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Eid and Tragedy

“How can I celebrate Eid in light of all the carnage that’s been happening throughout Ramadan?”

That’s the question I asked myself after the suicide bomb attack in Baghdad. The death toll is 165 as at Monday 4 July 2016; the so-called Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility.

As a Muslim who opposes the actions of IS and its ilk, I agree that these horrendous events do not have anything to do with the religion I believe in. How can anyone justify the killing of innocents in the name of Islam? And how could any so-called Muslim even think of doing anything like this in the holy month of Ramadan?

Still, I cannot help feeling sickened. We’ve been bombarded with such atrocities this Ramadan that it’s felt like especially hard work this year, even for those who are able to fast under relatively safe and privileged conditions. Again, I also know we need to be attuned to how Islamophobia informs media imagery and reporting, and how neo-colonialism still drives contemporary geopolitics in the global South. At the same time, I am just overwhelmed.

As Muslims approach the joyous celebrations of Eid-al- Fitr, I personally do not want to ignore or downplay the multiple tragedies that have made the headlines these past few weeks. Especially those perpetrated by people who claim to be acting on behalf of Islam.

There’s Orlando (50 dead), Istanbul (42 dead), Dhaka (20 dead) and just now I learn of a blast in Medina, the city of our beloved Prophet. There are so many other places I have failed to mention in this fit of fear and disgust but I grieve for them all. I want to honour those who lost their lives and to mourn the multiple trails of suffering and pain that have been left behind.

I also do not want to ignore that ever since the EU referendum in Britain on 23 June, racially motivated hate crimes have spiked in ways that cannot be ignored or excused. And in relation to this, I don’t want to forget the legacy of the murdered MP Jo Cox.

I’ve been wondering how to hold all these thoughts and feelings together, and how to make sure that I am part of the solution and not the problem. These past few weeks, I’ve found myself turning to the writings of the progressive Christian writer Anne Lamott. According to her, there are three essential prayers for survival – “help”, “thanks” and “wow”. In other words, there’s asking for divine assistance, expressing gratitude for divine gifts and simply being in awe of the world that surrounds us.

I like this. Especially since there’s a part of me that has always associated Eid with the joys of childhood and the love of my family and friends – mostly the “thanks” and “wow” bits. Eid certainly can continue being about these two supplications, but this year there’s also going to be a whole lot of “help”.

In Surah Al-Baqarah of the Qur’an, verse 45, we are told:

“Seek help in patience and prayer; and truly it is hard, except for the humble-minded.”

And perhaps that is how the closing of Ramadan simply is for many people. Eid Mubarak.

Shanon Shah is a writer and researcher on religion, gender and sexuality and has a doctorate in the sociology of religion.