Muslim students celebrated Eid al-Adha differently this year due to restrictions on large, in-person gatherings implemented in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Eid al-Adha, also known as the "Feast of Sacrifice,” took place on July 31 and marks the end of the Hajj pilgrimage season. The holiday commemorates the prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son at God's command, before God gave him a lamb to sacrifice in place, according to The BBC. Eid is communal in nature, as Muslim communities typically gather together to pray at a mosque and hold large celebrations.
This year, however, many Muslim students at Penn were unable to go to their local mosque and gather with their communities on Eid.
Rising College junior Hannah Erdogan usually celebrates Eid with members of her mosque, but was unable to do so because of the pandemic. To provide some form of community, Erdogan and her family instead attended a virtual prayer service with her mosque instead.
“On a typical Eid day, the mosque my family belongs to rents out this huge park, and there’s a special sermon, a short prayer, and then everybody celebrates — family, cousins, and friends,” Erdogan said. “Because of the pandemic, you're not surrounded by tons of friends physically, but you virtually are.”
Like Erdogan, Rising College sophomore Neehal Hussain did not go to his mosque on Eid. Although he did attend virtual prayer services, he said that the experience was not comparable to the normal tradition of praying in a mosque with his community.
“When you attend a service, we're all performing the prayers together, standing shoulder-to-shoulder. Usually, there are hundreds of people packed together at the mosque. And that just didn't happen,” Hussain said.
Rising College senior Shaina Zafar said that while she missed being able to gather with her community on Eid, she still felt deeply connected to her faith during the holiday.
“The beauty of Islam is that you can pray in any place that you’re in. In that way, you always feel close to God,” Zafar said.
Rising College senior Nancy Ibrahim was not able to go to the mosque for Eid al-Adha or Eid al-Fitr, which took place on May 13 and marked the end of Ramadan, because her mosque was closed due to the pandemic. She said that not being able to gather with her community in person throughout the holiday season has been a challenge.
Although many Muslim students were not able to go to mosque on Eid, they believe that the holiday's celebratory spirit was still present this year.
Erdogan said that in the spirit of Eid, people typically leave food and desserts at friends’ houses, which she was able to do by exchanging gifts with her neighbors.
While Hussain could not see his extended family on Eid, he said he was grateful he could video conference with them instead. Ibrahim said that she was able to continue her usual Eid tradition of cooking an Egyptian meal for her family.
For some students, the pandemic ultimately brought a greater meaning to the annual holiday.
Hussain believes that the suffering caused by the pandemic has personalized the teachings of the holiday.
“The story of Ibrahim teaches us about patience and sacrifice. The trial that we're going through now does really compare in the sense that we're making sacrifices. It's a reminder that we should continue to be patient because everything will eventually return to normal,” Hussian said.
Zafar echoed Hussain’s thoughts and added that celebrating Eid in quarantine has given her the opportunity to self-reflect on the holiday's significance.
“This Eid is one where you really thought about what it means to celebrate each other, more than the theatrics or that picture that you wanted to get with your friends. Instead, you're actually thinking about being at home, praying, trying to create that community, checking in with folks you haven't seen in a while, wishing them Eid Mubarek,” she said.