CEDAR CITY — Before the morning sun peeked over Cedar Mountain Friday, Muslims from Cedar City and St. George gathered in the Cedar City Mosque to pray, worship and celebrate the Eid al-Fitr tradition of breaking the fast at the end of Ramadan.
Men gathered in the front room, while women and small children congregated in a room at the back of the Mosque, located at 59 N. 100 West in Cedar City. Shoes were piled at each entryway so worshipers’ bare feet connected with the floor beneath them, honoring the holy ground on which they prayed.
Dressed head to toe in their best clothes, each man, woman and child’s excited and joyful disposition rippled through the mosque as prayers began the morning’s events.
A table along the south wall of the building was covered in food. Goodies like cookies, croissants, candy, muffins, nuts, chips and drinks were piled high on the table, to be shared communally after prayer for the breaking of a 30-day fast that includes the prohibition of food and drink from sunup to sundown.
“The fast is not just about food,” St. George Muslim Baheej Barrouza said. “Everything in this life has a start and has an end. And between these periods where you are born, where you are dead, have this gap of working, worship … do good deeds and do good things.”
In a way, Ramadan is a practice month for how the whole year should be approached, Barrouza said, and Eid al-Fitr is a day of reward for the sacrifices of the fasting period that precedes it.
It is important during this period that a practicing Muslim gives up anything that may be a bad habit or is regarded as sinful, he said — habits like smoking and drinking and basically anything unhealthy that one is doing to one’s own body or imposing on others.
One personal example Barrouza shared was anger. For him, it is sometimes a struggle not to be angry when others say things that are hurtful or demeaning to him, he said, but during Ramadan it is important not to succumb to these angry feelings and to focus on kindness instead.
After Cedar City Muslim and Southern Utah University professor Hussein Samha led the prayer, he spoke to the congregation before him about the importance of family. Eid al-Fitr is a day of reconnecting with family who are nearby and far away, he said, and he encouraged attendees to call their mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters to express their love and gratitude to them.
“The family in every culture is the building unit of society,” Samha said, “so it’s the building brick of the wall. So if that brick is strong, then the wall is strong. And the same thing when you look at it from the society point of view: If the family is strong and well-defined and well-raised, then you have a strong, faithful society.”
When prayers were over and Samha’s talk had ended, the women in the back, who were still quietly praying, tending to children or taking selfies to commemorate the occasion, stood and hugged each other, wishing each woman in the room “Eid Mubarak,” or “Happy Eid.”
The men, in turn, rose and embraced one another, shaking hands and kissing each other on the cheek in a congratulatory hello in recognition of their monthlong sacrifices.
Filtering out of the building and into the parking lot for food and beverages, the men lined rugs against the wall in the only shaded spot to be found and broke bread together.
An abundance of celebratory laughter filled the air as coffee was poured and sweets were shared before all who attended began drifting away.
The Mosque is a place that welcomes all, not just worshipers of Islam, Samha said. Though their prayers and celebrations are sacred, he said, that does not mean others who are non-Muslim should exclude themselves from activities.
“It’s open to the public,” he said. “If someone would be interested to come and watch listen and see what’s going on, we welcome you.”
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