Diversity, again

Last Friday, I mentioned being thankful for Diversity. Today, nearing the end of the last day of Eid al Adha, I remain intensely grateful for diversity; at the same time, I sometimes miss some homogeneity.

Eid al Adha, the festival of the sacrifice, is the major of the two Eids. It marks the end of the Hajj. It commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, and God’s mercy in sending a ram to take its place. Over 3 or 4 days, we sacrifice an animal, share the meat with those less fortunate that us, and with family and friends. We worship, feast, and just enjoy submitting to God together.

This is my fifth Eid al Adha, Alhamdulillah, and may Allah azza wa jall bless me with many more. And may He help me to make some traditions with the family, something(s) to look forward to, to make Eid al Adha (and Eid al Fitr, for that matter) special in some way, some way distinct from, say Wednesday or Saturday.

I grew up with a spate of Holidays clustered together, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s in late November and late December, followed by somewhat more minor holidays (in my mind, anyway), Easter (in March or April sometime), Memorial Day (last Monday in May), July 4th, and Labor Day (first Monday in September). We usually did relevantly similar things on each of those days: lunch or dinner with family, maybe a parade on television, maybe a football game (if the season was right), maybe a visit to a church, maybe some gifts.

As a Muslim, I still enjoy Thanksgiving, New Year’s, and the Memorial, Independence, and Labor days, and now get the two Eids. Where I’m relatively new to the Eids, my wife and her family are relatively new to the others. They’ve taught me about Eid: for both, we visit family, travel to multiple houses to feast and make smalltalk (for me, anyway: others seem to have spirited, engaging conversation, but in Urdu or Bengali). A revert brother I know takes his family to brunch and a movie every Eid, because he’s not blessed to live near his in-laws in a Muslim neighborhood.

For my in-laws, the American, non-religious holidays, are a little bit strange, but they’ve been here awhile, and are used to them. Like most other Americans, they don’t go to celebrate the Days, but will throw together a Thanksgiving dinner. I have no idea how it was for them, adjusting to these strange American holidays.

I stopped to chat with another revert brother after prayer a couple of days ago, and asked him how Eid was. “Just another day, right? You know how it is for the reverts,” he replied. Just another day, indeed.

We chatted some about what we might do to make it a bit more special for us and our families. Standing in the middle of the masjid hallway like that, we were regularly interrupted by brothers wishing us peace and a blessed Eid. That’s what we get. But then one brother stopped, and just stood there for a pregnant second before saying “I’m not interrupting anything, right? I have something to discuss with the brother here…” And so I checked out and went home. For me, it would’ve been obvious that, yes, he was interrupting something. At the time, I thought him a bit rude, but later, the same thing happened.

I was on my way out of the masjid, headed home after prayer later that evening, and a brother, one of my neighbors, stopped me and asked how Eid was. We were just leaving the masjid, walking towards our neigborhood, and we were stopped by another brother who also had business with my neighbor, and pulled him away without even a word.

In both cases, I said nothing (shame on me) and neither did the brothers I was talking to (shame on them, maybe, and maybe they don’t care to chat with me and were glad to get out of the conversation). But I mentioned the episodes to my wife and she told me that’s a cultural thing and not to think anything about it. People just jump into conversations and expect to be included, expect to change the topic if they want, whatever.

Well, in my culture, it’s just plain rude.

So Allah azza wa jall made us of different tribes so we could come to understand and appreciate one another. Allahu Akbar.

May Allah guide me to understand and appreciate other cultures and ways of communicating, and may He forgive me for complaining about my fellow Muslims on this blog that very few people will read. May He guide me to appreciate the two Eids and the traditions in place around them, and may He help me to develop some new traditions for them, and may He guide me to some new friends, people I can talk to, that understand me in ways my wife, her family, and our neighbors probably never will.

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