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Making this an Eid to Remember – Celebrating in the time of COVID-19

By Sameera Ahmed, PhD and Sarrah AbuLughod, MA 

Making this an Eid to Remember - Celebrating in the time of COVID-19Growing up, the last few days of Ramadan in our household were always a flurry of activity. Whether we were quickly baking one last batch of cookies for the neighbors, putting the final touches on our Eid outfits, or quickly running out to buy bags of candy to hand out to the kids at the Eid prayer – there was always something that needed to be done! 

This year, everything feels so different. It’s understandable why so many of us are having a hard time getting excited when many of our normal Eid activities have had to be adjusted. But, we’re here to tell you that you CAN make Eid this year a super special occasion and there’s still time to make it all happen! 

Celebrating is Vital for our Resilience 

This past month was particularly challenging for so many. Fasting without the normal routine of school, work, gatherings, in-person iftars, tarawih, and everything else that helped make Ramadan special and fun (or manageable) was hard on many. But we did it!

By celebrating the completion of our religious duty to Allah, we can remind ourselves and others that real happiness results from performing our obligations and making sacrifices for a noble objective. 

Additionally, celebrating signifies our gratitude to Allah for allowing us to experience this unique Ramadan. We should thank Him, for He is the One who gave us everything we used to get by this month including the money we paid (or will pay) for zakat al-fitr and other charities. Allah says in the Quran, {And (He desires) that you should complete the prescribed period and that you should glorify Allah for having guided you and that you may give thanks.} (Al-Baqarah 2:185)

Making this an Eid to Remember - Celebrating in the time of COVID-19There is a reason that most of us love Eid and that’s because we have an internal need for the emotional and social nourishment that celebrating brings us. This Eid we are not only celebrating a long month of fasting, but we are also celebrating our growth and resilience. Most of us just spent 2-3 months in some form of lockdown. Many of our masajid have worked hard to offer programming online rather than in-person. We’ve adapted the way we interact with loved ones for their and our own protection. In fact, we’ve changed the way we do most things – from pumping gas to grocery shopping and in celebrating we can acknowledge and honor our collective adaptability and our efforts in making the world a safer place for everyone. 

Failing to celebrate our resilience would not only be ignoring the achievement, but it would in some sense be like forgetting to thank Allah for helping us through it. Without marking the achievement, we are at more risk of feeling disillusioned – like no progress has been made – which can result in apathy. Without feeling a sense of progress, there is a greater risk of burn-out and fatigue. 

It’s like gardening. Celebrating is like taking care of our soil/soul, providing the nutrients to get beautiful flowers. If we don’t intentionally and actively celebrate, our enthusiasm gets thin. Without the nutrients needed in thin topsoil, the flowers won’t bloom. Fatigue sets in and we lose purpose. 

Celebrating is not only an expression of gratitude to Allah, but it also improves our own mental health condition by allowing us to focus on the positive small gains in a time when things may feel a bit overwhelming. 

Celebrating with Kids

Eid is special – there’s no doubt about it. It’s up to us as parents to make sure our children feel that way as well. Whether we like it or not, Eid is subconsciously (or very consciously) compared to Christmas and the amount of excitement and enthusiasm we put into practice – especially for young children – will send them a clear message. 

We want to build positive associations so that they continue to value our traditions and holidays. Research shows us that children who value their Muslim identity as highly as they do their American identity have greater outcomes in their development. One of the ways we as parents can help them develop a positive association with their religion is to make holidays special and this year is no exception. Read on for some creative ideas!

A Chance to Highlight Our Values

Making this an Eid to Remember - Celebrating in the time of COVID-19While this year will be different, perhaps it gives us all a better opportunity to highlight our true values. For many, especially those with older kids, Eid may have become more about spending time with friends and comparing gifts or how much “eidie” one has collected rather than being with family. This year may allow us a chance to refocus.  

Many of us are under financial stress and gift-giving may need to look different this year. Perhaps it’s a time to reflect on the patterns of behavior we were letting ourselves get into with regards to consumerism and missing out on the true meaning of generosity and the giving tradition that runs deep within our religion. How we choose to celebrate highlights our true values and sends messages to our children for what to expect out of this holiday. 

This year, instead of gifting objects and items, perhaps send letters to loved ones who you cannot visit in person.  Or perhaps with more time on our hands at home, your family can encourage home-made gifts this year! 

Whatever you do, remember each family is unique. What works for one family, may not work for your family circumstances. Instead, use the ideas below as a starting point to get your creative juices flowing. 

Remembering Community

It may have been a while since you’ve seen your friends and family in person, but remember, social distancing does not mean social isolation. The collective celebration is also important and helps solidify the feeling that we are all in this together. Finding ways to celebrate together can also help remind us that we have a network that cares for us and whom we care for.  As you plan on how you will personally celebrate, make sure to try to include others who may be forgotten and left out. 

