Has the Meaning of Eid Changed?

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Time is ubiquitous in this universe and it dictates our lives on every occasion of the living realities we wrestle with. We have catalogued and customised the mores and religious rituals (time relative) for having the practical and social connotations of meaningful pursuit of these codes. Time forms the pivot around which the socio-psychological and evolution of ‘collective memories’ get documented – ‘histories of a moment’. This chronicling of community and ritualistic intersections in connexion with the temporality of the phenomenon gets somewhat changed. Of the past, many things have been lost and they been relegated to the museum pieces, some couldn’t weather the time and some were buried in the ‘ruins of empire’. Time begets change and so have been the rituals, and Eid being the religious festival for Muslims around the world has  been changing fast and ‘mostly’ has been reduced to the elements of symbolism and iconography.

Social Psychology and Consumerism

Just like humans are mostly identified and determined by their communicative etiquettes so are the societies by their social conversations. In the sub-continent societies in general and Muslims in particular there has been the prevalence of somewhat ambivalent notion of religion and practising of religion. The festival of Eid also falls in the same line of sight with people mostly focussing on its mere outwardly/extrinsic purpose and letting the spirit of sacrifice and solidarity run out of the discourse. The public consciousness on Eid largely revolves around the consumerist perspective rather than the spiritual and radical ‘signifiers’ attached to this eve of salvation. We have always restricted ourselves to the echo chambers of regressive imaginations while grappling with everyday happenings around us. This largely manifests the demented precepts on account of the social psychology (community) which gets reflected in the communitarian essence and in the times of ‘critical importance’. Our history is replete with Himalayan instances where crevices have furthered our fall to the darks.

Eid, Religion and Pandemic

This Eid amidst the baggage of topophiliac ‘memories’ and pandemic should become a way forward for us to reimagine and reinvent our mode of life in accordance with the needs and demands of existential and societal problems we are faced with. The oft repeated literal rendering of religious and eschatological basis of our understanding this theme gets somewhat foggy given the medium/agency that gets crept in. The construction and programming of our thought before and during the Eid has been such that we only hear the repetitive scenes of how’s and why’s instead of what’s and where. Religion is because of people and you cannot preach any faith to woods or oceans, and people shape and (re/de/)construct the society. When society calls out the injustices and excesses being thrust upon her it defines the organic and egalitarian group (identity) of people who help, save and lift the people together sans their social background. An honest appraisal/mapping of these questions needs a critical and discursive (like Talal Asad’s) approach in the immediate and reasonable re-visioning of the socio-religious ideals of the community/shared realisation.

As the pandemic is showing the increasing trends in the growth of infections people should aim at following the protocols and standards curated by the world and regional health organisations. As Eid mostly deals with the exchange and networking of friendly and familial bonds there is generally the apprehension of ‘group contact’ which should be avoided at the most. WHO Eastern Mediterranean section has published the report comprising procedures for sacrificing animals and maintaining hygiene around the animal bases for this Eid. Saving people from the harm or disease becomes an act of worship given the unprecedented times around the world we need to be modest and realistic in celebrating this day. The pandemic has derailed the functioning of the main sectors of economy and the hardest hit has been the transport sector. There should be a public messaging on this Eid for helping them out and other needy people; a celebration of soul, bringing smile on someone’s face. 

What is Celebration?

When it comes to celebrating, there are the phenomenological questions of ‘what to celebrate, when to celebrate and how to celebrate’. Celebration means there is a ‘moment’ which ontologically derives its meaning from the ‘success, accomplishment or victory over something’. In the everyday revelling of conversations with self, one can have the moment of Eid, which necessarily is not only confined to the two days in a year. Our ‘living’ mode and the contours of ‘existence’ should aim at providing emotional and financial support to the deserving and needy and spreading hesed (Hebrew word for divine and human love) amongst each other, which also would represent the meaning of Eid. We can have the multiple truths and realties when it comes to appreciating beauty, rightness and contentment the word Eid suffices that in the same semantic ‘enabling’.  Now for a moment take a deep look into the abyss we are in and have desolated ourselves to the society of narrow-mindedness, mostly repelling the dissent and debate on important discourses of the day. You cannot celebrate when sword of Damocles hovers. While people throng to join the celebratory moods and atmosphere in other parts of world, Kashmir is yet again the ‘other space’ whose sighs were only echoed by the mountains and never by the people who  (mis)govern it. Celebration means continuously wearing the sleeves of defiance, resistance and persistence in the holistic attire of social solidarity and purpose of ‘transcendental sacrifice’. As Quran stresses “Their meat will not reach Allah, nor will their blood, but what reaches Him is piety from you. Thus, have We subjected them to you that you may glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and give good tidings to the doers of good [22:37]. Muslim world from Syria to Yemen is engulfed in the worst of humanitarian crises where barbarity is a norm and violence is a normalised version of a day. It becomes imperative for adopting the method and stance which breaks through the barriers of parochial and myopic understanding of ‘sacrifice’ and strive for achieving the true values of humanity and rising against the tide of oppression and exploitation that is evident.

