BY ASHLEY D. THOMAS
Muslims across Volusia County celebrated the first day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday Monday, marking the end of the monthlong fast of Ramadan. About 1,500 people came out to the celebration held in Daytona Beach.
“This is one of our two most important holidays of the year,” Imam Belal Shemman Alzuhiry of the Islamic Center in Daytona Beach told the Daytona Times.
The three-day-long holiday is a time to celebrate the completion of Ramadan, a month devoted to worship and repentance during which observing Muslims abstain from food and water from sunrise to sunset every day.
‘Starving’ at the end
“This helps us feel the way that the poorest are feeling. At the end of the month, you are starving. We don’t eat and drink for the entire day, from dawn to sunset. You abstain yourself from food and drink and sexual activity during the day. There is a lot of moral and spiritual lessons that we learn from Ramadan. The first of which you come near and close to God,” Alzuhiry explained.
“We strengthen our relationship with God. We stand before God at night and we pray.
We ask him for forgiveness, we ask him to end the wars and oppression. We have about 4,000 homeless people (in Volusia County).
“I told the people in my sermon, ‘You feel hungry for a couple hours, now go out and do something.’ Some people are feeling this their entire life sometimes. They are hungry, they are starving. Ramadan starves the body to feed the soul.”
Open to all
People from all walks of life, ages, races and socioeconomic class were at the celebration, including many Black Muslims. Alzuhiry told the Times that the event was open to all religions and welcomed all.
“We invited our Christian friends,” he shared. “The (Daytona Beach) City Commissioner (Patrick Henry) was here, the mayor (Derrick Henry) was here. We gathered here as you see. We have African-Americans, Pakistanis, Arabs, we have people from different skin colors and ethnicities. All of them, they came here and have only one bond. That is the bond of Islam. There is no separation. We are all equal in the sight of God. Each and every one of us. We are all equal.”
Following the morning and noonday prayer, teens and adults horsed around with a soccer ball while youngsters played on the water slide, took pony rides or played in the Noah’s Landing mobile petting zoo.
The men sat separated from the women by request of the women and had lively conversations about current events, Islam and the food they were waiting to eat, which was all prepared in the Zahiba fashion. The food – specifically meats – were prepared following precise details in slaughtering used to comply with the conditions stated in the Qur’an.
On conflict in Gaza
“Our position is that we condemn each and every act of violence,” Alzuhiry told the Times in reference to the current conflict in Gaza and in other war regions. “Our religion is a religion of peace. Anyone in Syria or Iraq who is with what Al-Qaeda or other groups are doing, they are not representing Islam. They are representing some political ideologies that does not represent Islam whatsoever.”
“We are against oppression and dictatorship,” he continued. “We have to be clear that anyone who sees the news, they will see that the majority of those that were killed in Gaza were women and children and this is also something that is not acceptable from a humane perspective.”
“We are American Muslims here in this country. We feel we are part of this country.
We live in this country and will die in this country. We came here as one group from all different parts of Volusia County. A lot of people here are not Muslims but we are all brothers in humanity. We have a strong bond together.”