x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Remembrance and gift-giving during Eid

There is more to Eid than the smell of oud and sending Patchi chocolates and cards to our friends and families. The real feelings are hidden behind the treats.

There is more to Eid than the smell of oud, men cashing out bundles of new notes to distribute as Eidiyah money for children, decorating our hands with henna or sending Patchi chocolate trays with "Eid Mubarak" and "asakum min uwadah" cards to our friends and families. The real feelings are hidden behind the treats. Eid is the time of remembrance and gifts. After 30 days of fasting and remembering those in need, Eid crowns that experience of humanity with a gift of happiness from God to those who succeed in fulfilling the fourth pillar of Islam and the obligation of worship.

These three days of reconnection with family and friends are one great break from the routine of work and school that we are usually trapped in. Every Eid, we get ready to go to my grandmother's house, the eldest in the family, to enjoy the happy vibe, with children running around, babies and aunts all dressed up, talking, laughing, feasting and eating sweets: everything that represents "joy" in all senses.

Another part of the "joy" tradition is to give gifts and create happiness through different gestures that you can be wildly smart and creative about. It is one of the great ways to show love, forgiveness and respect to those in your circle. The Prophet Mohammed said: "Exchange gifts, as that will lead to increasing your love to one another." These gifts can range from a loving hug to a dramatic pice of diamond jewellery. Both of them would show great love. An elder in my family told me once that when you thoughtfully give with pure intentions, God repays you by giving you what you most wanted and least expected from life to tell you that he is Al Karim, the 43rd of God's 99 names, which means the bountiful and most generous.

When my brothers and I wake up in the morning at the time of the Eid prayer, we rush to our parents' room to get our hugs and to kiss them on their foreheads and hands, along with receiving their blessings and prayers. To me, both as a child and now as an adult, this is the one important hour of the day: seeing the look of care and happiness in my parents' eyes is priceless. I could not imagine being a child who does not get the gift of waking up knowing his father will be with him that day.

That is why I was touched by the great gesture of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE, who recently released 604 local and expatriate prisoners on the advent of the holy month. A news report stated: "The order to release the prisoners and the pledge to pay their liabilities is the continuation of the President's practice of benevolence, especially on religious and national occasions, and it reflects the spirit of forgiveness Sheikh Khalifa is keen to imprint as a trait of the Emirati society."

I think this is one huge gift to many families, to start over and feel the mercy that God has created. To remember those who are in "the forgotten world", who are jailed because they harmed themselves by using drugs or fell into debt, shows a real father caring for his people as his children. It is a true gift, far beyond the materialism of Eid gift-wrapping, Patchi chocolates, Eidiyahs and a diamond necklace set. It is a gift that only God would repay.

Fatima al Shamsi is away