Several years ago a friend was relating a story to me of someone he knew back home. The young man, my friend mentioned, wanted to go visit his family on Eid to celebrate with them but was in the middle of a Dawah trip. He kept asking if it was alright for him to visit his family when an elder eventually replied: "our Eid will only come when the Muslim Ummah will become united".
Several years ago I found that comment admirable; what a selfless man! He refused himself any of life's joys until he could do his part to unify the Muslim Ummah. That was several years ago. Today, I don't think much of it.
Being sad or depressed on Eid has become a very common occurrence. We feel we cannot and should not allow ourselves to celebrate occasions due to grievances around the world.
Recently I have heard people around me ask:
How can you afford to be happy with all that is happening to our Muslim brothers and sisters in Syria, in Egypt, in Gaza, in Burma, and so forth? How can we really be happy when they are in so much pain?
But if we ask these questions, then isn't it only fair we also ourselves:
Can I afford to be sad with the gifts Allah has given me? Can I afford to be sad for receiving guidance? Can I afford to even frown when I know I can speak to Allah anytime and anywhere? Can I really afford to be sad when He has given me so much?
Should we, as Muslims, be people who always laugh and enjoy what life has to offer? As delightful as it may sound, that would ignore the times for us to be serious. So are we a people who always need to be sad and worried for others insofar as forgetting ourselves? As selfless as it may sound, that also ignores the times one should rejoice.
We are human.
We laugh. We cry. We fall. We rise. We succeed. We fail. We hope. We despair. We live. And we die.
There are moments in our lives where we ought to shed tears. Isn't it in our best interest to cry in Ramadan for our sins? But then there are moments in our lives where we ought to rejoice, smile and laugh. Isn't it only fair we thank those who help us by smiling and putting on a cheerful face?
In fact there should be moments for both sadness and happiness. The danger is, and has always been, falling entirely to either side of the spectrum.
Perhaps that balance is what we need to find ourselves when we both speak and listen.
One of the most beautiful things I heard once in a lecture regarding the day of Eid was, "Today is a day you have to find an excuse to be happy. Just find an excuse".
If you feel you don't have money, then thank Allah for your legs and how He has still allowed you to walk for free.
If you're feeling alone, then thank Allah for His company.
If you have been sick, then thank Allah for choosing to wash away your sins by this illness when on the Day of Judgment people will be willing to give the earth full of gold for Allah's Mercy.
If you have a few friends, or no one friends, then thank Allah for being His friend.
If you feel people around you are celebrating Eid in a more comfortable manner than you, then stop and think about those who have less than you.
If you don't have a special someone in your life, then thank Allah for keeping you away from an abusive partner, one that would break your heart far more than loneliness could.
If your heart grieves for your fellow Muslims suffering around the world, then remind yourself that celebrating Eid doesn't make you forgetful but someone who is balanced.
And for the all things you wish for, keep asking Allah. Who would you ask anyways?
An Eid without disunity in the Muslim Ummah may perhaps never come. But Eid al fitr will come after every Ramadan. And Eid al Adha will come after every Hajj. Then it'll be up to us if we want to celebrate that day or not.