The invitation

I was sitting on the flimsy mattress folded out from the loveseat in Grandma’s extra room when my cell phone rang. It was a local number I didn’t recognize.

“Hello?” I answered.

“Corinna?” It was a man’s voice.

“Yes?” I replied.

“It’s Raj!”

It was the older gentleman to whom I had given my cell phone number at the first Texas mosque. I pictured his handlebar mustache.

His enthusiasm was contagious. “Raj!” I cried back.

He explained that he was calling on behalf of his family. They would like to invite me to their Eid festivities, which were approaching. They planned to attend the special service at the mosque Wednesday morning and afterwards gather at his daughter’s home for a meal. Would I like to meet them at the mosque and then caravan back to their place? I told him that sounded excellent.

I had also learned of another Eid celebration, this one arranged by the North Texas Islamic Association, which would be held at the Dallas Convention Center the day before I met Raj and his family. I hadn’t observed the Eid Al-Fitr at the end of Ramadan that honors the last day of fasting. Now I would celebrate double.

When I made my plans to travel to Dallas, I hadn’t realized the significance of the Eid Al-Adha. I had seen it on my calendar—it was obviously big enough to make it on my mass-produced At-A-Glance Monthly Planner—but I didn’t realize that it is arguably the most important date of the year for Muslims. That it coincided with my trip was either dumb luck or the hand of Allah.

Aside from the two Eids, Islam has only one other major holiday: Muhammad’s birthday—though if and when to observe it is not universally agreed upon. Some Muslims opt not to celebrate it, believing its recognition implies a level of devotion that threatens the basic monotheism of the faith. Among those who observe the holiday, there’s disagreement about which day to honor. Sunnis generally recognize one date while Shiites tend to prefer a time several days later. With the Eids, it’s different. Everyone gets on the same page—though festivities still might not coincide exactly, most are within a few hours depending on what country’s clock celebrants are observing.

Eid al-Adha is all about the unity of people—and not just of Muslims with one another. It commemorates an incident that appears in the Jewish Torah and Christian Old Testament: when God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son. Only in the Quran, the boy is Abrahams’ son Ishmael (whose mother is Hager) instead of Isaac (whose mother is Sarah). In both cases, God stops Abraham just before carrying out the act and lets him kill a ram instead. Muslims believe that their ancestry can be traced back to Abraham through Ishmael, binding them with Jews and Christians who both claim this patriarch. Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice, memorializes the common root of the three major monotheistic faiths. The holiday also coincides with the end of the Hajj, so that as the pilgrims gather en mass in Mecca, Muslims are gathering all over the world with them.

As I approached the convention center by car, I could see a few police officers stationed at various pedestrian entrances. I had been conditioned by my time in post-9/11 D.C. to expect heavy security at busy gatherings, especially those involving what might be considered a “hot-button” topic. I thought about the annual Pre-tribulation Conference held in a Dallas hotel not far from here and the damage that could be done by one crazed fundamentalist bent on hastening the onset of the rapture. But this show of force didn’t appear to be anything more than what you might expect to see for simple crowd control at a Bon Jovi concert. I wondered if decisions regarding safety measures were dependent on who might be the target of attacks.

7 thoughts on “The invitation

  1. I love it. A pleasant way to work a conversion. “Come celebrate with us and then come to dinner with our family.” No hardcore preaching to achieve a goal that is judged as better than what you may already have. In fact there is a principle of inclusion of all Abrahamic faiths. If only all faiths could acknowledge their common ancestor and work at coming together in oneness instead of dividing because each thinks they have a better truth it could change the world. Instead we find divisiveness, often separation of families and wars fought over such divisions.

  2. …..”because each thinks they have a better truth.” What a great line, Frank. And so on point from my heart and mind. . Merrill

    • Hi Okiebuddhist, That’s a very nice personal essay. Thank you for linking here. Yes, I encountered a bit of this sort of sentiment. Not so much on the surface, but if you scratch a little deeper. I feel it goes hand-in-hand with certain attitudes about women, which also exist pretty much across the board in every kind of fundamentalist circle. I opt to not focus on these sorts of exclusive beliefs…I feel they are counter to true love and unity which is at the core of every religion I explored. I feel like focusing on them gives them more power, you know? I want to give my energy to the positive stuff. Anything that divides feels like a distraction tactic.

      • Corinna,
        A couple of years ago the theme of the General (National) Assembly of the Unitarian Universalists was “Standing on the Side of Love.” Basically, I think your comments about giving energy to the positive actions and ideas fit right into that theme. Love and acceptance are central to “right” living.

        I am also reminded of the slogan for a meeting of Atheists in Southern California, I believe it was, which touted these ideas:
        “Seeking good,
        Doing right,
        Finding peace.”
        They also resonate with your ideas…….and certainly resonate with mine. Simplicity is sometimes a gift.

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