The Prophet Ibrahim [AS] was a very faithful servant of Allah [SWT]. So faithful, that he was willing and ready to obey Allah [SWT], when it was demanded of him to sacrifice his son. As a father myself, I come to terms with what would have been running through the mind of Prophet Ibrahim [AS] when confronted with this near impossible demand. He prepared his son, for sacrifice, laying him on a pile of wood, armed with a knife and was ready to slaughter his beloved son for the sake of an equally if not more beloved friend; Allah [SWT]. At this moment, almighty Allah [SWT] in his infinite mercy and grace, called off the human sacrifice and replaced it with an animal believed to be a ram. The initial command was only meant to test the faith of an obedient servant. Prophet Ibrahim [AS], was deemed to have given the highest possible sacrifice to his creator, by his submission and obedience to the will of Allah [SWT]. He was thereafter enjoined to feast on the sacrificial ram because it wasn’t a burnt offering. The deeper meaning of the sacrifice in Eid al Adha is the submission to the will of Allah [SWT]; obedience and willingness to give your most prized possession to Allah [SWT], while the killing of the animal, which is the physical sacrifice, is to herald the feast celebrating Allah’s mercy and grace in our lives.
The name of the son of Prophet Ibrahim [AS] that was to be sacrificed was not mentioned in the holy Quran, but Arab and later, Muslim tradition, believe it was Ismail, the first born of Prophet Ibrahim [AS], the son of Hajjar; a woman of Egyptian origin, who was his right hand possession. This belief is evident in a number of traditions most important of which is the annual ritual of Hajj. Eid al Adha, is celebrated on the tenth day of Dhu al- Hijja, the Islamic lunar month of Hajj. This important pillar of Islam, is a ritual that is basically a commemoration of some important events of the life and times of Prophet Ibrahim [AS] and his immediate family, which directly involves his son, Ismail and his mother, Hajjar. The holiest sanctuary in Islam, the Kabba, which is situated within the precincts of the grand mosque, Masjid al Harram in Mecca, was built by Prophet Ibrahim [AS], assisted by his son Ismail.
This work was commanded by Allah [SWT]. In carrying out this divine instruction, the cursed Satan, tried to dissuade Prophet Ibrahim [AS]. In response, he cast pebbles at Satan in a demonstration of non-agreement. This is re-enacted today during Hajj by the ritual of stoning Satan, Ramy al- Jamarat. The very important Zamzam well, was a miraculous water body which Allah provided for the baby Ismail when his mother cried out in prayer after a desperate search for water in the desert wilderness of Arabia, which saw her running between the hills of Al-Saffa and Al-Marwa seven times. The Zamzam well is still preserved to this day in Mecca, where pilgrims drink generously from it. The movement by pilgrims between the hills of Al-Saffa and Al-Marwa are important rituals of Hajj. One of the high points of Hajj, is each pilgrim sacrificing a ram in emulation of Prophet Ibrahim [AS] to celebrate Eid al Adha.
The lessons of Eid el Adha, are mercy, grace and love. It is clear that Allah [SWT] does not require the blood of man for atonement. Allah [SWT] loves mankind so much that he does not require of us to kill a fellow man for him. He does not even require of us any burnt offering. The sacrificed animal is for us to relish and consume. Allah has demonstrated in this instance, his infinite mercy and grace; two of his most important attributes. As Muslims, the greatest sacrifice we can give to Allah is to obey and emulate his virtues. Muslims should reflect on mercy, grace, forgiveness and love in all we do as the true essence of the beautiful religion of Islam.
Eid al Adha is a feast of sacrifice. Traditionally, Muslims who can afford it, share the meat of the sacrificed animal into three equal parts, to be given to the poor, family and friends and lastly to the immediate family. However, in this year of economic recession, the population of poor Nigerian Muslims swelled enormously making this year’s celebration very bleak. A lot of Nigerian Muslims could not feast because they have sacrificed too much under severe austerity measures, to have anything left for celebration. We have sacrificed by paying more for less power, paying more for less petrol, paying more taxes for less social amenities, paid less for more work and paying more for less goods and services. Nigerian Muslims have not only sacrificed for God, they are also compelled to sacrifice for Caesar. The collective proceeds of their sacrifices are being consumed recklessly by Caesar like the typical general of an occupation army he is.
Interestingly, at the various Eid praying grounds, the masses were made to pray for political leaders at all levels, for divine wisdom and knowledge. It is important to understand the fact that Almighty Allah [SWT], has given mankind free will to choose between good and evil. Therefore, we are responsible for our actions and will be held accountable in this life and in the life after this life.