Shadia: Passover a common belief for both Muslims, Jews

By now, you know that I'm a Muslim who mingles with Jews.

But the other day, I took it a step further and attended a Passover Seder at my friend Jazy's home. Seder is a ritual feast that marks the beginning of Passover.

Seder means order. The feast consists of various specific foods, prayers and the retelling of the story of the Prophet Moses (who is also a prophet in Islam) who liberated the Israelites from ancient Egypt's brutal Pharaoh.

Yes, even though I'm Egyptian and very proud of my country, its history and civilization, I know that Pharaoh was no good.

And that's why we believe God sent Moses to save the people of Israel from his brutality. We believe Pharaoh wanted to kill the newborn boys of Israel.

We believe Moses, as a child, was saved by a member of the Pharaoh household, where he was raised by Pharaoh's wife. Unlike Pharaoh, who wouldn't believe in God, we believe his wife was a woman of faith.

We also believe the story of Passover, which is when Moses was able to cross the sea with the people of Israel. And we believe God handed him the Torah.

If you're starting to question whether I'm really Muslim or Jewish, let me clarify: I am Muslim.

We just share the same stories. The story of Moses is one of the first stories I learned as a child. Uncle Beautiful taught it to me.

But why do we share the same stories?

I asked my favorite imam, Waleed Basyouni, who lives in Texas, that question. He is a frequent guest speaker, nationally and internationally. He is also a member of the Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America-Fatwa and Research Committee, and an advisor to numerous Islamic societies around the U.S.

Basyouni told me the answer is simple: We share the same God. Duh.

"It shows that our book wouldn't contradict the other books because they come from the same source," Basyouni said.

And the reason the Quran retells the story of Moses and others is because Moses has rights over us as Muslims, and the stories allow us to recognize other people's struggles.

"It teaches us that we should never be the oppressor in our lives," Basyouni said.

Even though Seder is traditionally held on the first night of Passover, the one I attended was just a day before the last night.

Jazy wanted to bring together some of her Jewish and non-Jewish friends to share in this ritual.

It was a potluck-style Seder.

Wherever there's a potluck situation going on anywhere, I make my specialty, baklava, or — and this happens most of the time — I ask my mom to make an amazing dish called "macarona bashamel." Yes, bashamel is a French word, but we've taken it. My mom, Shadia, makes bashamel sauce from scratch.

But Jazy kept saying to make sure that whatever I brought didn't have meat mixed with dairy. "Kosher rules," she kept saying.

The dish I wanted to bring has meat, eggs, flower and milk. I didn't think that was going to work, so I brought something else after hanging out at the grocery store for a while. "Is this kosher?" I asked myself. "No, it's not. Well, maybe it is."

I was the only Muslim at Seder, but no one could tell. (Talk about successfully infiltrating a group.)

Even though there were many people I hadn't met before that night, there were several who were close to me. I felt at home with my good friends Jazy, Babak, Josh, Becky and Farahnaz.

As it got late, only a few of us remained. My friends and I starting talking about our religions, and we began exchanging what we were taught about the prophets Abraham and Moses. It was comforting how our stories were pretty much the same.

Then Jazy, with her lawyer smartness, asked a question: If we believe in the story of Passover, why don't we Muslims celebrate it?

I mean, it would make sense.

I didn't have an answer, but said I'd ask.

In fact, we do.

When the Prophet Muhammad migrated to the city of Medina and learned that the Jews celebrated Passover, he asked them why, Basyouni said

When they told him, the prophet said in this case Muslims must celebrate it as well, because Moses has rights over us, Basyouni said.

The prophet then began fasting on that day, the day of Ashora, and ordered all Muslims to fast as well.

Ashora is the 10th day of the first month of the Muslim lunar calendar, and it's different from the Ashora celebrated by Shiites.

My mom and Uncle Beautiful are among the Muslims I know who fast on that day each year.

And now that I know, I too will start fasting in commemoration of Moses' success over Pharaoh, and in sisterhood and brotherhood with my Jewish friends.

MONA SHADIA is a reporter for Times Community News. An Egyptian American, she was born and raised in Cairo and now lives in Orange County. Her column includes various questions and issues facing Muslims in America. Follow her on Twitter @MonaShadia.

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