Notes and Comment

3Review of Religions – December 2002 A Time for Fa m i l y December is a time when Muslims will celebrate Eid and Christians celebrate Christmas. The festivals themselves are different in their context, meaning and practice, but one feature will unite Christians and Muslims during this month – the sense of family. At these festivals, families will get together all around the world to share presents, a traditional family meal, and meet family members who are often too busy to see each other during the year, or perhaps those living too far away. Grandparents look forward to the noise and energy of their grandchildren, and maybe even great-grandchildren. A large com- amunal meal will be shared, whether it is a turkey with trim- mings, a special stew, or maybe a pilau rice meal. Special treats will also be served such as sweets and puddings. Brothers and sisters bring their families together, and each year, the size of the family seems to get larger and larger and the excitement of the meeting more intense. Everyone will be wearing special new clothes for the occasion. The houses will be decorated and made to feel special and welcoming. But while we enjoy our food and presents in the warmth of our homes, we should especially open our hearts to those without family, or those who feel like outsiders. For them, rather than being the most enjoyable time of the year and one they would look forward to, instead this becomes the most difficult time as it brings into the open more acutely than ever their sense of loneliness. They watch families getting together and can only feel a sense of loss. Some may have fled from terror and are living in refugee accomodation. Others have been turned onto the streets following failed marriages. Ye t others have drifted apart from their families over the years and would now feel awkward trying to get re-acquainted with their old friends who now have their own f a m i l i e s . On the day of Eid or Christmas, it is hard for them to feel ‘goodwill to all men’ or to feel as if this is a special day and that they too are beloved servants of the same God. Notes and Comment 4 Review of Religions – December 2002 So what should we do? The cele- brations of both Eid and Christmas become more complete when we open our hearts to others. If there are lonely neighbours, we can try to include them in our happiness. If we know of family members that have drifted away, we can try to make the first move and re- establish contact with them. If there are homeless people, we can try to make them feel special with food and gifts. In sharing our pleasure with them, it can only enhance the experience for us through God’s Mercy. It is easy to give food and presents to our nearest and dearest, and the spirit of sacrifice and giving is a great quality which we have seen in all of the prophets of God. H o w e v e r, a sacrifice is not really a sacrifice if it is not painful. A real sacrifice on this day would be to spend some time, money and effort with those who are excluded from the festivities. A real sacrifice would be to open our celebrations to those that we know are feeling lonely. F i n a l l y, let us remind ourselves of the wisdom that religion has provided on this subject: Never shall you attain to righteousness unless you spend out of that which you love; and whatever you spend, Allah surely knows it well. ( Q u r’an; Ch.3: v. 9 3 ) ‘Whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, t r u l y, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.’ (Matthew 10:42) May the festive season prove beneficial to all members of society: those with established family ties and those without.Ï Tanveer Khokhar Notes and Comment In this edition, for the convenience of non-Muslim English readers, (sa) or sa after the word the Holy Prophet or the name Muhammad, are used. They stand for salallahualaihiwasallam, and abbreviated as ‘sa’, meaning peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. Likewise, the letters ‘(as)’ or as after the name of all other Prophets is an abbreviation (meaning, peace be upon him derived from alaih salato-wassalam) for the respect a Muslim readers utters.

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