Sacrifice is one of the key themes of Eid al-Adha, which Muslims in Sri Lanka celebrated on Sunday (10), amidst an economic crisis and ongoing protests. Known as the Festival of Sacrifice, Eid al-Adha honours Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail, as an act of obedience to Allah’s command.
However, before Ismail is sacrificed, Allah provides Ibrahim with a lamb to sacrifice instead. To commemorate this, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha annually, with the sharing of food, especially with the less fortunate.
Given the backdrop in which Eid al-Adha was celebrated this year in Sri Lanka, Brunch reached out to those celebrating to better understand what Eid was like in 2022.
A year of making choices and being careful
Sharing his experiences, Mahas Murshid said this Eid was different for three reasons, the first being the economic crisis.
“Being able to afford new clothes has been a challenge, because the relative cost has gone up. And I am among those privileged to be able to spend some money on non-essentials; but even for me, this year was one of making choices and being careful,” he said, adding that this applied to buying groceries as well – having to cut sweets out of the menu, for instance.
Murshid said mobility, or the lack therein, comes second. “We usually go back to Puttalam for Eid and have a family gathering. After nearly a decade, we had a nuclear-family Eid in Colombo (on Sunday). My mom’s in hospital, but I don’t have enough fuel to get there, and there are no buses either,” he said.
Despite having cousins all over town, there are no visits this year due to the fuel shortage, Murshid said. He went on to say: “I am blessed that we are within walking distance from the mosque, so we got to go to the congregational prayer.”
“Thirdly, the political upheaval; it didn’t even feel like Eid this year. What with ‘GotaGoGama’ (GGG) keeping up the pressure on the political structure, and the day-to-day shenanigans, Eid wasn’t at the top of our minds.”
He said this was okay, since they are all rooting for a better future, adding: “As long as change happens. After all, Eid al-Adha is the Festival of Sacrifice, so it is apt in a way.”
Celebratory atmosphere at GGG
Aisha shared similar views, saying the fuel and economic crises made Eid different this year. “The prices of everything from rice to meat to even things like ghee for biryani are exorbitant, so things for us at least were very low key and we couldn’t distribute desserts or anything to the neighbours.”
The mood at home was a bit high due to the 9 July protest, Aisha said, adding that they weren’t really preparing for Eid, but were instead glued to their phones and following live updates of everything going on in the country. However, the diversion of attention from Eid wasn’t a bad thing, Aisha said.
The fuel shortages made it difficult to carry out festivities properly and it was only the night before Eid that they decided to make traditional dishes like biryani and watalappan. Describing things as being done half-half all over the place, Aisha said the cooking was done on the hot plate, pressure cooker, charcoal cooker, and however else possible, sharing available fuel between their two houses.
Aisha added that it was interesting how cobbled together Eid was this year. “People were making do with what they had, but with the lack of buses and whatnot, I don’t think people were able to even go Eid shopping,” she said, explaining that new clothes are a part of Eid, as they are almost compulsory. She shared that this year, they had to resort to recycling clothes or wearing clothes they hadn’t worn in a while, since there was no way to buy new clothes due to the fuel shortages and rise in prices.
“Interestingly, on Sunday, which was the evening of Eid, my husband and I managed to get a bus and go to GGG and it was really interesting to see that families decked out in Eid wear had come there as well. There was a very celebratory sort of atmosphere at GGG and you could see people were excited in a way,” Aisha went on to say.
Having to cut back significantly
Sharing how they usually celebrate Eid versus this year’s festival, Amjad said he usually goes to Galle Face Green to participate in the open prayers, which are usually conducted at 7 a.m. This year, due to the unavailability of tuks and cabs, he went to the closest mosque, which, he clarified, wasn’t an issue.
He also usually takes a tuk to visit his parents, but this year, Amjad cycled the almost 7 km to his parents’ house in the morning sun. “Usually, we visit relatives in the evening, but we couldn’t visit anyone due to the lack of transport,” Amjad shared, adding that the high cost of almost everything affected them as well.
His mother usually makes a lot of sweets and treats for Eid, but this time, they didn’t make anything – not even watalappan, which is a staple, and which they make in excess to share with friends, family, and visitors. “We had to cut down in quantity significantly, since things from chicken to the biryani mix which we use to make the biryani, have tripled or quadrupled in prices.”
However, he acknowledged that they may be privileged to be able to enjoy what they could this year. Amjad said: “For that I’m extremely grateful, but we can imagine the plight of people who are less fortunate.”
Praying for a better future
Rizka Ismath, a counsellor at Zahira College, Colombo, shared with Brunch her thoughts on the topic as well, saying that praying at the mosque is one of the main things they do for Eid, but that this year, there was a drop in numbers, due to the unavailability of fuel and lack of transport. This meant that praying at the mosque was mostly limited to those who could make the journey by foot.
“We visit our relatives, but that was a total ‘no’ this year, and we were at home. We also prepare a special meal for lunch and watalappan as a dessert,” she said, adding that in addition to unaffordability, people also couldn’t go out to buy ingredients due to the uncertainty caused by the protests the previous day. “People had to make a special meal with what they had at home.”
Rizka added that people were unable to buy new clothes, again either because they couldn’t afford to or because they couldn’t go shopping.
She went on to say that they usually visit their grandparents and other relatives, which wasn’t possible this year.
“We also share our food with neighbours and people of all religions, but this time people were having a hard time cooking for themselves so sharing food was also low,” she said.
We asked her what she thought Eid would be like a year from now, to which Rizka said: “A year from now, I think, the crisis will go on. There’ll be inflation, as economists predict.”
However, explaining that this was a common prayer this year, Rizka said she hoped the future will be better for the country and its people. She added that she hoped all festivities could be celebrated in a grand manner, since the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic crisis dampened all celebrations, from Avurudu to Deepavali.
“Thinking about what we don’t have and regretting it is only going to cause more sadness and issues within us, so I think what we could do is see the positive side,” Rizka said, suggesting video calls with cousins and sharing meals, no matter how small, with neighbours.
She added that a positive outlook will help us have a better festival and a better future.