Eid al-Fitr—the Festival of Fast-Breaking—is a special celebration for the ending of Ramadan month, after Muslims fast for almost 30 days. This last Eid was different than all others for me.
A couple of days prior to Eid, my father purchased cakes, biscuits, drinks, dry fruits, sweets and fresh fruits to serve guests on Eid’s occasion. I went with my Mom to buy henna and some other jewelry for myself and my sisters.
On the last day of Ramadan, we were busy having a meal for Ifthari when we heard firing outside in the street, people shouting, and joyfully announcing Eid day. “Oh, they must have sighted the Moon!” my brother said, and we ran to the backyard to see a crescent moon in the sky. My brother and baby sister began dancing when the radio announced that the next day was Eid day. My brother started text-messaging his friends, and my three-year-old sister put her new clothes, shoes, and jewelry next to her bed so she could wear them in the morning. I made designs with henna on my hands and and my sister’s.
I love Eid so much; Eid morning is always especially fresh, exciting, and full of happiness. I woke early the next morning. I could hear the Mullah’s prayers coming from Masjid to wake us up, and birds singing and praying in the colorful trees to wish us happy Eid. Special prayers are offered on Eid when the sun spreads and touches the earth. The prayers are offered to thank Allah for blessing us with happiness and prosperity, and also to pray for the safety and well-being of our country.
We dressed nicely for the prayers. My father and brothers went to Masjid to pray and my mom and I prayed at home.
Afterwards, everyone started wishing “Happy Eid Mubarak” to each other. Faces sparkled with happiness and joy. When my father and brothers returned to home, my parents gave us Eidi (money given to children as a gift). In a few minutes, my sister, brother in-law and other cousins were also with us. We wished Happy Eid Mubarak to each of them, and served a lot of sweets and other special foods. Music beat, kids played, and there was dancing, talking, laughing, and eating until end of the day.
But Eid is also about creating peace among all people, about sharing some moments of happiness, especially with those who are sad, deprived or in need for our support. So that night, when all guests left, my mom packed some food and asked me to go with her to our neighbor’s house. The man of the house had been one of the 45 civilians killed in the bloody bomb explosion which occurred during the month of Ramadan on Aug. 25, 2009, in Kandahar. His death left his wife and three kids alone. Hadn’t his wife wished to have a happy Eid with her kids and husband? But now her happiness had disappeared into a blast of tears pouring from her eyes.
My mom and I entered through a tiny wooden door into a small house made of clay. The house was dimmed in darkness. I held my mom’s hands until we reached the light of from a lamp blazing from the porch. The wife and the three kids were gathered there, under the light of that lamp. She was on a jainamaz (a special rug for prayers) sobbing and praying to Allah.
She wiped her eyes when she saw us, folded the jainamaz, put it to the side and stood to greet us. “Salaam, welcome to my poor house,” she said, and kneeled to clean a spot for us to sit on the floor. We sat with her and then crossed our fingers to recall memorial prayers for her husband’s death, as it was the first Eid since he had passed away. His wife cried in my mom’s arm and then she said, “He left me alone and left my kids fatherless. Who will take care of them now?” She said this while looking to her belly. She was five months pregnant with the next baby!
Beside her, her three-year-old boy was asleep with tears on his puffy and reddened cheeks. Her five-year-old boy was playing hide and seek with a cat, and her six-year-old was lying on the floor and quietly looking at the sky, as if counting the stars.
I went to sit next to him and asked him that what was he doing there? That little boy looked at me for a moment and then said: “Mom says that our Daddy went to the sky to meet Allah-Pak. Now I am searching among the stars for him. I want him to come back, so that I can ask him for my Eidi.”
Holding the little boy tightly in my arms, I said: “Here is your Eidi that your Daddy asked me to give you.” I took the money my own father had given me as an Eidi from my purse and gave it to both little boys. Then I asked them to eat some of the food we had brought them.
My mom and I stayed there to talk until the kids fell asleep and then we returned to our home.
The innocent faces of those kids and that woman’s tears didn’t let me sleep that night. I tossed and turned. How could I help them?
Suddenly, I remembered one of WFP’s employees I could ask for help. When I was working with Mercy Malaysia in its Vocational Training Center in Kandahar, the WFP used to provide food items, such as flour, beans, salt, biscuits and a tin of oil to all trainees and trainers on a monthly basis, and my friend was responsible for monitoring food distribution process in our VTC site.
The next morning, I called him and explained the situation. He agreed with my idea and asked me for the address to send some food items. The next day, my friend brought food items with some clothes, shoes, and a small amount of money. The woman and kids’ faces were shining with joy and they were grateful for everything my friend did for them. I thanked him for his support.
“WFP aims to provide food items to all those needy people who are attending our project sites, such as literacy and vocational training centers, schools, and hospital, rather than supporting individuals. Therefore, food may not be provided to your neighbor more than a couple of times, so I suggest she attends one of the literacy centers in order to continually receive our support,” my friend said while he was leaving.
When my neighbor heard her words, she began thinking deeply about how to study.
Previously, she had never gone to school, nor had she been allowed to work, but now the situation was different. Now she had to take care of her kids by herself.
“Look,” I told her, “we all face problems in this challenging life and sometimes it’s tough to meet those problems, but that doesn’t mean we should give up.”
“You can prove yourself both as a father and mother to work for the bright future of your small children, rather than just sitting at the corner of your house crying on your fate. No one will help you unless you help yourself. Therefore, I advise you to go to one of these literacy centers to learn both education and tailoring skills, and to receive every month some food to feed your kids,” I added.
She smiled at me and asked me if I could take her to the literacy center.
“We can go tomorrow,” I said joyfully.
Although the war has been considered over since 2001, its effects still remain, particularly in the southern region of Kandahar, where daily bomb explosions, suicide attacks and kidnappings are adding to the numbers of widows, orphans, and other disabled people begging for a piece of bread on the street.
There are many others like my neighbors who do not feel the happiness of the Eid. For them, freedom and peace is what they have not yet experienced. Still, there is hope and this is education. Everyone should get an education and then every day could be an Eid day.
AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen