Celebrating Eid al-Adha Amid a Pandemic
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Most countries observed Eid al-Adha on Friday, and so a belated Eid Mubarak to all who celebrated one of the holiest days in Islam. It is meant to remind Muslims of their faithfulness to Allah and each other, through Zakat, one of the five pillars of the religion that focuses on charity.
The holiday commemorates the story of the Prophet Ibrahim’s devotion to Allah and his willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail. Allah ultimately spared Ismail, and instead sacrificed a ram. You might know the story as Abraham and Isaac, per the Judeo-Christian tradition. This is why Eid al-Adha is known as the festival of sacrifice and why families slaughter an animal — often a goat, sheep or a cow — to give to a family in need.
Eid al-Adha also comes right after Hajj, a sacred pilgrimage to Mecca that is a mandate for Muslims who are able-bodied and can afford the five-day trip. Usually 2.5 million Muslims make the journey. But this year, because of the global pandemic, Saudi Arabia said it would allow just 1,000 people, and all from within the kingdom.
I’m celebrating — socially distanced — with my parents and one of my sisters, who lives in the New York City borough of Queens, not far from our parents and from where I grew up. My dad went to a socially distanced prayer service in the morning and my mom and I prayed at home. My mom usually makes a feast — pulao, biryani, kebabs and much more — but made much less food this year.
Our pared down celebration got me thinking: How else are American Muslims observing Eid al-Adha this year? I talked to a few people across the country about how they planned to celebrate. Here’s what they say had to say, edited lightly for length and clarity:
Ahmed Ali Akbar, a journalist and host of the podcast “See Something, Say Something,” has been in quarantine in Michigan with his wife and his father since March.
We’re going to pray in our house (the local mosque is open but we are choosing not to go), my wife, my dad and I on Zoom. We’ll probably take a lot of pictures. Dressing up and looking nice is definitely a huge part of Eid; it’s a renewal kind of thing.
We’re going to go to the drive-through — our mosque is doing barbecue — and pick up some food. We’re going to do a socially distanced picnic and do a socially distanced photo shoot. The other thing I’m going to cook is achar gosht (pickled meat stew) because during Eid al-Adha meat is a very central part, in a way.
Ever since my mother passed, Eid has changed its meaning. Our mother was responsible for a lot of the excitement and cooking. So now that’s fallen on me, actually. I called up my dad and I think we decided on achar gosht and I have some mango ice cream that I’ve been making out of these mangoes that we imported from Pakistan. It will be a restrained menu. I think when you compare to both when my mother was alive and when there was no quarantine, the expectations have simplified.
This Eid, I’m asking, can I take the spirit of generosity here and try to use whatever I have for good? I’m trying to figure what local organizations and people I can support.
Kima Jones, the founder of a book publicity agency committed to literature by Black writers and writers of color, lives in Los Angeles and will be celebrating with her two brothers who have been in quarantine with her.
The Eids are two of my favorite holidays. My father was Muslim, and growing up, my mother was Southern Baptist; she’s since converted. It’s really just all about the food for me. We lived in New York and my father would drive to New Jersey and pick up Halal sausage, bean pies, in bulk, because there were eight of us children. My father, my brothers, my older male cousins, they always slaughtered lamb, sheep, and once or twice, cows.
My father owned a Halal farm during his lifetime. I grew up with him going out and sacrificing and cleaning the designated animal. We paid Zakat the way that we needed to, but really it was just three or four days of extremely good eating. I won’t be sacrificing an animal this year because of Covid-19. Whenever I can’t get meat, either I can’t do it myself or if a family member can’t, I try to order from Honest Chops, a Halal meat market in Manhattan. You can actually buy an animal and donate it to a family and they will do the ritual for you and get the meat cleaned, packaged and shipped out.
This year in the pandemic, I’m going to do our Eid prayers here at the house. We’re going to cook five or six courses, which I know sounds like a lot, but I come from a big family and so I’m used to very big portions. We’re going to have lamb, red snapper, something with shrimp, a vegetable, grill some corn, make a fruit salad.
There are two major ways that I try to look at time, and I measure it for my birthday to my birthday, like it’s my own personal calendar year, but I also measure progress, Eid to Eid, Ramadan to Ramadan. In addition to having material resolutions, to-do lists or goals, I also have my spiritual resolutions and I want to make sure that I’m checking in with myself each Ramadan, whether that is to learn a new Surah, whether that is to finally memorize the 99 names of Allah, whatever the thing is.
Eid al-Adha also specifically makes me think, what is my divine assignment? What have I been asked to do? Am I doing it? Am I doing it in a way that’s a reflection of what’s the best for me, what’s best for the people that I serve? It really makes me sit with myself, course correct and be self-aware. The story of Ibrahim is forcing us to check in with ourselves, and the quarantine is forcing us to check in with ourselves, our friends, our family more often.
Shahana Hanif, is running for a seat on the New York City Council to represent District 39 in Brooklyn. She lives with her parents in the Kensington neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Kensington is quite festive because it’s one of the largest Bangladeshi-Muslim enclaves in our city. The circumstances of celebration during this moment are hard because of not being able to be as mobile as I’d want to be. Having been born and raised in the diaspora, we’ve built traditions that are rooted in going away or traveling about and taking on the outdoors. But I don’t think that component will be gone, like one thing that we do always is go to our local hookah spot and that’s still on the agenda. They have outdoor hookah, and so we’re continuing that.
Eid is very low key in my household. For my family, it’s making sure that family back home (in Bangladesh) have what they need to celebrate and making sure that the financial contributions are met in both of my parents’ hometowns.
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