Eid South-Asian Style in Sacramento
By Ras H. Siddiqui
Eid al-Fitr was celebrated throughout Sacramento, California on Friday, July 17 th at various regional mosques, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan for the tens of thousands of followers of the Islamic faith in this five-county (Sacramento, Placer, San Joaquin, El Dorado and Yolo) area.
There were several large gatherings including those held by SALAM, Folsom Mosque (MCF), Tarbiya Institute, Masjid Ibrahim, Woodland Masjid and last but not least, the historic Downtown Sacramento “V Street” Mosque where this writer attended.
The V Street Mosque is the oldest in the western United States and is often referred to as “The Pakistani Mosque” since it was founded in 1947, the year of Pakistan’s birth. Eid prayers at this Mosque mirror those in South Asia, as most of the people who attend here hail from Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkwa (formerly NWFP) and from Karachi-Sindh in Pakistan along with parts of India. Aside from the traffic and cars outside, once one enters the Mosque courtyard it was like being in Lahore, Peshawar, Delhi or Faisalabad. And since one cannot bring Lahore’s huge Badshahi Mosque or the Jama Masjid of Delhi to Sacramento for a couple of days a year here, on the two Eids, we can replicate a much smaller version of the two, right here in California’s capital city.
But before we venture into Eid Day itself, what cannot be overlooked was the beginning of the festivities with a wonderful “Chand Raat” held the night before at the White Lotus Banquet Hall in nearby Citrus Heights on Thursday, July 16 th which many have correctly described as the best one ever held in our area to date. Come to think of it, one rarely sees this event so well executed in Bangladesh, India or Pakistan either. “Chand Raat” literally means the night of viewing the moon. Since Eid is announced after the viewing of the new moon, the festivities officially begin in South Asia immediately after this announcement (of the moon sighting) and people go out late at night to shop while girls and women put on Mehndi (Henna) patterns on their skin, get fine clothes ready, and start cooking a glorious feast for the next day. For some, it is an opportunity to participate in the joy of ending the fasting during the month of Ramzan (Ramadan), while for others it is a sign of our attachment to our Desi Muslim tradition as the two Eids are central to our cultural ethos.
The fun, food and yes “romance” of Chand Raat was in full swing as one entered the venue. Clothes and jewelry (especially glass bangles or chooris) were on sale at various stalls inside and girls were busy getting Mehndi patterns put on. There was music, entertainment and even a dance or two. And the men were busy doing their best to consume some fine food starting off with the fresh hot jalebis cooked in the parking lot outside. Gol Guppas or Pani Puris were a huge hit here too along with Faluda Kulfi -ice cream. Kids also appeared to be having a good time with the joyous activities arranged for them. Our countries of origin were transported to this venue, as some Pakistani college students that we ran into looked amazed. These (USAID-sponsored) students, young ladies attending UC Davis could not have been happier! So our sincere thanks are in order to all the organizers of this Chand Raat, the best ever in this area. It was wonderful to see our young people having some fun!
On Eid day itself, at the V Street Mosque, worshippers attending prayers overflowed into the courtyard and this was the second shift. The first shift was already celebrating with Pizza and Jalebis and socializing outside waiting for the next group to get done. Our popular Indian-American Imam (of 25 years plus) Mumtaz Qasmi lead the prayers once again. During his pre-prayer sermon Imam Qasmi wished that Allah (SWT) accept our Ramadan fasting and prayers along with our Qur’anic recitation and our charity and good deeds during this holy month. He said that this is the basic message of Eid for us, and that it is our responsibility to pass on the Ramadan tradition to our next generation.
He stressed three important messages from the month that he wanted to share: 1) Share our love of the Holy Qur’an which millions memorize and recite from the heart. 2) The need to love our local Mosque and visit it as often as we can because it is Allah’s house, and 3) Humanity and our service to it is of the utmost importance. Giving to the needy and poor is our basic obligation. There are millions of people who live with hunger and thirst every day, plus those who lack proper shelter and clothing, he said. We should not just donate, but we need to care, since whatever we have is a blessing from God which we are obligated to share with the needy, he emphasized.