Eid al-Adha is Islam's holiest festival celebrated annually on the tenth day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the final month of the Islamic calendar. Literally "festival of the sacrifice" in Arabic, it commemorates the Prophet Abraham's unyielding devotion to his faith in his willingness to sacrifice his own son. Abraham was prepared to submit to the command, but then God stayed his hand, sparing his son and allowing sacrifice of an animal instead.
On this day millions of pilgrims conclude the Hajj, an annual pilgrimage that commemorates the journeys of Abraham and his son Ishmael through Mecca's sacred environs and which and all able-bodied Muslims are supposed to undertake once in his or her life. The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, and is seen as a chance to wipe clean past sins and start fresh.
A critical part of Eid celebration is inclusiveness of all members and segments of society. Those who have the means are obligated to sacrifice animals whose meat is shared with the unfortunate members of the community. The Qur'an succinctly illustrates Abraham's sacrifice:
"And when he (Ishmael) was old enough to run along with him (Abraham), he said, 'O my dear son, I have seen in a dream that I offer thee in sacrifice. So consider what thou thinkest of it!' He replied, 'O my father, do as thou art commanded; thou wilt find me, if Allah please, steadfast in my faith.'
"And when they both submitted to the Will of God, and Abraham had thrown him down on his forehead, We called to him, 'O Abraham, thou hast indeed fulfilled the dream.
Thus indeed do We reward those who do good.'" (37:103-106).
Through a dream from God, Abraham was willing to sacrifice that which parents cherish more than life - their child. Simultaneously, Ishmael was willing to sacrifice that which is most dear to any young man - his life. Abraham's sacrifice is a testament to his conviction and dedication to God. If true love is dedication of one's life for your beloved, then why should your connection with God be any different? If you have a strong conviction toward a living God, then your submission brings you love from your Creator.
Eid al Adha is locally also known as Eidul Adha in the Philippines, Eid el Kabir in Nigeria and Morocco, Tabaski in Senegal and Gambia, Kurban Bayrami in Turkey, Hari Raya Haji in Indonesia- Malaysia and Singapore.-Eid è Qurbon in Iran and BakrId or Qurbani Eid in the Indian subcontinent.
The core values of self-sacrifice and generosity animate the spirit of Eid. It is a communion of radical equality that brings people together regardless of material, social or ethnic differences. More accurately put, it overcomes those differences - and as such, it represents the nucleus of a truly egalitarian social vision.
Many might be surprised to know that Judaism, Islam and Christianity all have much in common. They all find a common ancestor in Prophet Abraham. History attests that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam's founding father was a rational, tender-hearted man.
Eid-ul-Adha isn't just a time to reflect on sacrifices, but it is a time to reflect on the universality of the world's religions. Sacrificing ourselves for others is what we all can learn from Abraham. Believers and nonbelievers alike can appreciate the human capacity to sacrifice one's most prized possession for one's beloved.
The writer is a historian
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