It is another “Baban Sallah” like we call it in the North and “Illeya” like it is called in the Southwest, and this auspicious Islamic celebration is quite unique in Islam. The latter of the two official holidays celebrated within Islam (the other being Eid-El-Fitr), is a time where families gather from far and wide in merriment and celebrations. It is a time where children put on their best dresses and shoes, visiting relatives and neighbors. The climax of the celebrations is of course when the ram meat is served.
Eid-El-Kabir celebrations for me have always been about celebrating with family and friends as well as reflecting on the lessons of sacrifice, charity and love that the feast of the Eid-El-Kabirepitomizes. It is a time I count my blessings and renew my love, faith and obedience to my creator. It is a time that teaches and reminds us of the meaning of sacrifice, love, and forbearance with Allah and in our relationships with one another. It is also a time I often reflect on back on the inspirational story behind Eid-El-Kabir.
Eid-El-Kabir festival predates Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). The story that engendered the celebrations is one of a man and his pious family. It is a story of faith and the ultimate sacrifice. It is the story of belief in a season of disbelief. It is one of total submission, love and devotion. Through Prophet Ibrahim and his son Isma’il (upon them be peace and blessings of Allah), Almighty Allah showed us how he often intervenes to turn a situation of hopelessness to that of hope and happiness.
Prophet Ibrahim had a dream in which he was offering his son Isma’il as a sacrifice to Allah. He told his son about the dream, and both father and son, being so devoted to Allah, both agreed and they prepared to follow Allah’s Will. But just as the sharpened knife was about to pierce Ismail’s jugular Allah put a sheep in his place. Ismail’s life was thus spared. Both father and son proved their love and obedience to Allah. They passed the acid test of sincerity, which is “Ikhlas.”
Prophet Ibrahim chose to believe in the Almighty. But to believe in the Almighty is to make a difficult but extremely rewarding choice. The Qur’an extols him as a model, an exemplar, obedient and not an idolater. In this sense, ProphetAbraham has been described as representing “primordial man in universal surrender to the Divine Reality before its fragmentation into religions separated from each other by differences in form.”
Another major protagonist of this story is the mother of Ismail, Hajar. In silence, she bore the pain of the inevitable loss of her son.As a mother one can only imagine what she must have been going through knowing full well her son was about to be sacrificed. Ismail was the only fruit of her womb, but she submitted her desires and aspirations to Almighty Allah. She knew Allah was there watching over her son as he went through the most painful experience in submission and devotion.
The continued practice of sacrifice therefore acts as a reminder of Prophet Ibrahim’s obedience to Allah. However, the purpose of sacrifice in Eid El-Kabir is not about offering a ram or sheep as sacrifice to satisfy Allah. It is also about sacrificing something devotees love the most to advance the message of Eid El-Kabir. In other words, the sacrifice can be something other than an animal such as money or time spent on community service.
There are several historical precedence of caliphs sacrificing items other than meat. After all, the animal sacrifice is only a sunnah, which is habitual rather than required. The Qur’an states that the meat will not reach Allah (SWA), nor will the blood, but what reaches Him is the devotion of devotees (it is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches Him but your piety… Q22: 36-37).
As Muslims across the country commemorate Eid El-Kabir, I urge all adherents to use the celebration to promote peace and co-existence between all Nigerians, regardless of faith or ethnic background.
As Muslims, we must continue to show love to one another, as well as to people of other faith. The act of sacrifice, one of the major lessons of Eid-El-Kabir, should be part of our lives at all times.
We must make sacrifices for ourselves, our families, our friends, our neighbors and of course, our country. We must also ensure we continue to obey the laws of the land as well as respect for authorities.
As Muslims, we must continue to adopt and demonstrate the good virtues of Islam through personal examples and practices. As is often the case, taking advantage of the celebration to exploit fellow Muslims and non-Muslims alike through outrageous prices of food items is inconsistent with the virtues of Islam.
As practicing believers, we shouldn’t seek obscene profits by making life difficult and miserable for others. Islam is a religion of charity that urges us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
I hope Eid touches families throughout Nigeria and the world, in the most pious way.
During this beautiful and wonderful time, I would like to send my best wishes to all who observed the festival and celebration of Eid al-Adha and thank those who rejoice and celebrate with us.