Eidul Adha is one of the two main and biggest celebrations in the Islamic calendar. In this month of Zulhijjah, millions of pilgrims perform Hajj, a special act of worship which is one of the five pillars of Islam. Comprised of every ethnicity, nation, skin color, language and cultural background one can think of, all the pilgrims flock to the same place to humbly profess their utmost sincere submission to the one Almighty God. Those left behind show solidarity with their fellow Muslims by performing extra deeds and rituals and most specifically by chanting the talbiyah invocation in chorus. They sacrifice animals (Udhiyah) and distribute the meat among family members and the needy to share and multiply happiness.
The concept of sacrifice in Islam as manifested through the act of slaughtering animals is vastly different from the typical, old practices of sacrifice which have been there since early civilizations. Almost all religions and especially the pagans unanimously offer sacrifices to their deities in various forms. However, these religions or sets of beliefs usually view such practice either as an atonement, expiation, reconciliation with, or appeasement of, an angry gods and goddesses. This is where Islam beautifully differs from the rest; the concept of animal sacrifice is not for compensation or expiation of sin through the blood of another, rather it is a symbol of thanksgiving and gratitude shown to Allah for the sustenance and blessings one has in life and hence the need to share with. Needless to say, on such occasions, Muslims are not supposed to remain forgetful about fellow human beings who are less fortunate. It is an obligation on the well-off to share with the poor and thus bring happiness.
On this Eid occasion it is worth remembering a tale full of wisdom and lesson, the story of Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) and Prophet Isma’il (pbuh) in which both wholeheartedly submitted themselves to Allah’s command even if that meant giving away Prophet Isma’il’s precious life. There are many wonderful messages this Quranic story conveys to us. Not only that, the fifth pillar of Islam, the Hajj first and foremost is a perfect example of how Allah wants His faithful servants to sacrifice their money, time and comfort for the sake of worshipping Him. The celebration of Eidul Adha, the Hajj, and the unique story in the Quran altogether carry several important points for mankind in general and Muslims in particular to deeply contemplate:
1. The need for, and value of genuine sacrifice
Hajj requires a huge amount of money and wealth, consumes a long time, exposes pilgrims to all the difficulties of travelling, and separates them for some time from their loved ones as well as their comfortable dwellings. All these are in response to God’s calling and command. Those who are not in Makkah to perform Hajj celebrate by slaughtering animals to feed the poor and hungry. If we take a deeper look, sacrifice in Islam does not stop there and should not be merely associated with such rituals. This is because whatever act of worship (ritual) that Allah commands is usually symbolic and in reality, holds the purpose of educating, moulding, and transforming human beings into perfection, or utmost excellence. Therefore, sacrifice is an element which is needed at all time and everywhere in the life of a Muslim. The daily struggle we go through in order to obey Allah, distance ourselves from what He forbids and fight against our own desires is, in fact, the biggest sacrifice we are meant to do.
2. Brotherhood, Unity and Equality
If one understands Islam and analyzes it in a fair manner, one will find that Islam has far preceded any other ideologies or civilizations in championing equality and the spirit of brotherhood. In Hajj, one will not find any external differences between the Muslim pilgrims as all are required to dress in the same manner. This is regardless of their gap in the social hierarchy and in wealth. All look the same and prostrate to the same, one God. The strong message Islam wants to tell the world is: all humans (Muslims specifically) are equal in the sight of God. God does not favor one over the other except for piety and good deeds. Understanding this concept, Muslims are bound to feel humble before each other and treat everyone in a respectful manner.
As for the Qurban act, Islam again reiterates its stand on promoting brotherhood and unity among Muslims by encouraging the rich or those who can afford to give, share, feed, and cherish the hungry and unfortunate. The end objective is to form a strong social fabric within a community.
3. Submission to, and complete trust in Allah
How Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) submitted himself to Allah through his willingness to sacrifice his beloved son is an ideal model of ultimate obedience and surrender to the Creator. It goes beyond our senses that a father is ready to give away his son’s life, and the son too, readily gives himself to be sacrificed. But Allah later exchanged Prophet Isma’il with a sacrifice animal and thus spared his life. This tells us that submission to Allah, which is fundamental to Islam besides being its very own definition, will only bring out good results. When we have complete trust in Him and believe that He knows best and will never do the slightest injustice to any of His creature, that is when our hearts will find contentment and rest. Allah will always be there, protecting and saving, and never forsaking us.
It is of paramount importance that we Muslims do not merely celebrate Eidul Adha just for the sake of it, but understand its true spirits. Just as Salah means to instill discipline, brotherhood, a strong link to Allah and constant remembrance of Him, the meaning of Hajj and Qurban goes far beyond mere rituals like Tawaf, Sai’e or slaughtering. If we fail to realize this, we are no better than most Christians nowadays who celebrate Christmas every year without fail with so much excitement but leave the churches empty the whole year. Another analogy is how some vaccinations need booster doses in order to exert a more complete and longer protection to humans; Eidul Adha plays a more or less similar function. It gives us a booster dose of reminder of what we are supposed to practice and live with, all our lives: sacrifice, fraternity, unity, submission and trust in Allah!
Raudah Mohd Yunus
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