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Ramadan ended with greetings of “Eid mubarak!”

New moon sighted–Ramadan ends

It’s official now! The new moon was sighted two days ago, ending the 30 days of Ramadan. Now we are in the middle of three-days of the public holiday called Eid-al-Fitr (Arabic: ‎عيد الفطر ‘Īdu l-Fiṭr). The holiday is most often simply called Eid. Foreigners and Arabs alike greet one another with the common greeting, “Eid mubarak!” (English: literally “Happy Feast!”).

In most Muslim countries celebrants dress in their best clothes and adorn their homes with lights and other decorations. Old wrongs are forgiven and money is given to the poor. Special foods are prepared and friends or relatives are invited to share the feast.

Eid is a joyous occasion. Its underlying purpose is to praise God and give thanks to him. More than 2.2 billion Muslims are celebrating Eid around the world!

Ramadan/Eid holiday season marked by generosity and giving

Eman Kaskas oversaw the distribution of food to needy Ethiopian families of Jeddah. Eman also conducted a fundraising dinner for the Dar al Aytam children’s outreach in Lebanon.

During my first Ramadan celebration, I often joined my Muslim brothers and sisters in fasting and prayer at our local neighborhood Al Takwa Mosque.  I also went along to help distribute food and other gifts to the poorer immigrant populations of Jeddah.

Eman Kaskas and the students of the British International School had collected more than two tons of canned meats and vegetables, soups, dates, spices, bags of rice and pastas for distribution. This very generous collection was distributed to Ethiopian immigrant families.

In a sense, Eid is a Christmas-like festivity. There are big family meals. Friends and family members gather to exchange gifts. On the eve of Eid shopping malls and stores are open late. Shoppers wait in long lines, in a hurry to purchase last-minute gifts, candies and cakes. (The traffic jams reminded me of trying to get to the Annapolis Mall on Christmas Eve!)

Numerous fundraisers were conducted throughout Jeddah and other Saudi cities during the past month to benefit various causes for children, the disabled, the poor and the elderly.

Dr. Safi and Eman Kaskas invited guests to a dinner at the Sands Hotel which raised thousands of dollars for the Dar al Aytam children’s home in Beirut, Lebanon. Close to a hundred guests gathered that evening to lend their support to this orphanage that was established nearly a hundred years ago to care for Lebanese orphans of World War I.

Since that time Dar al Aytam has expanded its programs to provide services to the mentally disabled as well as homeless children. Services are now available in more than 30 locations (Greater Beirut, The Bekaa Valley, Mount Lebanon, and in various other northern and southern locations).

Muslim Americans fearful during Eid

Some American Christians expressed solidarity with Muslims during this special holiday. The Rev. Peter De Franco and the congregation of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Clifton, New Jersey, used Eid as a time to show support for Muslim believers in their town.

In the US, where Muslims are a tiny minority population, celebrating Eid seems strange and different, especially to those who have wrongly targeted all Muslims as being “anti-American.”

This past Thursday, a Palestinian American was visiting his father’s grave at a Muslim cemetery in Evergreen Park, a suburb southwest of Chicago, when he noticed obcene graffiti written on the tombstones.

During the past month, seven Islamic centers, from California to Rhode Island, have been attacked.In one of the attacks, a mosque in Joplin, Missouri, was burned to the ground.

Many US Muslims are appealing to the media and their elected officials for help.

Unfortunately, on some occasions, a few individuals like US Representative Joe Walsh, instead of offering hope to their Muslim constituents, are instead fanning the flames of hate.

Speaking on August 8 at a packed town hall event in the Chicago suburb of Elk Grove, Walsh told his supporters, “I’m not sure of a lot of things, but one thing I am sure of is that there are people in this country, there is a radical strain of Islam in this country. It’s not just over there–trying to kill Americans every week.”  He continued, “And it is a threat that is much more at home now then it was right after 9/11. It’s here, it’s in Elk Grove, it’s in Addison, it’s in Elgin.”

Many Americans respond during Eid with love and support

Sam with Dr. Safi Kaskas in Jeddah. Safi is the president of the Association of Muslim Social Scientists in the US. Safi has spent years building bridges of faith and understanding between the world’s Christians, Muslims and Jews.

While it’s true that all three Abrahamic faiths (Jewish, Christian and Muslim) have their radical, violent elements; they are simply a noisy minority. They grab headlines by torching buildings or through inflamatory hate speech and through bombing and killing.

Some US churches and Christian organizations, including Sojourners, an evangelical Christian outreach, have expressed solidarity with America’s persecuted Muslims and are organizing support for both the Joplin mosque and the Muslim community in Ever Green.

The overwhelming majority of those who believe in the God of Abraham, are peace-loving, desiring freedom and democracy for all faiths.

Recent polls indicate that greater than 80% of Muslim, Christian and Jewish teenagers and young adults want peace–not war. They have dreams of good jobs, families, homes. They want the best for others and seek to build bridges between their faiths and to support those who are persecuted or wrongly treated.

My work alongside Dr. Safi Kaskas here in the Middle East is in the field of religious reconciliation.  Our work is vitally important to ongoing peace efforts, in the US, here in the Middle East and around the world.

May we all do our part to improve understanding–to reach out to men, women and children; families and individuals who may express their faith differently. And may we vigilantly confront Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and anti-Christian hysteria with good information, loving kindness and hope for a much brighter, more prosperous future for all God’s children.

While we continue to celebrate here in Jeddah during this festive, Christmas-like spirit of Eid, I was thinking this morning of Henry W. Longfellow’s Christmas carol–“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Longfellow described the bells “ringing, chanting” throughout the world–a message of peace. But, alas, he sighed:

  • And in despair I bowed my head
  • “There is no peace on earth,” I said,
  • “For hate is strong and mocks the song
  • Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Here in Saudi Arabia I don’t hear church bells, but I do hear a very faithful, heartfelt call to prayer from many mosques five times a day. It’s a call to prayerfully thank God for his mercy and grace and a call to personal and world peace. Saudi Arabia is surrounded by wars and conflicts (Yemen, Somalia and Sudan to the south and east; the Sinai, Lebanon and Syria to the north; Iraq to the northeast; and now a “pending” war between Israel and Iran. There are conflicts in other parts of Africa, and in Asia and South America. It would be easy to give up–to curl up comfortably in our own corner of the world; deaf to those who cry for freedom, uncaring and unconcerned. But that is not what God has called us to do.

Longfellow ended his poem with a message of hope. As he thought of dismal world conditions of his time, he proclaimed:

  • Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
  • “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
  • The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
  • With peace on earth, good will to men.”

I thank all my Quaker friends for holding us in the light over here. Your Muslim brothers and sisters here in Jeddah send you their love and greetings, and they join you in prayer for reconciliation and world peace.

Muslims celebrating Eid around the world:


August 21, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Thanks,Sam – for the useful and inspiring information about Ramadan. I had no idea it was so similar to the Christian Christmas. I see you have passed this on to the Discuss list, a very good idea to share your experiences with all of us here. You’re doing a great service of education for us all. Light, Life and Love, Mardy

    Comment by Mardy Burgess | August 22, 2012 | Reply

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