Eid-ul-Fitr during COVID-19 restrictions is a challenge for everyone. However, for Muslims who are new converts to the religion, it is particularly so. Unlike single Muslims, who may deal with loneliness or isolation, the new Muslim convert deals with that, as well as a lack of reference of what Eid is all about, so they need an example.
Anyone who has embraced Islam as a way of life and belief system during or just before the start of the COVID-19 health crisis has probably not had a chance to experience the full beauty of community life in Islam.
This year, we all have to widen our circle of compassion. Many converts or reverts to Islam, come from a culture in North America where their previous faith communities go out of the way to welcome attendees, even if just for being present at one religious service.
But the new Muslim convert may not have any introduction other than the one they received on the day they took their Shahadah. After that, for many communities, the onus is on the new Muslim convert to ingratiate themselves in the community, seek out study groups and classes on their own, and attend community functions to meet and make friends. Depending on the personality and level of “outgoingness” of the person who converted, this may or may not be successful.
Therefore, the Muslims in the community need to extend themselves to the new convert, rather than the other way around. In days past, some communities would pair a new convert with a Muslim of similar age and situation.
For example, a Muslim mother of four would pair up with a new convert mother with children. This person would serve as a companion and guide so the new convert does not have to navigate the etiquette of Islam, or meet other people on their own. Unfortunately, over time, these once common practices have all but slipped away, as the Muslim community grew, with a diverse array of Muslims completely oblivious to this cultural tradition.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the opportunities to even be a companion and guide have been curtailed due to social distancing and a lack of gathering at Masjids and Islamic centers in general.
The key to enhancing the Eid experience for the new Muslim convert is similar to that for the single Muslim – inclusion, inclusion, inclusion. Keep the new Muslim in the loop! For the new Muslim convert, go the extra step by providing an example as well.
To celebrate this recurring happiness, explain what Eid is to them. They may have the official version from the Imam or a book on Islam, but share what Eid means and has meant to you and your family. Personalizing Islamic practices is consistent with the Hadith and example of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. His example provided real-life instances of how to internalize and respond to situations in our daily life in an Islamic way.
So make the day special. For the new Muslim convert, this is their first Eid and first experiences are often the most memorable. Think about it: if the convert is fairly new to Islam, this may have been their first time fasting the month of Ramadan, so as the day of Eid approaches, refer them to the Quran and point out how pleasing the fast is to Allah, The Most High.
On Eid ul Fitr itself:
- Explain to the new Muslim convert what happens on Eid day. Give them examples from the Sunnah of how the Muslim should prepare, wear their best clothes, say the Takbirat and how all should attend this special day.
- Call the new Muslim on Eid morning and wish blessings of the day. In a Hadith it is reported that “At the time of the Prophet when people met one another on the day of Eid, they would say, ’Taqabbal Allahu minna wa minka’ (may Allah accept good deeds from us and from you)” (Reported by Ibn Hajar), or simply “Eid Mubarak”.
- Give them a copy of the Takbiratul Eid and practice saying it with them. Make sure you have the English, Spanish or French translation so that they know what they are saying. Culturally, people from North America are not comfortable repeating words in foreign languages that they do not understand. Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, used translators to make sure that those who were not native Arabic speakers would understand and know his message.
- Give them decorations for their home, or identify websites where they can buy their own decorations and beautify their spaces based on their own particular preferences.
- Decorate your home or Eid table and show the new Muslim on a virtual platform like Zoom or WhatsApp so they have a reference of how things may look.
- Send them an Eid card. Americans love receiving holiday cards.
- Share pictures of past Eid celebrations that occurred before the pandemic so the new Muslim can see how Eid was celebrated in the past and how it will insha Allah be observed again in the future
- If your community is having an in-person, socially distanced Eid, then be at the side of the new Muslim so that they never feel alone.
- Include the new Muslim in any online activities, and make sure you remind other Muslims who live in your area to welcome, acknowledge, and speak to them as well.
- Give Eid gifts to the new Muslim and their family, or drop off a special dessert at their door.
- Reassure the new Muslim convert that they can make and enjoy their own culturally relevant celebration foods on this day. Special days in their culture may include tres leches cake or peach cobbler. Help them understand the importance of family and community connectedness of this day.
- Make Dua that Allah, the Most High, blesses them with a beautiful Eid.