Day 30: Eid Mubarak!

Wishing you all a wonderful Eid! Hope it was joyous, with family and friends and festivities. Thank you so much for reading along for the past 30 days, and for sharing your traditions, memories, recipes and recollections. YOU all made the blog so much fun to do!

Traditionally, our family would celebrate Eid this way: doing mehndi the night before at our friends home, waking up on Eid morning to my mom-in-law’s sheer korma and patties, the dining table laid out with mirror encrusted table mats and our grandparents silver tea set, and overflowing with homemade samosas, shami kebabs, shahi tukra, dahi barra, and moon and star cookies There would be moons and stars hanging on our front door, lights on our deck, and “These are the days of Eid” playing on the Ipod. We would say our prayers with our Sunday School community at a school or clubhouse. Family and friends would come to our house for lunch or dinner, the house brimming with our parents, cousins and kids and joyous mayhem. Or we would visit friend to friend until late into the night, dressed in sequins and sparkles and jingling with chooris.

This year, after 30 days of sharing traditions old and new, our Eid was anything but ‘tradiitional’. We are in Carmel, California. Our post-Eid trip got derailed by Arif’s work commitment, which necessitated that he go to Paris earlier than planned. Instead of cancelling the trip we decided to come a couple of days early, so we could still have some family time, especially before Saanya heads off to college.

So this year, Eid morning started with yoga surrounded by stunning views of canyon and mountains , orchards and oaks and fields of lavendar. We googled to find a nearby mosque for Eid prayers and found the Monterey Islamic Center, and said our prayers with an eclectic and friendly group of Muslims from Sudan, Afghanistan, Malaysia, and Indonesia, in a small house not far from the beach. Eid brunch consisted of crabcakes, meatballs, panninis and omelettes, followed by shopping for Eid presents; later ping pong and s’mores and a bonfire.

Perhaps it’s ironic that this year’s Eid was anything but traditional. Perhaps it’s fitting. Traditions are passed down from generations, but memories are created anew, with each family experience that brings joy and comfort and sustenance and happiness. We’ve lived a month full of traditions, and this Eid we created new memories, which I hope will last a lifetime.

Day 30, Tradition 30: Preserving traditions, creating memories

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Day 29: “Oh,What Would Eid Be Without Mehndi!”

Guest blogger: My dear friend Bano Aunty

The local community room is alive with music blaring, a myriad of costumes, laughter and aromas of spicy food, as several people gather to celebrate ‘Chand Raat’. It is the last day of Ramadan, and tomorrow we will celebrate Eid. My two little grand kids have explored the toy stalls, eaten a hearty meal, and now eagerly ask, “when will we do the mehndi?” They skip along as we head to the hallway lined with ladies, deftly working mehndi cones into exquisite designs, as paisleys, birds, flowers and geometric patterns spill on to outstretched palms. As we settle down, my grandson wants to be first and requests a smiley face on his hand. My granddaughter patiently reviews many designs and finally chooses one, and watches raptly as it unfolds onto her tiny hand.

My mind drifts to my seven year old self … as I make a circle with henna on my palm and slowly make dots all around, with a matchstick! The sweet smell of henna fills the room. My new clothes, very fancy, with shimmering ‘gota’ trim, are laid out on the chair. A new pair of shoes too and matching glass bangles! Many Eids follow, and the ritual of taking dry green powdered mehndi, and mixing it with water and watching it turn thick like melted chocolate, continues. The excitement and creative energy as patterns form on ones hand; the laughter and giggling as friends and family gather on nights before Eid and the platter of mehndi comes out, bringing out the artist in all. Then comes the magic moment. Washing the dry mehndi off the next morning and the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ of whose color came out a more spectacular deep rusty orange. Whose hand smelled the most fragrant. My father would be the greatest admirer of my mehndi endeavors. At one Eid fair I asked him for 8 annas (50cents) to buy some bangles. He promptly gave me five rupees ($5). I felt I could buy the whole basket of bangles perched on the woman’s head. With a twist of her arms she would gracefully put the basket down, and we would point excitedly at the piles of glass bangles shimmering as they caught the light. Choosing some for each wrist and then letting them jingle, all day long. It was Eid after all!

