The Al-Huda Family Eid: Did You have this Much Fun?
by Muhammad Alshareef
Her husband phoned her nervously and asked, "Did they come yet?"
"Not yet," she replied.
"Be prepared at any moment," he told her, "we are marked down for this time slot."
The phone went dead and she rushed back to the kitchen to pull a cake out of the oven.
It was her first Eid away from home. Never on Eid had she been without her father's gentle hug, gifts from her mother and the silly games of her brothers and sisters. This Eid she had prepared to be without all of that; this Eid was supposed to be the saddest of her life. It wasn't!
The sisters trickled into her apartment in what seemed like an endless flow. Streamers fell out each time the door was opened. Her guests rubbed knees trying to find places to sit. The food was excellent. But more than that, the sisterhood was superb. She said later on, "Today I forgot my mother and father. It was the happiest Eid of my life!"
That year Al-Huda School in College Park, Maryland had organized an ‘Al-Hude Family Eid’. The Al-Huda School staff volunteered their homes, and a schedule was made of places for the brothers to visit and another for the sisters. The community at large was also strongly encouraged to participate. The brothers and sisters followed the schedule, going from house to house every hour, with a half-hour transition period between visits. At the end of the day there was a grand finale ‘Al-Hude Family Eid’ party. at Ibrahim Shafi's house.
There were a total of 10 Al-Huda staff homes visited, and each visit averaged about 35 to 40 participants! Games, meals, streamers, balloons, candy bags, and brotherhood and sisterhood tailed everyone that participated. During one of the visits, a brother stood up and addressed those present by saying, "Ever since we reverted to Islam, we have never been invited to an Asian home or an Arab home." He glanced around, "But today, there are so many countries represented here during this ‘Al-Hude Family Eid’. This is the Islam we were taught about. This is the way it should be. This is the best Eid of my life!"
The following day, another brother held my hand and sincerely said, "I have never seen so much love, brotherhood and sacrifice as I saw yesterday and all Ramadan long at Al-Huda."
One mother had made arrangements with her children's father that they would spend Eid with him. She, like many other Muslims, had prepared for the sadness that comes on Eid when one is alone. This Eid however, sisters crammed into her minivan and together they all bounced from home to home, following other cars for directions. At one point, there was a six-car entourage following one another, hazard lights flashing on each car to reach the next home. Someone could have mistaken the entourage for a funeral procession. Nay, it was an Eid procession!
One sister in the entourage needed gas and all six cars flooded the gas station lot. Onlookers gaped at the sea of women wearing hijab; there was no time to feel lonely. She said that day, "This is the happiest Eid of my life! I am having so much fun!"
While at the different homes, the brothers played a variety of icebreakers; one of the games they played was that every brother in the circle had to say 3 statements about themselves, one of them being untrue. Then it was up to the gathering to pick which statement was the incorrect one. One of the brothers stated, "I like Brother Basil." And all erupted laughing, saying, "That's the lie!"
Brother Basil replied, "It's the lie because he doesn't like me, he loves me for the sake of Allah!"
At the grand finale party at the end of the day, young students from Al-Huda performed Islamic songs that they had learned at school. Then, the brothers collected together and listened to a reminder of our brothers and sisters around the world that were spending Eid in sadness, fear and pain. The brothers listened to how the Sahaabaa enjoyed themselves on Eid, about the Sunnah of visiting one another and about the excellence of such gatherings in the sight of Allah subhaanahu wa ta'aala.
The community in Maryland, Washington and Virginia is made up of many reverts to Islam and many immigrants. For some people, this was the first Eid of their life; for others, it was their first Eid away from home. For nearly all of these reverts and immigrants in the area, Eid was spent alone, and it passed without so much as a phone call from a neighbor shouting Eid Mubarak, or a playmate for their children to exchange gifts with. This is the reality; compare this to what they see the non-Muslims do for Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Prior to the ‘‘Al-Hude Family Eid’’, I once spoke to a brother who lived in Washington and had been Muslim for over 7 years. I asked him how his Eid was and he told me that they spent Eid in Washington alone at home with their 4 children. No one visited them and there was no one for them to visit. His parents were non-Muslim and the few families he knew from the Masjid were busy. There are many other families like his, and the ‘‘Al-Hude Family Eid’’ was an effort to change all this.
May Allah subhaanahu wa ta'ala reward all those who hosted the brothers and sisters, all those who participated and all those who encouraged others to join in the celebration. In sha Allah, this tradition of Islam should become a tradition of all communities.
As the day winded down, as empty party plates were being collected, as people made their way to the shoe racks, one brother called to me as he made his way out; he said nothing; he did not have to, for his actions summed up the entire ‘‘Al-Huda Family Eid’’: all he did was wink and give a ‘thumbs up’.