In Memory of his Trial: Lessons of Sacrifice

By Zainab Farooq

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Eid-ul-Adha, celebrated on 10th Zil-hajj, is one of the most revered festivals throughout the Muslim world. Its origin is traced back to the incident where Hazrat Ibrahim (A.S) was commanded by Allah (SWT) to sacrifice his son Ismael (AS) and as the story goes, the Prophet followed through without hesitation. Pleased with the Prophet’s impeccable devotion towards Him, his son was replaced by a sheep at the last moment and his sacrifice was complete when Hazrat Ibrahim (A.S) submitted entirely to the Will of God. In memory of this event, on the day of Eid ul Adha, Muslims sacrifice an animal in the same spirit which is then divided and distributed into three parts: one part for the poor and needy; one part for your own home, and one for the relatives.

However, today the spirit of this holy event has been reduced to a mere sacrifice of an animal for distribution of meat, for lavish dinners and outings, and to social media rivalry about who dressed the best and had the most wonderful time. This way many Muslims superficially celebrate an event as sacred as Eid without fully reflecting upon the impeccable story of Hazrat Ibrahim (A.S) along with the lessons we can derive from it about the true spirit of sacrifice.

It makes one wonder how Ibrahim (A.S) gave in to the Will of Allah, for an instruction that on surface level is so horrifying and does not make any sense. It is because he understood what many of us fail to understand, that there is always wisdom behind the commands of Allah, wisdom that we as human beings with our limited knowledge can never fully fathom. It is this sense of submission towards the Will of God that prevents us from falling into the traps of doubt and ambivalence. Ibrahim (A.S) fulfilled the instruction that God gave to him and it is because of this unparalleled sense of submission that God bestowed him with the greatest of blessings one can imagine: All the prophets and messengers thereafter were chosen from his offspring.

Allah (SWT) says in the Quran:

“And remember that Abraham was tried by his Lord with certain commands, which he fulfilled: He said: “I will make thee an Imam to the Nations.” He pleaded: “And also (Imams) from my offspring!” He answered: “But My Promise is not within the reach of evil-doers.” (Quran, 2:124)

Even though, at the surface level, it may seem that we fulfill Allah’s instructions on Eid by buying the most expensive animal to sacrifice in His name, and making sure we distribute it as instructed, is that all what Eid ul Adha is about?

Our Beloved Allah All-Mighty says:

“Their meat will not reach Allah, nor will their blood, but what reaches Him is piety from you. Thus have We subjected them to you that you may glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and give good tidings to the doers of good.” (Al Quran, 22:37) 

Therefore, what we need to understand is that it is not the meat or blood that reaches Allah, but our piety and God-consciousness that we derive from it that reaches Allah. The meat is indeed a gift from Allah and a source of celebration, but is it the entire crux of the whole activity of the sacrifice? Certainly not. The point of the sacrifice is to remind us about its importance. Did we slice out the bad habits from our life as we did the goats? Was this just a ceremonial rite or do we realize the magnitude of the instruction that we are fulfilling? And if we can fulfill this instruction, if we can fulfill what God commanded to His beloved Hazrat Ibrahim (AS), why can we not fulfill the other things He asks us to do?

The point here is to make a deeper realization, to self-reflect upon how close we are to Allah. The point is to make yourself commit to the narrowing the distance between you and your Creator, to somehow realize that if you submit to the Will of God, and surrender your worldly desires, He does open His doors of Mercy upon you, He does show you the right path, and He does soothe your heart. The point is to become dedicated enough to realize His wisdom behind everything, even if you are not getting what you are praying for, the point is to deep down realize that only what He Wills is good for us, even if it may not seem like that at the moment. This is the kind of realization Hazrat Ibrahim (AS) had, the realization that made Him amongst one of the most beloved people of Allah on Earth and whose prayers did not go unanswered and the person in honor of whom Muslims all around the world celebrate Eid-ul-Adha.

So this Eid, let us consciously make it about our relationship with our Creator as it should be. Let us ask ourselves: Is my spiritual connection with God strong enough? What do I need to do more to strengthen it? Am I sincere and regular in my prayers? Am I grateful for all the blessings in my life? When at odds, do I put my desires first or God’s will? Am I looking forward more to the pleasure I will derive from eating the meat or to God’s pleasure with my sacrifice?

 

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