Then came time for me to go to college in Lahore and live in the hostel. My very first Eid away from home. Plans were made to spend Eid with my aunt and uncle and cousins. A warm welcome, a hearty meal, and the evening drags on. The sun has set, prayers have been offered, the drums are beating, announcing the sighting of the moon and Eid the next day. But no sign of mehndi action, no sign of bangles action! I become quieter and a bit sad. It does not occur to me to say something. As an attack of homesickness descends, the tears come rolling down.

My cousin in panic calls her mother into our room, as I begin sobbing uncontrollably. My dearest aunt, the sweetest lady on earth, stares in disbelief and is ready to dissolve into tears herself! My saying mehndi, at that point does not help because everyone thinks something serious is wrong. A phone call is promptly booked, through an operator to Quetta, to my parents. There is a heavy ringing sound. My father picks up the phone. He listens to my aunt and laughing heartily says sweetly to her “dear dearest little sister, just send your servant to the bazaar and get some mehndi.” Both my parents talk to me on the phone. I can hear my brothers playing in the background. A fresh round of Eid Mubaraks follow. As the receiver is put down, the help from the kitchen is seen scurrying on his bicycle to the bazaar. Oh, what would Eid be without mehndi!

Day 29, Tradition 29: Mehndi on Chaand Raat

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Day 28: One Small Step

Each year I try and host an interfaith iftaar with friends and neighbors. It’s a time to share our traditions with friends of different faiths, and a chance for them to ask questions and celebrate with us. This year, I hosted an ‘interfaith MoverMoms book club and iftaar’ in our new home. And my dear friend Rebecca, of the Jewish faith, fasted with me that day.

We discussed the book “I Am Malala”, and talked about her tenacity, feistiness, and the immense responsibility resting on her young shoulders; she had just gotten back from Nigeria trying to negotiate the return of the young girls who were kidnapped. I remember when I went to hear her and her father speak last year. So many of us wanted to know what made Malala so brave. Her father said, “Don’t ask me what I did for my daughter. Ask me what I did not do. I did not clip her wings.”

At 8:34pm, we paused. I passed around a plate of dates, which my aunt had brought from Medina. We sipped ice tea, had samosas, cholay, fruit salad, hummus and mitahi. My friends asked me about the meaning of Ramadan, if kids are required to fast, how prayers are said, fasting in their own faith traditions, and the recipe for the samosas. A simple celebration of faith, of understanding, of respect. With all that is happening in the world today, one small step …

Day 28, Tradition 28: Interfaith Iftaar

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Day 27: Setting the Table for Understanding

Guest blogger: My dear friend Gayle

My wish for everyone, that you have a friend like Gayle in your life.  Her generosity, kindness, and love are something else. Thank you so much for this my dear friend.

 

For about 10 years I worked as Director of Student Services and International Student Advisor for Southeastern University in DC.  It was a small school of about 1200 students, half of them American and the other half international.  When I entered the library on my first day at SEU, I observed a 19 year old male student from Pakistan tutoring a 60+ year old female American student.  Through their interaction, I was struck by the unique opportunity we had to develop a significant level of inter-cultural and inter-religious understanding among our students, faculty and staff.  That day, I decided that one of my goals at the university would be to make sure that on graduation day, each student not only understood computers, finance and economics, but that they also understood each other and celebrated our differences.

To that end, we went about celebrating just about everything that was important to any contingent of our students.  On Songkran, the Thai New Year, we invited the Buddhist monks in to lead a prayer service; we filled “Black History Month” with a variety of activities to recognize the innovations and contributions of African Americans; for Chinese New Year, we all participated in the “Lion Dance,” and so on.  The celebrations were held in the lobby in the center of our building so that everyone who was in the building and everyone who entered the building would be encouraged to stop and participate.  And food was always served.

Our annual Ramadan iftar was one of our most important traditions. We ran around town collecting various items and dishes to make up our meal – mejdool dates from Costco, Pakistani samosas from “Kabob Palace,” a Yemeni/Ethiopian meat stew with rice from “Al Jazeera,”  fresh pita bread, hummus and other dips from the Lebanese “Mediterranean Bakery,” baklava and other sweets from the Iranian “Yaz Bakery” and my version of either Moroccan Harira or Turkish Mercimek soup from “Gayle’s Kitchen.”

