Monday, December 08, 2008

Today is Eid al-Adhha

For those of you, like me, who are largely ignorant of Islam, but interested to know more, today is Eid al-Adhha (eed all-ODD-tha), commemorating the first day of the Hajj. The Hajj is the holy pilgrimage to Mecca that every Muslim must undertake at least once in his/her life if he/she is financially and physically capable. It is an act of submission to Allah.

Today, Maty is preparing a feast for her friends and family in honor of Eid al-Adhha, complete with Halal-slaughtered lamb and various Muslim dishes. (There will also be spaghetti for those of us with less adventurous palates.)

This morning, we attended the Muslim call to prayer at the Oregon Convention Center. You might be surprised at the number of Muslims there are in the Portland area. I'd estimate the number of attendees at several thousand. Here's a very short video clip of the prayer.

It's a very patriarchal affair. The sexes are separated, with the men congregating at the front, directly before the podium, and the women with the young children in the back. (Well, after all, Islam is certainly not alone in its patriarchal structure. There are no female priests in the Catholic church).

As I watched the prayer ceremony and listened to the Imam, I was struck by a solemnity and a sense of --well --holiness. It was exactly the same feeling that I have experienced when attending a Catholic Mass, hearing the Rosary recited.

At an earlier (less wise) time in my life, I scorned organized religion as a crutch for weak people. But, as I've commented before, life has a way of demonstrating the error of one's ways, of convincing one of one's mortality. Get your ass knocked down a few times, and you come to realize that the world really isn't at your feet.

Maty and friends
So, I've moved from being an avowed atheist to an agnostic, from nihilism to befuddled acknowledgment of my inability to comprehend. I haven't settled on a faith because, in my investigations, I've learned that each has its appeal and its glimpses at the truth.

Maybe the Hindus have it right, anyway. While the concept is incomprehensible to those of us who have been brought up in societies dominated by Western faiths (Christianity, Judaism, Islam), Hindus see no contradiction in being a Christian and a Hindu, or a Jew and a Hindu, or a Muslim and a Hindu.

So, in that spirit, let me wish you all a Happy Eid al-Adhha.


Dan Binmore said...

Religion is a thing people do, and they do it because they are people. I am an avowed atheist and I have felt repeatedly deep spiritual feelings, or been in the presence of holy people. I doubt I'll ever forget the chills caused by the choir in Westminster Abbey. Being against organized religion is like being against organized sport, being against something that people feel a need to be a part of because of basically being people. The problem, as with almost everything, comes about when the participation in such activities is not voluntary, when someone cannot do what they want because of the beliefs of someone else.

Eclectic Dilettante said...

Every religion has something worthwhile. Each one also has something that is less than admirable. Why is it necessary to choose only one? What's wrong with finding spirituality in each and then walking your own path?