Making this an Eid to Remember - Celebrating in the time of COVID-19Some of us may be single in a city and would love to be included in an online mosque celebration. Some of us may be converts and might not have a close family to celebrate with and would love an invitation to your family video chat. Some of us may have lost jobs this year and finances might be an issue – having a meal dropped off or being given a gift card for a meal delivery service might come as such a relief as we try to find a way to make the day special for our families. Some of us may even have had COVID-19 related illnesses or deaths in our family and having someone remember us and reach out on this special day of the year may mean the world to us. 

If you have other ideas of how to celebrate as a community in these socially distant times, we’d love to hear from you! Mention us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter and share your creativity with our online community using the hashtag #TheFYI.

There’s Still Time! 

Though it feels like Eid is just around the corner there’s still time to get your act together. Make sure to involve the family by having a meeting to discuss reframing this Eid and as an opportunity to set up expectations. Brainstorm for ideas about what would make this Eid uniquely special for your family. Maybe you have a much-loved tradition that can – with a little adjustment – still be fulfilled! 

I know in our family – food is always a key marker of tradition. If you can, try to make the treats you always used to make for Eid. Stop by the same restaurant you always used to and get takeout! Whatever you can do to keep that special connection to the holiday. 

Preparing For Eid

Decorate the house

Clean up the house as a family with nasheeds playing in the background!

Make it feel special, exciting, different. (Perfect and perfection is not the goal!) 

Put lights up or fill the room with balloons.

Make big signs or banners.

Burn candles or incense and build a positive smell association with the occasion.

 (If your kids are younger and may make it difficult to decorate, then do it when they are asleep and wait to see their excitement when they wake up.) 

Put together an Eid Playlist

If you’ve got a media enthusiast in the household, this may be a good job for them. Gather a list of nasheeds, songs, poems, Quran recitation and play them as you are preparing. This can be used year after year as you build your family’s traditions. Music helps build excitement and positive associations that will carry on as a tradition for future years.

Pre-Eid Celebrations

Many cultures and families have Eid-“eve” activities that are also part of the excitement!

Many women get together and put on henna, do facials, etc. the night before Eid.  You can still do that in our own houses and connect online to mirror the excitement and fun.

Don’t lose out on the spiritual opportunity. The Messenger of Allah(s) said, ’There are five nights on which du’a is not rejected: the first night of Rajab, the fifteenth night of Sha’ban, Thursday night, the night before Eid al-Fitr and the night before Eid al-Nahr (al-Adha)’. [Suyuti]

Remembering the Sunnah of Eid

Making this an Eid to Remember - Celebrating in the time of COVID-19Remind your family about the sunnah of Eid that we can still do in quarantine (ghusl on Eid day, eating before eid prayer, dressing up, reciting takbeerat, exchanging well wishes, prayers, eating and drinking festive foods during daylight hours! 

Pay the Fidya and/or the Zakat-ul-Fitr as soon as possible so those who are less fortunate have time to get their Eid celebration preparations in time to also participate in and experience in the joy of Eid. With your older kids use this as an opportunity to talk about current unemployment levels in America and how many are struggling. Build empathy, awareness, and ideas on what you can do as a family to help not just for Eid but in the long term. 

It helps to reinforce teaching the sunnah with practical examples. This highlights the beauty and flexibility of Islam and that it is truly for all time, places, and situations.

Eid Morning

Just because you aren’t planning on going to the big Eid prayer and seeing all your friends and family on Eid doesn’t mean you shouldn’t mark the day by getting all gussied up! If you’re like us, you may have spent the past few months in your comfiest of clothing – sweats, leggings, that big-ol’ college hoodie. Instead, find something special to wear that makes you feel good! 

The Prophet (S) instructed us to mark this as a special day. He made sure to shower (ghusl), dress up, and wear perfume (itr) and wear nice clothes to celebrate the accomplishment of Ramadan, the spiritual renewal, self-discipline, and a more beautified state of being. Do the little extra things you may not normally do. The extra effort will definitely help you get into the spirit of Eid. 

Maintain Traditions

Though you may not be gathering to pray with your community, you can still gather as a family in your prayer space. Remember to make takbeerat and pray Eid salat together. This also might be a fun time to exchange gifts and treats that you prepared with your family ahead of time. 

After prayer, consider finding a spiritual reminder to tune-in to – whether it be a webinar, a virtual Eid khutbah or a podcast, it’s always good to refocus the day in a spiritual direction as the celebrations begin. 

At the end of your family gathering, end with hugging each family member and congratulating them on completing a resilient Ramadan. Physically hugging is so important in showing love and affection and if you don’t typically do it very often in your family, it will make this day even more special! 

Activity Ideas

Masjid/Community Center Activities

Drive through Eid – Many local masajid are having drive through Eid celebrations where people are decorating their cars, handing out goodie bags and treats, and celebrating in a socially distant but very festive way! 