We would set up chairs and buffet tables in the lobby.  Our students, fasters and non-fasters alike would gather, from so many different countries, representing a “mini-ummah”. I would open the celebration by greeting everyone with “Salaam Alaikum”, a phrase very familiar to me.  In the language of my religion, it is similarly “Shalom” (again proving how similar we are).   Our main objective was to let our Muslim students know that even though they were not at home, they were in their second home with a school family who greatly respected, appreciated and cared about them.

I received one of the best gifts of my life during my time at SEU.  I met ‘My Littlest One’ (officially known as ‘MaDiha Mahmood’).  A feisty little force of nature, MaDiha was so different from all of our other students and from just about any other person I’ve ever met on earth (except for one person).  Most of our other students stayed within their ‘groups’. Not MaDiha. She was inclusive and wanted to get to know everyone; she didn’t judge anyone. In a place where most people could not agree on anything, everyone equally loved MaDiha!

I have had the opportunity to watch “My Littlest One” grow in to a fabulous woman/daughter/sister/wife/mother/aunt/friend/professional mashAllah.  I was there when she married a lovely man named Kashif; at the settlement of their first home; after she gave birth to precious Shehernaz Fatemah, who has now been joined by her adorable twin brothers, Shahan and Jalal.

MaDiha and Kashif ended up in Washington, DC suburbs, and MaDiha quickly went about the business of nesting and creating a comfortable home, establishing herself professionally and developing a network of close friends.  Like someone else we love, MaDiha is the center of her circle of very close friends. She is thoughtful and considerate; no matter how busy she is, she takes the time to reach out and keep in touch.  Is this sounding more and more like someone else we all love?

When I opened the December 2008 of “Washingtonian” magazine, I was thrilled to find the article, “Pakistan on the Potomac” (http://www.washingtonian.com/articles/people/pakistan-on-the-potomac/). As I devoured the article, I realized two things:  just by reading it, you immediately understand the open-hearted, loving soul and spirit of the author; and the author reminded me exactly of MaDiha. I thought to myself, I must meet Salma Hasan Ali, and I must somehow get she and MaDiha together.

I fell in love with Salma the day I read “Pakistan on the Potomac” and meeting her just confirmed what I already felt.  I have now appointed myself an honorary member of the Ali family and impose myself on them at every possible opportunity!

Eid Mubarak my fellow worldwide members of the distinguished organization, “Fans of Salma” (F.O.S.)!  In a warm and heartfelt way that only she can, through “30 Days”, Salma clearly focuses us on our blessings and encourages us to appreciate things we have taken for granted.  For the 335 days that we have to wait until Salma’s next “30 Days” blog, may we all follow Salma’s daily example of consistently sharing our blessings with those who are less fortunate and constantly thinking about and working towards the uplift of our fellow humans.

May the children of the world sleep in peace tonight.  May they wake up tomorrow in to arms of loving families who have enough food to eat, clean water to drink and secure and comfortable shelter.  May their only worry be studying for a test with a very difficult teacher.

Day 27, Tradition 27: Understanding. Friendship. Love.

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Day 26: A Mix of Old and New

Guest blogger: My dear friend Humera Rahman

It’s the last day of Ramadan and in a few hours my family and I will congregate at a Lebanese restaurant to break our final fast of this glorious month.  It’s been a month of ups and downs; a month of balancing worship and worldly duties. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to create a month that will be memorable for my children with emphasis on religion accented with moments of tradition. Some of these traditions are those passed down from generation to generation and others are those I’ve created.

From my mother and grandmother I’ve learned the art of preparing traditional meals, caring about those in need, focusing on worship, and teaching my boys about the significance of this month. The traditions I’ve created are to help my boys feel involved and engaged during these 30 days – American traditions with an Islamic twist.  This Ramadan I created a ‘treats tree’ for the kids.  There was one bag hanging for each day of this month.  Each bag contained anything from candy, money, small toys, to activity books and homemade coupons for their favorite activities (ice skating, going out for ice cream, bowling night, etc).  I also wrote lessons from the Prophet (saw) for my son to read and discuss in the evening after Iftar. Other new traditions are a mix of Christmas tree decorations with handmade stars and moons cut out of glittery paper.

This year I also added a gingerbread element to the lineup.  My son Aleem loves gingerbread so we created a gingerbread mosque tying his love for the cookie with an iconic aspect of Islam. We also make Eid cards for friends and family, donated gifts for less fortunate children, purchased food for a food pantry, and helped raise money for the people of Gaza.

