Today again marks the Day of Arafat, a day of spiritual renewal and rebirth. In honor of this day I am observing the fast from sunrise to sundown, with members of my family who have traveled thousands of miles to be with us.
It also is of course Thanksgiving, and tomorrow will be Eid ul Adha, the Day of Sacrifice. I find the convergence of these themes this year, both spiritual and secular, deeply inspiring in their relationships. Thanksgiving has always been more meaningful to me than the Christmas holiday (marred by materialism as it has become), because it is about renewing the bond of family. How wonderfully appropriate that this year it coincide with a day of spiritual renewal as well! And then, fitting that we follow Thanksgiving by a day of giving thanks to Allah for his bounties and mercy.
Hesham Hassaballah has narrated the tale of the Prophet Abraham AS, his wife Hagar AS, and their son Ismail AS (Ishmael), which serves as the underlying narrative for the Hajj pilgrimage. As he notes, theirs is fundamentally a story about giving thanks:
Indeed, the whole story of Abraham and his son is about thanksgiving: giving thanks to the Lord for his bounty. Yes, the tests of faith that Abraham had to endure were very difficult. But, as the Quran says, he passed them with flying colors: And remember that Abraham was tried by his Lord with certain commands, which he fulfilled. And in return for this undying faith, the Lord decreed: I will make thee a Leader to the Nations… (2:124)
In fact, the Lord take Abraham as a khaleel, which in Arabic means “close friend”: God did take Abraham for a friend. (4:125)
And Abraham showed his thanks by being a devoted servant his entire life. The story of Abraham is a story of test, triumph, and gratitude.
Our prayers on this day are magnified in their potency – all the more reason for us to express our shukr (gratitude) to Allah in our dua for the countless blessings we are afforded as muslims, the infinite bounty we reap as we submit ourselves to Allah, as we seek to follow Abraham’s AS example.
Related: my post last year about the spiritual significance of the Day of Arafat as a time of rebirth – for muslims indvidually and for the ummah as a whole.
UPDATE: Taha Raja has a more personal take on the intersection of Thanksgiving and Eid:
What will be going through my mind as I plan to share a meal with family this weekend? First and foremost this will be a non-traditional thanksgiving. Instead of a meal at home, I will be at the Masjid celebrating Eid and giving thanks with family, friends and other members. There will be a celebration from all around.
I will be thinking about what this intersection of two holidays means to me? Such an event comes rarely in a lifetime and I want to make it special by listening to voices that speak about our journey in the past year and what is to come.