The Muslim holy month of Ramadan has just come to an end. In the last few years, I have been fortunate to learn a thing or two about this holy season through my photography within the Muslim community in New Hampshire.
The start of Ramadan varies every year, timed on the sighting of a new, crescent moon. This holy month is for introspection, increased devotion, and fasting from dawn to sunset. Eid marks the end of Ramadan. On the day of Eid, Muslims stop fasting and are encouraged to forgive others and let go of animosities. Families and friends get together for joyful celebrations with new clothes, gifts and food, especially sweets. The date of Eid is determined by the appearance of the next crescent moon.
Two years ago at the time of Eid, joy was dampened in Manchester’s Muslim community because their new, partially built mosque had been vandalized. The six-sided brick building, located on a wooded hillside, was designed with high arching windows. Because of their size and contours, the windows were fitted with special and expensive glass. The vandals had smashed the glass in every one of those windows. Despite this sad event, leaders of the Islamic community were eager to observe the rising of the crescent moon that year from their new mosque site. They invited me and my camera to join them.
The mosque seemed more a construction site than a holy building. We passed a locked chain-linked fence and climbed up a crude wooden plank into the vast sanctuary with angled brick walls. Tools, boards, buckets and other signs of the builders were all about. I carefully climbed a construction ladder to get onto the second level of the building. On the floor in the fading daylight I saw the glimmer of shattered glass all around. Pointed glass shards still stuck out of the rims of the arched windows.
Soon we saw it, rising over the treetops – the white sliver of a crescent moon. As I quickly clicked the shutter in the dimming light, I sensed the irony of photographing a moon that marked a time of forgiveness and peace through a window rimmed with glass shards from an act of malice.
Because of the low light I used a shallow depth of field and focused my lens on the moon and distant treetops. As a result in the final photo, the edges of the shards in the
foreground are softened from being slightly out of focus.
Maybe that in fact is the message of Eid – focusing on forgiveness, symbolized in that rising crescent moon, can soften the sharp edges of hate and destruction.