Photo credit: INCEIF
Ever since I can remember, there have been two Eids in Pakistan. There is the group that starts their fasts with Saudi Arabia, and then there’s us; we wait for the Pakistani committee to sight the moon and then we begin fasting. This is usually the day after Saudi Arabia keep their first fast. Ramadan can only be 29 or 30 days, so every year, inevitably, there are two Eids. Those who started their fasts according to Pakistan keep 28 fasts and then have to celebrate Eid in their hometowns or villages, and end up skipping one. This can be made up for after Eid, but it’s not the best thing to do.
My mother’s parents live in a village close to the city of Peshawar, and they always have Eid one day before us. Today is my final fast of the month, and half the country (and half the world) is already celebrating Eid. My cousins and grandparents are a two hour drive from me and are probably settling down to a large Eid lunch. I still have five hours to go before I can eat anything.
So Ramadan teaches you a lot about yourself. It is said that the night before Ramadan, the devil is caged and for the entire month, whatever you do, you’re entirely responsible for your own actions. There is nobody tempting you. So in this way, I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I could be very regular with prayers, that the fear of and love for God kept me from skipping or missing any. But I also learned that I haven’t become more active and I didn’t do as much as I should have. I didn’t do many voluntary prayers; I read very little Quran; and I didn’t even watch any educational religious videos by scholars like Mufti Menk or Nouman Ali, despite spending hours on my phone every day.
I kept saying to myself, “I’ve failed Ramadan, I’ve failed Ramadan”, but then every time I would log onto Facebook, I would see Mufti Menk saying, “No matter how we started Ramadan, let’s give it all we’ve got in these last days and end on a high note to attain His forgiveness.” Growing up, you hear more about God’s wrath than you do about His mercy, and only now it’s becoming obvious to me that there’s more mercy than there is wrath. All signs lead to the same path; forgiveness.
Muslims alway have to believe that they can be forgiven. There is nothing too big that God won’t forgive. (The one unforgivable act is associating a partner with God, called “Shirk” which is just about the most easily avoidable thing if you actually believe that God is One and there is nothing like Him). Just the act of asking God, with humility and sincerity, is enough. Repentance is awarded, gratitude is awarded, and even something small, like smiling at a stranger, is awarded. You have to believe that no matter what you do, whatever mistakes you make and the bad choices that may come your way, there’s always hope of redemption, of betterment. There will never be a chance to give it all up and think, “Well, there’s no going back from this, might as well stop now.” If Ramadan is about anything, it’s about how God has given all of us one entire month to make up for our past sins. And the last ten days of Ramadan, they’re the most vital.
The night of decree (Laylut Ul Qadr), commonly believed to be the 27th of Ramadan, was the night Angel Gabriel was sent to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) with verses from what would later become the Quran. Worship on this night is worth that of worship done for a thousand months. There’s no long complicated prayers that need to be recited, nothing to be worked out like how many extra prayers to do and all. That’s up to the individual, however many they want to do. Just the constant repetition of one simple, short dua, is enough. It translates as “O Allah! Verily You are most forgiving. You love to forgive, therefore forgive me.” Ramadan is about charity, purification and self-control, but ultimately, it is about using the never ending chances God gives to be forgiven.
In Pakistani culture, the night before Eid is called “Chand Raat”, which literally means, “Moon Night”. Everybody goes out for some last minute Eid shopping; the markets and bazaars are crowded, girls buy bangles and get their henna done. The stupor of Ramadan ebbs a little and gives way to the air of a big party.
The Eid after Ramadan is a three day affair where everybody buys new clothes, gets dolled up and after the morning Eid prayer, every meal is eaten at either a relative’s or a friend’s house. There is always an abundance of local desserts and it’s fun to be able to pick something up and not have to wait till sundown. Most of all, it is the three days that all the dads also get off work; so my cousins and I end up spending two nights at our grandparents house in the village, all of us crammed into one room because Eid means all the rooms are occupied with guests and family.
Fasting may get tiring and Eid is always fun, but I am already looking forward to next Ramadan, and I always pray it will be as blessed as the one gone by.
Eid Mubarak everyone!