It was a cold December morning. Trees had already lost their leaves and were being hugged by a chilly breeze. A yellow coat had swept over the grass in the front and backyards. Clouds of fog had built up above the tub and under the shower. The fragrance of shampoo and soap mixed with shaving cream filled the air. I finished the Eid shower rituals and went back to the bedroom to wake up my wife. It was Eid morning.
-” Wake up, Sharmeen, we already missed the first prayer”
-” C’mon, wake up, beautiful, and go wake Omar up, we better catch up with the second one”
It usually takes my wife at least fifteen minutes to fully wake up and move out of bed, so I hurried to the closet and started dressing. Suddenly, I heard a child crying noisily. I didn’t give it much attention at first; I mean how many kids cry? But then it persisted, and I just realized it was unusual hearing a child cry at 8 AM in a quiet suburb neighborhood. I listened closer. Itsounded familiar. A peculiar tone. One I was used to, maybe!
When the crying grew louder, coming from the direction of our backyard, I was certain it was Omar, our neighbor’s son. Ah Omar. Little Omar was born only two weeks after our son. I still remember when my wife and our next door Muslim neighbor both gave birth in the same month, six years ago. When they first moved next door, my wife was not too fond of that lady even though I was enjoying a good friendship with the husband, whom I knew very well from the Islamic Center. Then, the two ladies were brought closer by their pregnancies, and so were our sons, now best friends.
The crying went on. I walked to our study room at the back and peeked through the blinders. There was little Omar, sitting on the steps of the backdoor of their house, weeping, wiping his nose with his sleeve, and then resumed his monotonic crying. He got up and started banging his toy against the door and kicking it. When the door opened, I saw his mom’s hand grab his shoulder, attempting to take him inside, but he managed to run away. She went after him. I turned around and decided to just ignore it. And the crying went on.
Later on, I was downstairs pouring myself some milk when I heard Dr. Fahmy calling his son to come inside, but the kid yelled even more. Then it all stopped at once. I was glad. What an annoying sound on such a peaceful Saturday morning. I noticed my wife standing at the top of the stairway holding my son’s hand.
-”Please take him to the kitchen and pour him some cereals. No candies please”
-”But you said I can eat candies during Eiddddd…” Salar yelled.
I wasn’t ready to listen to any more whining.
-”Ok, Salar, come downstairs. Candies after breakfast. C’mon, let your mom change”
-”And what is up with that kid since the morning?” my wife said, her beautiful face still dull from sleep.
-”I am glad he helped me wake you up”
-”Not funny. I am really allergic to his crying”
I took my son’s hand and seated him on a stool in the kitchen. He was all dressed and ready for Eid.
Salar kept looking through the kitchen window, as if he was waiting for something.
-”Daddy, why was Omar crying?”
I was glad the crying was over and Omar was inside, but I now had to entertain my son’s questions. After all the pain Omar caused me, I wasn’t too thrilled to discuss anything that dealt with him. “He was crying because he was not listening to his parents. You are a good boy and will always listen to your parents, right Salar?”
-”Can Omar come with us to the Eid party today”
-”No, his parents are still fasting today.”
-”Son, did you tell Salar we are going to the Eid party?”
-”Mom said if I behave during the prayer today, she will buy me a gift at the Eid party”
My son got down from the stool and attacked the piece of candy I had given him under the condition of finishing his cereals, which he never did. He unwrapped it eagerly and stuffed it in his mouth all at once. My wife caught him in the living room as she made her way down the stairs but surprisingly didn’t say anything. Realizing I hadn’t fed his curiosity, my son turned to his mother.
-”Mom, is Omar coming with us too?”
-”No, sweetie, they are going tomorrow”
-”But why, isn’t Eid today?” And at that moment, my wife turned to me, blunt-faced, and shook her head. Her look told me she had no answer. And neither did I. I took out another piece of candy and gave it to Salar, and he ran to the guest room, temporarily having forgotten his questions. I, on the other side, stood still and for a while thought about the question Salar had just posed. Why couldn’t Omar and his family come to Eid today? Indeed a good question.
I walked back to the kitchen. My wife was stacking sweets and Baklava on a silver plate in preparation for the guests who would visit later. A golden bracelet glistened on her wrist. She was moving about the kitchen anxiously and then said in an annoyed tone:
-”This is really retarded”
-”What is retarded?”
-”This whole issue of our community. What is this? Every group is following their home country. Offf, I really hate it. Backward!”
-”Tell me about it.“
-”I am really disappointed with our neighbor. He is a doctor and educated. Wasn’t this issue discussed between the three mosques?”
-”Sweetheart, discussed and a horse beat to death. No solution”
-”Didn’t ISNA, ICNA, and other organizations supposedly form a shura committee of scholars and scientists to predetermine Eid?”
She was now washing the cereal bowl aggressively. I didn’t want to see her upset, but then I liked her passion on this issue. Back to her ISNA committee comment. I observed her anger and said:
-”That committee has existed for years, but who listens? We are just lucky we have a committee in the city, which promoted the ISNA approach”
-”And yet people like our neighbor decided to follow the ruling of their home countries, thousands of miles away from here”
-”Unfortunately true. But what do you want him to do? The entire ‘home country’ community is fasting today. Do you want him to be the exception and celebrate it all alone?”
