What Imams Talk About During Eid

By Omar Sacirbey 08-08-2013
RNS photo by Omar Sacirbey

Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, on the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr. RNS photo by Omar Sacirbey

In their holiday Eid al-Fitr khutbas, or sermons, on Thursday many imams across the country noted a growing climate of acceptance in America but urged Muslims not to forget the problems facing their communities in the U.S. and overseas.

“The Eid khutba is like the State of the Union address,” said Oklahoma-born convert Suhaib Webb, imam of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, the biggest mosque in New England, to an overflowing crowd — men dressed in crisp robes, tunics, and three-piece suits, women in black abayas, long floral wraps, and colorful headscarves.

“Our community is at a unique crossroads,” Webb said, issuing a call for older Muslim generations to allow younger generations to have greater roles in community affairs. “There are a lot of young people with a lot of excitement, and a lot of old people with a lot of fear. And that’s not a healthy thing.”

Eid, which follows the Muslim fast of Ramadan, is a time when Muslims are supposed to unite, forgive grievances, and contribute to charity. In a sign of their growing numbers, many congregations held two or three services, or rented hotel ballrooms to accommodate the thousands of holiday observers in their finest clothes.

Muzammil Siddiqi, the imam at the Islamic Society of Orange County (Calif.) and a member of the Fiqh Council of North America, urged Eid worshippers to be involved in civic affairs. He said they should support pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, protest government surveillance policies, and participate in the NAACP’s anti-racism program.

“We should also remain engaged in all civic matters serving our neighborhoods and our cities,” Siddiqi said in his khutba. “Islam teaches us that we should cooperate in all matters of righteousness, values, and virtues with all people of any faith and any background.”

While Islamophobia is still a potent force in America, Siddiqi said, Muslim efforts to become more engaged in American public life has led to greater acceptance by the broader American public.

Indeed, many Muslim observed Eid doing good work projects. In Washington state, some 4,000 Muslims were expected to visit non-Muslim neighbors offering holiday greetings and gifts.

The U.S. Postal Service has unveiled a stamp commemorating Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, the twin Muslim holy days.

The stamp, designed by Ventura, Calif.-born calligrapher Mohamed Zakariya, was first issued in 2001, and reissued a few times since. It features gold calligraphy that spells out “Eid Mubarek” in Arabic, the traditional greeting meaning, “May your religious festival be blessed.”

Some congregations celebrating Eid were much smaller but showed an increasingly diverse Muslim-American landscape. The Los Angeles chapter of Muslims for Progressive Values was expecting several dozen worshippers at its Eid service, where the khutba was going to be given by a young gay member of the community.

As in years past, many imams focused on Muslim’s struggles abroad.

“This Eid comes with a lot of stress and pain all over the Islamic world,” said Omar Shahin, president of the North American Imams Federation, and a native of Jordan who attends the Islamic Center of Laveen in Arizona. “The message I would send is that we need to stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters in these countries, and to pray to God that he relieves their pain and suffering.”

Omar Sacirbey writes for Religion News Service. Via RNS.

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