Grand Mosqee de France, Paris (Copyright: MuslimMatters.org)
The following is an appropriately timed guest submission by sister Aisha Mijndadi Ajikobi
Eid in Nigeria is popularly known as “Sallah” to the Northerners and “Ileya” to the Southerners. These days, most people take holidays and go home back to their roots, to their villages. Families get together this one time every year and celebrate. The big cities are empty during these periods. Picnics, parks…and loads of fun.
Eid, however, struck me most as a child. Those are moments to treasure and moments I want my kids to be brought up with.
Waking up, is like a great day beginning. The excitement is overwhelming! Our clothes have been hung up from the night before. The famous Hausa (a tribe in Northern Nigeria) “Shada” material is sewn into kaftans for the boys, and wrapper styles for the girls.
Driving to the nearest Eid ground, we begin the takbir. As a kid, I never understood its significance or importance, but it was still fun! To scream “Allahu akbar”, while the others chorused after us. Each taking turns, one person began the refrain:
Wa la illaha illAllah,
Once we began to tire, our father’s voice would urge us from the driver’s seat, and we’d start again.
Katsina Charge at the annual Durbar festival. Photo by Jay.
In the northern part of Nigeria, where I grew up, children dress to the nines, and throng the streets walking to the Eid ground, some riding on the back of open air trucks shouting the takbir. Once the salat begins, the complete silence is blissful, as the opening takbir is called and the prayer said. Once the Imam gives the salams, the children take off through the grounds buying iced drinks, dried dates and giving alms, while most parents listen to the khutbah above the din. Seven canon shots are fired in the air, signalling the end of the khutbah, and the Emir (the leader of the Muslims) leaves the grounds.
From 4pm after the Asr prayer, the “durbar” is held at the Emir’s palace – a parade of dazzling adorned horses and their riders. Apparently, it is a spectacle to behold, but unfortunately, I’ve only ever heard about it. For us, we head back home – there, the slaughtering begins.
Muslims in the North tend to buy their rams months ahead so as to beat the rise in price that occurs as Eid day approaches. For this reason, kids develop an attachment to the animals. I remember a particular Eid I almost didn’t eat the ram meat because he was “my friend”!
Friends start visiting the home front to give well wishes; but we, the kids of the family, set out with parcelled meat to our Muslim family and friends’ houses around town. This takes the most part of the afternoon as we skip from home to home, collecting money gifts from parents, and in some cases, exchange meat parts from other homes.
By evening time, we set out again to distribute food parcels to all our neighbours so they may share the beauty of the Eid with us…and also add to our burgeoning piggy banks! The day ends on a high while we count our earnings.
Eid in Nigeria is for two days. The following morning, we set out by 10am, this time visiting almost all of our Muslim friends around town, having made a list from the day before. We always know the homes that would serve the snacks and delicacies that we loved!
The third day will be work or school – the easy smiles, pretty dresses and ram meat will disappear but for those days…..
This is our Eid!
Aisha Mijndadi Ajikobi has a first degree in Accounting and an MA in Mass communication. When she’s not spending precious moments struggling with her eeman, being with her loving husband and two beautiful boys, she’s trying to rekindle her earliest love… writing.