As we enjoy a long holiday this week, on account of Eid Al Adha, I think it is pertinent that we also read, think, and understand why this festival is celebrated.
I am sure there is much learning that we can acquire and apply to our current lives, from this second most-important festival celebrated by Muslims all over the world, after Eid Al Fitr.
Eid Al Adha or the ‘festival of sacrifice’ marks the culmination of the hajj (pilgrimage) rites at Minā, Saudi Arabia, near Mecca. It begins on the 10th of Dhu’l-Hijja, the last month of the Islamic calendar, and continues for an additional three days (10th of Dhu’l Hijja begins tonight).
Even if they are not in Mecca for the Hajj pilgrimage, all the Muslim families – wherever they are in the world – are duty-bound to make a sacrifice during the festival.
Those that can afford to sacrifice a ritually acceptable animal (sheep, goat, camel, or cow) are expected to do so. And then they must divide the meat equally among themselves, the poor, and friends and neighbours.
This wonderful tradition of sharing, I believe, emphasizes friendly-neighbourhood, and brotherly-love, through the promotion of oneness and togetherness which is very relevant today.
In Bahrain, where we still see some undercurrents of differences within communities, I hope this festival draws people closer again. I hope the marking of this tradition bridges the gaps between homes, and reconnects the neighbours who are finding it hard to reconcile.
Eid Al Adha is also a time for visiting with friends and family and for exchanging gifts. And what better for neighbours and friends than this occasion to rekindle the warmth of affection that can rebuild the relationships.
Most importantly, this festival commemorates the ransom with a ram of the patriarch Ibrahim’s (Abraham’s) son Ishmael.
According to the Quranic version, when God almighty instructed Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ishmael, Ibrahim being the most obedient of all the people in the world decided to follow Allah’s instructions. Ibrahim then told Ishmael that he had seen himself sacrificing Ishmael in his dream, and asked Ishmael what his opinion was.
Despite being so young, Ishmael is said to have not hesitated at all. He told his father to do ‘as you have been instructed to do’.
Abraham and Ishmael have shown ultimate submission to God’s will when both agreed for the sacrifice. But at the very moment that Abraham raised the knife, Allah ordered him to stop — for they had both passed the test — and then God showed a sacrificial ram nearby, which was later sacrificed in place of Ishmael.
From this story of Abraham’s and Ishmael’s obedience to God, we can learn the lesson of devotion and submission. Not to people. But to God.
When we read about the deaths in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, are we not getting the feeling that men are submitting to hate-mongering, to murder and to mayhem?
Should they not be submitting instead, to the Supreme Ruler of the universe – the one who is willing to forgive because He only can show great mercy and compassion?
If we call Him the Most Compassionate, and the Most Merciful, should we not also show compassion and mercy to others?
During this festive season, let us rekindle ourselves into showing brotherly-love and into making our neighbourhoods friendlier than before.