"THE SIGNIFICANCE OF EID-UL-ADHA"
The Significance Of The Sacrifice Of Prophet
Abraham Of His Beloved Son Prophet Ismail
By Haji Muhammad Yusuf Francis
On the 10th of Zil Haj, the Muslim world will observe the occasion of Eid-Ul-Adha, the Eid of Sacrifice commemorating the supreme sacrifice of Father Abraham (A.S.). This is an event of great importance and deep significance to Muslims not only from a historical point of view but from the unique lesson this astounding episode teaches mankind. The day of Eid-ul-Adha is considered as one of the greatest days in the Islamic year. It is called the "Great Eid" . Hundreds of thousands of Muslims of all ages, race and colour, speaking in divers tongues from every part of the world, will be wending their way in advance, some by foot, others on camels and horsebacks, by boat, air-plane and every means of transport, to the holy city of Mecca where lies the Holy Kaba, the first house built for the worship of the One, True God. This House of worship the prophet Abraham and his son Ishmael (may Allaah bless them) re-built with their own hands. One can hardly believe that some of the pilgrims whose means are such that they are unable to make the trip by modern means of transport are on the great trail for years ahead, all with the same aim and purpose to perform the ceremony of Hajj, and the ritual of sacrifice, as performed by the Prophet Abraham (A.S.) in ancient times, to please his Lord.
In the mosques of all countries of the world and even in open grounds, Muslims will join in offering special prayers, making animal sacrifices in remembrance of the wonderful sacrifice, spirit of love and self-surrender to the will of God, so beautifully exemplified by the great prophet Abraham (A.S.)
It was about four thousand years ago in the arid plains of the Arabian peninsula that this great drama of divine love was enacted in which the great patriarch Abraham (A.S.) and his beloved son Ismael (A.S.) and his loving mother Haga (may Allaah bless them all) played so great a role. It was an episode full of tenderness, pathos, faith, love and submission to God's will, bringing victory in the path of God for mother, father and son against evils and tricks of the devil.
The prophet Abraham (A.S.) had a vision in which he was asked to make a sacrifice to God. Animal and even human sacrifice was customary in those days and Abraham (A.S.) to please his Lord had made several animal sacrifices at different times, but he was later informed that the object required for sacrifice was that which he loved best. It was not difficult for him to know what he loved best. His son Ismail (A.S.), his first born and his only son at that time, born to him in his old age was the apple of his eye. He loved Ismail (A.S.), a lad of tender years, more than anything else, even more than his own life. Father Abraham (A.S.) immediately realised that his beloved son was the object His Lord had required for the purpose of sacrifice. No doubt, it would have been simpler for him to lay down his own life than that of his son in whom he had all his future hopes; yet the great prophet did not hesitate or think twice as to what decision he should make. He communicated the information to his son (Ismail A.S.) that he was ordered to make sacrifice of him to God, without hinting the matter to his wife Haga (A.S.), mother of the lad. Perhaps he felt she would break down to known that her only son should pay such a heavy price with his life for such a purpose. He might also have thought that she might dissuade him or weaken his strong determination from carrying out the bidding of God. Describing the attitude of Abraham (A.S.) towards his son and the reply of the latter, the Holy Qur'aan states:-
And when (the son) was old enough to walk with him, Abraham (A.S.) said: O my dear son, I have seen in a dream that I must sacrifice thee. So look, what thinkest thou? He, Ismail said: O my father! Do that which thou art commanded. If Allaah so wills thou shalt find me the steadfast:
Such was the amazing reply of a worthy son a worthy father. The lad further stipulated four conditions to his father which must be observed, when making a sacrifice. First his mother must never be told of the incident, or that his life had been required as an offering to God. Secondly, father and son should be blindfolded during the act of sacrifice so as to prevent each other from falling a prey to weakness and human sympathy. Thirdly, his hands and feet should be bound up so as to prevent him from struggling when the act is being performed, lest the execution of the will of Allaah might be hindered. Fourthly, the blade of the knife should be as sharp as possible, so that the job could be accomplished successfully before sympathy and love deter the father. These words must have touched the very depth of Abraham's heart coming from the lips of his own son, a lad of tender age. This was enough for a man of less courage and faith in God to break down, but Abraham remained firm and resolute.
Tradition tells us that the devil was not slow to sense the situation and ran to Haga, the mother of Ismail (A.S.) and informed her that Abraham (A.S.) was taking away her son Ismail (A.S.) to take his life. She replied:
"How can such a loving father commit such an act to a loving son?"
The devil replied:
"God had commanded him to do so."
On hearing this, Haga promptly answered:
"If it is the will of God, then I am happy and ever ready also that he should be sacrificed, and am prepared to further sacrifice everything else for the sake of God."
On being disappointed at the attitude of Haga, the devil then approached Ismail (A.S.) while his father was taking him away for sacrifice and informed him of his father's intention. The devil cunningly tempted them on several occasions at several places, while they were on the way for the purpose of making the sacrifice but was pelted several times by Hazrat Abraham (A.S.) Even to this day hundreds of thousands of Muslims emulate father Abraham (A.S.) by pelting at those places as a symbol of the stoning of the devil. In fact, it is one of the important rites of Hajj. Despite this, the prophet Abraham (A.S.) was thus prepared to fulfill to the very letter, the vision he had. He therefore laid down the lad on his face and drew the knife with all his strength across the (lad's) throat, but when he unfolded his eyes to his utter surprise and amazement Ismail (A.S.) was still alive and unhurt, being miraculously saved from the ordeal; and instead of his son, Abraham (A.S.) was commanded to sacrifice a sheep, which stood nearby.
