My reactions to prayers this Eid
Eid on the 10th, at least, for some of us; others will have observed their on the 11th. This is because there is a fiercely-held tradition that says the second day of the new moon at the end of the month of Ramadan, is Eid.
This would be fine, except that “moon-sighting” means different things to different groups. Some groups insist on actual moon-sighting by a reliable person or persons, within their region, while others insist on a moon-sighting that has been declared in another country (the Old country, or Arabia, depending on the group). The science for predicting the first day of the new moon, is about a thousand years old, yet so many Muslim scholars insist on this “tradition” because, they say, this is how it was done during the days of the prophet Mohammed. Well, yes, but so were so many other things, but I do not see us following tradition there.
“Tradition” holds that Dawn prayers (start of the day’s fast) begins when one can just start to tell the difference between a white thread and a black one, indicating first light. Similarly, the end of the day (end of the day’s fast) is when one can no longer tell the two threads apart. In between, the day’s prayer times depend on the cast of the sun’s shadow on objects…does ANYONE hold on to these “traditions”? No, watches have been invented and prayer times are in accordance with clock-times.
How many people still carry on the “tradition” of animal transportation instead of cars?
Cooking with wood fires?
Living without electricity?
I am not sure why our scholars cling to such unreliable “traditions” as actual moon-sighting, but I continue to hope that they will mature to recognize that science has indeed, resolved a problem that has cause major divisions between sects in Islam. I pray that “moon-sightings” will be based on scientific charts, as just a few Muslims are starting to do.
Eid today, time to go for prayers.
Each year thousands of Muslims congregate at different locations for prayer, to celebrate the end of the month of Ramadan, the month of fasting and the month in which the Quran was first revealed. This year, I had intended to go to a nearby location for the 9:00 a.m. prayers and then join another group in their prayers at 10:00 a.m., it would be tight timing, but I had hoped I would be able to make it.
I know, one should not go to two different prayers for Eid, but I wanted to share the solidarity with many different friends
I made it at 9:00 a.m. sharp and settled down to await the start of prayers.
9:15 and we were still collectively chanting “Allahhu Akbar!” (God is Great/greatest), which is the preliminary chant to settle people down as we await the start of prayers.
By 9:20, I was feeling a bit irritated that the prayer that had been announced as starting at 9:00 a.m. was showing no signs of starting: I was certain that God had heard us calling on Him by now. I went up to the chant leader and asked him if he would not mind starting the prayers since the hall was very full?
“Brother, there are still many people on the road to get to us and we are waiting in respect for them” He said.
“What about respect for the people who are already here?” I asked, “Don’t we deserve some respect as well? Please, let us start otherwise, we are perpetuating a cycle of expectations that Muslims can never start on time, and fulfillment when there is no motivation to start on time“.
At this, he pointed to another person who was standing nearby and suggested I speak to him since he was the organizer. I went up to him and asked if we could start since it was 9:25 a.m., well after the announced time of 9:00 a.m.
” That is the time for that start of the chanting (Takbeer), prayer time is later” he said, without turning.
“Then you should have said in your announcement that Takbeer time is 9:00 a.m. and prayer time is 10:00 a.m. and we would have arrived at 11:00 knowing things will start late” I was exasperated. He walked away, mumbling something that I did not understand and I returned to my place, telling myself that Eid prayers were not the place to lose my cool after working on it all month.
The prayer-leader announced that, “A brother asked why we are not starting on time. Eid prayers are for us to get to know each other, not for us to be in a hurry“.
“Sure!”, I thought, “The time for mingling is AFTER the prayers, right now, we have no opportunity to meet, because we are all chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ in unison“.
As it turned out, we were expected to vacate fast because there was another organization ready to start their seminar or whatever else they were thinking of doing…mingle and get-together, sure!
The arrival of the imam was announced at 9:40 a.m., so I surmised that it was the imam’s arrival that had delayed the start of the prayers and we were being given irrelevant reasons for the delay.
Prayers finally started at 9:45 a.m. and I was pleasantly impressed by the beautiful chanting of the imam as he led the prayer, it was VERY uplifting, I prepared for an equally impressive Khutba!
Such was not to be.
Duas (benedictions) were in Arabic, which most people did not understand yet, everybody was saying “Ameen” at the end of every sentence as if that was the actual dua…who know? it may have been or, it may have been something quite else.
For the life of me, I cannot fathom what sense it makes to be speaking in a language that few in the audience understand, how is it supposed to affect us? how does that bring us any closer to God?
Then the imam began his khutba (sermon) and I went into mild shock.
Part of the sermon was the traditional Arabic delivery…why we have to adhere to traditions when they make no sense, I will never understand. Does God care what language we pray in or, is it more important for His faithful to understand and take to heart, what is being said by the imam?
Finally, the imam began to deliver his khutba un English, “At last!” I thought, “I will understand what he is saying!”
Within seconds, I wished he would deliver it in Arabic again so I would not understand! The imam was talking about the benefits of prayer and how many blessings descend on us if we pray thus and such and how many blessings descend on us if we fast that many more times…prayer, prayer, prayer…just what did he think we were there for!?
There are fifty Friday congregational prayers in a year. One would think we could talk about prayers and get that topic off the table in fact, one would hope that congregational sermons would NOT be the place to discuss ordinary things like how blessed is prayer or, how high our trouser-leg should be or, how chastity is a GOOD thing…We should already KNOW all this!
Congregational prayers should be events that take advantage of the fact that so many hundreds of people are present and maybe they can be directed to the public good, something inspirational and galvanizing, not a stupefying monologue on the blessings of being good!
Even more so for Eid prayers, where thousands collect. THIS should be an opportunity to tell people thought-provoking things that make us think and understand…that make us want to DO something that will benefit mankind and Muslims.
One would think that since Eid was being celebrated by so many Muslims, on September 10, with the anniversary of 9-11 the next day; with the uproar and the clamor from the mindless masses of oversized “patriots”, over Eid, Cordoba House and the Quran-burning, one would hope for a sermon that talks about mob-violence, peace, civil rights, justice, elections…the choices for provoking thought among Muslims, was endless. Yet, our illustrious imam thought it fit to minister a soporific on one of the most mobilizing opportunity we could have had.
Later I spoke with a friend who told me she went from prayers to a different location and there, the imam there spoke about human rights and the situation in different countries around the world, about justice and what Muslims need to do in order to stand up for their rights…and he spoke in English!
Afterwards, they had an entire day of festivities planned, with people bringing food and lots of opportunity for play for children.
I wished I had skipped the nearby prayer in favor of the further one!
The best part of the congregational prayer was when we were all finally heading out. I was agog at the variety of traditional clothing people were wearing, I found myself gaping and wishing I had brought my camera; the clothing of the West African men and women was especially stunning.
My prayer today, is for God to grant our imams the presence of mind to direct their Khutbas to REAL life at every congregational prayer (Friday, Eid etc.,) so that when we emerge from prayer, we actually have the motivation to go out there and DO something that would have a positive effect on Muslims and the world in general.