Celebrating the spirit of giving

Jim Day
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Najam Chisti says Muslims have two celebrations — Eid-ul-fitr and Eid al-Adha — that involve prayer, exchanging greetings and gifts, and charitable acts towards the needy.

This is the second in a six-part series called Christmas at My House.
The series looks at how Christmas Day is celebrated in the homes of Prince Edward Island residents from one tip of the Island to the other. The stories will be carried in the print and e-editions of the newspaper as well as online all week.

Muslims too celebrate the practice of giving.

Their traditional time for sharing, however, is not Christmas.

Muslims believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, but do not mark the occasion as a holiday.

In the Qur’an, there are many stories about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ (called ‘Isa in Arabic). The Qur’an recalls his miraculous birth, his teachings, the miracles he performed by God’s permission and his life as a respected prophet of God.

Yet in the Muslim world, Christmas is not celebrated publicly, except in the minority Christian communities in the Middle East.

Chishti has lived in P.E.I. since 1979. His three children have been raised in the Muslim faith but have been allowed to participate in certain Christmas activities like singing in the school choir.

“We do believe,’’ he notes, “that Jesus Christ is a messenger of God.’’

Muslims have two celebrations that embody the spirit of giving that marks the higher, non-commercial side of Christmas.

Eid-ul-fitr is an important Islamic holiday for the Muslim community in Canada, including the 300 or so Muslim families of P.E.I., the majority of which live in Charlottetown and Stratford.

This event involves many Muslims waking up early and praying either at an outdoor prayer ground or a mosque. People dress in their finest clothes and adorn their homes with lights and other decorations.

Many people also visit families and friends, exchange greetings and gifts, and make donations to the poor and needy.

Chishti puts up festive lights during Ramadan, a period of prayer, fasting, charity-giving and self-accountability for Muslims in Canada that runs in the ninth month in the Islamic calendar.

“This is our festivity and this is what we do,’’ he says.

Large crowds have gathered to celebrate Eid al-Fitr in cities such as Ottawa in the recent past. Political leaders in Canada have also made statements to wish their best to Islamic communities during the Eid-al-Fitr celebrations.

“We would like to belong to the community,’’ says Chishti. “We do not want to be segregated from the community.’’

Eid al-Adha is also celebrated in Muslim communities throughout Canada around the 10th to 13th days of the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijah.

It is marked by special prayers and many Muslims gather for special prayer services.

Many people also visit families and friends, exchange greetings and gifts, and make donations to the poor and needy.

Eid al-Adha is also a time for forgiveness and compassion.

Geographic location: Canada, Middle East.Chishti, P.E.I. Charlottetown

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