It is now over ten days since the passing of the holy month of Ramadhan and the day of Eid. Believers have slipped back into the normal routine of everyday life and the spirit and zeal of the holy month seem to be fading fast. It is a struggle to hold onto the same enthusiasm for worship and piety. In the fast paced, materialistic world that we live in, a lot of effort is required to continue at least part of what was achieved during the days of fasting.
There is no doubt that believers strive to achieve spirituality during the month of Ramadhan. At home and in the mosques, we are engaged in Ibadah and dhikr, recitation of the Holy Quran, attending classes and lectures at night, participating in Amaal programs. We set aside time as much as possible for attending to these events. The communities must be commended on the huge cooperative efforts put towards the commemoration of the holy month.
At the end of this month of intense spirituality, we celebrate the day of Eid. It is the way we celebrate Eid that is becoming worrisome. Reflect for a moment on how Eid was celebrated at your home, in your family circles, in your community. Was it a spiritual happiness that was felt on achieving new levels in proximity to God? A sense of satisfaction derived from joining with family and community to thank God in prayer? Was it delight in saying the beautiful Eid prayer in congregation? Or was it all about new clothes, good food, and presents – lots of them! It is difficult to ascertain exactly when this trend began but it seems in an effort to make Eid memorable for our children, we are now going overboard. Think of the qurankhwani gifts, the gifts at Eid dinners and Eid parties, the gifts at Madrasahs and schools . . . . What message are we sending? We as adults have to take responsibility for the culture of materialism that is developing in our younger generation.
It is true that many families gave much in charity, especially to the people of Pakistan who are in dire need at the moment. Many children gave from their Eid money to the poor. But the fact remains that our children received a lot of gifts on Eid, too many overall. The materialism that is created through this culture of gifts is scary. The negative effects of excessive materialism are too clear to ignore. We all need to reflect seriously upon this, both as individuals and as part of the community. Unless we question our behavior we risk creating a generation that is obsessed with getting and possessing.
Gift giving is liked in Islam. According to the Holy Prophet (s), exchange of gifts increases love between people. But it must be limited. There must be a stop to this extravaganza of gift giving. We need to think of solutions and implement them determinedly, before we spiral downhill into meaningless materialism.
Some of the solutions could include:
a) Instead of a gift give an experience. Make an appointment for a cooking session, a craft making one, a day at the zoo etc. This will be a much more meaningful gift than a toy or a game. Happiness and enjoyment come from spending time together rather than spending money.
b) When families get together for Eid, each child should get only one gift. The social gift giving game Secret Santa is a good example of how names can be chosen at random for gift giving. Every family picks one name to buy a gift for. There can also be a limit on how much is spent on the gift.
c) Instead of a gift, give a donation in their name to a worthwhile charity. The recipient of the gift gets a card showing the amount donated in their name.
These are just some solutions to halt the flow of materialism on Eid. Let us try to give back to Eid the spirituality and happiness that is really the true meaning of Eid. It is what the fourth Imam meant when he said:
O God . . .bless us in this day of our festival and our fast-breaking, and make it one of the best of days that have passed over us. (Saheefa as-Sajjadiyya, Dua no.45)