The coronavirus pandemic forced my friends and me to celebrate Eid in isolation, but we found unexpected joy from rethinking how we worship and reach out to others

salarshani@businessinsider.com (Sarah Al-Arshani)
eid festival italy

Pacific Press/Contributor via Getty Images

  • The Islamic holiday of Eid Al-Fitr starts on Sunday May 24, and many Muslims in the US are still unable to gather to celebrate. 
  • The holiday is a social one, where communities pack into Mosques or rented facilities to offer prayer, catch up, and congratulate each other on the new year.
  • While we'll be spending the holiday isolated, my friends and I reflected on what we can take away from having to reimagine how we spend it. 
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The coronavirus pandemic has canceled a myriad of important events for people across the world. From postponed weddings and canceled graduations to gathering for religious celebrations.

As the Islamic holiday of Eid Al-Fitr approaches, my friends and I reflected on how isolation will impact our celebrations. Eid, is a social holiday, especially for those of us in the diaspora. It's a time for us to get together and in the case of Eid Al-Fitr, a chance to celebrate after spending the month of Ramadan, fasting, worshipping, and spiritually connecting with God. 

So for many of us, there's a lot of excitement around waking up early and enjoying that first cup of coffee we can drink in the morning after a month-long withdrawal. There's joy in getting ready and putting on fresh new clothes and rushing to the Mosque or a rented out high school gym or whatever facility your community managed to get to fit hundreds or thousands of people for the Eid prayer. 

Kids are running around playing, friends are catching up, and the exchange of "Eid Mubarak" or "Kul sana wa inti tayiba" (an Arabic phrase for Happy New Year) fills the room. At some point in the madness, people file into rows to offer the Eid prayer. After the prayer, while everyone has their own traditions, most usually spend the day visiting friends and relatives and participating in some sort of large organized event in their community.

People celebrate at a mosque called the Masjid at-Taqwa after the Eid al-Fitr prayer on June 4, 2019 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

(Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Eid this year, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to social distance, will look different

As my friend Yasmine K. put it: "Eid this year in simple words has challenged Muslims to be creative in the way we approach and celebrate it this year. We have learned to communicate our love for one another in a completely different way." 

To be fair, large gatherings are not always the case for everyone. Some may not have family or friends to celebrate with and experience a more isolated Eid — even outside of the pandemic. However, if there's anything I've have learned in the midst of the time of the coronavirus, it's to reach out to those among us who may have not experienced this joy that we feel is now missing. 

"It's definitely a different feeling this year not being with the community. I really feel for those that don't have family they live with or that celebrate. Alhamdulilah [Thanks to God], I live with my mom and younger siblings," my other friend, Sarah Z. told me. 

My previous roommate, Mariam H., is now living by herself in Los Angeles and told me her mentality was to roll with the punches. She hasn't let the isolation bring her down and said she'd probably find a nice park to sit in while socially distancing to celebrate the day.

However, as Mosques remain closed, and gatherings are limited, many of us have to had to make sense of how to celebrate.

Another friend Nadda told me: "My family was thinking of waking up early or sort of early like we would normally to get the vibes going, and we would still dress up and take pictures. Then we might make brunch and call up friends and family. Basically, Eid will be very different and a little boring but at least we're still able to stay connected with friends and family online, and I'm sure we're all grateful for that."

Having already ordered my Eid outfit three months in advance, I also look forward to waking up early, enjoying my cup of coffee, and getting ready. I offered to help my mom cook for the occasion, but she kindly told me that my terrible cooking skills were not needed for the day. Despite, the minor set back of my vision for an Eid where we cook together, my family plans to enjoy nice meals together, and to spend the day reaching out and talking to family and friends.

Yasmine K. said her family has made Eid gifts for each other, and she also plans to have a socially distanced picnic with friends who were stuck on their college campus alone. 

"We'll come together with our favorite foods and snacks. Play the Eid chant/Nasheed. Play games that are from a healthy safe distance. And lastly take some amazing photos of each other," Yasmine K. said. "Just a small way to cheer their hearts as they are saddened by being away from their families." 

Her mom has organized a drive-by gift exchange, with more than 40 goodie bags for kids in their neighborhood. 

"It's honestly been a blessing to see what we can achieve through creativity and love for one another. It's sad that we can't celebrate like we normally due but maybe Allah [God] wanted us to find new ways we can reach other hearts. I feel that during this Eid we have learned to be more empathetic and loving towards our fellow brothers and sisters," she said. 

The isolation has especially been hard for some kids. My friend Mariam K.'s 10-year-old sister taped a list of "What I Want for Eid" to her parent's door.

Mariam K. said without the Eid prayer and gatherings, it doesn't feel like Eid. While her family plans to make breakfast together, she's really just waiting on the next Eid. 

But while we may have had to get creative for this year's holidays, Sarah Z. sees it as a time to slow down and "soak it all in." 

"Usually they're super busy and filled with iftar parties, fundraisers, gatherings, etc. It has actually been nice to take it slow with family all at home Alhamdulilah," she said. 

While unusual and sudden, the isolation has made many of us, myself included extremely grateful to have a chance to celebrate another Eid. 

As my friend Reem Z. put it: "We'll make the most of it though because that's what Muslims do — we're grateful for what we have and we thank Allah for giving it to us." 

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