When I was growing up, my mother always said that the joy of ‘Id lay in the build-up to the day, not the actual day itself. It was the fasting and praying in the month of Ramadan, the last few days of frenzied activity to ensure everything was ready and the rigorous cleaning and tidying that were all part of ‘Id. Then there was the food, copious amounts of food cooked during Ramadan, iftars for so many friends and relatives and then the special cuisine reserved for ‘Id.
As a family, we never went anywhere for ‘Id. We always stayed at home and invited others, whether for breakfast, lunch or evening dinner. As children and even as young adults, we just helped out, never quite understanding why we always did the inviting, why we always had to cook so much and why my mother was so insistent that it was better to have guests than be a guest.
I now realise the virtue of that kind of thinking. It was essentially based on the concept of giving, of generosity to others. Having people in your house, taking the time to cook for them, being a good host demands certain qualities. We have to be patient, diligent and bring out the best of what lies within us. This requires hard work, it requires the whole family to pull together but most of all it requires that we think of others, that we share with others and that we make time for others.
This is not always easy. In our busy lives with so many demands made on our time, for some taking time out for ‘Id can be an inconvenience. When the morning prayers end and good wishes are exchanged, for many, ‘Id becomes just another day. This kind of thinking reduces faith to ritual alone, that somehow in obedience to God, we have done our duty. But Ramadan and ‘Id are not about observance of ritual alone. God does not gain anything by our obedience, for His majesty does not lack in anything. Rather God tests us most in our relations to one another for essentially the relationship between man and God rests on the relationship between man and man. The numerous Prophetic hadiths that illustrate both the virtue of reaching out to God and the virtues of reaching out to each other are some of the most beautiful and moving because they teach us that if we don't think of others, we're not really thinking of God. Nothings says this more clearly than the following hadith:
"Allah (mighty and sublime be He) will say on the Day of Resurrection:
'O son of Adam, I fell ill and you visited Me not.' He will say: 'O Lord, and how should I visit You when You are the Lord of the worlds?' He will say: 'Did you not know that My servant So-and-so had fallen ill and you visited him not? Did you not know that had you visited him you would have found Me with him? O son of Adam, I asked you for food and you fed Me not.' He will say: 'O Lord, and how should I feed You when You are the Lord of the worlds?' He will say: 'Did you not know that My servant So-and-so asked you for food and you fed him not? Did you not know that had you fed him you would surely have found that (the reward for doing so) with Me? O son of Adam, I asked you to give Me to drink and you gave Me not to drink.' He will say: 'O Lord, how should I give You to drink when You are the Lord of the worlds?' He will say: 'My servant So-and-so asked you to give him to drink and you gave him not to drink. Had you given him to drink you would have surely found that with Me.'"
`Id Mubarak to you all!
Picture 1: Creative Commons licensed image "In The End" by Mohib Ahmad, Flickr