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A solemn Eid: commemorating in times of tragedy

Eid al-Fitr prayer at the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights.
Courtesy of Islamic House of Wisdom 
Eid al-Fitr prayer at the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights.

Eid al-Fitr marks the conclusion of the holy month of Ramadan, during which Muslims commemorate the spiritual journey of fasting, prayer, and reflection.

Mohammad Ali Elahi, the imam of the House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights, described the day as a "graduation from the school of Ramadan," symbolizing the purification of the soul and a profound spiritual experience.

While Eid al-Fitr is traditionally a day of celebration and unity, this year's observance is overshadowed.

Hamas's attack in Israel on October 7, 2023, sparked Israel's retaliation, which international observers say has resulted in the deaths of more than 33,400 Palestinians in Gaza, a densely populated strip of land home to 2.1 million people, the vast majority of them Muslim. According to Gaza's Health Ministry, the majority of those killed are children and women.

In light of the escalating toll in Gaza, many Muslim leaders are showing solidarity by canceling Eid festivities.

Imam Elahi is among them.

Elahi said these events are tragic not only for Muslims but for any human being — "not only for people who are fasting and for the faithful, for the Muslims, but for every human being with a conscience all over the world. This is so tragic," Elahi said.

The imam's decision to forego the usual festivities and focus on prayers and sermons underscores the somber mood prevalent in the Muslim community.

Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi leading Eid prayer at the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights.
Courtesy of the Islamic House of Wisdom 
Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi leading Eid prayer at the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights.

"We don't have a celebration this Eid al-Fitr. We have only salah (prayer) and sermon ... but not a festival and celebration the way we used to have in previous Ramadans, because of what is going on in Gaza," Elahi explained.

The decision to cancel the usual celebrations at the House of Wisdom reflects a collective mourning and a call for compassion and support. Elahi emphasized the importance of recognizing the human tragedy unfolding in Gaza and urged prayers, charity, and solidarity instead of festivities.

Despite the backlash Elahi was prepared to receive, he said he remained steadfast in his decision, focusing on the importance of justice and truth in Islam and advocating for a sense of mourning and prayer during Eid al-Fitr.

"Some people and some imams may think that this is a religious occasion and it is okay to be happy and even celebrate because of the religious sense of it. But for the same reason, for the religious reason, I argue that Islam is a religion of justice and a religion of truth. And when we see some evil going on and humanitarian tragedies unfolding, I argue that ... this is an occasion of mourning."

The imam's stance resonated with many, leading to a collective agreement within the community to prioritize support and charity for those affected by the conflict.

The imam's actions, he said, serve as a reminder of the global impact of the conflict in Gaza. As the world grapples with the ongoing crisis in Gaza, Elahi said the message of Eid al-Fitr this year is one of compassion, reflection, and unity.

Zena is a senior at the University of Michigan with aspirations of becoming a broadcast journalist. She is interning in the Michigan Public newsroom.
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