Thursday, July 16, 2015


                                                          Alhaji Abdulmu'min is ready for Eid Prayers and Celebrations

My two little daughters demurred when their mother offered to travel with them for Ramadan Umrah this year, even though they were on holidays; their reason being, ‘Mommy! Eid in Makkah is dull and boring, and you don’t get to visit anybody.’ Therefore, they chose to remain behind in Abuja with ‘Aunty Aishah, travel with her to Kaduna and visit our relatives while enjoying the Eid.’

They should know; they have spent the Eidul Fitr holidays in Makkah every year since they could remember, just as their parents have done for the past 12 years. Since I started the modest business of Hajj and Umrah tours in 2003, my wife and I have had to celebrate the two ‘Eids in Saudia, a situation I would gladly alter if not for the blessings of being in the Holy Land at those times.

When we were young, Eid or Sallah celebration in Nigeria was a festive season for children who looked forward to it with joy and great expectations. During Sallah festivities, especially for the straitened families or those with measured provision, children could have new clothes at least twice a year; enjoy rice and miyan dage-dage with a lot of meat for the period.

That was how we grew up in that humble setting where a child would proudly declare to his peers that he ate ‘shinkafa da miya da nama’ (rice, stew and meat) today, underscoring the fact that such menu could only be served on special occasions. The child would not wash his hands properly after the meal to retain the nice aroma so his friends could get a whiff and confirm his good fortune.

Early in the morning, father, assisted by mother, would measure the zakkar fidda kai (the fitr alms) of maize or millet- (not rice, which was beyond reach) which was given to the less privileged in the neighbourhood. The tuwon sallah would be ready from 7am and we were tasked with its distribution from house to house. As you were taking food to your neighbour, you were receiving his own. There were all kinds of cuisine denoting the cosmopolitan nature of the milieu. We were sent with tuwon sallah to every neighbour irrespective of his or her religion. Thus, Muslims received food from Christians, and Christians from Muslims. A neighbour was a neighbour - Muslim or Christian they might be!

When it was time to go to the Eid prayers we would wear our new clothes and trek to ‘Filin Idi’ to offer two-raka’ah salaah. There was no acaba (commercial motorcycle) or keke NAPEP (commercial tricycles). We proudly and happily trekked to the prayer ground. It was only on Eid days we went to prayers with our sisters, and in some cases our mothers; all year, they offered salaah in their rooms, not in the mosque.

When the imam said ‘salaam’ ending the Eid prayers, instead of listening to the Khutbah, we started another phase of our celebrations, stopping by mai haya’s shop where you paid a trifle to hire bicycles for 30 minutes or more. Another stop was the lilo (swing). We took turns, boys and girls, to enjoy ourselves on the swing for a price too. There was plenty of gumba (powdered millet mixed with sugar), alawa (candies), and tuwon madara (milk candy) to savour. We had no chocolates, thus we had strong teeth and healthy gums.

After much of these outings and kiriniya (playful wanderings), it was time to go for yawon sallah to relatives’ houses and those of family friends where the goron sallah (sallah tip) we could get would replenish what we spent at the mai lilo and mai haya places.

Things have changed since our time. Thus, my daughters’ refusal to travel with us for Umrah in preference for celebrating sallah at Kaduna kept baffling me. Nowadays’ children do not know most of the activities I mentioned above; they have no experience in many or have no idea how they are done because things have changed socially and economically. Very few people exchange any sallah gift, or share tuwon sallah with their neighbours.

Zakatul Fitr is mainly rice given in pre-measured mudun-Nabiy for each member of the family; not all parents even educate their children on the need of giving it out. Many children have never seen millet even where they are served ‘kunun tsamiya’ in Ramadan, as the ingredients are processed and brought from the village, so children do not see the actual grain.

Children who now go to Eid grounds chauffeured in the family car have missed the freedom we had and fresh air we enjoyed when we trekked, played and enjoyed ourselves without the fear of Boko Haram.

Today, we live in segregated settlements in some states like Kaduna, where only Muslims inhabit certain neighbourhoods and Christians in like manner. Thus, you have a complete village without a single person of the other faith. How can children who grow up in such settings learn anything concerning peaceful co-existence?

A child who has a set of clothes every week and whose parents can take to designer shops in Abuja, America or Europe at regular intervals to build up or change his wardrobe has missed the thrill of Eid that we enjoyed during our time. Now that rice is a staple food for most families, and people can afford shinkafa da dage-dage every other day, our children cannot have that longing we had for the coming of sallah.

What is so special in Eid for children who have their own bicycles and a mini amusement park in their houses with swings and endless contraptions for their daily entertainment? Their parents got them all these toys and play items but they cannot buy them playmates. Before the current security situation such children could make their parents take them to parks to mingle with other children; now they cannot even do that for fear of terrorists’ attack.

On Eid in Makkah being dull and boring, I think my daughters have a point; for children, yes it is. Eid prayers are said at the Ka’bah very early in the morning. The distribution of sweets starts from the Haram where people are seated chanting the takbeers before the commencement of the prayers. People share qahwah (Arabian coffee) and dates to worshipers so people could eat and drink signifying that at least this is Eid and nobody is fasting anymore; this is the end of Ramadan. Children also get many chocolates. Do not speak about tooth decay; this is Eid.

Celebrations for Sallah end with the Eid prayers at the Haram at least for Umrah pilgrims travelling with their children. The crowd is unbearable and hardly would there be time to take the children out to parks and playgrounds that abound in the Kingdom. After Eid prayers, parents are mostly busy with departure arrangements out of Jeddah for their return to Nigeria. The only form of celebration left for the children will be to move around malls near the Ka’bah, shop and buy ice cream, which they had been doing since their arrival into Saudi Arabia anyway. Therefore, there is nothing special for children to celebrate on Eid day in Makkah other than the spiritual value of being in the Holy Land.

The times are changing and the way of life we took for granted is changing too. Except for a few things like the St. Louis cube sugar, which has not changed in packaging or shape and size since the 60’s, almost all we knew growing up has evolved into something different but not always better. Our family values are changing rapidly and social interactions are gradually receding to mere online social media updates and chats.

Siblings in the same room no longer ‘gist’ but they prefer to do the talking online. There is a long list of scary crazes the new world has in stock for your children. The boys now wear sagging trousers with tight bottoms they call ‘skinny’; a ploy to make effeminate men (homosexuals) more acceptable. The unwary Muslim parent is buying them for his kids to the detriment of the children’s morals. Others are the outrageous hairstyles for boys and the shocking clothes on cheap sale for girls.

If after reading this, you claim it cannot happen to your children, you must be educating them in your room without satellite television all days of the week and all months of the year. If you do not, I am afraid you are deceiving yourself.

That is not to say you should not enjoy halaal fun this sallah. Please enjoy yourself tremendously and do it in a manner befitting a believer and in places befitting a believer. May Allah accept our exertions.

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