EAST ORANGE, NJ — The city of East Orange and the East Orange City Council joined forces with the Islamic community to host an Eid al-Adha celebration in Elmwood Park on Monday, Sept. 12.
“Eid is the first holiday of the Muslims,” said Imam Abdul Aziz of Masjid As-Haabul Yaamen mosque, located on 4th Avenue in the 5th Ward on Monday, Sept. 12. “We call this month ‘the month of hajj’ and, the first 10 days of the month, millions of Muslims are traveling from their countries to the holy land that’s called Mecca to perform the fifth pillar of Al-Islam.
“The 10th of the month is our holiday. Muslims all over the world are celebrating that day. This is part of our religion. When the Prophet Muhammad was asked who was the best among the believers, he said: ‘The one that serves others.’ You can’t claim that you are a true believer if you don’t want to serve others.”
The mosque celebrated its 20th anniversary of service to the East Orange community at the Atrium restaurant in West Orange last year. Islam is a peaceful religion, Aziz said, and “we welcome our neighbors and we want them to know that we love them and we’re part of the society and we want to make sure that the society is safe and protected.”
East Orange 5th Ward Councilman Mustafa Brent, a practicing Muslim and member of Masjid As-Haabul Yammen, was in Elmwood Park on Monday, Sept. 12, with family members, including his sister and niece, to participate in the Eid al-Adha celebration.
Brent said charity for the poor and unfortunate, making a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, fasting and devotion to Allah are some of the five pillars of the Islamic faith that all observant Muslims strive to uphold in their public and private lives.
“The nature of Islam is service to humanity. That was the sunnah, or way, that Brother Muhammad established and every aspect of his character and his … way of implementation was in service to humanity and creation, from the smallest child to the oldest elder to the tree and the land.” Brent said Monday, Sept. 12. “So Islam means service, not just peace, because being in service to others, you can ultimately all the time have nothing but peace as your modus operandi.”
Ahmed Birhani said the Eid al-Adha means “feast of sacrifice” and it is the “culmination of the pilgrimage that Muslims do annually to the city of Mecca. … It’s the largest gathering of human beings at one time in one spot on the face of the earth every year.”
“People come from all over the world, from every nook and cranny in America, to visit Mecca for the worship of one God and every Muslim has to do it once in their lifetime, if they have the ability to do so. If they have the money, the health, the strength, the passage to get there, then it becomes obligatory,” said Birhani, at the Elmwood Park celebration, where he was manning a voter-registration table.
Birhani said, “You can’t believe in God and not give (to) charity.” That also applies to civics and community involvement, he said, which was why he was out there in the park doing voter registration.
“The myth and stereotype is that we Muslims only believe in Sharia law. That’s not true. We’re citizens and we have social responsibilities and among those social responsibilities is to cooperate with the society that we live in, to enjoin what is good and to prohibit what is wrong. The way that we do that in America is we participate in the political system and we choose who makes our laws or we participate in who makes our laws that govern us for the benefit of the society.”
East Orange Mayor Lester Taylor said Muslims are an important part of the city’s community, which was why his administration and the departments of Recreation and Cultural Affairs and Parks and Recreation worked with Aziz and the mosque to bring the Eid al-Adha celebration to Elmwood Park.
“As always, East Orange is proud to be a gathering place, where Muslim families and friends can come together and celebrate one of the holiest days in the year,” said Taylor on Sunday, Sept. 18.