Each Ramadan will bring new traditions – some taken from my heritage and others taken from Michaels or HGTV.  It’s a work in progress and I hope Allah (swt) gives me the honor of celebrating it to the fullest.

Day 26, Tradition 26: Gingerbread Mosque, and more

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Day 25: The Magic of Suhoor

Guest blogger: My wonderful Mom!

A lot has already been said about the essence of Ramadan, and I am sure we have all gained and learnt a lot from everyone’s  experiences.   While most of the emphasis has been on iftar, things we eat and drink after we open our fasts (I prefer to use the word ‘open’; break fast to me sounds like a regular ‘breakfast’), I am going to write about ‘suhoor’, what we eat before we start our fast.

For me growing up in my parent’s house, suhoor held a special charm. After the regular suhoor meal consisting of freshly made hot parathas, with eggs, keema, or mutton curry, we would top it off with a yummy desert treat, which was my favorite. It is called  “khajla phenni”, which we bought at the supermarket, soaked in milk with some sugar the night before, and ate at suhoor.  I recall now that khajla was actually nothing more than fried flaky sweetened dough (what did we know in those days.)  My children and grandchildren today have replaced this with chocolate chip waffles and strawberry pancakes.

Waking up from a sound sleep at 3 am to eat suhoor was really hard. However seeing the encouraging smile on my father’s face and a pat on the back from him made it all worthwhile. There were seven of us brothers and sisters, and we had fun.  Having had our meal, said our morning prayers, we slipped back into bed, with a good feeling of accomplishment.

Day 25, Tradition 25: The Magic of Suhoor

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Day 24: Prince Ali

Guest blogger: Zayd

One of our many traditions during Ramadan, when it’s not in the summer, is that my mom and I go into school and give a presentation on Ramadan and Eid to my class. We’ve been doing this tradition since nursery school all the way till now. Once a year instead of putting on a t-shirt and shorts, I put on a kurta pajama. When I get to school I feel pretty shy and nervous about what my classmates will think. But once, some of the kids started calling me ‘Prince Ali’, and I felt much better. People would ask many questions — like what is Eid, what kind of presents do you get, does Santa give you the presents, and is Eid the day before Christmas (as in Christmas ‘eve’). I told them that when you get a little older you are required to fast every day for thirty days. You can only eat and drink before sunrise and after sunset. My friends couldn’t imagine it. We would also read them stories that had to do with Ramadan and Eid. My friends would still ask if Santa gave me my presents.

There was never a lesson on Ramadan in class like there was for Christmas and Hanukkah. I really enjoyed being the teacher and being able to tell my friends about my religion. If you have ever been a teacher or a student, the best way to make a student listen is to give them food, preferably cookies. That is why every Ramadan my family makes our famous moon and star cookies, and we bring them to school. That is another tradition that my cousin and I wrote about earlier this month. These traditions have become the most long lasting and most memorable traditions for me during Ramadan.

Day 24, Tradition 24: School Ramadan/Eid Presentations

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Day 23: The Giving Card

Guest blogger: Saanya

One of my traditions during Ramadan has been to make cards to raise money for children’s education, either for the children that I have been supporting through Pennies for Education and Health, or for SOS Children’s Villages, the Edhi foundation, Todd Shea’s CDRS, or other organizations. (http://www.thegivingcard.org)

This tradition brought our family together, as Ma and I would usually make the cards, grandparents would get involved, and so would friends and family who came over for iftaar. When Zayd was younger, he would help by scooping up all the scraps in his yellow dump truck. It also brought many of my Muslim friends together. Everything from Native Deen to Miley Cyrus would play in the background as we distracted our hunger with creativity, often dancing around the basement more than anything else. UPS benefitted too, getting their Ramadan bonuses from all the packages of moon and star cards we shipped all over the world!

As I go off to college, I hope the children that I began supporting nine years ago in Gujarat will have the same opportunity. I had the chance to meet them and make cards with them last summer in Ahmedabad. Being able to meet them was an incredible way to cap off a project that has been a part of my life for the past decade. As I head off to NYU, I’m not sure if I will continue to make cards, but I’m pretty sure I’ll find some other way to support my kids so they can go to college too.

Day 23, Tradition 23: Making cards, educating kids

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Day 22: “Doctor, Is this My Last Ramadan?”

