Sacrifice essence of life: Message of Eid-ul-Azha

By Firoz Bakht Ahmed, IANS,

Even as the country celebrates Eid-ul-Azha, the festival of sacrifice, the significance of it is often not understood.

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A sacrifice, usually taken to be the slaughtering of animals, is much more than that. A mother sacrifices her sleep for her children. A father sacrifices all his comfort for his son. The sacrifice of the animals is just a ritual whereas the essence lies far beyond.

Prophet Mohammed was the embodiment of sacrifice all his life. A small incident from his life is illustrative. Once he received a Christian guest from Najran in his house. There was no food at night except some goat’s milk. The Prophet offered his guest the milk, though his family went without a meal that night. They had also gone to bed hungry the night before too. This is the right way to sacrifice for others.

After the five pillars of Islam, Sunnat-e-Ibrahimi (the practice of Abraham, or sacrifice) is the most important activity. It is the legacy of Prophet Ibrahim (Prophet Abraham in Christianity and Judaism), and the festival also symbolises the test of faith and loyalty to god.

In Islam, love for Allah is held to be the most precious. According to legend, Prophet Ibrahim was 90 and childless. After sustained prayers, god blessed him with a child (named Ismael) at this ripe old age.

A grateful Ibrahim thanked god. But soon after the child had grown up, god ordered Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his dearest thing. Ibrahim chose to sacrifice his nearest and dearest – his son. God can never be so unkind and it was a test. In the nick of time, the boy was replaced by a sheep whose sacrifice was accepted by god.

It is quite clear that god didn’t want the sacrifice of flesh and blood for His own sake. What He wanted to test was the love and loyalty of His Messenger. The bounties of sacrifice are countless. The moment a sacrifice is made, god accepts it in heaven even before a drop of blood falls on the ground.

The day Prophet Ibrahim made the sacrifice falls on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah – the last month of the Islamic Hijri calendar. Incidentally, the Haj, the world’s biggest pilgrimage, also gets completed that day.

Eid is also a day on which Muslims remember the deceased, visit the sick, see relatives and friends, overlook grudges, help the needy and in general show kindness and generosity to all those that they know.

It is also a day of rejoicing and celebrating by getting involved in a good, clean and halal (pure) enjoyment. In fact, sacrifice is the essence of life and we should leave no stone unturned to sacrifice our money, comfort and time for the hapless, downtrodden or deserving.

(17.11.2010 – The author is a commentator on social and religious issues. He can be contacted at [email protected])