Eid in a time of global hard­ship

Month-long fast of Ra­madaan ends in SA to­day, and Mus­lims glob­ally will be cel­e­brat­ing

The Mercury - - NEWS - Im­raan Buc­cus

TO­DAY (and yes­ter­day) al­most 2.1 bil­lion Mus­lims across the globe cel­e­brate Eid al-Fitr – a third of that num­ber are from the African con­ti­nent – to mark the end of the month­long fast­ing pe­riod of Ra­madaan.

Depend­ing on the sight­ing of the new moon that ush­ers in the Is­lamic lu­nar month of Shawaal, Mus­lims in South Africa will cel­e­brate Eid to­day.

Eid sig­ni­fies the end of Ra­madaan, the oblig­a­tory month-long fast from dawn to dusk. The time is de­voted to in­creased prayer, char­ity and the avoid­ance of all im­moral ac­tiv­i­ties.

The day of Eid starts early in the morn­ing with huge prayer gath­er­ings at open grounds and at mosques across the coun­try.

After the com­mu­nal prayer, which ends with a ser­mon, fam­i­lies visit and em­brace each other, sig­ni­fy­ing unity and broth­er­hood. Gifts are ex­changed and there is a fes­tive mood all round.

Af­ter­wards, fam­i­lies sit down to a huge feast.

South Africans of In­dian ori­gin usu­ally pre­pare biryani while hun­dreds of thou­sands of African Mus­lim im­mi­grants and refugees in South Africa usu­ally pre­pare a rice and meat dish pop­u­lar in their re­spec­tive coun­tries.

Over and above the nor­mal char­ity given in Ra­madaan, Mus­lims have to en­sure the needy join in on the cel­e­bra­tions. A spe­cial con­tri­bu­tion in cash or food parcels is col­lected by char­ity or­gan­i­sa­tions well in ad­vance and distributed.

On the day of Eid, Mus­lim char­i­ta­ble bod­ies feed tens of thou­sands, Mus­lims and non-Mus­lims alike, at town­ships across the coun­try.

Hun­dreds of gi­ant pots of food are pre­pared for the oc­ca­sion and plan­ning is done with mil­i­tary pre­ci­sion. An army of vol­un­teers of­ten sign up for the food dis­tri­bu­tion.

In all Mus­lim coun­tries, Eid is a three-day public hol­i­day. This in­cludes the Mus­lim-dom­i­nant coun­tries of North Africa such as Egypt, Western Sa­hara, Tu­nisia, Al­ge­ria, Egypt and Morocco.

In East and West Africa, pre­dom­i­nantly Is­lamic coun­tries that would ob­serve a three-day hol­i­day in­clude Dji­bouti, Su­dan, Gam­bia, Guinea, Mali, Mau­ri­ta­nia, Niger, Sene­gal, So­ma­lia and Zanz­ibar.

South Africa has a sig­nif­i­cant Mus­lim mi­grant pop­u­la­tion. One im­mi­grant, Ab­dulla Saeed, 27, from the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo, said he came to South Africa look­ing for a bet­ter life. He had no fam­ily here. He lives in Dur­ban and ekes out a liv­ing sell­ing cell­phone ac­ces­sories and other bric-a-brac.

“I am look­ing for­ward to Eid, but it will also be a sad moment be­cause I can­not spend this spe­cial time with my el­derly par­ents and the rest of my fam­ily. For­tu­nately, I have many Con­golese Mus­lim friends here and that will help me cope with the lone­li­ness.”

Around the world, this Ra­madaan has been a painful time for Mus­lims. In Pales­tine, hun­dreds have been killed while protest­ing against Is­raeli oc­cu­pa­tion; and de­mand­ing their right to re­turn to the land their fam­i­lies were ex­pelled from seven decades ago.

And, shock­ingly, the Is­raeli forces killed Razan al-Na­j­jar, a 21-year-old vol­un­teer para­medic; while she was at­tempt­ing to as­sist an in­jured per­son.

This hor­ren­dous act will cer­tainly not de­ter jus­tice-lov­ing peo­ple around the world to in­ten­sify their com­mit­ment and sol­i­dar­ity with the op­pressed in Pales­tine. Is­raeli ex­trem­ism will have to end.

At the start of Ra­madaan here, we saw a hor­rific at­tack at a Shia mosque in Veru­lam where one per­son was killed.

And yes­ter­day, two wor­ship­pers and a sus­pect were killed at a mosque in Malmes­bury.

This, for­tu­nately, has driven South African Mus­lims in the di­rec­tion of in­ten­si­fy­ing unity ef­forts and re­ject­ing sec­tar­i­an­ism.

This in­cludes shun­ning those that stand in the way of unity. De­spite some hic­cups, a sig­nif­i­cant step has been the pro­mo­tion of the Cape Ac­cord, a doc­u­ment that calls on com­mu­ni­ties to unite against hate speech and dis­cord, and to pro­mote in­tra-Mus­lim tol­er­ance and co­op­er­a­tion. While the Ac­cord is cur­rently deeply frac­tured, it re­mains crit­i­cal for the South African Mus­lim com­mu­nity to drive ef­forts to unite in re­ject­ing sec­tar­i­an­ism and pro­mot­ing peaceful co­ex­is­tence.

On the day of Eid, Mus­lims will also be re­flect­ing on how the madness of ex­trem­ism needs to stop.

The over­whelm­ingly ma­jor­ity of Mus­lims re­ject ex­trem­ism and con­trib­ute in very mean­ing­ful ways to the so­ci­eties in which they live.

Key to their un­der­stand­ing is the recog­ni­tion that they live in a plural con­text and that har­mo­nious co­ex­is­tence, de­spite the com­plex di­ver­sity of this world, is pos­si­ble.

While en­joy­ing the fes­tiv­i­ties of Eid, this re­flec­tion would be im­por­tant.

The spirit of Eid is also about con­sol­i­dat­ing and cel­e­brat­ing friend­ships and fa­mil­ial bonds. A won­der­ful and joy­ous day after a month-long fast.

Buc­cus is se­nior re­search as­so­ciate at ASRI, re­search fel­low in the School of Sci­ences at UKZN and the aca­demic direc­tor of a univer­sity study abroad pro­gramme on political trans­for­ma­tion. Buc­cus pro­motes #Read­ing Rev­o­lu­tion via Books@An­tique at An­tique Café in Morn­ing­side

PIC­TURE: ZANELE ZULU/AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY(ANA)

Young Adam Kader gets ready to en­joy some sweet­meats as thou­sands of Mus­lims across the coun­try cel­e­brate Eid to­day, bring­ing to an end a month of fast­ing.

PIC­TURE: EPA

Mus­lims around the world are cel­e­brat­ing Eid-ul-Fitr to­day, mark­ing the end of Ra­madan.

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