Eid al-Fitri and Embracing the New Normal
The Covid-19 pandemic that is currently unfolding globally has changed our daily routine that necessitates us to redefine actions and practices that are considered normal. We are required to undertake social distancing which translates into being at least a metre apart from another individual, constant hand washing with soap or sanitiser, avoiding crowds and being in confined spaces with group of individuals and temperature taking upon entering premises. Embracing such new norms is indeed a challenge especially when it comes to practices that have long become parts of our culture and tradition.
As Eid al-Fitri approaches, being nostalgic during festive season is a common feeling among Malaysians. During this time, the balik kampung rush, family gatherings, colourful and matching outfits, food galore are instances of such traditions and norms. Reunions of at least three generations in a household, laughter and shouts, shaking hands and hugs are among the normal sights. But due to the pandemic, it would be an entirely different scenario altogether. We must be ready that during Eid al Fitri this year, there will be no house visits, no physical contacts and no balik kampung journeys. Most importantly, we must realise that these new norms are for our own good as the newly discovered coronavirus is deadly and no vaccine has yet to be found as treatment.
However, we must understand that the real blessings and significance behind Eid al Fitri. Eid al Fitri is about glorifying Allah the Almighty and His blessings upon us. It is about the victory of the soul upon returning to its purified state after undergoing a month long spiritual journey during Ramadan. The fasting month is mainly about purifying the hearts and being closer to God. The act of fasting and other rituals related to it are ultimately to achieve that purity. For the heart, when it is pure, is drawn to its Master. When we make submission to God, the most valuable element of our existence on earth, life becomes much more worthwhile. This experience is supposed to create gratefulness to God for what we have, and leads us to form some new resolutions for the remaining chapters of our life. Allah the Almighty says in the Holy Quran;
During the month of Ramadan the Qur’an was sent down as a guidance to the people with Clear Signs of the true guidance and as the Criterion (between right and wrong). So those of you who live to see that month should fast it, and whoever is sick or on a journey should fast the same number of other days instead. Allah wants ease and not hardship for you so that you may complete the number of days required, magnify Allah for what He has guided you to, and give thanks to Him. (Al-Baqarah 2: 185)
Without realising it, Eid al-Fitri is actually celebrating the spiritual journey and the victory of overcoming the norms and daily routines that we have subscribed ourselves to for the other eleven months outside of Ramadan. During the holy month of Ramadan, we are forbidden to eat during the day as we are obligated to fast from dawn to sunset. We are encouraged to perform religious practices or rituals such as the tarawih prayers, Quran reading and donating to those in need, all of which will be rewarded in folds by God during the month.
In the new normal, the celebration of Eid al Fitri would be entirely different. During the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) period, no interstate travels are allowed which means for many of us, Eid this year would be a gloomier one as we would not be allowed to be with our loved ones in our hometowns during the festive season. Although Eid is also about forgiveness, sadly during the CMCO, no hand-kissing, handshaking and hugging among family members and friends are allowed as social distancing would become part of the new normal.
Nonetheless, apart from all of such restrictions, one should realise that they are introduced and implemented to serve a higher purpose or objective of the shariah which is to protect lives. As this deadly virus knows no religious affiliation, ethnicity, age, gender and social class, the only way for the society to break the chain of infection is to embrace the new normal. We must understand that we are doing this not because it has legal repercussions if we fail to adhere to it, but we are doing it in order to protect the society in general. Eid is the celebration of one’s soul purification process to become better human beings who seek the pleasure of God and, at the same time, reflect the God-consciousness condition manifested into real good actions. At present, embracing the new normal is one of those good actions and indeed a noble one. Although the atmosphere of the upcoming Eid al-Fitri might not be the same, it is hoped that it will still be a joyous celebration for all as it is also about counting the abundance of blessings from God the Almighty to us in this life.