is one of those valuable blessings in disguise, bringing with it a whole catalogue of da’wah opportunities. Muslims are hitting headlines for all the wrong reasons, so by including the non-Muslim members of your community in Eid festivities; you will open the paths of discussion and integration, hopefully changing the negative representations of Islam.

Whether you choose to invite your neighbors over for Eid breakfast or help your masjid host a fun day, use Eid as an opportunity to reach out to your wider society and even create new friendships.

Solidarity

Without a Muslim authority leading the celebrations like in Muslim countries, Muslims across the Western world are left to their own devices to figure out when Eid day actually is. This confusion produces a dilemma – your local masjid may not provide Eid prayer on the day you have chosen to celebrate, leaving you to travel further to find an accommodating masjid with friendly faces.

However, again, do not despair. Although being in the minority can be alienating at times, it provides a rush of hope and positivity when finally reunited with those like you. When in small numbers, it is important to stick together and find your common ground. Islam connects us all, and we should use this to develop our strength as an ummah.

Eid prayer, for those who can attend, is a golden opportunity to mix with new and familiar people. Even if you do have to travel out of your comfort zone for Eid prayer, rejoice in the chance to experience a different community and make new friends.

Retaining our camaraderie in these turbulent times is imperative, more so for our children. Whilst they may be growing up feeling isolated and marginalized, allowing them to discover the beauty of a united Muslim community is a solid foundation for their iman. Give them the chance to experience the rush of love and joy when Eid hugs are distributed after salah!

Udhiyah

Being in a non-Muslim country leaves us at a slight disadvantage when it comes to the sacrifice for Eid Al-Adha. What is known as a significant moment during the Eid Al-Adha celebrations, udhiyah /qurbani can sometimes become little more than an afterthought in non-Muslim countries. On the bright side, arranging your udhiyah can be incredibly easy with many Muslim charities offering a qurbani service – simply press a few buttons on your smartphone and the whole thing can be taken care of. In some ways, this may be seen as a negative, as our engagement with this spiritual ritual is minimal.

Children

The build up to Christmas in a Western country is infamous in its length. Often starting with the onset of Autumn, the excitement and anticipation for the Christmas holidays engulfs us, and we often don’t think about the effect this can have on our children. Unfortunately, because the Christmas hype is so intoxicating, Eid celebrations can often pale in comparison.

Eid prayer, for those who can attend, is a golden opportunity to mix with new and familiar people.

Eid prayer, for those who can attend, is a golden opportunity to mix with new and familiar people.

It is important we empathize with this and do our best to make Eid an enjoyable and exciting event for our children. The internet is filled with various Hajj-themed art and craft ideas, games and decorations.

Engaging in such activities will solidify these positive memories in your child’s mind. Bringing these activities into your wider community, is another way for your child to build up their own ties with friends and family and truly experience the beauty of the Muslim ummah.

How to spend Eid day

There are still plenty of ways we can enjoy this celebration and retain our connection to our Muslim communities, even if we don’t have family to spend it with.

Host a dinner

You’ll be surprised at how many people are in the same boat as you. Not everyone has family to celebrate with, and as mentioned before, not everyone is able to get time off work to participate in the daytime celebrations. Hosting a dinner, whether at your local masjid, community center, or even in your own home, can be a fantastic opportunity for both reward and friendships.

Masjid events

Many masjids are setting excellent examples for community engagement. Eid Fun Days are becoming a wonderful tradition, some boasting rides, games, stalls, and food. Research your local masjids and see what they have planned.

Have a day out

Break tradition and take advantage of the many fun days out you can have in Western counties. Theme parks, safaris, zoos – the list is endless. If you find yourself unable to celebrate Eid with a Muslim community, create your own tradition with your friends or family and head outside. This will not only build happy memories, but also strengthen your bond with those closest to you.

Charity opportunities

The 10 Days of Dhul Hijjah are usually a great time to volunteer with Muslim charities, and this doesn’t stop at Eid, especially for those unable to celebrate in the traditional sense. Whether it is feeding the homeless an Eid meal, engaging in da’wah, or collecting supplies for struggling countries, charity is an innovative way to spend your Eid.

Unity

Eid Al-Adha is a strong reminder of our numbers as we watch the sea of Muslims circle the Ka’bah for Hajj. As current trials attack us physically, spiritually and socially, our ummah becomes weak. Use this Eid to reignite community ties and find your strength in solidarity. It doesn’t matter how or where we celebrate this festival, as long as we do it together.

First published: September 2016


About Khadijah Stott-Andrew

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