Eidul Azha is just round the corner. As I step into my terrace with my evening cup of tea, I hear happy shouts of children. I peep out of my front door and see a few children of the neighbourhood having the time of their lives, as they race their goats in the lane. A group of those who haven`t yet attained this honour are participating in the celebration by running along, clapping, shouting and urging the goats to run faster.
Some have even managed to sneak twigs from their gardens and are offering it to the goats in the hope that the proud owner will allow him to race the goat for a while.
The most frequently asked questions among the children these days are, `Have you been to the mandi yet?` `When will your dad get the sacrificial animals` and the most troublesome of all `Howmuch did you (or your father) pay for this goat (or cow)? Eidul Azha is steadily becoming a competition, a rat race to acquire the largest or most expensive animal in the neighbourhood, whether it is a goat, a sheep or a cow. Those of us who have paid a hefty sum for their animals display them around proudly, grabbing every opportunity to mention the price. The people who are regular in performing the yearly sacrifice but cannot afford very expensive animals, feel a bit let down. Although they are sure to join the daily ritual of walking and racing of their goats, the feeling of embarrassment is written loud and clear on their innocent faces.
Is this display and competition the real spirit of this festival? Let us remind ourselves about the true spirit of Eidul Azha. This great Muslim Festival, which is second only to Eidul Fitr, teaches us great lessons every year. It is not about boasting how much we can spend or showing off how rich we are. On the contrary, it teaches the lessons of obedience, sacrifice, compassions and how we should share our blessings with those who are not as privileged as we are!
Apart from the religious aspects of the lessons we learn and relearn every year (total submission to the Will of the Almighty), Eidul Azha revives in us social and moral values. The lesson we learn from this festival of sacrifice is universal and applicable to all mankind. It reminds us of our blessings and kindles feelings of compassion in our heart for the poor around us.
Last year, just to check if the meat seller in my locality was charging me the correct rates of beef and mutton, I asked my maid at what rate she was buying these commodities. She looked at me with a rueful smile, “How do I know baji? It is difficult to manage daal roti (lentil and bread) for my big family, I can’t afford to buy meat. We have beef and mutton only at Baqr eid when people like you give us some, or sometimes when a baji like you gives away her leftovers.”
My maid’s reply taught me a disturbing lesson. We have more than one dish at our table each day and one of them is sure to be of meat, whether it is mutton, chicken or beef. But if I look around with a compassionate heart, I feel that I have more of everything than what I really need. And I always took this blessing for granted.
Dear friends, this year when your parents are distributing the meat from the sacrificed animals, urge them to give away bigger packets to the needy. Instead of stuffing our fridges and freezers with the meat, let us think about those who have not been able to afford sacrificing an animal and will so happily and thankfully like to receive some meat from others. These people cannot afford to buy meat otherwise the rest of the year too. Let them have a hearty feast with their families and enjoy the meat for a few days. If possible, make some extra place in your freezers so that you can store small packets for your household helpers, which they can take away after a few days.
Festivals are happy occasions meant to bring people together. They revive in us the spirit of sharing and on Eidul Azha we are taught to do this by sharing the meat from the sacrificial animals so that there is a feast in every home, regardless of status. And you can share your extra clothes, books, toys and other items of daily use which are more than your requirements. Spread happiness among the less fortunate by sharing your blessings with them because, in the end, the spirit of sacrifice, compassion and love for humanity counts, not the size, health or price of the goat, sheep or cow we sacrifice on Eidul Azha!
Two of the main lessons we learn from this occasion are obedience and sacrifice.
Obedience: Most of my young friends know that the sacrifice of animals Muslims make from the 10th to 12th of ZilHaj every year is to commemorate the great sacrifice of the Prophet Ibrahim A.S. He dreamt that he was sacrificing his only son Ismail as Allah had ordained him to do so.
Both father and son had no second thoughts in complying with this Divine Order, but Allah in His infinite Mercy, replaced the little boy with a ram. The lesson we learn from this great sacrifice is universal and applicable to all mankind. We should obey the Almighty without arguing or complaining. Our parents and our teachers are our greatest well-wishers in this world. Often young minds cannot contemplate what they ask or expect from us, but obeying without complaining always brings good results for us.
Sacrifice: Children are the most valuable assets of every parent, who leave no stone unturned to keep them away from all harm. Prophet Ibrahim’s A.S readiness to sacrifice his son on Allah’s command teaches us an important lesson. When we observe Eidul Azha and sacrifice animals, we part with a good amount of our money, but we make this sacrifice to help the people who are not as privileged as we are.
(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!