Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Eid in a foreign land

Firday, 26th Oct, 2012 was my first Eid-ul-Azha in UK. I had found out before hand that there was a big central Mosque in Cowely, where one of the main Eid prayer in Oxford would be held at 9am. My rough estimate for reaching the Mosque was 40 mins, on foot. I woke up at 8am, and was immediately faced with the desire not to go to Eid prayer, I felt that it didn't really matter, it wasn't as if I had any relatives that I would be meeting at the Mosque, but by 8:15 I convinced myself to at least get ready for the day. I dressed up in jeans, dress shirt and sweater, and was ready by 8:30, and knew in my heart that even if I started to walk right then, I would be late and miss the prayer in any case, but I convinced myself that just walking to the Mosque in itself was worth the effort and I should give it a shot. In typical Oxford fashion, it was raining outside, and so I began my trod towards Cowely.
The Mosque in Cowely has a big black dome and is situated in front of what appears to be an old-ish Church. I reached there at 9:05 and was relieved to hear that the prayers hadn't yet started. I fell in line with the rest of the people, all dressed in Shalwar Kameez, entering the Mosque. The first thing I noticed, from the writings on the Mosque gate, was that the Mosque had some very tell-tale Sunni sect roots, and at that instant I realized that I will not be offering Eid prayer in the Shia fashion that I was accustomed to. The Mosque was very spacious and I found a place in the central hall on the upper story. The Molvi Sahab leading the prayer was talking to the congregation in two languages, switching between English and Urdu, he was asking the congregation to recite the Durood repeatedly, in an effort to delay the prayers slightly, because apparently a large number of people were still settling in. At 9:15 the congregation stood up for the offering of the prayer, and when the Molvi Sahab was about to start the prayer, someone from the back shouted, please wait a bit more, some people are still coming from their homes, to which someone in the congregation retorted, that if they are still coming from their homes, then it's too late already, they should stay at their home now.
The prayers went smoothly, I offered mine with my arms to my sides (the Shia fashion), and everyone around me with their hands together (the Sunni fashion). When the prayers finished, and people started to get up, I was suddenly hit by the realization that this would be my first Eid when I would have no one to hug and wish "Eid Mubarak", not my dad, not my cousins or uncles, I was in a foreign land, among strangers. But, I had barely processed this stream of thoughts, that the guy who had finished his prayers next to me, turned around to me and wished me Eid Mubarak and gave me the Eid Mubarak hug. That was it, that was all it took, I was content, as I walked out of the Mosque, I felt in my heart that for the first time I had fully seen the system, the Muslim brotherhood that we had heard about all along in our classes, the system of Islamic brotherhood had not failed. That one hug from the stranger in the Mosque, was the hug from home, a hug from Pakistan.
After that, I went to my Engineering dept. building and it was business as usual.

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