By Khalid Latif
I’ve never really found myself asking too many questions about what my religion, Islam, requires and recommends of me when it comes to interacting with other faith practitioners’ as they commemorate their respective holidays.
Can I have a Christmas Tree in my home? Is it ok for me to light candles on a menorah? Can I wish a holiday greeting or give gifts to my family members, friends, or neighbors who are celebrating their own religion’s holidays? The winter holidays often bring about questions like these and more on what is religiously permissible from many Muslims who are trying to navigate the complexities of living in an ever-increasing diverse society.
For me personally, I’ve not had to confront these things the way others have had to, but I do find myself this year thinking about Christmas and Hanukkah more than I have before, mostly in terms of how difficult the celebration of these and others holidays are going to be for so many this year.
I’m thinking of all those who are simply observing their holidays this year and not able to celebrate them.
I’m thinking of all those parents who will have no gifts for their children and for all those children who will wonder why they have no gifts to open.
I’m thinking of the empty chairs at holiday tables of loved ones no longer present due to illness or their passing away.
I’m thinking of doctors, nurses, and residents who will spend their holidays working around the clock and will now also be playing the role of family to the thousands of patients in hospitals at this moment.
I’m thinking of those who have been evicted from their homes and will spend the holidays trying to find some type of shelter or refuge from the inclement weather on the streets.
I’m thinking of those who won’t be able to participate in virtual holiday services because they have no access to technology of any kind.
I’m thinking of those who will spend their holidays standing for hours in lines outside of urgent cares and medical offices to get tested and of so many more who won’t out of fear of what that means because they have no healthcare.
I’m thinking of those for whom a holiday meal might be the first meal they have eaten in days and might also be the first time they eat anything at all in a long time.
And I’m thinking how my Islam teaches me to see each one of them as an individual person that I love because of our shared humanity and to treat each one with dignity, honor, and respect – not just the way that I would want to be treated, but even better than that.
For all those who find themselves in any of the above-mentioned groups or something similar, you are in my thoughts and prayers. I’m sorry that I don’t have a lot of money and all I can offer you is a place of remembrance in my heart, but I assure you that your place there is cemented with real love.
And for those of you who can help bring some light and love into someone else’s life this year, be sure to do so before 2020 ends and as soon as 2021 begins. It’s not the time to let anyone feel alone.
May we always be the reason people have hope in this world and never the reason that people might dread it. Ameen. ❤️