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Muslims celebrate sacrifice near 9/11

Sept. 10, 2016

On the Muslim calendar, the dates of holidays depend mostly on lunar cycles, so they fall on different days each year.

As Sept. 11 grows closer, Muslim leaders across the nation have discussed the possibility that their most holy day, Eid al-Adha, might land on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

In Garden City, leaders of the Muslim community met last week in their mosque, converted from a one-bedroom apartment on Mary Street, to discuss their plans for the local holiday ceremony. One of those leaders is Ali Mohammed Ali, a Somalian-American who has lived in Garden City since 2008.

Ali said that although the holidays being close is a coincidence, it is an opportunity to reach out to the community in Garden City.

“I know it is a sensitive day for many people in our country,” Ali said through a translator. “First of all, I’m an American citizen. This is my country, and I feel the pain that every American felt on that day. Eid al-Adha and September 11 holiday are coming close, but they are completely different events. I believe God put these two holidays so close together this year for a purpose -- to bring people together.”

Ali made these comments through the interpreter, Ahmed Ali.

Eid al-Adha celebrates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael after he had a dream from God telling him to do so. When Abraham put the knife to his son’s throat, God replaced his son with a sacrificial ram. This is the most holy holiday in Islam because it signals the ending of Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca.

The Eid al-Adha celebration will begin at sunset Sunday night, when all Muslims are required to fast through the night and following morning. Locally, those celebrating will get up Monday, clean themselves and put on their finest clothes before meeting for prayer at Lions Park at the corner of Mary and Third streets.

“What we will do first is something we call Takbir,” Ali said. “It is where we call everyone to prayer by saying Allahu Akbar, which means, ‘God is great.’ We will say our prayers, and then there will be a reading and lesson from the Quran.”

Hussein Abdi, who also came to Garden City from Somalia in 2012, will lead the scripture reading and give the sermon after the prayers.

“This lecture is different than any other this year,” he said through a translator. “We will read the Quran and some Hadiths, and I will explain why we sacrifice and give to poor people from what we have. I will explain that we need to forgive our debts with people and remind them why we worship God.”

Abdi also used Ahmed Ali as an interpreter.

The difference with this day compared to most times of worship is the number of people attending the service. Traditionally, the largest gathering of Muslims is on Fridays. At this time, a couple dozen men can be seen worshipping in the mosque, but for special holidays like Eid al-Adha, several hundred worshippers are expected to attend. The building cannot hold that many people, so the group gathers at Lions Park.

“I am excited that I get to be the one man who reads the story of Abraham to everyone on that day,” Abdi said. “I will stand up in front of everyone and call them back to God, so that they worship and forgive that day.”

The holiday requires that all practicing Muslims forgive all grudges held against their neighbors, and calls on them to share the celebratory meal with friends, family and the poor. After the prayers and reading, attendees greet each other and go with their families to eat the meal they prepared.

“On this holiday, Muslims will slaughter goats or whatever they have and think about Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice for God,” Ali said. “I do not want people to think we are doing a bad thing or trying to hurt anyone. I hope the community just understands what this day is about -- sacrifice and forgiveness.”

Mursal Naleye is the president of the local African Community Center, and has lived in Garden City since 2015. He said this meal looks different for different generations of Muslims in Garden City.

“The younger Muslims in our community may go out to one of the parks and all enjoy a meal together,” Naleye said. “Some go to Wichita to be with the bigger (Muslim) community there, but most of us will go back to our home and enjoy the special day with our families.”

Ahmed Ali, another Somali man who emigrated to America from Egypt about six weeks ago, says he does not want to be associated with the people responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

“I want to say that the people who did the 9/11 attacks were not Muslims,” Ahmed said. “In the holy Quran, there are verses that say, ‘If you kill one person, you have killed the entire human race in Allah’s eyes. If you save one person, you have saved the world.’ True Islam has no teaching that allows the killing of innocent people. Those people are not Muslim and certainly not a part of us. Allah loves the people who save each other, and it makes me grateful for all the police and firemen who risked their lives that day to save everyone they could. That was a real day of sacrifice.”

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