30Mosques.com | Day 30: Celebration

By Aman and Bassam

I’ve seen many spectacular sights in my short lifetime and tonight I have come up with the top four:

1. The ka’bah in Makkah, Saudi Arabia

2. Prophet Muhammad’s mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia

3. Masjid Al-Aqsa in Palestine

4. Seeing a niqabi in Brooklyn get down on Eid

After tonight, I have to bump the birth of my nephew down to number 5. I hope my brother doesn’t mind.

Bassam was out of town today spending Eid Al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday celebrating the completion of Ramadan, with his family. Eid is typically a holiday to celebrate among friends and family. But since my family is spread out all over the country, it becomes harder to do that as I get older. Luckily for me, my little brother Zeshawn lives in New York now, so it wasn’t too bad celebrating Eid today.

Zeshawn tagged along with me to go to the Eid prayer held by the Upper Westchester Muslim Society. This is a congregation of mostly Arab and South Asian doctor families about 30-45 minutes north of where I live. They held the Eid prayer in a hotel ballroom and you can tell by the photo it was a packed crowd:

My buddy Sharaf Mowjood (who took many of the pics in this post) went to Eid prayer at NYU instead. Shoutouts to them for mentioning the 30 Mosques project during the Eid Khutbah, the short talk after the prayer.

Eid is without a doubt one of my favorite times of the year. It’s a day Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said is for rejoicing. So considering that most of my family wasn’t with me this year for Eid, I set out on a mission last week to find the most crunk celebration possible that could fill the void of them not being here.

If you listened to the NPR story on 30 Mosques on Friday, you would have learned that I was eager to re-visit Masjid Khalifah in Brooklyn for Eid. It’s the mosque Bassam and I visited on Day 24 and we were told the place has an AMAZING live entertainment show during Eid. I was compelled to find out if it was true.

I met up with Sharaf later that afternoon and we rolled through Masjid Khalifah at around 6 p.m.. As soon as we stepped inside, all we heard was Michael Jackson music BLASTING through the entire building. I looked across the room I was standing in and saw little kids doing the “MJ kick” and moonwalk. At that moment, Sharaf and I knew we were in store for an interesting evening, so we grabbed some food and sat down at a table in the community hall.

For dinner, I had beef tips, barbecue chicken, baked chicken, lamb, goat and catfish. For sides I had corn, lentil rice and spinach. Masjid Khalifah seriously came correct tonight, I was joking with one of the people that they must have had trouble figuring out what dishes to serve because it looked like they were offering every single halal animal imaginable.

As we were eating, we saw a live band come in and set up on the mainstage. I joked with Sharaf that this band must be legit because some of them were walking around with bookbags to hold their guitars in.

The band started off with some funk instrumentals, to warm the crowd up since people were still coming into the buildings. That’s when three Muslim women took the stage to lead the crowd in one of my favorite Motown records, “Stop in the name of love” by the Supremes. THE CROWD WENT NUTS.

The singers were walking up and down the aisles trying to get the audience hyped. All of a sudden I see a women in black niqab get up and bust out moves that I didn’t even think were humanly possible.

As soon as I saw that happen, Sharaf and I looked at each other realizing not a single one of our friends would believe what we had just witnessed.

The band continued nailing cover song after cover song from artists such as Tina Turner, Chuck Berry, Barry White and they even busted out with some James Brown.

We decided not to take pictures of most of the evening celebrations because Eid is a time to celebrate comfortably among your friends and peers. I’m sure many of the people there would have been self-conscious of cameras flashing in their face, let alone uncomfortable with us posting their pics on our site for the entire world to see.

I think it’s safe to say that just about every mosque I’ve been to, the celebration that Masjid Khalifah had tonight would never fly. Then I started thinking, why not? Let’s put the women singing and dancing thing aside, whats wrong with cranking out a few tunes for people to enjoy on one of the most special days of the year to celebrate?

But I don’t want to turn this into an argument about the right way vs. wrong way to celebrate Eid. I’m not even remotely qualified to make that argument. But what I saw tonight was spectacular. To see Muslims spend the day of Eid with their friends and family completely energized from head to toe is a sight I haven’t seen in a long time.

Most Eid celebrations I have gone to growing up are enjoyable, but fairly routine. You grab a plate of food, sit down with friends and family and talk for a few hours. Still fun to do, but I’d take some James Brown tunes over that any day of the week.

After the celebration, the show’s emcees asked everyone to help clean up. They even managed to turn the cleaning instructions into a catchy song. I was like “Wow, they can even get crunk while cleaning.”

I helped stack some folding chairs and when I was done with that, I carried over some tables to a nearby wall. As I did that, one of the elderly gentleman in the community shouted at me not to move the tables.

That’s when I ran into one of the women I met when I visited Masjid Khalifah on Day 24. She said “You’ve prayed with us, had our food, and now you’ve been yelled at for doing something wrong. Congratulations, you are officially a member of this masjid.”

Driving back home to Manhattan after the celebration, I started telling Sharaf how hard it was to believe that the 30 Mosques project was coming to an end. That’s when we were driving through midtown Manhattan and noticed the green lights coming from the Empire State Building.

Green is a color heavily associated with Islam (Can someone tell me the exact significance of it, I’ve heard close to 30 different explanations). During the Eid holiday, the city of New York shines green lights on the Empire State Building to let the entire community know its Eid.

If you ever wondered how strong of an impact Muslims have had on New York City, all you have to do is come visit during Eid and look at the sky.

No person on this Earth could ever replace my family. But tonight I finally realized, the people I’ve met in this city, especially during this 30 Mosques project, are the next best thing.

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