The Holy Qur'aan declares in no unambiguous term, the great spirit of sacrifice and willingness to surrender showed under the most trying circumstances by Hazrat Abraham (A.S.), in these words.
Then when they both surrendered (to Allaah) and he had flung him (Ismail) down upon his face, we call unto him, O Abraham! Thou hast indeed fulfilled the vision. Verily, thus do we reward the doers of good. Lo! That verily was a clear test. Then we ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice. And we left for him among the latter folk (the salutation) Peace be on Abraham: Verily he was one of our believing servants.
Thus we see the great faith, spirit of sacrifice, love and surrender to the will of God displayed by father Abraham (A.S.) a unique lesson in the annals of history. Indeed, it was a great trial in which a dream was translated into reality. So glorious and sublime it was, that Almighty Allaahin His Infinite Wisdom thought fit that the occasion should be commemorated year after year by hundreds of millions of the followers of Islam the world over.
It would be foolish and absurd to think that Allaah Subhanahu T'aala did not known what reaction such a dream would have on the mind of the Prophet Abraham (A.S.) or as to what course of action he would pursue in such a great and exacting test. Allaah Subhanau T'aala, the Supreme Lord and Master of the Universe, the Best Knower, Whose knowledge and wisdom is beyond all comprehension, according to Al-Qur'aan, was aware at the very outset of the innermost thoughts and intention of father Abraham (A.S.), but it was the plan of Allaah to choose his friend, Khaleel, as he is called in Al-Qur'aan, to demonstrate in a most magnificent way how completely we should trust Allaah and surrender ourselves to His Great Will, under all circumstances.
Great lessons of truth, piety, love and guidance have often been communicated to man by God in words of inspiration and revelation, but in the supreme sacrifice of Abraham (A.S.) Allaah, the Great, taught an immortal lesson of divine love in a most dynamic and dramatic way. Here we see most vividly a father's love, a mother's love, a son's love, all melted in a furnace for a greater love, a higher and more sublime love, - the love of Allaah, the Supreme. Indeed we find a wonderful example of a worthy father, a worthy mother, a worthy husband, a worthy wife, a worthy son, a worthy family, all realising and submitting to the divine will of Allaah.
Allaah Subhanahu T'aala does not stand in need of our sacrifices, prayers, fasting, charity or our good deeds and actions, but it is man who stands in need of help and right guidance from His Creator, so that he may triumph over the animal-self in him, thus purifying himself from the evils of hatred, greed, malice, selfishness, lust and all the elements in our hearts which brings us down to the depth of degradation.
Islam does not believe in empty rites and ritualism the true significance underlying them so that we may behave rationally, in a way consistent with the laws of nature. The Holy Qur'aan clearly explains to us the purpose of sacrifice, stating:
"To every people did we appoint rites (of sacrifice), that they may celebrate the name of God over the sustenance given to them from animals (fit for food). But your God is one God: submit to him (in Islam) and give thou the good news to those who humble themselves; to those whose hearts when God is mentioned, are filled with fear; and show patient perseverance over their afflictions and keep up regular prayer and spend (in charity) out of what we have bestowed upon them. The sacrificed camels we have made for you as among the symbols of God: in them is much good for you, then pronounce the name of God over them, as they line up (for sacrifice) with due humility: thus have we made animals subject to you that ye may be grateful."
The true aim of sacrifice according to Islam is not to appease an angry deity, but rather a symbol of humility, submission, thanks giving and gratitude to Allaah, who does not delight in the flesh and blood. Further the name and remembrance of Allaahmust first be invoked over the animal before slaughtering, and this is a clear indication that wanton cruelty is not in our thoughts in this solemn act of taking the life of the animal. The dominant factor is to win the pleasure of Allaah. Al-Qur'aan emphatically states:
'It is not their meat, nor their blood that reaches God: it is your piety that reaches Him He has made them (animals) subject to you that ye may glorify God for His guidance, and proclaim the good news to all who do right.'
The significance of the sacrifice of Abraham (A.S.) has also been exemplified by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (U.W.B.P.) who recommend it as the greatest deed during the periodical days of sacrifice. It is stated that during the last ten years of his mission, on every occasion he offered sacrifices. Hazrat Jabar (R.A.) who was a companion of the Holy Prophet (U.W.B.P.) reported as follows:
The messenger of Allaah Hazrat Muhammad (U.W.B.P.) slaughtered on the day of sacrifice two rams. Before taking the life of the animal, he turned facing the Kaba and said:
"Verily I turn my face to the Supreme One, Who created the heavens and the earth upon the religion of Abraham, the upright, and I am not one of the polytheist. Verily my prayer, my sacrifice, and my life and death are all for Allaah the Lord of all the worlds, Who has no partner, and I have been instructed to observe it and have it carried out, and I am one of the Muslims. O Allaah, it is for thee from Muhammad and his people; in the name of Allaah. Allaah is indeed the Greatest."
This is a concrete example of the Holy Prophet (U.W.B.P.) himself which certainly proves that the practice of sacrifice according to Islam is based entirely on the foundation of submission to the Will of God, as Abraham (A.S.) did in the days of yore.
On the great day of Eid-ul-Adha we are called to make a suitable animal sacrifice as a symbol to mark the occasion of the Supreme sacrifice the spirit of sacrifice so wonderfully demonstrated by Father Abraham (A.S.) must rise in our hearts and make us realise that the goal of success lies in sacrificing our low animal desires in complete submission to the Will of God. It comes to us as an annual reminder of the trial and eventual triumph of one who loved and served God faithfully - an immortal lesson indeed of the true spirit of self-surrender to the Will of God, as taught to mankind to the barren hills of Mecca by Father Abraham (A.S.).