In the days leading up to Eid, the Malek family had a lot to do. The family is busy cooking traditional Malaysian feasts, decorating and preparing to welcome the Malaysian community in Sydney to their home in Lakemba.
In other years, hundreds of family friends donned their baju melayu and baju kurung – their traditional attire – and stopped by the Maleks, which has always been the heart of the party.
This time around, the family of five is forced to cut back on a day usually filled with excitement, community and connection.
âIt’s a pretty weird feeling – for over 40 years our Eid is usually so busyâ¦ it’s nonstop from morning to night,â says Tahsin Malek.
“To keep the tradition alive, we will prepare satays and nasi lemak, coordinate the colors of our outfits and do a little prayer at home.”
Eid al-Adha, or the feast of sacrifice, is the second feast celebrated by Muslims around the world. It marks the end of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, and commemorates the prophet Ibrahim who was ordered by God to sacrifice his son. Communities generally celebrate with food, prayer, family and friends.
But this year, more than 250,000 Muslims in the greater Sydney area will be confined to their homes without authorized visitors.
While some were hoping they would be out of lockdown by Eid Tuesday, stay-at-home orders have been extended until at least the end of the month as COVID-19 infections continue to rise, especially in the south west of Sydney.
The symbol of sacrifice
Labor MP for Lakemba and devout Muslim Jihad Dib said this Eid would be very different from previous years.
âThis will be the first Eid in my life that I don’t hug and kiss my mom and dad,â Dib said.
While he admits there is a lot of sadness within his community, he says there is also a lot of understanding. The Islamic principle of placing the interests of the community before individual desires, for example, can be seen as a spiritual symbol.
âThis Eid is an occasion for sacrifice, so we ask people to sacrifice their social interactions for the greater good, and in this way they are actually practicing their faith,â Dib said.
“Our faith teaches us that we are to take care of others … we put humanity before ourselves.”
On a larger scale, the country’s largest mosque in Lakemba will not close the streets for its great common prayer. Instead, the sermon will be streamed online for Muslims to virtually fulfill their religious commitments.
The impact of a locked Eid not only weakens social minds, it is economically damaging as well. Eid typically injects millions of dollars into the economy and many family businesses will suffer from it now, Dib says.
Modest fashion label Hijab House has taken the careful decision to close its two Sydney stores in order to prioritize the safety of customers and staff. But it came at a devastating cost.
Eid al-Adha would normally be the most active period in the business. Wearing new clothes on the day of Eid is an important tradition; a new Eid outfit represents renewal and a new beginning as Muslims prepare to start a new Islamic calendar year.
But this year, Creative Director Tarik Houchar is stressed that the lockdown means his stock won’t be sold.
âWe would be performing significantly better and our planning for this busy period has been canceled,â Tarik said. “We prepare projections and expect sales to skyrocket ahead of time, so failure to do so puts our entire operations at risk.”
It takes Hijab House six months to design, purchase fabrics, and make a formal collection of women’s clothing for Eid. But unlike restaurants – which can make quick decisions to turn their menus into take-out, for example – Tarik worries about having to sell his products below cost.
He also believes the NSW government has not given enough guidance to retail stores like Hijab House and that he and many others will have to make sporadic decisions that are not financially sustainable.
The strength of community spirit
Despite the pressure on businesses, the isolation of families and the general stress of confinement, a strong sense of hope and support shines across the Muslim community, with many struggling to make the most of a frustrating situation.
Unlike the Malek family, Hawraa Kash, 29, will not be able to connect with her loved ones this Eid as she would like.
Instead, she is locked in her Punchbowl apartment where she lives alone. His immediate family lives in Wollongong and Melbourne.
For Hawraa, Eid is how she measures time. Usually, she is busy juggling life’s demands and commitments, and relies heavily on the celebration to connect with her religion.
But this year, she worries that the sense of occasion and connection has been disturbed.
âThe greatest benefit we get from our community faith is when we do things in community,â says Hawraa. “There are a lot of things I won’t be able to do, like praying Eid, wishing someone else well, and putting on nice clothes.”
Still, she tries to meet the challenge in her stride.
âI am grateful to be alive in the presence of God,â she said. “I’ll make sure to do some worship and take a moment to greet the day.”
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