You before me, You before us
Essence of Eid-ul-Adha
As the stench in the air and the rattling of the cowbells intensifies, the number of makeshift sanctuaries across the streets increases, and the mooing is the only sound you wake up to every single morning, we all know it is that time of the year again. Eid-ul-Adha, everybody!
Celebrated by us Muslims as the second festival of the year after Eid-ul-Fitr, this festival commemorates the distinct sacrifice of Prophet Ibrahim (in Hebrew Bible: Abraham). He had received a revelation from his Lord in his dream to sacrifice his most prized possession. Upon fulfillment of that commandment with the purest of intention and trust in his God, he was able to earn for himself a stature unlike any being bestowed to a human being ever.
Whilst we are all drenched amidst the hustle bustle of this festival on the 10th of Zul Hijjah (last month of the Islamic Lunar Calendar), we often forget the real core of this festive day: Sacrifice.
The term sacrifice is greatly marred by erred and mythological representations that have been potrayed throughout the modern era (I am thinking Apocalypto) that have injected a sense of barbaric and inhumane manifestation of the term at the back of our minds. Oftentimes, the word sacrifice is deemed as a phenomenon that has intrinsic implications of pain, agony and loss. For us in Islam, that is not the case.
For us, sacrifice means obedience to God. Let’s revisit our childhood days to understand this better: Remember how as teenagers our parents would ask us to go to bed by 9 and how much we hated doing just that. Let’s be honest — we loathed the idea of a bed back then! But now, it all makes sense. We thought that was so unfair and inhumane back then to snatch us off of our fun. How sacrificing our sleepovers with cousins or holding back our favourite movie for a weekend (That too when you have Vanilla Sky premiering) helped us rise early in the morning and make the best of our day at school subsequently. We sacrificed our temptations over being obedient to our parents. Now that we can connect the dots looking back, it seems like a win-win situation for us after all. We didn’t really lose anything now, did we? The sacrifice was only so we could have the best in the long run.
Now let’s see how that analogy holds in the context of being obedient to God. That too with a sense of ethereal trust in that one deity. That trust which, in return, grants us the ability to let go of all that is holding us back, the ability to tread on the path that not most would consider worth treading, the ability to be able to see the light when all around is dark.
When we, as haves, slaughter mere cattle (that has been cared for for some time) at the break of dawn on this auspicious day, that covers just one quarter of the commemoration. The real sacrifice comes in when we give a part of that animal’s meat to the have-nots that dwell around us or even at times to our surprise, with us. Whilst we prep and gobble up the meaty delicacies in our warm abodes, the real sacrifice comes in when we decide to share a portion of it with our neighbours across the street. The real sacrifice manifests when we decide to enlengthen the stretch of our giving hand towards our family and friends by holding back some of our humane tendencies to eat just a little more, drink just a little more. When we try to fix the severed relationships that we have had for so long, that is when we really sacrifice our untamed egos. When we break the shackles that won’t let us forgive those who have wronged us, that is when we truly sacrifice the condescending snob that keeps us from healing and moving forward. That too with the singular intention to seek the pleasure of God. For being obedient to God is the single most liberating act a human being can ever experience that is truly worth all the effort.