P.C. Noah Seelam.
When Qurbani Eid came around I was happy. It’s a jubilant time of year in general and what’s more, it also marked the end of my stay in the village lol.
FYI, to those of my readers who may be visiting my blog for the first time – I’m Muslim. And though I’ve grown up in the U.K. and appreciate celebrations such as Christmas and Easter, my parents have brought me up to value Eid just that little bit more. Accordingly, we try our very best as a family to make sure that Eid is properly celebrated. Doing so also serves the purpose of giving the future generation (so in our case, my niece) something meaningful to look forward to and reason to rejoice in her faith. Plus, let’s be real – who doesn’t love a good knees-up?
But as children of the diaspora, growing up in far away lands from our countries of origin can make retaining parts of our faith/culture and celebrating our identities, just that bit trickier. Because when Eid happens in the U.K., we don’t get a national day off work. It’ll be nearing 1 o’ clock in the afternoon and I’ll be rushing back to Court after my shitty rushed lunch of a Tesco meal deal when my ass should be at home, forgetting my diet and devouring ALL of the samosas! 😭
But this summer would be different.
*queue Dad’s idea of booking last minute tickets to fly to Bangladesh in time for Eid*
“We’re doing Eid properly kids”!
And so we were.
In the Islamic calendar there are two Eids. The first is Eid al-Fitr and it marks the end of Ramadan, a thirty-day period during which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. During this time, we don’t consume any food (and yes – no, not even water aha).
The aim is to starve the body and feed the soul.
The essence of this tradition is to instil or rather, strengthen in ourselves a sense of compassion for those less fortunate than us whilst cultivating gratitude and giving thanks to God for even our smallest blessings. Such as, for instance, having the comfort of knowing that we have three meals a day to look forward to.
And at the end of this, even though God knows I took part in the fasting but was on the low thinking about nice, greasy (totally-not-good-for-my-diet) burgers all day long 😂 (when I could have been better utilising my time), God says: “Thank you for your efforts, here – I’m commanding you to have a party and have lots of fun”.
If you’ve read up to here, it’s most likely that you are thinking “niceee, but maybe give it a rest with the R.E. lesson Fahmida”?
Nope, no can do bud. Believe me, it’s in your interest to read the next bit because I don’t want to be mentioning a sacrificial slaughter later in this post and be giving the vegans amongst us heart palpitations. (I write this for you my vegans – I’m team #lovetheanimals too, I promise). I just want to give you fair warning and an explanation to answer any of your curiosities.
So having said that, I’m going to tell you about the second Eid that we celebrate.
It’s called Eid al-Adha, although in this part of the world, in Bangladesh, it is commonly referred to as Qurbani Eid. Qurbani literally means ‘sacrifice’ and it is this sacrifice of animals that distinguishes it from the other Eid that we celebrate after Ramadan.
There’s a wider religious story behind the festival of Qurbani Eid (you can Google it, it’s similar to the Biblical version of events) although I’m going to give you a short explanation on the rulings as to how it is to be celebrated.
It involves the sacrifice of a cow (one cow is to be sacrificed in the name of every seven people in your family, to be specific) and it places on able Muslims (who can afford it) an onus to sacrifice the cow and then give away its meat as a form of charity. (It isn’t just cows by the way, if it is within your means, you can in addition to the cows, sacrifice sheep and goats too).
One third of the sacrifice is to be given away to your neighbours (as a gesture of good will and kindness), another third to the poor and needy and the last third, you are allowed to keep for yourself.
While for some of us, living our comfortable lives in the West means that we always have the opportunity to buy and eat meat, what you have to bear in mind is that in less economically developed countries where much of the population live below the bread-line, this celebration of Eid is for many, the only time of the year where they are guaranteed the luxury of eating meat. (I’m sorry vegans, veganism hasn’t hit this part of the world yet – most people over here still absolutely relish eating meat).
And so, even though I knew that the sacrifice was a part of tradition and expected it to take place, when I awoke to the sound of the final bleat of a dying sheep being slaughtered in the courtyard next-door, it made the animal-lover in me sad.
The sadness lasted five minutes 😭.
No sooner had the slaughtering been done than did the poor children, sent by their families, congregate – wide smiles, bigger than your whole entire future, spread across their excited little faces. (Okay that last bit was cringe, so sue me, idc).
For a brief second, I could mind-read. They were thinking “We eatin’ good tonight mamaaa”. And that’s when I realised. This was it. Their smiles. Their smiles embodied the very spirit of this joyous celebration.