“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven . . . a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes chapter 3 in the Hebrew Scriptures)
Many of us have heard this familiar line quoted. However, what if your time to laugh occurs during my time to weep? Or, what if you wish to dance to unleash exuberance, while I am mourning loss?
Surely, bonds can be forged and strengthened during such a conflagration of seasons, but it requires understanding and the intentional making of space, within one’s own season, to empathize with the other.
This is the purpose of “Merging Traffic Ahead” signs. They warn of a conflict of interest coming up, so that drivers might be prepared. They will then be more cooperative with the actions other drivers, which might be considered rude or aggressive under other conditions. This post serves as my “Merge Ahead” sign. Here’s why.
September 11 is, of course, a day with memories of deep loss for many Americans. Many lost loved ones in the events of that day. Feelings of fear, vulnerability, suspicion, and anger entered hearts that had not harbored such feelings before. It is a day of communal mourning. The perpetrators of the events of September 11, 2001 proclaimed to be committing their actions in the name of Islam. Many Americans harbor deep suspicions toward Muslims and questions regarding the response of Muslims toward the events of that day.
On the other hand, Eid Al Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice), one of the most spiritually significant holy days for Muslims, is expected to occur on September 11 this year, as well. Because Islam follows the Lunar calendar, the observance falls on a different date each year.
During Eid, Muslim families typically share a meal of a sheep or goat that was slaughtered. The meal is spiritually significant because it is held in commemoration of the time when, according to the Quranic account, Abraham believed that Allah asked him to sacrifice his son. According to the account, Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son. However, just in time to save his son, Allah stopped Abraham and provided an remarkable substitutionary sacrifice of a ram to offer in the boy’s stead. Thus, in their commemoration, Muslims honor both Abraham’s faith, as well as Allah’s great mercy and provision.
Eid is also the time of joyful return for many Muslims, who have made the Hajj, the once-in-a lifetime visit to Mecca that every Muslim hopes to make. It is typically an eagerly anticipated time of happy celebration in the Muslim community.
Persons are anxious this year regarding how American non-Muslims will interpret the celebrations they observe among the Muslim community on this day that is a somber remembrance for Americans. It is a legitimate concern. Since many non-Muslims might not be aware of the actual reason for the celebrations, the motivation for these events might easily be misinterpreted.
Some Muslims, for their part, have stated that they plan to curtail the typical celebration in their community. Perhaps partially out of respect and partially out of fear. Of course, I am hoping that opportunities for education would help Americans to understand the purpose of Eid. This would make them less likely to misinterpret the celebrations they may see in the Muslim community (both here and abroad) on September 11. I would further hope that non-Muslims might make an opportunity to reach out, acknowledge the significance of the holiday to Muslim friends and neighbors, and wish them a blessed holiday.
Perhaps our shared experiences this day might be a valuable opportunity to build a bridge and further relationships between our communities. Please spread awareness of the significance of this day among your friends, families, and coworkers. And please take the opportunity, if you have Muslim friends or neighbors, to wish them a joyful and blessed celebration of Eid al Adha.
Here is my thoughts and prayer for September 11:
“To all my fellow Americans (including Muslims), who will feel a deep loss on 9/11, may you find comfort among friends and family. I pray that you might find faith, hope, and healing in your journey, both in the present and in days to come.
To my Muslim friends, Eid Mubarak, and Eid Kareem! Thank you for respectfully acknowledging the pain and mourning that many around you will feel on 9/11. May you be blessed as you seek to follow the path of the faith of Abraham. And may you experience in your life the extraordinary mercy of Allah, which you commemorate that day.
As a follower of Jesus, the Messiah, I also seek to live with the faith of Abraham I also rejoice in the great mercy of God, which I have experienced in Jesus.
May we find a peaceful, meaningful path, going forward in friendship together.”