Eid in the Time of Pandemic

The month of Ramadan has left us. Everyone says this every year, and I say it again: Of all the months, this has always been and will remain the one which passes by the quickest. Even in a time like now. Even though the heart wanted, with a yearning unlike previous years, for it to last longer.

There’s a beauty which the end of Ramadan brings. One of the many messages embodied by the month. We can let this month end and go on with the rest of the year as usual. Or we can live the rest of the year like we spent Ramadan. This doesn’t mean that we don’t eat for the rest of the year. Fasting isn’t only about giving up the need to eat, but also about controlling our desires. By keeping our hands, eyes, ears and tongues away from where they aren’t supposed to be. Not taking away from what rightfully belongs to someone else. Not ogling with greed. Not dropping into conversations we aren’t required to be a part of. Not indulging in backbiting or slander.

I spent the first half of the month in isolation, waiting in a quarantine facility to test negative for Covid-19. Being alone became a blessing. Self-reflection becomes almost second nature as you start to appreciate the power of solitude. You begin to look at things differently and with a heightened sense of clarity. Then I returned home, grateful to be back with my family and surviving this ordeal which lasted seven weeks. In this short span of a few days since then, I know that I haven’t been as reflective. But I also know that I’m more reflective than I used to be before this experience. This change isn’t unique to me. To varying degrees, everybody has changed.

For every silver lining which can advocate for isolation during Ramadan, how can anyone reconcile with it for Eid? You can fast alone, pray alone, even break your fast alone, but how do you celebrate Eid alone. Not only can we not embrace strangers with the customary Eid Mubarak, even our loved ones and friends are out of bounds. I was looking at a video on my phone from last year which I made after Isha prayers at the end of Ramadan. Watching the mosque filled with people and listening to the Takbeer filled my heart with an ache that longed for a time which seems so distant now. This Eid, what would I not give to be inside a mosque overflowing with people, to rub my shoulders with strangers, to shake hands with and embrace them. A face mask won’t even let me pass a smile or lip the words Eid Mubarak to strangers from a distance; we are yet to build a full vocabulary based on eye contact.

To be able to celebrate Eid this year is still a matter of great privilege and fortune for those of us who can. No festival should ever be a day for anybody to be deprived of its joy. This year is exceptional in the number of people who will find it difficult to join in the festivities. Lockdowns, job losses and business closures have forced countless people to the edge of survival. Many of us have been working tirelessly to reach out to them, to make this time somewhat bearable, to help them in finding the lost sense of hope. It’s never going to be enough, which doesn’t mean that anyone should give up. Not only does giving up stop from helping that one person we could have, but it also stops that one person who could have felt encouraged to extend a hand seeing so many others trying despite the odds. This isn’t a time to give up, this isn’t a time to stop.

Eid Mubarak, everybody. May we be able to make the rest of the year like Ramadan, and may we be able to use this time to make the best of the rest of our lives.

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