Today I sit at the mosque here in Minnesota and on my right are two American convert friends, on my left an elderly Somali woman, in front of me a Pakistani woman; down a little further are some Asian women, perhaps Malaysian or Indonesian; and the room is salt and peppered with Egyptians and women of other Arab origins.
It is Eid.
Our holiday is a holiday of deepening joy. It begins with giving. The original sunnah is to hand a measure of food to someone in need, which nowadays has translated to filling a box with cash at the masjid. Al hamdulilah! We walk towards prayer knowing that it needs to be done before the first takbir.
Then the prayer… What an exciting prayer! First we all sit and sing or chant the takbiraat… At the mosque I am at this morning, people of different nationalities keep taking the lead so at times the tune is closer to what I have been used to (from Arab lands) and at other times the tune holds African intonations that are unfamiliar to me. It is gorgeous.
Then we stand to pray and after shuffling purses and a rebellious car seat, we are standing shoulder to shoulder – and lo and behold – with enough room for sujood in front of us. The Imam calls out ‘Allahu akbar’ and the prayer begins. There is an immediate hush upon the chatty and cheerful attendants. I hear a lone baby fussing in the other room. The Imam calls out again ‘Allahu akbar’ – which he will repeat seven times for this prayer that insists, declares and proclaims the greatness of God Almighty. He is Great. He is Generous. He is the Lord of Ramadan and the Giver of blessings. Eyes fill with tears and hearts soften as the reward of Ramadan descends upon us.
When the prayer is over, smiling faces greet one another and the imam tries to quiet us down to tell us his khutba message. Finally we settle down and he begins. He is an immigrant Egyptian, and I hear the Arabic in his English. It makes me smile a warm smile. Towards the end, while my heart is overflowing with love for my Muslim people, he says, “Let us pray.” My head snaps up to make sure I’m in the right place. A phrase I haven’t heard since my church days, I smile and wonder if any other convert in the room has caught that. I know for certain the Imam has no idea that he has just borrowed a phrase said at every Lutheran Sunday service. The prayer (du’a) is short and suddenly everyone is up and laughing and hugging and talking and walking all at once.
I go with the crowd outside, manage to grab my shoes, and stop on the grass. We stand in circles, chatting with one another as family members find family members. New clothes walk past me, little girls in lemon yellow dresses, and elderly women in golden bangles, men in suits, and young boys in long dishdashas.
It is Eid and we are blessed. Happy Eid to all of you. May you find joy in your Eid; wherever you are, whoever you are with and whatever you are doing. Ameen