Nothing brings Muslims together like Eid-el Fitr.
Eid-el Fitr is a feast that comes after the month of Ramadan. During Ramadan Muslims fast for 30 days then at the end have one day to celebrate eating. This year Eid is Wednesday, May 12.
In the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing, lockdown, and self-quarantine, Eid-el-Fitr could not have come any sooner. We all need it; if anything, it is a welcome guest to Muslims around the world.
With food shortages in some parts of the world and Amazon and DoorDash® deliveries in other parts, a billion and half Muslims are fasting from sunup to sundown for a month. Muslims, perhaps, may accept some credit for helping to ease food crises during this time.
During Ramadan, Muslims are traditionally cutting down on activities and going on a self-quarantine called Itikaf. Itikaf is a spiritual retreat. During Itikaf many Muslims spend their days and nights in isolation, reflecting and reading the Quran. Now, as Ramadan is coming to an end, it is time for Muslims to celebrate Eid el-Fitr for the first time in post-Trump America.
The high school football field
In 2019, before the COVID-19 protocols, an outdoor Eid celebration took place on the Eden Prairie High School football field. No one celebrates Eid like Somali Americans and nobody lights a room like Somali kids!
A few thousand local Muslims, a majority traditionally dressed Somali families with kids, paused to catch the early Eid prayer. Social distancing had not yet dictated how to live. Wave after wave of the devout took their places close to one another setting their praying rugs on the grassy field. Friendly and respectful police officers looked over, providing security for the proceedings.
An Eden Prairie football field packed with Muslim grownups and children started chanting the traditional “Takberaat, Allah Akber Allah Akber” (God is Greater). The chanting carried far and could be heard from afar. The Imam called for the prayer, which is usually short and done in unison. People repeat and follow the Imam’s lead. That’s why he is called Imam (leader). Unlike the weekly Friday pre-prayer sermon, during Eid the sermon comes after the prayer, not before. (I’ve had more than five decades of experience with Eid-el Fitr and can claim that nothing can disperse a Muslim crowd faster than a post-Eid sermon.)
The Imam that morning desperately asked everyone to stay for the sermon, “The sermon is a required part of the eid prayer!” he pleaded. But most of the attendees rushed away, looking for their shoes and their kids – a formidable task requiring skill and time.
While the imam labored through his sermon, people started socializing, mostly greeting and hugging each other and sharing gossip. Many would leave to celebrate Eid all day with family and friends. Some would breakfast at IHOP. Many more would take a trip to – of all places – the Mall of America (MOA), the shopping Mecca of the world, the consumers’ cathedral.
Mall of America during Eid
Faith communities from around the world go to MOA to “worship” the threads of Calvin Klein, Liz Claiborne, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, and some to unveil the secret of Victoria’s Secret’s beauty mystique. The Mall of America has ironically become a cultural sanctuary for thousands of Muslims regardless of ethnicity, nationality, race, and creed.
It’s as if Minnesota Muslims go to MOA to celebrate our customs and identities in full view of the rest of Minnesota and the nation. Children are running, playing games, taking rides under the gaze of their concerned parents! There are no shopping bags to carry, just kids to carry. No cultural idol to worship only their God to worship. No fashion trends to follow, only their traditions to follow. For a single day, the shopping Mall of America becomes the biggest Non-shopping Mall in America.
As Governor Walz loosens Covid-19 restrictions, the mask mandate will be lifted after Eid and the pandemic will still be looming for large gatherings in public places which will remain mostly closed or restricted. This year Eid el-Fitr will again be muted and celebrated in homes with vaccinated friends and families with no hugging or kissing. Eid greetings will be given from 12 feet away!
HAPPY EID EVERYONE