Eid parade/cruise – Some communities have organized families to decorate their cars, drive along major roads in a parade, and join a procession with takbeerat

Video montage – Community members have organized to share photographs and/or video of clips wishing each other Eid Mubarak and then plan on mass distributing the message on a local list-serve or community Facebook page. 

This community has organized outreach efforts for the greater community with two week’s worth of programming including virtual story-time, henna design tutorials, Eid crafting, and much more! 

Connect with your Family and Friends 

Drive-by Eid– Maintain your social distance by driving to meet and greet friends. You stay in your car, they stay on their driveway, and you get to connect and celebrate together! 

Online gathering– Set up a time to meet with each other online or have a virtual open house using the House Party App in order to meet and greet. Make it interactive and fun by playing virtual games with each other like charades or family jeopardy. 

Secret Sahabi– Have secret gift exchanges with friends and see if they can figure out who gave them the gift. Add some spice to the excitement and make it a scavenger hunt! 

Socially distant picnics– If you are confident that all members can and will maintain their distance, consider having a picnic where each individual/family brings their own food and blanket and enjoys the weather and conversation. (This is not recommended for individuals with young children who may have difficulty following directions). 

Online gaming – Connect with each other through healthy online gaming competition with friends. 

Family Activities

“Yes Day”- As parents, we often have a lot of restrictions. So make Eid special by having a day where many of these restrictions are lifted. It may be the day that young kids are able to fill their stomachs with candy, have soda if they aren’t allowed to normally, and stay up later than their regular bedtimes. 

Gift exchange – Exchange gifts with each other. Make sure to focus on the thought, effort, and the intention rather than the monetary value of the gift. As we said before we’re modeling our values in our reactions and focus on gifts.

Take a Hike – Connect with nature and go for a family hike. Enjoy the company of the angels while you make takbeerat as you walk. 

Visit the sick – Some community members may be physically unable to join due to their health, a disability, or other factors. Bring the party to them. Have a drive-by parade, send balloons, and bring them some joy so that they can also feel the Eid festivities and a beloved member of the community. 

Family Backyard Olympics – Organize fun family competitions in your backyard or a nearby park to increase the adrenalin and fun.

Scavenger hunt– Hide family gifts or treats around your home, give clues to each other, or for younger children simply play hot or cold to find their gift or treat. 

Water fight – If the weather cooperates, have a parents-versus-kids water fight with balloons, water guns, slip-and-slide, or simply a water hose. 

Food Decorations – Decorate cookie or cupcake together and then eat them for a special Eid dessert

Ice cream Sundaes – Bring some ice cream home, crush all sorts of toppings, whip cream, syrups so they can make their own fantastic ice cream sundaes. 

Board Games – Play board games with each other and enjoy the moments of togetherness. 

Campfire – For those who have access to a fire pit or can build a fire, gather around together, make smores, and reflect on the best part of this year’s Ramadan

Remembering Allah – End the day with praying Isha together as a family, make dua thanking Allah for the blessings of the day and recount your blessings as you leave another Ramadan behind. 

Remember, these are ideas to get your juices flowing. Take them and apply them to your reality and situation. We’d love to see and hear what you are doing! Please post your pictures on social media and tag us (The Family and Youth Institute) in your post! Together we will make this an EID to REMEMBER! From our family to yours, The Family and Youth Institute would like to wish you a blessed and Happy Eid!

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Zakat eligibility of The FYI

The Family & Youth Institute, or The FYI, is a well-known Muslim organization in the United States. It works to promote mental health and wellness by strengthening and empowering individuals, families, and communities through research and education. It has been working for many years to bring Islamic perspectives to understanding and promoting mental health in our communities.

It is dedicated to serving and supporting Muslims – safeguarding our deen, our families, and our future generations. Therefore, the work of The FYI comes in the category of ‘fi sabeelillah’ or the Path of Allah, within the eight categories where Zakat money can be used.

Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed for it and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah, and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah, And Allah, is Knowing and Wise.”
(Al-Tawbah 9:60)

According to scholars who widen the meaning of fee sabeelillah to include any activities that promote Islamic growth, The FYI is indeed eligible to receive part of the Zakat funds for its programs and services. I urge Muslims in America to support this organization through their donations, general charity, and through their Zakat. I ask Allah swt to strengthen and guide The FYI to continue its good work in supporting Muslims.

Shaikh Ali Suleiman Ali, PhD

About Shaikh Ali

Sh. Ali Suleiman Ali was born in Ghana where he spent his childhood studying with various Muslim scholars. He then moved to Saudi Arabia and enrolled in the Islamic University of Madina.  He graduated with a degree in both Arabic and Islamic Studies. Dr. Ali went on to complete his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Sh. Ali serves on the Advisory Council of The Family & Youth Institute. He is the Senior Imam and Director of the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs in Canton, Michigan. Additionally, he serves as the Director of Muslim Family Services in Detroit and is a council member of the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA). He is also a member of the North American Imams Federation (NAIF) and the Association of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA).