This isn't a religious story! Read on! Its only cultural and secular.
|Word count: 1292
The city’s numerous crows took command of the skyline as the silence of a city at rest was shattered:
God is the greatest,
I testify there is no deity but God,
I testify Muhammad is the messenger of God,
I testify Ali is a friend of God,
I testify Ali is promoter of God's message
Come to pray...
The voice of the muezzin called out to the faithful. Loud but calm, monotonous yet soothing, the voice rang in the ears, and resonated with the hearts of the people of God. For 12 year old Cyrus, however, the alarm did the job. He had been up ahead of the Azaan and was glad that the voice drowned the lonely snips of the nail cutter.
1) Wake up early (before sunrise).
Cyrus opened his bedroom window and let in the caw of the crows and the smell of rosewater as one by one the lights from the neighboring homes poked holes in the dark of the pre-dawn skyline. He felt a tingling sensation in his belly. It was going to be an exciting day. He looked around at the looming structure of his own home; all the lights were out, except for his bedroom. This was not a family event. This was going to be his event, his adventure.
20 minutes later he sat upright on the prayer mat, turned his head to the right, then to the left and back to the right. Prayer was done. .
2) Make wudu (ablution) and offer Salat al-Fajr (the pre-sunrise prayer).
A few hours later, showered and dressed in his best whites, Cyrus returned to the window and peered into the neighboring homes- wondering what went on in the lives of the people less fortunate than him. He hoped to get a glimpse soon. In the light of the morning sun the contrast between his lavish home and the ill-constructed neighboring buildings was apparent.
3) Prepare for personal cleanliness - take care of details of clothing.
4) Take a Ghusl (bath) after Fajr prayer.
5) Brush teeth (preferably with a miswak, or tooth-stick).
6) Dress up, putting on new or best clothes available (White, when available, is optimal)
7) Apply perfume (men only).
It was time. Filled with excitement of a child's first encounter with purpose, he hopped down the stairs and towards the main door. On the dining table sat a plate with some cheese and toast, next to it a glass of orange juice covered by a coaster- a little token of love by mother, despite their disagreement over his adventure. He let it sit there.
8) It is Sunnah not to eat anything before going to Eid prayers.
It was getting hot outside. The bright colors of the Tehran summer stood out against its black and white clad dwellers: the green of Cedars and pines, the orange of the tall brick walls, the red and pink shades of the roses, black steaming asphalt occasionally glittered by engraved coins and soda caps, blue of the sky, the ever-present sapphire of the mosque domes land marking the horizon, and the clear stream of the gutters. It was a good day.
The Eidgah (Eid prayer grounds) was set up on the neighborhood mosque grounds and the Salat al-Eid was offered. The prayers were followed by a long sermon and that in turn followed by the chaos of meet and greet. Surrounded by a mass of barefooted crowd; Cyrus squeezed his way through the thick of the kissing and hugging and made his way towards the exit. His classmate, Hamid, had invited him to his neighborhood for the main ritual and he didn’t want to be late.
9) Go to the prayer grounds (known as an 'Eidgah') early.
10) Offer Salat al-Eid (the congregational Eid prayer) in an open place, weather permitting, or in mosque.
Cyrus fell further behind trying to sort his shoes out from the heap of shoes at the exit. Technique: Take a deep breath, hold it, and dive in. He took the back alleys to his friends location.
11) Use two separate routes when traveling to and from the Eid prayer location.
He was walking fast, leaving behind the foot odor then pushing and shoving through the fruit bazaar, entering the fragrance of orange peel, breaking up swarms of fruit flies and splitting clouds of incense.
At the end of the alley, where Hamid lived, a crowd had gathered. An army of tall white-clad men topped with black hair popped vigorously in and out of the circle. He got closer but couldn’t tell what was going on. The men were closing in on something, at times hurriedly falling back and then quickly recovering.
Cyrus got closer and he could hear loud, very loud sounds, sounds of terror and confusion. Through the occasional recess of the crowd he could see there was something dark in the center. It emitted energy that he could feel way outside the thick circle.
"Watch it! Be careful!" One said, “Hold it. Not like that...Yeah that’s better. Get the rope...!" Another shouted.
Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all, Cyrus began to think. He felt like a kid in the midst of something too grown up. He almost stumbled trying to back off, but was stopped by Hamid. “Don’t be intimidated, keep pushing... Trust me; you don’t want to miss this!"
Before he could say a word, he was caught up in the motion of the crowd and felt himself getting closer and closer to the epicenter of all that energy. As the layers of white were pushed aside to give way to him, the sound of the struggle within the circle became clearer and louder. There was the sound of heavy breaths of air. When he was only a few men away from the center, he could feel the warm gush of exhaled air over his feet and it rattled his spine with fear.
Finally when the curtains were drawn, there laid a massive cow, limbs bound together, breathing hard. He stared at the large fearful eyes of the animal, finally subdued, and gasping for air. A man in white approached the cow, brandished a shiny knife about an arms length. Cyrus tried to move away, but there was no room. “God is the greatest" the man said and slit the throat of the cow all the way to the back of the neck, leaving the spine intact. A streak of blood flew across and spattered all over Cyrus's face and cloths.
He stood still, in shock, taking in the smell of blood for the first time as the cow struggled like a fish out of water, trying to hold on to precious life. Cyrus became a witness to the violent defeat of the desire to live. In the background: the sounds of cheers and chants of "God is the greatest!"
Cyrus closed his eyes hoping it would all go away. When he opened his eyes again, everything was red, the dark red of blood. There was red on all the people around him, red beneath his white shoes in a puddle that was forming, red on the hot black asphalt where the blood writhed towards the stream, and then even the gutter ran red. He felt lightheaded and began to run leaving behind a trail of red footsteps.
Cyrus ran home teary eyed and busted through the main door. Mother was standing there, expressionless, as if she was expecting him. She had warned him not to go. She looked back at him, dark red of the blood on his face and cloths.
She asked, “Cheese and toast?"
He did not hesitate!