Celebration of sacrifice a key pillar of Islam

Posted Nov. 27, 2009, at 6 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:41 a.m.

This year, it so happens that Muslims will be celebrating their second of two holidays the day after Thanksgiving. As such, it will be an extra special weekend, when we come together with our friends in thanking God for all the blessings he has bestowed upon us, and we unite with Muslims all over the world in celebrating the end of the Hajj season and Eid ul-Udha.

Hajj — or pilgrimage — to the Holy Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is one of the pillars of the Islamic faith. All Muslims who have the health and the financial ability to make this trip are obliged to do so once in their lifetime. During this life-transforming trip, Muslims from all parts of the globe come together in humility and submission. They experience the principle of equality between all people. All participants dress the same, take part in the same rituals and realize the universality of this Divine Faith.

As the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “O people! Your Lord is One, your father is one. You are all sons of Adam, and Adam is created from dust.”

And as Malcolm X put it after he returned from his Hajj trip: “Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and the overwhelming spirit of brotherhood as is practiced by people of all colors and races here in the ancient Holy Land, the house of Abraham, Muhammad, and all the other Prophets of the Holy Scriptures.”

“They asked me what about Hajj had impressed me the most. I said, ‘The brotherhood! The people of all races, colors, and from all over the world coming together as one! It has proved to me the power of the One God’ … All ate as one, and slept as one. Everything about the pilgrimage atmosphere accented the oneness of man under One God,” he said in “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” as told to Alex Haley.

Hajj is the largest annual convention of faith where Muslims gather in peace to confirm their commitment to God. It is a reminder that Mecca has been honored by God as the center of monotheism since the time of Abraham. The pilgrims commemorate the divine rituals observed by Abraham and Ishmael (the first pilgrims to the first house of God on earth). Subsequently, the season of Hajj is celebrated by Muslims all over the world on the Day of Eid al-Udha. This Eid, the feast of the sacrifice, reminds the Muslims of the great sacrifice the Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) was tested with.

As Muslims, we believe that Prophet Abraham is the champion of monotheism. He is mentioned more than 60 times in the Qur’an, and is described as the friend of God, the truthful, and the one who submits to One God. This great prophet prayed to God to give him a son. God fulfilled his wish, and blessed him with Prophet Ishmael from his wife Hagar. Many years later, he also was blessed with his son Prophet Isaac from his wife Sarah. However, just as Ishmael began to grow into a young man, God tested Abraham with his love for his son. Abraham was ordered by God to sacrifice Ishmael.

As described in the Qur’an, Abraham said to his son: “My son, I see in my dream that I am sacrificing you, see what you think?” (37: 102)

And the righteous son replied: “O father, do whatever you have been commanded. If God wishes, you will find me to be patient.” (37: 102)

Once Abraham took Ishmael to the sacrificing spot, and showed his willingness to implement the command of God, God sent down a ram to be sacrificed instead, and his beloved son Ishmael was spared. And God said: “O Abraham, you have indeed fulfilled the vision! Thus indeed we reward the virtuous. This indeed was a manifest trial.” (37: 104)

Therefore, on Eid ul-Udha Muslims sacrifice an animal in remembrance of this great trial. When we so do, we contemplate the lessons we learn from this incident. We understand that God tests us on this Earth. Sometimes he will test us with the things we cherish the most. This is a chance for us to demonstrate our commitment to the One God and our desire to earn his pleasure.

As we celebrate Eid ul-Udha, we remember the essence of Islam, and that is complete submission to God’s commands. Abraham and Ishmael (peace be upon them) obeyed and submitted, and therefore they were rewarded. As such, when we attain true submission to God, we too will be rewarded, both in this life and the next.

Eid ul-Udha is a day of unity and contemplation. As it so happens, this year it falls very close to Thanksgiving Day. During our festivities, let us remember to thank God for all the blessings he has so generously bestowed upon us.

Eaman Attia, a graduate of the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto, resides in Bangor with her husband and three young children.

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