-”He is not alone; half the Muslim community here is celebrating Eid today.“
-”And the other half is not, and this issue is not going to get us anywhere.“
-”Did you eat, Habeby?” my wife said.
-”Just a few dates and some milk, the prophet’s tradition, you know”
-”Are we late?”
-”Yes, and please don’t tell me you need to change your scarf or shirt”
-”You never tell me how I look, why do you care anyways?”
-”Honey, you know I care. You look astonishing. Refreshing, just beautiful”
-”Did I tell you I love you?”
-”No, but lets go, we will be late”
I picked up the car keys, opened the front door, and there he was: Little Omar, standing in front of the door, looking straight, not at me, not at anything in particular, just straight, through space. He was messily wearing what appeared to be his Eid attire: a set of black pants, a white shirt, and in his left hand held his small tie, while his black jacket hung from under his right arm. I couldn’t help but smile. He stood there motionless with a straight and expressionless face. Before I say anything, I heard his mother calling him, which didn’t seem to catch his attention at all. Seconds later I saw her walking to our house.
Mrs. Fahmy had on a scarf and her face looked pale underneath, the typical look of a faster that is sleepy and tired, especially if they had woken up before dawn to eat and prepare for a long day of fasting.
-”I am so sorry, brother Haseeb” she said, still a few feet away from the door. Little Omar jumped at the sight of her and barged into the house, standing behind me. His mother, standing with an embarrassed look, then resumed:
-”We are so sorry; Omar has been acting up since the morning. Come here, Omar, let’s go, your dad will really get upset with you”
-”Its OK, he is not bothering us, he is a sweet kid” I said, when in reality I had had enough of Omar‘s music. -”Come, Omar, come to your mommy, we have candies at home. Oh by the way Eid Mubarak, I am sorry, this child is making us lose our minds”
-”Oh, thank……” and I really didn’t know what to say. What was I supposed to answer back! “Eid Mubarak too”?? That would seem absurd, and just irrelevant to her, maybe even inappropriate. My wife then came to the rescue. Mrs. Fahmy repeated her apologies and by then Omar had already gone inside with my son enjoying Eid candies.
-”He has been crying since yesterday. He kept talking about Salar and the Eid party” she said as she stepped inside. “When his dad told him we are not going with your family, he went crazy.”
She called Omar once again, but no answer.
-”I don’t know what devil got into him, but he got up at seven and asked me to take him to the Eid party with Salar. His dad was this close to grounding him, oh my God, I can’t imagine how annoying he must’ve been to you guys this morning with all his crying and screaming”
-”Let him come with us, he will have fun with Salar and the kids” Sharmeen said.
-”No, sister, you don’t know him, it takes ten eyes to watch him”
Mrs. Fahmy was soon in the house, calling Omar over and over. When she finally grabbed his hand to stop him from running away, he began crying and pulling away. Not again, I thought to myself. Salar looked anxious and confused. He pulled Sharmeen’s hand in what seemed to be a plea to have Omar go with us.
-”I am serious, let him come with us” I said. My wife echoed my request. It was apparent that Omarwouldn’t back down from his crying and insistence. His mother bent down to pick him off the floor and he kicked her. I am not sure I would blame a six year old kid for acting up like that when you steal away his excitement and joy. I doubt a child that age would comprehend any explanation offered to him.
-”Don’t worry, Afeefa, let him come with us, my husband will keep him and Salar by his side in the masjid, he will be fine”
-”I am afraid he will be a burden and ruin your Eid”
-”Oh, come on, stop it”
-”Thank you guys so much, it will be just five minutes, I will get him dressed and bring him back so you don’t run late.” We were already late. I was agitated, not at Omar, and not at anything in particular. Maybe I just despised the fact that our Muslim community was divided over ridiculous issues.
I started the car, my brain still embroiled in thinking about Eid and our divided community. My wife locked our main door, and walked up to the car holding Salar’s hand. At the same time, the door to Dr. Famhy’s house opened and Omar ran out, this time well-dressed and with his hair brushed neatly. Salar got in first, and then Omar. Little Omar stepped one foot in and looked back in the direction of their house. I watched him carefully and with amusement. He looked at his mother for one second and then turned again and got into the car. At that moment, I was curious what little Omar was thinking to himself: I won! I stepped on every rule and proclaimed myself King of Eid!! I am going to the Eid Party and whoever doesn’t want to come, it’s their problem!!
As we backed up from the driveway, I saw little Omar giving my son a piece of candy and I asked him:
-”Are you happy, Omar?”
-”Yes, we are going to the Eid Party” he chuckled and my car raced down the road to the mosque. To the Eid Party.
This story is a hopeful call for unity of heart and thought in our communities. It is not intended to attack any group, idea, or school of thought, nor is it meant to promote one. It is, rather, meant to provoke our minds to think as one united Umma, just the way our beloved prophet hoped for us to be. In doing so, we may have to collectively compromise on some minor details of daily practice, but the ultimate reward is worth the while.