Sometimes I find myself wishfully wondering, how lovely it would be if a Muslim who wanted to practice Islam could have it all, in one location?
And by “all”, I mean: the freedom to practice and preach their Deen; a clean, safe and secure environment to raise and educate their children; affordable food, housing, education, and healthcare; employment opportunities/career growth for anyone who works hard; and a society based on the legal and political system provided by Islam, that endorse /uphold peace, justice, integrity, equality, and enforce all the laws of Allah.
In reality, though most of us strive to seek it, we can hardly find any one such society anywhere in the world today, which possesses all of the above traits. Consequently, many endeavor to relocate elsewhere in the world based on their most dire need in life at any particular stage, be it education, marriage, housing, or healthcare. Therein lies the test for us all.
Granted, this world is a potpourri of one trial and test after another, and we should never forget that the only place that we should truly covet, above all else, as an abode of eternal peace and an unabated state of blessings, is Paradise in the Hereafter.
Yet, ever since the industrial revolution that took place in the last century, and the internet revolution that occurred more recently, rising globalization has left each Muslim and their family flying off more frequently across continents in an effort to try and acquire benefits that another country in the world has to offer to them at that particular stage in their lives.
Families Physically Apart, Yet Virtually Connected
Grandmothers Skyping every single day of their lives to bond over digital screens with their grandchildren living thousands of ocean miles across the world. Husbands spending several months a year apart from their wives and children, to avail employment opportunities in another country. College-bound teenagers flying off to another country to avail more recognized degree programs. Mothers of teens leaving their husbands behind to accompany their offspring to the locations where they’ll be enrolling into college.
It is not uncommon for a person nowadays to have siblings, parents, grandparents, in-laws, nephews/nieces, and cousins, all in different countries.
Consequently, Muslims of every family are increasingly finding themselves spending more than just the festive occasion of Eid apart from their close family members every year.
Wistful sighs and forlorn expressions appear as planes are boarded and tearful goodbyes are exchanged too often for the sake of worldly, educational, immigration-related, or professional pursuits, knowing that the next Eid will be spent alone, missing one’s family in another country and wishing to be with them on that day.
Just as modern transport has shrunk the world, thankfully, so has technology done away with the historic barriers to instant communication that came tenaciously along with geographical distance.
A handy phone, tablet, or a perpetually connected home or office computer coupled with digitally tuned-in world-clocks attuned to the local times in the cities of every relative across the world,– with these gadgets in one’s possession nowadays, one hardly feels isolated or lonely, thanks to being able to communicate with close family members on a daily basis.
Tribulations Raining Down
Our deceptive worldly bubble bursts often whenever a disturbing and horrific event happens anywhere in the world that shakes us out of our heedless slumber caused by blind pursuit of worldly goals, such as education, home, marriage, money, children and material blessings.
There is only so much that one can conjecture about, and/or give credibility to, what they hear, read, and see on the news. Why violent events unfold, why horrifying crimes are committed, and by whom, is best known only to Allah at the end of the day.
Yet, every single year, more than a few large-scale natural disasters/calamities and humanly engineered acts of violence in the form of massacres, leave us feeling depressed, devastated, confused, angered, and for some unfortunate ones, sorely grieving the loss of loved ones.
Every state of our being, whether it is temporary wellness and enjoyment of ample provisions; or pain, loss and sorrow, are embodiments of the tests and trials of the life of this world that Allah sends our way, in order to see whether we continue to obey and worship Him no matter what, or not.
Similarly, the temptation of acquiring more power, money and success, as well as situations in which we fear losing these blessings unless we ‘water down’ or totally give up our faith in Islam, are both a form of test.
What we do and how we react to provocative, make-or-break situations involving allegiance to other people in the form of groups, i.e. who we side with, support, or stand by, and who we oppose and condemn, are also a test of our faith.
One with the Pilgrims
Whenever Eid comes around in the Islamic calendar, it does so after a period of blessed days, in which all the Muslims around the world are commanded to strive extra hard in the worship of Allah, by fasting during the day, praying extra at night, and giving wealth generously in charity.
As trials and tribulations rain down upon the ummah in one form or another, at every Eid, like a breath of fresh air, Muslims around the world get yet another chance to unite in their sincere endeavors to return to their Lord, seeking His forgiveness for their sins and beseeching Him for guidance.
As waves of political unrest dot the Eastern part of the world, the common masses ‘protesting’ against their leaders/governments, homes and communities being destroyed by drone attacks, on-the-ground retaliative violence being led by rebels, random and targeted killings being carried out via gunshots and bomb blasts, and each Muslim group condemning the other whilst claiming to be upon the truth, — amidst this chaos, what is a Muslim to do? What should they think? Whom should they side with?
The lure of peace, security, material comfort, free education, and better healthcare, coupled with the pressure to assimilate into non-Muslim societies by ‘watering down’ one’s practice of Islam in order to avoid being attacked or marginalized by the growing number of “Islamophobes”, and struggling to hold on to one’s Islam after reverting to it in face of the upsurge of challenges and opposition that it brings, are the trials of Muslims specific to the Western part of the world.
Wherever a Muslim might be in the world, they have their own particular set of concerns, challenges, issues and problems to overcome with grit.
Amidst all this, the ten-day prelude period of Hajj comes as a welcome sigh of relief!
Conclusion: Focus on Uniting this Eid
Whatever your situation might be, whether it is that of joy and plenty, or of loss and grief, try to set aside your personal concerns and issues this Eid, and look at the bigger picture around the world.
Whether you’re a pilgrim in Makkah eagerly hoping for forgiveness of your lifelong sins during this hajj; or a refugee living in a tent after having lost their property in a drone attack; or a traumatized Muslim surrounded by the remnants of this past year’s recent destruction; or a new Muslim wondering how to pass yet another Eid feeling lonely and miserable at work/school because of a total dearth of support from the local Muslim community; or an apathetic bystander witnessing a political revolution and civic unrest, wondering if it is even permissible to desire normalcy in life whilst knowing that millions around the world will go on suffering due to calamities and crime.
No matter which “group” you belong to in this ummah, focus all your senses on glorifying and praising your Lord during these blessed days before Eid, and on asking for His forgiveness on the Day of Arafah, when He will be doling it out to all the repentant pilgrims in Arafah.
Make arrangements to sacrifice an animal eagerly, resolve to distribute its meat eagerly, and say “Allahu Akbar” very often in the days leading up to Eid. Forgive all your Muslim brethren, even if they are making grave mistakes of ideology and action, and pray for guidance to the haqq, for yourself and them.
Lastly, remember to include your new brethren in faith into your Eid celebrations, by making your social Eid gatherings less insular and more tolerant of those who are supposedly still behind you in piety, faith and righteous action.