Most of my Eid was spent in a muddy field with rain and wind battering down on a derelict of smashed tents and wet equipment. And you know what? I’m not even mad.
Backtrack about four months ago. A hearty group of volunteers from the mosque I go to decided that rather than waiting until the last night of Ramadan to plan Eid, they would form a team and plan a large-scale Eid festival the likes of which haven’t been seen before. Sounds ambitious, doesn’t it? I was enlisted in the marketing team which, though small, had the task of letting people know about the festival.
By the grace of God, we were able to line up all sorts of attractions including a petting zoo, horse rides, food trucks, bubble soccer (YouTube it), sumo suits, local vendors, spoken word poets, and more. We called it EidFest, with the tagline “Embrace Your Eid”. The project lead was a friend that we’ll call Mohammad, and he’d been diligently managing the whole project despite his numerous other commitments. Sponsors started giving us money. Tickets were selling. Hype was building in the community.
EidFest seemed poised for success.
But I wouldn’t be writing this if everything went well, now would I?
Rain or shine
On the last night of Ramadan, a group of intrepid volunteers went out to the field where the festival was supposed to occur. The weather called for rain the following day— a sudden break from Alberta’s hot, dry drought— and already the skies were turning grey. Ominous is what you’d call it, but we were optimistic. We had made the call already: rain or shine, EidFest would go on.
The volunteers went to work pitching the tents that would be needed for the next day. For 3 hours, they worked together in the cold wind to pitch several canvas tents and set up the sound system. They returned to the mosque, broke their Ramadan fast for the last time—and then went back to work preparing the mosque for the Eid prayers the next morning. Some didn’t sleep until after midnight; some didn’t sleep at all.
We were set up and ready to rock. It seemed like things would be ok.
The next morning: a downpour.
Eid morning. I sat in the car with one of my friends, staring at the collapsed and mangled tents being battered mercilessly by the wind and rain. The only thing that kept some of them from flying into the parking lot was that they had crashed into other tents that were more sturdy. Meanwhile, Mohammad was busy activating the emergency “Call all the people” protocol and, surprisingly, keeping his cool. I went to the earliest Eid prayer of the 3 that the mosque was holding. This marks the first Eid where I wasn’t formally dressed. I’d packed away some dress clothes, but they remained folded in my backpack. In my track pants and black jacket, I looked like a jogger who just happened upon a mosque and wanted to check out what was going on.
The morning being grey and damp, we decided to life our spirits with a trip to Tim Hortons, our first proper breakfast after a month of fasting. Eventually we got around to taking down the tents. It was a precarious process, as many of the canvasses were ripped and in danger of flying away, or the metal frames bent and disjointed. The sound equipment was, thankfully, covered but still suffered some damage. We had to turn away people who were showing up for the festival.
But something happened, something that flies in the face of reason.
Somehow, we were happy.
More of us showed up at the field and by noon, about a dozen friends were there to help fix and clean up the remnants of the misfired festival. I saw something amazing in these moments: my Muslim brothers all shaking hands and grinning and embracing as they greeted each other with “Eid Mubarak” (Happy Eid) amidst the cold, windy day. My friends, dressed in their best clothes, pulling out tent stakes and carrying equipment and folding up canvases while their new shoes got muddy and their dress shirts got wet. Mohammad still cracking jokes and laughing despite the fruits of his labour now being packed away. One of our vendors came and gave us free ice cream—ice cream he had planned to sell. And out of nowhere, a stranger with a pick up truck arrived and helped us clean up and pack away the tents. His name was Josh. He was cool
When we were finished, we were exhausted but not defeated. Immediately, the team was already discussing what day to relocate the festival to. Meanwhile, a bunch of us pitched in and got Mohammad a gift and a cake to both pick up his spirits and commemorate his hard work. And finally, I was able to wear my nice clothes.
Eid ended at a friend’s house, his doors graciously open to the crowd of people who gathered inside for warm food and company. Those of us who toiled in the fields retreated to the basement—including Josh—and settled down for a game of Settlers of Catan, over cake and food. And when it came time to pray, we prayed, with no ill feelings towards God, Who had so willed that our Eid would be spent in hard work, dashed expectations, laughter and good company.
Our corner of the canvas
God isn’t arbitrary. He doesn’t do things just for the sake of doing things.
Like so many other things in life, disappointments happen for a reason. There is always a bigger picture beyond our tiny corner of the canvas. Perhaps the rain came at the behest of many who had prayed for it. Perhaps we had been so sure and confident of our own efforts that we neglected to pay God His due. Perhaps some great tragedy had been avoided by having the festival postponed—a horse not feeling particularly friendly, or food poisoning, or some other terrible injury. God knows, but we don’t. What we all agreed on was that we put our effort in, and that this misfired EidFest was the most organized and professional Eid project our mosque had ever undertaken. But there are some things (like weather) that are beyond your control.
While this Eid certainly wasn’t the most enjoyable one ever, it was certainly the most memorable. And that was because of the people. And so perhaps Eid isn’t just about how many houses you visit, or how much food you eat, or how fancy your clothes are. It’s about the people you are with, whether it’s the caring kindness of friends, or the unexpected help from strangers. Perhaps Eid is about finding contentment with wherever you are, and being grateful for the blessings God gave you—even if you can’t see it at the moment.
“Be sure we shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere…” 2:155