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Making Eid Special For Our Family written by: Iman Martin
How do we, as Muslims, combat the natural pull of the ever-so inviting build-up to "Christmas" and birthday celebrations? Although many Christians know that Jesus (PBUH) was not born on the 25th December, they started celebrating on this day because it was a pagan festival and those (i.e. Christians) who didn't celebrate stood out like sore thumbs (a bit like Muslims nowadays). To avoid this, the Christians began celebrating the birth of Jesus(PBUH) at the same time as the pagan festival so they no longer stood out.
It is very easy to fall into the same trap. "Where's the harm in Father Christmas?" people say. Is there really anything wrong in encouraging our children to believe in Father Christmas and the tooth fairy etc.? Lets face facts and be honest- they don't exist. Its the parents who leave the presents/money for their children to find in the morning. Sounds all very harmless and nice, but do we really think it 's sensible to lie to our children? When they discover the truth they may think, "Well, if our parents lied about that just to give us presents, what about other things they tell us about that we can't see such as Allah? We can't see Allah, so maybe they’re lying so we'll be good, etc." If you want to show your children that they've been good and understanding about loosing a tooth, for example, then give them the money or treat openly. That way you're not encouraging them to believe in something false.
It's very hard for us who live in non Muslim countries/from non Muslim families and have children whose grandparents, cousins etc. are non Muslim to combat/compete with all that, not to mention the TV programs and commercials in the West all showing the wonder and excitement of Christmas. How do we encourage our children to look forward to Eid? We have 2 Eids to celebrate. When we celebrate Eid Al-Fitr we have, insha'allah, completed a month of fasting. Eid is where everyone celebrates TOGETHER with the emphasis on family and friends, not forgetting the poor to whom we pay Zakat al-Fitr. In Eid al-Adha we slaughter sheep which provide for those less fortunate than ourselves. OK, so celebrating a child's birthday individually gives them a day to feel special and appreciated but just as often, tears fall when expectations aren’t met or someone says or does something hurtful and you end up
spending time comforting instead. Then there's the jealousy of siblings who don't understand why "Muhammad" should get all the presents (or do you find yourself buying a small present for each one in the hope of keeping the peace?). There's also the celebration party so and so" had a party here or with so many people or such and such cake. From a young age children want "to keep up with the Jones's" and for what? Just because they have reached a new milestone in time, they're now 5, 6 or 7 years old!
All right, so your children see everyone else Celebrating birthdays (even for some Muslims nowadays it's "modern' thinking that all the West does must be good and shows you're civilized and we Muslims shouldn't get left behind) and they're desperate for their own party. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, "You will follow the traditions of the people before you." The companions said, "Who the Jews and the Christians?" The Prophet (PBUH) replied, "Yes."
Now there is nothing wrong in celebrating and parties themselves but can't we find the reasons which will not only keep us within our faith but also help to foster and strengthen it? After all, be honest apart from perhaps a few minutes pleasure in being allowed to tear off the bright wrapping paper, how much does your precious 1 year old really understand about what's going on around them, let alone why, and, except with the proof of photo's they'll never in future years remember their first birthday party whether or not on the actual day. They're too young to know what they might be missing if you don't celebrate.
Let’s put our minds together and see if we can find which we can celebrate which do not conflict with the Qur'an and Sunnah. Let’s start with the beginning the birth of a child. It is definitely Sunnah to celebrate at this time by slaughtering sheep and distributing the meet among family, neighbours and the poor. We can cook our portion of meet and hold a party for our fellow sisters (and their children) if space and nerves allow). This is known as "A’qeeqah". Doing this gives everyone a chance to celebrate the birth, to give presents (if so wished) and the new mother feels special and cared for by having her friends and family around her. Maybe you prefer to have friends and family visit you individually. The American idea of "baby showers" pre-empts the actual birth and OK, in most cases the birth proceeds as normal, Alhamdulilah, but what about the case of a lady having had a baby shower and then goes on to lose her baby? She then has all these gifts to remind her and the job of deciding what best to do with them. Then also, you may find that having been given presents at the baby shower, once the baby arrives less people visit you because they can’t afford to give you another gift and so feel shy to visit empty handed. All in all I think you’ll agree the Islamic
way is more suitable.
OK, so having celebrated the birth, what’s wrong with celebrating the anniversary of it each year, i.e. Birthdays? There is a hadith which says: Anas said that when the Prophet (PBUH) came to Medina, the people had 2 days on which they engaged in games. The Prophet (PBUH) having asked what their significance was and being told that they engaged in games on these 2 days in the pre Islamic period, said, "Allah has substituted for them something better than them, Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha" (Abu Dawud).
