So, one would expect that those Eid celebrations would be the ultimate excitement of the year. That is not to say that we had a dreadful Eid, mind you. To the contrary, our kids got to spend time with their cousins and other close family members. We went to Dammam to visit friends and took a boat ride in the Persian Gulf and set off fireworks while stopping at a rest stop on the way back to Riyadh, not to mention getting to pet and feed the free roaming camels and frolicking in the unique red sand dunes. But, it still didn't feel like a national holiday, or at least not the way I thought it would be.
But, with all good times we had, my wife and I are not sure how we are going to top such an Eid experience for the kids next time around here in the U.S. Needless to say though, we were still excited to come back to America, where the normalcy of rules and regulations for civil society make you feel much more secure and comfortable. Not to mention that I missed watching SportsCenter and playing basketball.
Upon our return to the U.S. the first thing that my son wanted to do was to go to the mosque so that he could see his friends and play on the playground. And as we settled back into our life in the U.S., one thing became very clear: If I ever had any doubts about raising my kids in the U.S., the trip to Saudi Arabia erased every single atom of those doubts.
What I learned in the past two months while in Saudi Arabia was:
- It is a depressing country, despite the wealth, fancy cars, and abounding marble malls.
- One cannot purchase one's way into becoming civilized.
- Muslims within the Muslim world are much like most Christians who attend church on Sundays, caught up in empty ritualistic acts. And finally,
- The U.S. is now the most Islamic country in the world because of the way laws are created and followed and freedom of choice that is given.
As for my fast on that hot August day, in the Haram, I got enough energy to stand up and somehow managed to walk through the maze of people lying on the floor without stepping on any of them. I walked up the steps and waited for my turn. I could not wait to drink the ice cold water that was coming from the Well of Zam Zam. It is so cold that you can feel it going down every inch of your throat.
I finally splashed that refreshing water on my face and thought about how cool it would feel while drinking it. But it suddenly hit me as I let it drop down my face, that I had already spent a Ramadan with minimal challenges, why would I walk away from one now? I didn't need to break my fast. I knew, as any average human intellectual does, that only those testing moments can bring spiritual depth and realizations to our lives. I could feel God's favor on me at that moment as I enjoyed the coolness of the water on my face (without drinking it), only wanting to be closer to Him through my obedience as a devout servant.