Rama Ariadi joined Muslims in celebrating Eid al-Fitr last Friday, as they ended the month-long fasting and religious introspection. He discovered that more than looking forward to eating and having fun, Muslims in Cambodia opted to focus on continuously showering compassion, discipline and selflessness towards others.
After 29 days of fasting from dusk until dawn, Muslims all over the world were ready to breathe a sigh of relief on Friday morning, when Eid al-Fitr came to mark the end of the Holy Month of Ramadan. But true to the lesson of the Holy Month itself, which is simply put as an exercise of compassion and restrain, most Muslims who came to Phnom Penh’s Al-Serkal Mosque did not come with a stomach full of food, for they are advised to refrain from eating while at the same time, advised to perform charitable deeds for the needy prior to the prayer — all against the backdrop of the ‘Taqbir’. The celebratory chant echoed from the minarets of the Mosque to the back alleys of Boeung Kak — God is good, God is fair, there are no other Gods but Allah, and only Allah will lead us to the Final Victory.
As the sun begins to rise above the horizon, men, women, children all came in their best attire, for the day that marks the end of Ramadan is also known as the Day of Victory — but it is not victory in the traditional, narrow sense of the word. It is a day that marks the triumph of the human soul over their lust and desires. For it has been said that during every month of Ramadan, the Devil itself will be shackled in the crusts of hell by Allah, thus any evil deed carried out by the human are the result of their own conscious thought, as opposed to the result of the devil’s active seduction to the offsprings of Adam and Eve — which the devil had vowed to do until the end of time.
The symbolism of their attire goes beyond the desire to celebrate this festive occasion. White — which is the preferred colour of the day — symbolises the purity of the soul that had been tempered by the month-long period of self-restrain. Every single person in attendance were instructed to pray in tight rows, leaving no space in between them — which symbolises solidarity among the brethren, for the absence of space in between attendees is believed to signify no space for the devil to sow dissent among men.
Then came the Eid prayer after the final call to prayer was recited. But one could be justified for arguing that the prayer itself isn’t the point of the day, for although it is customary for Muslims to congregate in mosques or a large open field to pray, the prayer itself was never made compulsory. Once the prayer is finished, everyone turned to one another to ask for forgiveness — to ask for a blank slate for any mistakes that were committed prior, or even during the Holy Month itself. In that fleeting moment that lasts only for a couple of minutes before people started to leave the mosque to get on with their lives, strangers immediately became brothers as handshakes and wais are exchanged.
It was a sight to be taken in, as these days too many people seem to think that the feast of Eid is the whole point of the day. But why spend the day making the rounds to your fellow neighbours’ houses, only to end up in a food coma, on a day where every Muslim is advised to grant their brothers and sisters a tabula rasa?