Eid in Kerala – "Khair-ullah"
by P.M. Muhammed Muhsin
[CIP Note: As a special commentary on Eid-ul-fitr, 1432 A.H., CIP presents this text by a correspondent from India. May all our friends enjoy a Happy Eid! Eid Mubarak! Bajram mubarak olsun! Bayramınız kutlu olsun!]
Like all other Muslim communities in the world, Kerala Muslims welcome Eid-ul-fitr [Ramazan Bayram in the Balkans and Turkey] with great joy. And the nostalgic memories of it haunt both the body and soul of the believer until the arrival of the next observance. The essential aspects of the holy month – spiritual purification, utmost proximity to the divinity, etc. – come into fruition and the baser instincts of human souls are replaced by divine qualities of love, sympathy, tolerance and forgiveness, through the continuous 'spiritual activism' of devotees. And it is a time to enjoy the endless bounties of Almighty Allah, as our Prophet [peace be upon him] mentioned when referring to Eid: "There are celebrations for every society and our celebration is this" [as collected by Imam Bukhari]. With its entire majesty, which is a source of pride, Kerala, "the land of spices" sets out colorfully to embrace the holiness of Eid, and its romance as well.
As the first region of India to receive the great message of Islam in the time of the Prophet (pbuh) himself, Kerala celebrates the Muslim religious festivals, we think, with greater charm and grace. Some sources tell us that Muslims who came here were so impressed by the greenery of this blessed land that they called it "Hada khairullah," meaning, "Here are the gifts of Allah." We believe the name of Kerala is derived from that utterance.
The sighting of the new moon by human eyes is confirmed by the qadis [religious judges]. Such visible changes are seen unforgettably, nowhere as much as in the centre of Islam in the state, the municipality of Ponnani, where all the rituals are observed as reflections of tradition. Girls are busily drawing elegantly on their hands with henna and joining in Tekbir rallies in affirmation of Allah's greatness, while teenage boys add their whimsical songs to the fresh air. Children seem to be joyous in putting aside garments for the eventful "debut" of the day. The night holds a freedom of its own and people seem without care.
With a flowery sunrise, comes a distinctive dawn. Assemblies of the local believers on the carpets of mosques create a sea of humanity across which the generous ocean blows a scented breeze anticipating a better tomorrow. The eyes of worshippers seem to search for advice pregnant with meaning, in the words of the imam, reminding us after the khutba of the Sunnah of the Prophet [pbuh], emphasizing the fundamental obligations of the Muslim to the community, particularly the offering of donations to the weak and helpless. And the new generations of Muslims here extend their hands generously in relief of those living on a lesser income.
We witness the miraculous survival of the revelations of the Prophet [pbuh], announced 14 centuries ago! Manifesting the powerful solidarity among Muslims, each embraces the other, whispering "Eid Mubarak, Eid Mubarak," irrespective of barriers presuming superiority or inferiority. Dried leaves on the graves around the mosques are pressed down by the feet of visitors who, in gratitude, offer devoted prayers to their relatives who have passed away, commemorating their presence in prior times.
Even amid the requirements of their jobs, it has been customary among the Muslims of Malabar to maintain family links as the predominant aspect of Islamic society. Eid, above all, enhances and deepens this feeling. To greet the Eid meal with the varied aromas of its foods is a significant ceremony and ultimate point at which housewives express a sigh of contentment. And this convocation is treated as symbolic of affection, charity, and exhilaration. Some organize excursions, perhaps with the intention of witnessing the miracles of Almighty Allah, or merely for enjoyment of a journey, while others, with spiritual intent, complete ziyarat in visiting the graves of the eminent scholars and Sufis.
As a major festival in the largest democratic country in the world, Eid reveals the comprehensive and pluralistic face of Islam. It does not shrink within the boundaries of a single religion, but reaches to emotions that are hidden in the crevices of the soul, with its reflected illumination triumphing over the shadows of differences between religions in a multicultural society. There is less an embrace of the delights it offers than of the sacred rewards from the spirits of refined hearts.
Nevertheless, something else should be noted: the cultural invasion by Wahhabism and similar radical, terroristic phenomena acting in the name of Islam, throwing dirt on the friendly and beautiful face of Islam. Though their scientific "reliance" in place of the major precedents of Islam for sightings of the new moon, to be assessed during the months of the hijra calendar, and their hostile, negative approach to the permanent practice of visiting the graves of relatives and Sufis, have become widely-disseminated, the most precious teachings of traditional Islam, introduced by the Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] prevail widely throughout the land and enjoy full status.
Other religious celebrations such as Milad in memory of the luminous and incomparable personality of the Prophet are conducted with magnificent programs, along with Eid.
There is no doubt that many unethical tendencies are spreading, not only over this small Indian state, through the stormy danger of cultural imperialism. The penetration of such changes has involved more than attempts to get rid of all kinds of festivals. Natural resources that affirm the legacy of our celebrations have been overwhelmed by artificial commodities. It is time to reject every dangerous element, using the marvelous power derived from Ramadan, established in the heart and soul of society, to rebuild the landscape of Eid.