I rarely look forward to the eid-ul-adha celebration popularly called the Ileya festival where I come from with much zest. I haven’t really thought about why it is called the Ileya festival but I know this Id-ul-adha celebration, I must go home just as the name ILEYA implied. After all, this eid was one of the two days I had to celebrate in a year considering the fact that I had cancelled Birthday celebrations from my calendar. But do you blame me for not looking forward to the most popular celebration by Muslims? Well if you had to prepare the night before by setting up canopies, and on the d- day you had to help in shaving, ( do you have any idea how hard this is when using a blade and Allah save you that you do not pierce the skin? and blowing air into the carcass like you were a trumpeter before you finally dismember the carcass. While doing all these your Mom is calling you simultaneously to help in carrying those heavy metal pots, kindle the fire, set up the sound system (while you are thinking of what halal music you can play before your uncle comes to put in any of KSA’s records) and let me not forget that when guests arrive you have to help in serving them and also deliver food to friends and neighbors and in the midst of all the bustle you tried not to miss any salah and may Allah help you if you do have some young troublesome cousins who are pests with a capital P. Before you know it the whole day is gone and you are fatigued and you realize that you did not even eat three square meals, not that there was no food (how can there be no food?) but there was no time to eat. This was not my idea of celebrating Eid; all the things I envisaged about Eid never was just a reverie I had often envisaged going out to have Halaal fun. Treat myself nice, Maybe visit an amusement park, just eat out with family and friends in a Halaal restaurant or take a stroll on the beach where my eyes see no evil. All that was just a castle in the air(at least for now).Last year’s Eid was different, one of the few things I anticipate during Eid holiday was the Family reunion; it was the only holiday where I got to meet practically all my family members. It’s a common thing particularly if you‘re from South-West Nigeria that some members of your family would be non-Muslims. I had often thought how wonderful it will be if all my family members were all Muslims, after all Allah says:
‘O ye who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is Men and Stones over which are (appointed) angels stern (and) severe who flinch not (from executing) the Commands they receive from Allah but do (precisely) what they are commanded.’ Q 66:6
I remembered taking a copy of the Qur’an at home and seeing my aunt’s name on it. What must have happened to make her leave the true path, to leave Islam? So Eid came and I decided that I would ask her what happened. My Grandma was worried about how her grandchildren were not that close. I knew that the fact that we were not all Muslims was a factor .She had called me and told me indirectly on keeping and strengthening the family ties, after all I am first born (you have no idea the responsibilities that come with this position except you’re one) but there was no need for to remind me of m duty since my deen had greatly encouraged keeping family ties.
It was narrated by Abu Huraira:
The Prophet said, "Allah created His creation, and when He had finished it, the womb, got up and caught hold of Allah whereupon Allah said, 'What is the matter?' On that, it said, 'I seek refuge with you from those who sever the ties of kith and kin.' On that Allah said, 'Will you be
Satisfied if I bestow my favors on him who keeps your ties, and withhold my favors from him who sever your ties?' On that it said, 'Yes, O my Lord!' Then Allah said, 'That is for you.' “Abu Huraira added: If you wish, you can recite: "Would you then if you were given the authority, do
Mischief in the land and sever your ties of kinship." (47. 22) (Bukhari)
My aunt didn’t show up for Ileya, she didn’t come last year, I thought maybe she was told in her church not to eat the meat slaughtered during Eid, I could not tell. I hardly saw my aunt, maybe a couple of times in a year and now she had decided not to celebrate Eid with us well that just kind of increased the distance between us. I had lost hope of seeing her anytime soon until she showed up the third day after Eid. I was glad and I thought of when both of us would be together so I could ask her; ask her a question that had agonized my mind for years. I got my chance when I had to escort her when she was leaving. We walked silently. What was there to talk about, the hiatus between us had increased over the years but nevertheless I had to ask her. It was cogent. Alhamdulillahi there were no means of transportation available yet so we still had some time together. I pondered on how to ask her, I felt nervous it was not like I was asking a girl out but here I was trying to ask my aunt a very important question, a question that was related to the very reason why we existed and I was reticent. I decided to ask about my cousins. We talked about my cousins and the schools they attended and the education system. I had to ask her now and soon, I had to summon the courage to…
‘Why did you leave Islam?’, I think I said. I don’t know how I said it but it came out of my lips. What would happen next, what would she say, would she say I was disrespectful or just tell me to let it pass. My aunt flabbergasted me, she opened up to me. She was an active member in her youthful days in a Muslim organization, in Lagos. She told me she had tried to find her a spouse in the organization I thought about what she meant by not finding a spouse, did she mean she didn’t find a spouse or she found but things never worked out, well that did not matter now after all she married a Christian and became one. So finding a spouse could take one out of the deen. I felt uncomfortable with the reason she gave. I knew it was reason why many Muslims converted to other religions particularly females (correct me if I am wrong). I felt sad and yet I felt lighter; like I was relieved of a burden. We continued our journey and so I tried to call her to Islam. We talked about Prophet Issa and I tried to explain that he was a Prophet of Allah; we talked about the trinity and other comparative issues. She did not seem convinced from my explanation but I was glad I had taken one step in the right direction. She gave me my cousins phone numbers. Soon we found a means of transportation and a few moments later we said our goodbyes. I reflected as I ambled back home. I thought of my aunt, her children-my cousins, my other family members who were non-Muslims. I thought of how to call them to Islam, how I could strengthen the family ties. Maybe my generation would be better than the one of my aunt and Dad, maybe Grandma would be happy at how close her grandchildren would be, I pondered. I know I might face resistance well I do not think I have any choice cause this is my call, MY CALL OF DUTY. I make dua’ very often that Allah makes firm the members of my family who are Muslims and grant them the understanding of the deen (that is another poser on its own) guide those who are non-Muslims to the right path, for Allah is the one who guides and He guides whom He wills.
P.S. I wrote this piece some months ago little did I know that my aunt will pass away soon. I wish I could say may Allah forgive her.