Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Eid Reflections

As a child, my favorite part of the Eid holiday was the melodious chants heard from afar as my sisters and I--dressed in assorted colors of the same traditional Pakistani shalwar kameez outfit and matching glass bangles--approached the mosque for morning prayers.

Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!
God is the Greatest! God is the Greatest! God is the Greatest!

La Illaah Illallah!
There is no diety but God!

Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!

Wa Lillahil Hamd!
All Praise is due to God!

Allahu Akbar Katheera!
God is even more Greatest....

This week that recitation has been echoing at mosques around the world as Muslims celebrate the three days of Eid marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. 

By repeating Allahu Akbar in unison and aloud, Muslims are supposed to be reminding ourselves and others that it is God who is the Greatest (and not us, our cultures, our traditions, society or any other power or even Superpower) as we struggle to fulfill our responsibility to Him to purify ourselves and help establish social justice on earth. 

"If we have fasted Ramadan as a matter of commitment and as a matter of investment in God then this is the time when we assert that God is greater than all of the challenges and all of the dangers and all of the threats that come our way," says Imam Muhammad Asi of the Islamic Center in Washington.

But in most mosques, while God is still Great, pleasing Uncle Sam is apparently of greater importance. 

We know that because not only are our leaders silent about the social, economic, political, military injustices being carried out by Washington ("If you see some Muslims scared to say the truth, that means when they say Allahu Akbar they don't know what they are saying," according to Asi.), but they are also now buddying up with government agencies and playing follow-the-leader in unprecedented ways.

"Today, when we Muslims are inside a mosque, we pay heed to every temporal power rival to God--presidents, princes, the FBI, intelligence agencies, the media--giving them all they want in terms of modifying our behavior, agreeing to their talking points, managing our activities according to their 'rules of order,' and forbidding ourselves the freedom of speech and assembly that we are supposed to have as citizens of a free society," says Afeef Khan, also an imam at the Islamic Center of Washington.

Indeed, the kowtowing has gotten so extensive that a former New York police official was prompted to write an op-ed in the New York Times (2/20/2012) reminding the American Muslim community that "Uncle Sam Is Not An Imam."

Like now, unjust governments have always tried to step in and manage the power of the faithful, who they know have the potential to bring about peace and justice for all.

When Ali ibn Musa, great grandson of Fatima (one of the four perfect women of all times) was going to lead Eid prayers for the first time, wearing white clothes, no shoes and chanting Allahu Akbar, a huge crowd of barefooted worshippers joined him. This terrified the tyrranical ruler so much he decided to lead the prayers himself.

While millions around the world ended Ramadan by organizing demonstrations of solidarity with the oppressed last weekend, none of the mosques in our area participated. 

Instead, nine of them united for the first time and put together a "Community Eid Carnival," sponsored by (drum roll, please) the spanking new American Muslim Advisory Council, formed to serve as "a bridge between the Muslim community and federal, state and local enforcement as well as other government and private agencies."

As the great poet and thinker Allama Iqbal quipped:

Eid of the truly free is the splendor of a community
Eid of the slaves is just a crowd of Muslims

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