The faithful gathered at the Muslim Community Center were nearly giddy Sunday afternoon.
Happy shrieks echoed from bouncy castles. Chicken sizzled over charcoal. Young men laughed in the parking lot and old men chatted in their native tongues. More than 100 people came together to celebrate the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr, and after the monthlong religious fast of Ramadan, they deserved a party.
“It’s a day of celebration,” said Muhammad Trinidad, as he watched his children leaping in the bouncy castle. “We’re showing our appreciation to the creator for all that we have.”
Over Ramadan, Muslims across the world don’t eat or drink from sunup to sundown. It’s a practice Trinidad said encourages contemplation and brings one closer to God and the prophets.
“We fast to experience the type of hardship others live with every day,” he said. “It makes it easier for us to spend our money feeding the hungry.”
Grilled chicken and an impressive array of snacks were free for all comers Sunday and attendees were encouraged to give food to the poor. Trinidad plans to bring five pounds of goods to a worthy individual in honor of the holiday, one pound for each for the five members of his family.
He said his namesake, the prophet Muhammad, legislated the fast for the “pleasure of our creator.”
“It’s tough. If it were up to me, I would never fast,” he said, “but at the end of the day there is so much to be grateful for.”
If fasting brings the faithful closer to God, Eid brings them closer to each other.
“It’s a celebration of brotherhood,” said Nejat Hayatullah in between back-slap greetings. “When you don’t eat, you don’t really have the energy to get out. You don’t want to move too much and get hungry. Today is about eating and having fun, spending time with friends.”
Those friends stretch across some rather delicate borders. The small cluster of men busy at the grill hailed from a half-dozen different Muslim countries, many of which haven’t shared peaceful relations in the past.
“I’ve seen people get shot up in front of me, people I knew lose limbs because they were from different places,” said Trinidad, who grew up in a dangerous neighborhood in northern Trinidad. “Here people from Bangladesh, Trinidad, Afghanistan, all over, share a bond of brotherhood.”
Raised in the United States, the dozens of children bouncing, eating and tossing water balloons have grown up in a different world from their parents. They spoke English without an accent, but those over the age of about 10 fasted through Ramadan just like the rest of the family.
“Some kids here are younger than me,” said 12-year-old Yousef Waly after a game of water balloon toss, “and they fast very well.”
When asked, he didn’t seem to think a month of fasting was any great hardship.
“We’re used to it. We grew up watching our parents,” said Masood Ali, who brought his 7-year-old son Maaz out to get his face painted. “Now we get up early as a family to eat before the sunrise. Our children might be raised in America, but they are still growing up in this.”
One of Trinidad’s young daughters, still too small for the fast, brought him a brimming grape snow cone. He sipped it as it melted. After a month of fasting and contemplation, he said it was one of the best things he’d ever tasted.