I am reminded that not all expatriates in the Sultanate have been here for an extended period, so I was prompted to explain Eid, the celebration, and the observance, simply for all the ‘newbies’ out there. Of course, the observances of last year and this, are deeply affected by the pandemic lockdown restrictions, so it is entirely possible that the observance may go relatively unseen. However, it is important, that as expatriates, we understand, appreciate, and respect the history, traditions, and culture of Islam, and Eid, as part of the wider community.
This year on Twitter, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, called upon his nation to ease the burden on the poor during Eid, and Kamala Harris, Vice-President of the United States, asked for a commitment to communities, perpetuating worthy Eid themes.
While sportsmen Mesut Ozil, Sonny Bill Williams, and Sachin Tendulkar, and celebrities Priyanka Chopra, Kajal Agarwal, and Salman Khan echoed millions of others in expressing their positive thoughts and Eid wishes.
Eid al Adha marks the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, the Haj, a pillar of the Islamic faith and a journey which all Muslims should make as an affirmation of their faith, at least one time during their lives. It celebrates a remarkable gesture of faith by Ibrahim, to whom Allah appeared in a dream saying he should sacrifice his son, Ismael, as a sign of faith. Though tempted by evil to spare his son, Ibrahim went ahead, but just as he was to commit the deed, Allah appeared to the distraught father, stayed his hand, and provided a lamb to be sacrificed in Ismael’s place, as Ibrahim had indeed demonstrated his complete faith in Allah.
The father and son, at the command of Allah, then built the shrine known as the Kabbah, in Mecca, as the holy place above all others, where pilgrims of the faith take part in time worn rituals of obeisance and devotion, a renewal of their faith, and a ‘washing’ of all past sins, a religious rebirthing. The Kabbah itself is not worshipped, but is revered as the allegorical house of God, giving direction for the daily prayers of an estimated two billion believers around the world.
Pilgrims shun materialistic displays by wearing seamless garments, making all equal in the eyes of Allah, in a ritual known as ‘Ihram,’ focusing on shedding all ostentatious behaviour and appearance, worldly pleasures and vanity. They are forbidden to show anger or frustration, and the exhausting nature of the observance with its large numbers of adherents certainly tests goodwill, patience and understanding, in yet another test of faith.
The Haj is also a time of respecting the anguished exertions of Hajjar, the mother of Ismael, who frantically searched between the two hills for water to revive her son. Seven times she ran into the hills, before Allah, accepting her faith had been tested sufficiently, created the eternal spring known as the sacred well of Zamzam, the waters of which are taken by pilgrims as having health and healing properties.
It is believed too that the greater the physical challenge, the greater the sense of atonement among those of the faith, epitomized each year by those of disability, in wheelchairs, on crutches, and with walking sticks, who undertake what is for many the most arduous of journeys, sure in their purpose, and their forgiveness.
The Eid, all over the world, is a celebration of the faith for those unable to undertake the Haj, and is marked by prayers, reflections, and devotions, and by family gatherings where the sacrificial meat, and an extended feast is shared with family and friends. Significant offerings are also made to the poor, and the disadvantaged of communities and societies as a demonstration of sharing their blessings.
Inshallah, this brief explanation has offered some context, even in a pandemic environment, for Eid al Adha, and you too can appreciate its positive impact on the Sultanate during its 2021 observance.