Therefore, lets follow the Sunnah and celebrate the 2 Eids. After all, Allah has given us these occasions purposely for us to celebrate. Lets think about how we can make Eid special and instills in our children a love of Eid which will always remain in them. The Prophet (PBUH) said to Abu Bakr, "Every people (nation) has a festival and this (Eid) is ours." (Bukhari & Muslim). Eid starts with prayer and remembrance of Allah and then the celebrations begins which includes the poor as well as the rich. We should make an effort to attend Eid prayers especially if you’re not living in a Muslim country as this will help you to feel part of the Muslim Ummah (community). Again, if you’re not in a Muslim country, try as a community to have a party or special day out. It will give a chance for the children to enjoy a special treat, a visit to a park or somewhere special. This gives the men a chance to see their fellow brothers and the women to see their Muslim sisters and also provides a chance of dawah (inviting to Islam) as the other people at the park or place may ask why you are all there together in a group or other questions about Islam (especially if they see you all perform salat (prayer) outdoors. Even if no one actually talks to you, just being there will show others
that there are Muslims around and we, like others do gather together at special times.
For those of us who are able, visiting the family during Eid is very important as it helps keep the family bond strong (even if you don’t personally get along with every single family member). It means a lot to grandparents to see their grandchildren at Eid when family and friends are especially thought of.
It is Sunnah, if we can afford it, to wear new or our best clothes at Eid. You can also buy presents for your children. You can cook a special meal. Decorate the house with tinsel and coloured lights so that when the children wake up on Eid morning the house (or living room at least) looks festive and special and see the look on your children’s faces. Apart from the Eids what other things can we celebrate? There are 2 types of Islamic celebrations : 1) those which are on a set date- Eid, 2) other occasions /once in a lifetime celebrations.
Let’s look at the many other occasions which are halal (lawful) and may be celebrated - births, weddings, passing exams, graduation, on returning from traveling (especially from Hajj), when a child memorizes portions of Qur'an. If you like, you can celebrate a child learning a certain number of Surahs of Qur'an and if they memorize the entire Qur'an you could give them a big party or special treat to let them know they have achieved something very good and very special. After all, the benefits won’t just be in this life but also in the hereafter, insha’allah. Then there’s the occasion when a girl/lady starts wearing hijab (Islamic covering for women). This may also be celebrated thereby helping them to feel good about taking this important step and encouraging others to do likewise.
There is also the very important occasion when someone says their shahadah (declaration of faith) and becomes Muslim. All these can be celebrated. The important thing to remember is that these are once in a life time events, not things that happen every year on the same date. So why shouldn’t we celebrate anniversaries reminding us of the day we were born, married or died? Again the hadith I quoted earlier applies and as Muslims we shouldn’t copy the non Muslims. We should have our own identity which we should be proud of and shouldn’t try to hold on to old, un Islamic traditions. In the Qur'an (18:103-104) it says, "Say, ‘Shall we tell you the greatest losers in respect of their deeds? Those whose efforts have been wasted in this life while they thought that they were acquiring good by their deeds." In 28:50 it says, "but if they answer you not (i.e. Do not believe in your doctrine of Islamic Monotheism, nor
follow you) then know that they only follow their own lusts. And who is more astray than one who follows his own lusts, without guidance from Allah? Verily! Allah guides not the people who are Zalimun (wrong doers, disobedient to Allah, and polytheists)." If you want to thank Allah for anything, including your child’s health or reaching a certain age , then do something good such as praying 2 rakahs, fasting or giving sadakah (charity). Celebrating non Islamic festivals can cause depression and sorrow especially in the cases of remembrance of the dead or "Mother’s Day" for a mother who’s lost her child either by death or miscarriage. "Post holiday blues" can also occur when a festival has gone on for many days as in the West when "Christmas" hype starts as early as October in some cases.
So sisters let’s try and make our Eids really special and make the most of the Sunnah to celebrate, thanking Allah for all he has bestowed on us.
"Then we put thee on the (right) way of Religion. So follow not there that (way), and follow not the desires of those who know not. They will be of no use to thee in the sight of God: it is only wrong-doers (that stand as) protectors, one to another. But god is the protector of the righteous. These are clear evidences to men , and a Guidance and Mercy to those of assuredfaith. What! Do those who seek after evil ways think that We shall hold them equal with thosewho believe and do righteous deeds that Equal will be their Life and their Death? Ill is the judgment that they make. God created the heavens and the earth for just ends and in order that each soul may find the recompense of what it has earned and none of them be wronged. Then seest thou such a one as takes as his god his own vain desires? God has knowing (him as such), left him astray, and sealed his hearing and his heart (and understanding), and put a cover on his sight, Who, then will guide him after God (has withdrawn guidance) ? Will ye not then receive admonition?"
May Allah keep us in strong "iman", strengthen our knowledge, forgive our mistakes and keep us on the straight path within the light of Islam, ameen.