Deconstructing Spirit of Eid

Eid should become a moment of redemption, reclamation and reconstruction of values that have been lost under the rubric of rigid and shallow show of unnecessary trifling,  from the bigoted face of religion to the hazards of false ‘modernity imaginaries’. We are in the times when God doesn’t want us to see each other’s faces; our masks define our innards -cluttered, hate-filled and prejudiced. We are not able to pray in congregation, Haj stays cancelled; if this reality  cannot  wake us up then we are all skeletons waiting to be the ‘pages of history. Time always changes the fate and behaviours of societies. You can have retake in the flashes of ‘reel life’ but not in the ‘real life’. If Eid means a moment of merriment with neighbours and relatives we are placed at the stage where we can’t bear an eye of a neighbour on our house and the term ‘relatives’ is relativized to the ‘insignificant other’. There was a time when people used to walk and talk openly as there was no sense of ‘wall’ but there are only walls sans any exchange of care, togetherness and feeling of ‘neighbourhood’. Our relations are concretised to put it in a fitting word. Well, celebrating Eid becomes meaningless then if there are not  any sign of affectionate and amiable relations with your neighbours and relatives. Sharing becomes a ‘mere act’ of ritual and nothing more and thus reaching nowhere near the meaning of spiritual and religious  awakening. These ‘questions’ have deeply entrenched into our ‘consciousness’ and have taken the position of a cultural derivative emanating from the socio-anthropological vocabulary.  Coming back to the social conversations as identity of any region, here in Kashmir Eid mostly resembles a ‘consumerist affair’ and turns the whole show into the ‘superfluous social spectacle’. Without this consumerist ‘tag’ Eid cannot be imagined in Kashmir which springs from the gregarious instinct of ‘excessive herd mentality’. The quantity and standard of eatables is compared between the families/friends seemingly trivial but is a harsh fact. Call it a psychological or herd mentality ‘drive’, this ‘eccentric’ mass behaviour is showing somewhat decreasing trend which is heartening to see as both young and elderly are taking the lead in enlightening the people about the meta-literal significance and applicability of spirit of Eid in truer sense. One can without doubt see marked difference in the sweetness and  thrill in the Eid before a decade back and now it all seems transient, ephemeral and just another day with the immersion  in what Baudrillard  calls a ‘hyper-real world’.

State and Freedom to Celebrate

Eid means happiness but state has mutated itself into a hydra-headed master which gives the ‘statist’ tone to the moment of celebration too. In a way how much you celebrate or when you have to celebrate has become a subject of state now. Not a moment of surprise this can be witnessed around the world as political lexicons are weaponised under the ‘regimen of control and hegemony’. Time too is made ‘statist’ as state gives you the time of when to move and when to stay indoors, in a way we are hardwired to the Hobbesian nature of ‘Sovereign’. When these enforced categories are incentivised for the ‘interest of state’ what remains there is a ‘dead flesh’ nearly barren of organic and living souls who “ask and speak”. Gayatri Spivak, the subaltern thinker called this tactic a ‘strategic essentialism’ for representing and expressing the shared political and cultural identity when symbols and history of a marginalized region get erased both internally and externally.  We need to get off our necks from the ‘knees’ and start ‘speaking and asking’ if we have to celebrate otherwise there are only ‘memorials’ waiting to be garlanded on. This Eid comes at a time when we have a choice either to sacrifice a ‘moment’ or get ‘sacrificed’ in the ‘moment’. The choice is yours-the only thing which is not statist.

Tailpiece

Contemplating on the changing meaning of Eid vis-à-vis the historical, religious, social and political vicissitudes, revivalism in terms of our consciousness and understanding is much needed in order to ferry the turbulent waters of seasonal ‘scheming’ and perennial  ‘parochialism’. Still we hope for the new ‘moon’ to shine past the Brechtia’n dark times so that people have the reason to ‘celebrate’. Mostly time represents the people and sometimes people represent the times, we will be waiting for the optimistic turn in this Janus faced linearity of a ‘temporal reality’. 

Mir Sajad is a Researcher at Department of Geography & Regional Development University of Kashmir