Today, Muslims worldwide celebrate the Festival of Sacrifice or Eid-el-Kabir also known as Eid-el-Adha which marks the end of Hajj, the sacred pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah in Saudi Arabia which takes place during the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah, the 12th month of the Islamic calendar. It is the second of two Muslim holidays celebrated worldwide each year and considered the holier of the two. It honours the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) to sacrifice his son Ismail as an act of submission to Allah’s command, before Allah then intervened sending the Angel Jibril to inform him that his sacrifice has already been accepted. The meat from the sacrificed animal is preferably to be divided into three parts. The family retains one third of the share; another third is given to relatives, friends and neighbours; and the remaining third is given to the poor and needy.
According to the Holy Qur’an, Allah instructed Prophet Ibrahim to bring Hagar, his Arabian wife and son Ismail to the dry, rocky and uninhabited valley of Makkah (in present-day Saudi Arabia) from the land of Canaan. As Prophet Ibrahim was preparing for his return journey back to Canaan, Hagar asked him, “Did God order you to leave us here? Or are you leaving us here to die?” Ibrahim did not even look back. He just nodded, afraid that he would be too sad and that he would disobey God. Hagar said, “Then God will not waste us; you can go.” Though Prophet Ibrahim had left a large quantity of food and water with Hagar and Ismail, the supplies quickly ran out, and within a few days the two began to feel the pangs of hunger and thirst.
Hagar ran up and down between two hills, al-Safa and Al-Marwah, seven times, in her desperate quest for water. Exhausted, she finally collapsed beside her baby Ismail and prayed to God for deliverance. Miraculously, a spring of water gushed forth from the earth at the feet of the baby. With this secure water supply, known as the Zamzam Well, they were not only able to provide for their own needs, but were also able to trade water with passing nomads for food and supplies.
Years later, Prophet Ibrahim was instructed by God to return from Canaan to build a place of worship adjacent to the Zamzam Well. He and Ismail constructed a stone and mortar structure – known as the Kaaba – which was to be the gathering place for all who wished to strengthen their faith in Allah. As the years passed, Ismail was blessed with prophethood and gave the nomads of the desert his message of submission to Allah. One of the main trials of Prophet Ibrahim’s life was to obey the command of Allah to sacrifice his dearest possession, his son. Upon receiving this command, Ibrahim prepared to submit to the will of Allah. During this preparation, Satan tempted Ibrahim and his family by trying to dissuade them from carrying out Allah’s commandment so Ibrahim drove Satan away by throwing pebbles at him. In commemoration of their rejection of Satan, today stones are thrown at symbolic pillars during the Stoning of the Devil rites during the Hajj.
When Prophet Ibrahim attempted to cut his son’s throat, he was surprised to see that his son was unharmed and instead, he found a dead ram which was slaughtered. Thus, he had shown that his love for Allah superseded all others: that he would lay down his own life or the lives of those dearest to him in submission to Allah’s command. It is this ultimate act of sacrifice that Muslims commemorate every year during Eid-el-Kabir. While Ibrahim was prepared to make an ultimate sacrifice, Allah ultimately prevented the sacrifice, to signify that one should never sacrifice a human life in the name of Allah or anyone else.
We join our Muslim brothers and sisters worldwide in marking this momentous milestone and wishing that the Almighty Allah will accept our sacrifices and give us the fortitude to make even more to earn His pleasure.