(This article was published in Young World today. But I feel that the grown ups need these lessons more than the children do!)
ONCE upon a time, long long ago, there lived an old man whose wife was also quite old. They did not have any children, but never gave up faith and kept praying to Allah for a child. It was quite late in life when their prayers were answered and they were blessed with a son. But the Almighty, who keeps on showering His bounties on us, can also take them back when He wishes to do so!
One day, the old man had a dream in which he was asked to sacrifice his young and most cherished son. As the saying goes, ‘Like father, like son!’, when he mentioned this dream to his son, the young lad was all willing to lay down his life to fulfil Allah’s command. But our most Merciful Creator was only testing the obedience of the old man — a test which he passed with flying colours! As he was about to sacrifice his beloved son, an angel arrived and replaced the little boy with a ram.
Friends, this is the true story of the prophet Hazrat Ibrahim A.S and his son Ismail A.S. Allah was so pleased with their obedience and willingness to sacrifice just to fulfil His command, that Allah has made it obligatory for all affluent Muslims to sacrifice animals in His name on the Eid-ul-Azha.
This second major Islamic festival is just round the corner. Soon we will see that the city has taken a festive mood, which both children and older ones will heartily enjoy. Children, especially boys, will be after their fathers, requesting them to take them to animal markets to purchase an animal of their choice. Those who will get their sacrificial animals earlier than their neighbouring friends will wear a triumphant look, as they will proudly display their prized possession for all to see!
During these days, temporary tents are usually put up on roadsides and alleys, as most houses do not have enough space to keep the animals inside. Cows, goats, sheep and an occasional camel will be pampered with all kinds of fodder goodies. Stalls selling food for animals and all kinds of adornments (which the kids proudly call jewellery for their prized animals) will spring up in every nook and corner of the city.
Children will be seen comparing the size and rates of the animals with each other, and the question, “How much did yours cost?” is perhaps the most widely asked one these days. Those who would have bought expensive animals will have a proud look on their faces, while the others will appear a bit apologetic because theirs would be less expensive.
Goat and cow races are common, and we hear happy shouts as children enjoy conducting them on a daily basis! But there are times when the goat, sheep or even cow, proves stronger than the child. A furore is then created as desperate children frantically try to control the runaway animal, and usually have to seek the help of an older passer-by!
The enjoyment continues until the Eid Day, but on the night before Eid, reality starts setting in! Everyone finally realises that their love affair with the sacrificial animal is about to be over! And when the butcher arrives, some of us move away from the place where the animals would be slaughtered. Some soft-hearted even break down in tears. But soon this depression is over as they have to help out in distributing and storing the meat. When mummy lays down the table with tempting dishes prepared with the sacrificial meat, they eat their favourite dishes to their heart’s delight.
But friends, is this all there is to Eid-ul-Azha? Amongst the merriment and enjoying don’t we forget the real message of this big day? This festival teaches us the lesson of obedience. It reminds us that we should bow to the Will of Allah, under all circumstances and without questioning! It also teaches us about sharing our bounties with people who are not as blessed as we are!
Every year at Eid-ul-Azha, I come across people who so sadly declare, “This is the only time of the year when we get to eat meat! With the rising cost of living, we can hardly afford three meals a day, so buying meat is totally beyond our means.”
Eid-ul-Azha comes each year to give us lessons of sacrifice, obedience, discipline and sharing our blessings. But I feel sad to say that over the years we have forgotten the true spirit of this great Muslim festival. Our superficial values have changed it into an occasion to show off our riches and enter into a race of who can buy the largest number of animals and the most expensive one. In addition to celebrating, enjoying and feasting this Eid, let’s vow this year to make this festival a reminder of its true essence!