It’s Friday. My day off. The Muslim holy day of the week. When I walked to the store to buy a little bottle of milk for my coffee, there were men carrying their prayer mats to the mosque.
Two mosques are within walking distance form my apartment and you could hear the call to prayer. The sing-song praying is in these low, solemn, almost melancholy tones. The two calls were bouncing off each other in a mismatched cacophony.
I’m excited, because we have two extra days off for Eid-al-Adha this weekend.
About a decade ago, at the University of Minnesota, in a class called Close Reading, my Professor Dr. Thomas Pepper assigned ‘Fear and Trembling’, by Kierkagaard. Don’t call him Dr. Pepper by the way. He really doesn’t think it’s funny.
In ‘Fear and Trembling’ Kierkagaard tells the story of Abraham, “the Father of Us All’, and his son Isaac in four different ways. Before Abraham, there were no Jews. In Christianity, Jesus is a descendent of Abraham. Muslims see him a supreme representation of faith and their Prophet Mohammed is one of his descendents.
Before Abraham there was no Israel-Palestine conflict. At The Sheikh Mohammed Cultural Center for Understanding, the speakers talk about how there should be peace in the Middle East, because we are all People of the Book.
Coming of age in the 90’s, I can’t help but think of Rodney King. As he asked: Can we get along? Can we have peace? For the kids and the old people? For everyone.
Jesus was a Jew and Mohammed, was a believer in the One God, while everyone around him in his hometown of Mecca, were Pagans, worshiping idols. Abraham was the first to say there was one Creator.
I was asked by a family member if I was afraid of terrorism from ISIS here in Dubai. And the answer is no, which doesn’t mean it’s an impossibility, just that I don’t worry about it. Dubai, like all the places I have traveled, always shows that we are all people that share a lot of the same hopes, dream, fears and neurosis.
My middle school students from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan, the UAE, etc., are just as lively and funny as any American, Swedish, Spanish, French or Finnish student. They are as full of hormones and teenage angst. They have helicopter parents.
Not that long ago one of my students, an Iranian girl, ran up to tattle-tale that people were twerking at recess. They are reading John Green books and going to see the ‘Maze Runner’ this weekend.
Metaphysical philosophers seek to understand how we can know what is real. Is reality available through our senses, emotions, or mind: I think, therefor I am. Kierkagaard was concerned with knowing God. Can you know God is real? Can you make logical, reasonable, mathematical arguments for God? In these four stories of Abraham, Kierkagaard is saying we don’t need reason. Reason is not how we come to know God and that doesn’t make it less real.
Humans have faith. The faith of Abraham, of the heart, of the soul, of the individual, subjective experience of God. Kierkagaard was against the supremacy of reason. Faith wins over Reason. To believe so wholeheartedly in God that you will take your son to him to be sacrificed. God recognizes the true heart of this faith and in the ultimate Deus Ex Machina, replaces Isaac with a ram.
This is the ‘Eid-al-Adha, Festival of Sacrifice, which is being celebrated this weekend. It is traditional for Muslims to sacrifice a goat, camel or sheep at their home and have a big, family feast.
At school, the Arabic teachers had a nice lunch brought in for the staff. There was no animal sacrifice, but there was this amazing Egyptian, pizza-like food. The bread was thin, shaped like a pizza pie and stuffed with a variety of meets, cheese and veggies, There were side dishes of roasted tomatoes, eggplants, chickpeas, salad and homemade kusherie.
Kusherie is an Egyptian dish that combines rice, pasta and lentils in a tomato based sauce. It’s not the normal combo for a Westerner, but it tastes very nice. Everyone was saying ‘Eid Mubarek’. Happy Eid!
Eid-al-Adha is also the end of Hajj. Hajj, pilgrimage to Mecca, is one of the five pillars of Islam. Our students at school acted out Hajj at the morning assembly. We openly celebrate Christmas, Halloween and Diwali at my school. To share Hajj with the school, the Islamic students were dressed in white robes and pretended to board a plane for Mecca. They had built a miniature of the Ka’aba and once in our school gym’s representative Mecca, began to recite the traditional prayer and rotate around the Ka’aba.
The Ka’aba is a mystery to me, but it is said that Abraham built part of it with his son Ishmael. My student Ismail, the Arabic spelling, likes to listen to Skrillex and read stories on ‘Creepy pasta’.