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The spirit of Eid

In the Muslim household I grew up in, Eid meant getting up at 6:00 a.m. to put on your very best clothing for the morning prayers two hours later. While my siblings always seemed way too eager for the celebration of the holiday, I was always the last child to slug out of bed. It was only out of fear of admonishment that I’d get up and put on whatever way-too-girly outfit I was told to wear.

On Tuesday, Muslims around the world celebrated Eid al-Adha. Eid al-Adha, roughly translated as the “celebration of sacrifice,” is one of two major Muslim holidays each year. It is the larger of the two, and it’s a time of year during which Muslims all around the world come together to celebrate Prophet Abraham’s willingness to submit to God’s will. It also celebrates the end of Hajj, a pilgrimage Muslims make at least once in their life to Mecca as an opportunity to rid themselves of any past sins.

Each Eid, my family would get in the car and make the 25-minute drive to the local recreation center where Muslims from around my county would come together to pray. For much of my childhood, Eid seemed categorically pointless. I was not knowledgeable enough to understand the meaning of the celebration, and the formalities and festivities seemed like a debauched excuse to miss a day of school. I knew that once we’d get to the prayers, I’d be pressured into talking with the other girls in my age group from the community. I dreaded the fact that I’d have to act interested as they conversed about the outfits they were wearing and the amount of makeup they were allowed to wear for the occasion.

As I got older, I began to educate myself more on the history of Eid as well as the rituals and traditions that seemed pointless to me as a child. By the time I was 14 or 15 years old, I glued myself to the TV when images of the pilgrims popped up on Al-Arabiya television. I was looking forward to the days preceding Eid, because I knew those days to be a time during which God would answer my many prayers.

Two days before Eid, during my sophomore year of high school, my father fell ill, and a trip to the physicians turned into the realization that his kidneys were failing. He had to make the quick decision to start dialysis and was going to be admitted to the hospital.

On the morning of Eid, I woke my siblings. We all got dressed and my older brother scooted us out the door to the prayers. I’d decided that, since we’d only attended the Eid prayers to maintain a sense of normalcy for my younger siblings, I wasn’t going to dress up. When we arrived at the prayers, we were late enough that we had missed much of the pre-prayer chitchat. My younger sisters and I sat together and listened as the khatib—the lecturer for that particular prayer—told the story of Prophet Abraham. The khatib’s broken English echoed of an Egyptian background, and his accent made it necessary to listen very closely so as to understand the points he was conveying. He was lecturing what seemed to be the same Eid sermon we’d heard every year. As I listened closer, however, I became interested in what he had to say. He emphasized that Prophet Abraham’s trust in God was the model we should learn from, and he emphasized that God knew all along that he wasn’t going to make Prophet Abraham sacrifice his son, Ishmael. As I paid attention to the word of the khatib, I stopped thinking about the state of my father. When the khatib started the call for prayer, I’d forgotten that my dad wasn’t there.

When we arrived back home, my younger sister’s distress about the state of my dad meant that my older brother and I would plan an impromptu cookie-decorating contest. After six hours of cookie decorating, talking about Prophet Abraham and squirting whipped cream in my her mouth to keep her from crying, my sister fell asleep, and my older brother and I were left to clean up the disaster we’d made in the kitchen.

My brother and I laughed at my then 6-year-old sister’s drawings on the cookies. We laughed even harder at how burnt I’d let the cookie dough get while it was baking. Each year since then, the arrival of Eid has brought overwhelming feelings of thankfulness and hope.

This year’s Eid will be the second that I don’t get to spend at home with my siblings. Like last year, I’ll spend Eid reminiscing about cookie decorating and whipped cream and about how my brother and I argued why Prophet Abraham was so accepting of God’s will. This Eid, I will once again thank God for giving me a memory that will always embody the spirit of Eid.

Nourhan Elsayed is a Trinity sophomore. Her column runs every other Wednesday.

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