Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Excavating the history of Eid al-Adha, the spirit overweighs the feast: Purifying the inner self

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By: Alieu Fatty

Alieu Fatty is a student at the International Ahmadiyya University of Theology and Scholastic Sciences in Ghana

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Eid-u-Adha is an Islamic festival celebrated yearly by Muslims around the world. It is a festival of joy and happiness. We celebrate Eid at home by praying, making sacrifices and distributing sweets to everyone.

Eid is an Arabic word for ‘feast’ or ‘holiday’ but when we say Eid-ul-Adha, it specifically refers to the Islamic feast or holiday commemorated globally by Muslims each year. Undoubtedly, the experience of celebrating Eid-ul-Adha in the Gambia comes with special and unforgettable moments. The atmosphere on this day is totally different from all other days. Friends invite friends and families invite families for meals.

It was the practice of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) to give preference to this day, he took three days as Eid holidays from all daily works of life just to give thanks to Allah the Almighty. The Holy Prophet (saw) has given so much importance to this day that it is narrated in the Hadith that he(saw) has forbidden Muslims from keeping fast on this very blessed day.

It states:

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“Allah’s Messenger (saw) has forbidden people to observe Saum(fast) on the day on which you breakfasting (the Saum of Ramadan) and the day on which you eat the meat of your sacrifice. i.e., the first of Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha. (Bukhari Kitab Saum, Hadith No.1990)

In the Holy Quran Allah, the divine scripture of Muslims all around the world, it is believed to have been divinely revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (saw) through revelation; it is the first source of all Islamic sources of guidance, in it Allah the Almighty has commanded the Muslims who can afford animal sacrifices on this day to also take part in the sacrifice.

The Holy Prophet (saw) also ordered the Muslims on this day before going for Eid to take a bath, wear new clothes or the best clothes one has, and put on adorable perfume when going to the mosque for the observation of the Eid prayers.

Nobody can reject the great importance of making animal sacrifice or wearing nice clothes that one has possessed on the day of Eid. But do you also know that Eid is not all about making the biggest and healthiest animal sacrifices in your region, country or even the world or wearing the nicest fashionable clothes in the world or even putting beef on the dining table enjoying with family members, friends and loved ones and then later disperse like any other ordinary gathering?

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Nevertheless, when we retrospect on the background of this great institution in Islam, we cannot help but agree to the truth that, indeed, Eid has an ulterior purpose, bigger and more profound than all the Eid meat that is enjoyed on this special day.

Rich Historical Background of Eid Adha

Eid has a very humble beginning, hailing from the time of Prophet Ibrahim(as) who is also known as the father of all prophets and the founder of all the three Abrahamic religions in the world: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Hazrat Ibraham(as) at an old age earnestly prayed to God Almighty to be granted a son. His prayers were graciously accepted by Allah the Almighty in the form of a son Hazrat Ismail (as).

Furthermore, interestingly Hazrat Ibrahim was tried by God to sacrifice his only son Hazrat Ismail (as). He (as) never doubted this divine commandment he received from Allah the Almighty. He (as) immediately consulted his son Hazrat Ismail (as), who also conceded for the divine will to be carried out literally since it was an order from God.

As Hazrat Ibrahim (as) took Hazrat Ismail (as) to a far-off land and was ready to literally contrive the divine commandment, it was through divine revelation that God Almighty again revealed to him (as) that, his intentions were accepted and instead of Hazrat Ismail (as), an animal sacrifice is made in his place. One breathtaking lesson from this incident is that it was also meant to eradicate the existing human sacrifices that persisted among the people at that time for so long. This one incident shaped the history of human sacrifice in the world forever.

Intrinsically, it could be close to never or very difficult that based on a mere revelation, someone is willing to sacrifice his only son, whom he had at an old age of life after continuous prayer in desirous of an offspring and also giving to the fact of the strong love and affection that exist between father and son. Yet Hazrat Ibrahim (as) was completely ready to sacrifice his only son in the way of God just to earn the pleasure of Allah the Almighty.

The True Purpose of Eid Adha, Burning the Inner Desires

Eid Adah indeed has a great significance in the lives of every Muslim, since the purpose of the celebration is to reminiscence and emulate the great sacrifice made by Prophet Ibrahim (as), Hajar (as) and Prophet Ismail (as) during the difficult moments of their lives.

The founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslims beautifully expounded the real importance of the institution of Eid-Adha in Islam, he states: ‘Abraham, peace be upon him, was even ready to slaughter his son to fulfil the commandment of God Almighty. This was a hidden indication of the fact that man ought to become wholly devoted to God, and one’s own life, and the blood of one’s children, and one’s kith and kin, ought to appear insignificant in the face of God’s command.’

Little did we know that there are a lot of families out there who on this day do not have even the smallest animal to make of sacrifice or even buy the cheapest clothes in the market for themselves, their families and their loved ones.

However, these people who, unfortunately, do not have the means to buy animals or nice clothes, does it mean that despite having very strong and good intentions to also partake in the animal sacrifice and buy new clothes for the Eid celebration but due to depravity, their Eid is not accepted in the sight of Allah? Or due to the so-called constitutional restriction on minority Muslims for professing belief in the Oneness of Allah Almighty, believing in the Holy Prophet (saw) as the seal of prophets, believing in the Holy Quran exactly as having been brought by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw), and believe in the six articles of faith and practice all the five pillars of Islam.

In fact, in the Holy Quran concerning animal sacrifices God Almighty has very vividly and categorically mentioned that neither the meat of the sacrificial animal reaches Allah Almighty nor does its blood reach him but instead. He stated that it is your righteousness which reaches him.

He stated:

لَن يَنَالَ اللَّهَ لُحُومُهَا وَلَا دِمَاؤُهَا وَلَكِن يَنَالُهُ التَّقْوَى مِنكُمْ كَذَلِكَ سَخَّرَهَا لَكُمْ لِتُكَبِّرُوا اللَّهَ عَلَى مَا هَدَاكُمْ وَبَشِّرِ الْمُحْسِنِينَ

“Their flesh reaches not Allah, nor does their blood, but it is your righteousness that reaches him. Thus, has He subjected them to you, that you may glorify Allah for His guiding you. And give gliding to those who do good.” (Holy Quran chapter 22 verse 38)

His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) the worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community stated regarding the injustices being committed against Muslim minorities in Pakistan and elsewhere:

“In the verse, he recited in the beginning, God has stated that the physical sacrifices do not reach him, rather it is the spirit of righteousness that reaches him. Hence, we should not be bothered by being stopped from carrying out the sacrifice. If we had intended to do so and our intention was made with righteousness, then we need not worry for this will be accepted in the sight of God…”

“…..We should not become sad if we have been hindered from carrying out the sacrifice, for if our intention was pure then it will be accepted. We find from the time of the Holy Prophet (sa) that a person who had not been able to physically go for Hajj, but had made the intention and acted with righteousness, his Hajj was still accepted.”

His Holiness added:

“Therefore, when we make a pledge to offer every kind of sacrifice, we need to instil these same sentiments and thinking, that our sacrifice has no value, rather this is purely the favour of God Almighty for giving us the opportunity to make a sacrifice, which results in drawing us near to God the Almighty. The reality is that our sacrifices are completely insignificant compared to the sacrifices made by Hazrat Abraham (as) and Hazrat Ishmael (as), or the sacrifice they were ready to make. Whenever we give even the slightest precedence to our faith over worldly matters, we are immeasurably rewarded by Allah the Almighty.”

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