Muslims celebrate Eid in Roxbury
A crowd of more than 3,000 Muslims knelt on the turf at Madison Park High School on June 25, facing the rising sun as Imam Shaykh Basyouny Nehela gave a benediction in observance of Eid, the celebration of the conclusion of the holy month of Ramadan.
The outdoor celebration drew Muslims to Roxbury from across the Greater Boston area for a celebration of one of the most important holidays in the Islamic calendar. Somalis in light-colored robes, South Asian women in bright saris, Nigerians in colorful African prints, Middle Eastern men and women in white robes presented a multi-hued picture of the growing Islamic community in the area.
“This is a community effort,” said Imam Taalib Mahdee of the Masjid Al Quaran mosque. “We’re coming together from different communities.”
The outdoor Eid observance in Roxbury goes back to the late 1970s, when two mosques serving the African American Muslim community, Masjid Al Quaran on Intervale Street in Grove Hall and Mosque for the Praising of Allah on Shawmut Avenue in Lower Roxbury, held a joint Eid observance in what was then Washington Park in Roxbury.
“We said, ‘We’re all Muslims,’” Mahdee recalls. “‘We should do this together.’”
Mahdee said he first declared his faith as a Muslim in December of 1978.
“I was searching for something,” he said. “I had been in the military. I was cleaning up my life. I didn’t want to go back to my old way of life. I went to the mosque on Intervale Street and heard the imam. I knew it was the path for me.”
A growing community
As the Muslim community in the Greater Boston community has grown, so too has the Eid observance.
“We started with nothing,” says Daud Abdallah, who became a Muslim in the 1960s. “We said, ‘We have Allah.’ Now look at us.”
In the early years, college students who attended the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center joined in the observance. Although that organization in 2009 opened a newly-built mosque and cultural center across Malcolm X Boulevard from Madison Park, the facility cannot accommodate the thousands who come out for Eid.
The Roxbury observance is one of many in Massachusetts, with Muslims in Quincy, Malden, Lynn, Revere, Worcester and other cities and towns holding their own observances.
The Eid celebration concludes Ramadan a month during which Muslims fast from sunup to sundown. Determined by the lunar calendar, the Ramadan observance can occur at different times of year. This year, with Ramadan occurring in conjunction with the summer solstice, Muslims observing the fast in the northern hemisphere could eat only before 5:10 a.m. and after 8:25 p.m.
“This brings us closer to God, following his command to fast,” says Mahdee. “That’s the main thing. When you’re not eating every day, you become more conscious of people who are hungry. I was coming down Blue Hill Avenue the other day. There was a man in a doorway who was hungry. I put money in his hand. The expression on his face was priceless.”