Eid celebrations in GTA are definitely something to look forward to. The number of Muslims has increased steadily over the years with mosques mushrooming, many if not all offers Eid prayers. The inbound crowd largely depends on the day of the week when eid is being celebrated. While a weekend means overflow of worshipper, weekdays often results in poor crowd during eid prayers. Though, to be honest, lately many people have been taking off from work to celebrate eid. Employers in this heavily multicultural society are often more than willing to accommodate the special request for the day off.
This year Eid-ul-Adha took place on a Sunday. Saturday would be better but Sunday works too, much better than weekdays, especially for folks like me. I am paid hourly and the last thing in my mind at any point is clearly time off work. Time is money - literally. Anyway, there are problems associated with a weekend Eid celebration as well. I am not big on visiting mosques or any place of worship, so to speak, unless I am interested in the architectural and/or artistic components that many of the historically important places hold. One may consider me religiously cold. Mili, while quite a nice lady otherwise, has no heart for such coldness and could often be pretty insisting on religious demands, most of which I can avert but not the eid prayer.
On the days when eid falls on weekdays things turn brighter for me as I have that ubiquitous excuse of going to work though I hardly leave home before 9 AM, ample time to attend several prayers as they are usually offered early in the morning. On a Sunday however, no excuse works. The night before stern warning was issued, no eid prayer, no eid celebration. Such meanness can only be displayed by our female counterparts who we fondly call ‘better halves’; I decided not to risk it. I really liked our friendly gatherings on eid days as it gave us, the men, some additional opportunity to group up and play cards (bridge), one of our most coveted activities.
Zakeem, not necessarily too big on prayers, quietly gave in to his mothers demand that he accompanied me to the mosque for the special prayer. He had already learned his lessons on not being compliant. I guess being yelled at wasn’t something he looked forward to. J (my friend) had more or less similar situation, and we decided to get together in the morning and head to the nearest mosque where the prayer was planned to take place at 9 AM. Our other family friend from the neighborhood decided to go to Pickering, the town next to us in the West, where the eid gathering was the largest, at least in this part of the city. That was a definite no-no for me as last time when we went there we had to park a kilometer away and walk in the cold. I was not ready to repeat that.
The mosque that we picked is just about five minutes drive. It really is a boarding school where kids come from all around the country to receive Islamic education. The best part of the place is the convenient parking, just of the main gate. They have a gravel parking lot for regular use. On eid days the specious green yard right next to the building is turned into a big parking lot.
On the morning of Eid, three of us (J, Zakeem and I), two and a half men [a popular sitcom] started for the mosque. Our better halves usually accompanied us depending on their menstrual cycles. This year things conveniently coincided and they could stay home. If Zakeem did not come with us we probably would have just driven around for half an hour and returned home looking good. J had no issues with such deception. Having the half-man with us forced us to behave. Undermining Mili is never an option.
At the mosque, seated and all comfortable, we had to wait for a whole hour before the prayer took place. As if the discomfort that I was already going through wasn’t enough (sitting quietly in one place is not one of my best virtues) the good Imam took all the time on earth to tell us about the remarkable circumstances which eventually would start the celebration of Eid-ul-Adha. This is what we learned (source: Wikipedia):
As Abraham was preparing for his return journey back to Canaan, Hajar asked him, "Did Allah (God) order you to leave us here? Or are you leaving us here to die." Abraham turned around to face his wife. He was so sad that he couldn't say anything. He pointed to the sky showing that God commanded him to do so. Hajar said, "Then Allah will not waste us; you can go". Though Abraham had left a large quantity of food and water with Hajar and Ishmael, the supplies quickly ran out, and within a few days the two began to feel the pangs of hunger and dehydration.
Hajar ran up and down between two hills called Al-Safa and Al-Marwah seven times, in her desperate quest for water. Exhausted, she finally collapsed beside her baby Ishmael and prayed to God for deliverance. Miraculously, a spring of water gushed forth from the earth at the feet of baby Ishmael. Other accounts have the angel Gabriel (Jibrail) striking the earth and causing the spring to flow in abundance. With this secure water supply, known as the Zamzam Well, they were not only able to provide for their own needs, but were also able to trade water with passing nomads for food and supplies.
When Ishmail was about 13 (Ibrahim being 99), Allah (God) decided to test their faith in public. Abraham had a recurring dream, in which God was commanding him to offer his son as a sacrifice – an unimaginable act – sacrificing his son, which God had granted him after many years of deep prayer. Abraham knew that the dreams of the prophets were divinely inspired, and one of the ways in which God communicated with his prophets. When the intent of the dreams became clear to him, Abraham decided to fulfill God's command and offer Ishmael for sacrifice.
Abraham presented the matter to his son and asked for his opinion about the dreams of slaughtering him. Ishmael did not show any hesitation or reservation even for a moment. When both father and son had shown their perfect obedience to Allah and they had practically demonstrated their willingness to sacrifice their most precious possessions for His sake — Abraham by laying down his son for sacrifice and Ishmael by lying patiently under the knife – Allah called out to them stating that his sincere intentions had been accepted, and that he need not carry out the killing of Ishmael. Instead, Abraham was told to replace his son with a goat to sacrifice instead. Allah also told them that they had passed the test imposed upon them by his willingness to carry out God's command.
With due respect to all believers, leaving a mother with her infant son in a dessert in the name of Allah and then coming back later to slaughter the 13 year old boy again in the name of Allah – is hard for me to fathom. Perhaps a good dose of religious devotion was needed to accept it without questioning.
We skipped the final sermon (khutba) after the prayer as we already had had enough for one day and felt our divine test on this Sunday morning went relatively well. We made our way back home almost uneventfully. Almost. Zakeem had put on his new shoes to the mosque which he had to leave outside. Somebody had soiled it with a pair of dirty sandals. He grunted and growled while trying to rub the soil off on our trip back home.Next came the best parts. Our neighbors and friends flocked in our place, with us visiting them later in the day. Usually we plan a grand gathering in the evening at a convenient location where we all convene. This works out very well for all of us. This time was no exception. We drove to the house of a senior friend of ours in Scarborough and partied there until half past two in the morning. The kids had to go to school next morning but we in an impromptu decision concluded that they could do a half day. Everybody was happy – the men, the ‘better halves’ and of course the noisy gang we call children.