Celebrating During Tough Times

I was looking for articles about celebrating Eid when people around you are dying or are in pain and the lack of existence of such articles (apart from a few) made me realise that while I may be new to this, Muslims around the world have always had this question. Calamities and deaths aren’t new. For years, we have celebrated Eid while being ignorant towards or at least forgetting about places like Syria, Palestine, Kashmir and so on. It hits a little different when the death and destruction is happening so close to home and when your own future is uncertain.

Since December of 2019, we have been having constant realisations about how different it is when massacres and injustices happen at your own door. While we have realised that staying ignorant isn’t an option, we have also realised our helplessness. Hearing stories of migrant labourers dying because of hunger and starvation every single day may make you want to cry out loud at the injustice of it all but you are helpless about it for the most part. And then they expect you to celebrate Eid. Or worse, they’ll call you heartless if you do celebrate Eid.  So, what is a person supposed to do?

For the religious ones among you, no matter the religion, the first step would be to pray. Pray for relief for these people and for comfort to the families of the dead. And then thank God for your own privilege. Take a moment to think about how just the fact that you have food to eat is a huge blessing, especially right now.

Sometimes, that doesn’t hit us fully even while listening to such stories. It personally didn’t hit me until I heard about a mother telling relief workers that she had just given her children besan mixed with water because they were hungry. It hit me that there are people just sitting quietly in their homes, being patient with what they have and hoping for it to pass. It hurt me to even think I was getting excited about all the great food I’d get to eat on Eid. The consequent guilt about an uncontrollable situation was crippling. That is why it is important to take a step back. Do not be so politically engrossed that it cripples your mental health.

Do not think you’re selfish in any way for thinking about yourself instead of this situation that you can’t control. Try to understand that even though you may be privileged, there is a limit to how much you can do. Make peace with your helplessness. You are allowed to step back and take care of your own happiness for a bit.

What you shouldn’t do is call out people for being happy or posting anything that may seem trivial and unimportant to you. Don’t utter any sentence that sounds similar to “how can you be happy when _____ is happening”. There is a difference between spreading awareness and forcing unhappiness on people. Everyone is doing their best to find joy in little things to keep themselves happy. We, as humans, are always a bit too extreme with our emotions. Sometimes, we may completely forget about the sufferings of the world and other times, all we can do is obsessively read the news. It is the act of finding a balance between these two that helps us become a good person.

Back to the topic of celebrating Eid; it is supposed to be a celebration of completing Ramadan, which we did and with life being so uncertain right now, we have more reason than ever just to be thankful to be alive. It is one of the only two days in the year when God has prohibited fasting. All because He wanted us to take these two days to just enjoy the good things in life that He provided us with. Let yourself celebrate this one day of thankfulness and focus on the positives of this uncontrollable situation. Finding a balance between seeing both the negatives and positives of a situation helps ensure that your mental health doesn’t go off the rails. It may make you feel less guilty if you just think of this as looking at the other side of the coin for a bit. But also remember that empathising with others and worrying for them is also a form of worship.

So, keep the world in your prayers and try to find a little joy in the mundane.

Sulmaaz Siddiqui

This article is written by Sulmaaz Siddiqui, a student at Jamia Millia Islamia, pursuing Psychology Honours with hopes of making mental health a topic of conversation for everyone. She is interested in spending time making art and creating a safe environment for people to feel good about themselves. You can find her on Instagram @sulmaazsiddiqui.

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