Guest blogger: A heart wrenching, heart warming memory by a new friend I met through this blog, Uzma Iqbal from Houston

I met a terrified Sana when she was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer; she was frightened by the ominous lump in her chest. With her new job, things were finally looking up for Sana and her family, as hopes were high to achieve previously elusive financial stability. However, her optimism was short lived, as the disease weakened her to the point of physical collapse at her own workplace.

In spite of her best efforts, Sana was unable to falsely reassure herself of her disease’s slowing down, as X-Rays revealed that the cancer was beginning to spread. She was diagnosed a month before that year’s Ramadan. When Ramadan started, she asked if she could postpone chemotherapy in order to fast. I explained to her that her cancer was very aggressive and postponing chemotherapy would jeopardize her life. Reluctantly, she decided to forego the fast.

For five years, Sana’s burning desire to see her daughter’s nursing school graduation fought valiantly against the hardships of disease. Optimism against fatigue, spirit against decay. Sana’s determined heart against her aggressive disease.

Ramadan came around once more, and in all of her bravery, Sana asked again if she would be able to fast. I gave the same reply, but her next response truly startled me. Sana asked “doctor, is this my last Ramadan?”   I had no choice but to give the honest answer, so I replied “Yes, Sana. This may be your last Ramadan.” We once more discussed her daughter’s graduation, mere months away, before she left the clinic.

A week later, on her next visit, Sana requested that she be taken off chemotherapy in order to fast through her final Ramadan. “Allah has blessed me with 5 years to spend with my family and I want to thank Him,” she told me, as she explained the reasoning behind her bold decision. I explained to her that halting the chemotherapy would almost certainly result in further progression of her disease, but she was determined to express her immense gratitude and take full advantage of what she truly saw as a blessing. Her conviction was undeniable, so I accepted her decision to fast for her final Ramadan.

As the month went along, Sana gave me updates on how her fasts were going. On the day of Eid, I met Sana, weakened to the point of being confined to a wheelchair, but brimming with a feeling of gratitude and accomplishment. Two weeks after Eid, she passed away. Three months later, her daughter graduated from nursing school.

Every Ramadan since then, I always remember Sana. I remember her bravery in her decision to fast in the face of difficulty. I remember her burning desire to be there for her daughter and to express gratitude. I remember how she truly coveted Ramadan as a gift. But most of all, I remember her question to me: “Doctor, is this my last Ramadan,” and it always makes me reflect upon how I may one day find myself asking the same question. Ramadan is a blessing and gift for us to seize and take full advantage of. As the Prophet (SAW) said:
“Take benefit of five before five:
your youth before your old age,
your health before your sickness,
your wealth before your poverty,
your free-time before your preoccupation,
and your life before your death.”

Day 22, Tradition 22: Living Each Ramadan to its Fullest

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Day 21: Then, and Now

Guest blogger: My dear cousin Sana

When I think of Ramadan as a little girl, I have flashbacks. What I see the most is iftari in Rawalpindi in my Nana’s house. I see a long tablecloth spread on the carpet. I see my grandparents, my parents, my uncles and aunts and all my cousins sitting around the tablecloth feasting on pakoras and jalebis. All the grown-ups would have “sattu”, a light barley drink, with sugar and crushed ice, which was supposed to help beat the heat. In the hot, summer months, there was a loud cooler attached to the window blaring cold air into the house. There was a jasmine plant outside and the sweet smell of the flowers would come in through the window. There were many evenings when all the girls would be wearing jasmine bracelets hand-made by my Nani. These are my childhood memories of Ramadan. Whenever I think about them, I get a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Ramadan is very different for my girls. Every year, at the beginning of the month, the girls make Ramadan calendars. The calendars have a list of good deeds like “fasting”, “praying”, “acts of kindness”, “reading Quran”. They check off their good deeds every day of the month. At the end of Ramadan they will get a gift. Zara will probably go to the bookstore. Ayza will end up at the candy store! They make Eid cards to raise money for our mosque. They collect toys to donate as Eid gifts for the Muslim refugee children in our community. They go to Iftar parties with their friends and play games like “Islamic Jeopardy” and “Name that Surah”. They make crafts like paper lanterns and mosaic art. My girls will have very different childhood memories of Ramadan. But I hope when they look back, they too will get a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Day 21, Tradition 21: Creating warm, fuzzy feelings

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