Sunday, September 23, 2018
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Commentary

Eid amid evacuation

My mother-in-law Fatima Mutia Tomawis, who stood as guardian of a hundred evacuee families from the Marawi crisis as mayor of the mountain-area town of Tangcal, Lanao del Norte, asked me whether I had readied my Eid prayer dress.

In the blur of evacuee activities here in Marawi and Ramadan-related rituals, I had forgotten my own preparations for this most important day—Eid’l Fitr, the biggest Islamic holiday of the Muslim world.

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It is a most special day for us, but sadly many families are not together. Many cannot afford to come together, financial constraints preventing them from traveling. So they stick around in their location, whether in an evacuation site or their transient place, so they can pray as a congregation.

Eid’l Fitr holidays require a public prayer, but for displaced persons in Maguindanao and Marawi, would this be possible? And with water access a problem for many, can the faithful wash themselves, since a requirement for prayer is cleanliness?

I remember our Eid last year, which we marked without our families. We stuck together as civilian rescuers to assist other faithful who had no families with them in Iligan City, as we prayed at the Iligan

Ampitheater which the Iligan government allowed us to use.

The Imam who delivered the sermon/khutba was very emotional. Many males in the crowd shed tears in lamentation at being away from their beloved Marawi. And so we were reminded that

Ramadan is about sacrifice.

Fasting has been practiced for thousands of years, even by Jesus. To know and understand what it feels like to be on an empty stomach, like the children begging in street corners every day, is a blessing. It teaches us how to share, and to be grateful that—amid the successive natural calamities that have struck our country, along with evacuations caused by armed conflict, human rights violations, etc.—there is always that leap of faith we can do to overcome the burden.

Eid’l Fitr is a Muslim celebration done after fasting in the month of Ramadan. It symbolizes our gratitude to Allah/God after we have completed the fasting season. It is a celebration of achievement after 30 days of struggle, not merely from hunger, but for a  realization of the self and of the world.

Eid’l Fitr is a celebration not because we are thankful that we do not belong to the less fortunate, but because we learn and experience how the poor and hungry feel. That is also why we are encouraged to pay Zakat (charity)—to share and to help each other. Families, dressed in newly sewn matching head gear with their babies, lug their prayer mats and put them on the grass at 6 a.m. to listen to the congregation’s recitations.

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Thousands would fill the stadium of the Mindanao State University Oval in the lovely green campus in Marawi. But now families are divided and stranded in loss, their clothes mismatched and salvaged from ukay-ukay. The blue sky is vast, a well without answer to the question: Why did this happen to us in Marawi?

Fasting is symbolic of our collective will to rise above our suffering in Marawi. As we search for an indigenous  social order founded on Bangsamoro ideals, fasting reminds that we do not need to await the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law or a rehabilitation program to practice our true self and “enjoin what  is good and forbid what is wrong.”

Every day, for instance, we must uphold human rights. Indeed, it is written in the Quran, “O you who believed, decreed upon you is Fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you might become righteous (2:183).”

I hope, as Ramadan bids farewell and as we pray during Eid’l Fitr, that we stand as united and reformed individuals—the source of peace not only for Muslims but for the whole humanity as well, and working for social action, justice and human rights.

May we remember the teachings of Ramadan: patience in adversity, and the patience to wait, to hope and to trust Allah for the acceptance of our prayers, in every day of our lives.

Thank you Marrow, Mama, Hubby, family and clan, friends, and every Juan and Aisha for inspiring me to survive and keep myself grounded. Thank you, 2018 Ramadan, and may I reform myself every day.

“Rabbana Takkabal du’a (Ya Allah, accept my prayer).”

Samira Gutoc-Tomawis, a  former commissioner of the Bangsamoro Transition Committee, is the spokesperson of the Ranao Rescue Team. (Visit on Facebook: Rebuild Marawi)

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TAGS: Eid’l Fitr, Islam, Marawi crisis, Muslim celebration, Ramadan
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