Eid is the end of Ramadan. It is a three-day feast of celebrations following a month of fasting. Just like Ramadan, Eid in COVID was more of a spiritual feast than a feast of food, festivities and socializing. We still did 3 lawn visits today keeping social distance and sharing food carefully- yet the connection of those gatherings was on a totally different frequency than the normal buzzing Eid parties. It felt like the culmination of a very spiritual month full of study and reflection. I got to study with the best of the best, and I discovered that I had missed out on so much all of my life in terms of spiritual development and enlightenment.
In any normal Ramadan, Shahid and I would be running to Jerrahi Mosque to share iftar (breaking the fast) with the whole Jerrahi community under beautiful tents in the evening breeze, doing communal prayers and listening to beautiful sohbets (dialogue) by Baba Yurdaer, shaikh of Jerrahi Mosque. But because it was a lockdown, we instead got to hear Baba Yurdaer’s teachings about faith and zikrs (zikr is meditative rememberance of Allah) on Zoom. Each day he would explain one of Allah’s names and its meanings, and how turning it into personal practice is what Islam is all about. Examples are generosity, forgiveness, truth telling, compassion, etc. And on the final Eid khutba he reminded us all to remember those names and turn it into daily practice- a beautiful reminder that touched my heart. I cried all the way through the khutba. I felt I had discovered even more beauty in faith. And I found the Zoom calls allowed for more focus, more impact and the deepest form of listening.
Imam Feisal of Cordoba House led daily isha, tarawih (optional late night prayers) and zikrs which Shahid and I followed avidly at our newly created mosque at home. His Friday sermons and prayers were beautiful reminders of how the COVID Ramadan was an opportunity to reflect and re-examine our life. His message of how we are going back to what is essential rang so true, whether it was our material lives or our spiritual lives. And I was thrilled that my children were keen and got a chance to follow and learn from Imam Feisal as well- again thanks to Zoom!
While COVID was happening, we had a friend – Iqbal Zia- who got sick in a rehab center and eventually passed on. During that whole trial, Agha Tayyab from Boonton Mosque led our group of friends in beautiful soothing prayers for Iqbal on Zoom. Each of those prayer sessions helped us get through that difficult period, and connected family and friends across the globe for the final virtual farewell to our friend. I also began to study Shaikh Hamza Yusuf more deeply and adopted his teachings as I found them modern and enlightened.
And finally, Daisy Khan and I had discussed an idea last year- to start a women’s spiritual circle and meet at each other’s homes. Very quickly it progressed to a group of 20 women meeting monthly at her beautiful apartment overlooking the Hudson River from NJ side. Then COVID19 ground the world to a halt, and we started to hold weekly Sunday calls to support each other as two of our (younger) members got COVID and thankfully recovered. As Ramadan approached, Daisy had this ambitious idea of bringing together Muslim women scholars to continue our spiritual development- many of them had been to the WISE conferences organized by Daisy. I was to be the facilitator, and Susan Smith and Sahar Alsahlani to be the co-hosts. It was a magnificient success! To this day we are reeling from the admiration and appreciation of the 100 or so global women seekers that gathered for 4 weeks on Zoom in deep spiritual intensives with amazing Muslim women scholars, like Afra Jalabi, Laleh Bakhtiar (translator of the Sublime Quran), Dr. Ayse Kadayifci, Dr. Basma Abdelgafar, reciters/guides like Seemi Gazi, spiritual guides like Shaikha Maryam and poets like Efemeral. Each of them shed new light and created openings for understanding and applying the spiritual richness of our faith to the current COVID crisis and to our lives going forward in post-COVID world.
For me, the whole experience of COVID has been that opening, that catalyst to go within and dig deeper into our own faith path and find out the new ways we can bring love, healing and peace to this planet. I recognize that this itself is a luxury, and probably more imperative and/or natural for those of us in our golden years! Yet, I hope each of you – no matter your faith or worldview or mindset- will have a spiritual takeaway from this COVID crisis so that we continue to build momentum to a better world than we had pre-COVID, God Willing.