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Eid-ul-Azha and the Spirit of Sacrifice

"The Majestic Sheikh Zayed Mosque" - Photo by Tehreem Iqbal

Joyous Eid wishes to everyone reading!

This is probably the first Eid-ul-Azha ever that I find myself reflecting on its essence. Previously, Eid was all about getting dolled up, making scrumptious food and exchanging Eid greetings with friends and family. Nothing more, nothing less. Eid-ul-Azha, or Bari Eid, as it’s called among desi circles, was my least favorite of the two Eids. Primarily because of the smell of animals in the air and because it seemed less glamorous of an event.

This year, however, things are very different. This year, I find myself reflecting inward, deep within the fabric of my soul, and wondering what I will take away from this simple occasion that we all call Eid and where we all talk very casually about the qurbani we did.

For those who don’t know, Eid ul Azha falls on the 10th day of Dhu’l-Hijjah (Zilhaj) where Muslims all around the world commemorate the ‘willingness’ of Prophet Ibrahim (AS) to sacrifice his dear son in the name of Allah. Ibrahim (AS), like any father, loved his son dearly. Allah commanded to him in his dream to sacrifice his son for the love of Allah. This was obviously a trial for Ibrahim (AS) and probably one of the biggest trials anyone could ever experience. But for the will of Allah, Ibrahim (AS) set forth to give up his son. Allah accepted his sacrifice even before it happened and presented a goat/ram in place of his son instead. His son’s life was spared. Every year, Muslims all around the world commemorate this occasion and sacrifice an animal. The meat is distributed among family/friends and charity.

But what lesson do we take away from this entire story? The purpose of the sacrifice was not to kill the son or torture the father. It was to realize that Prophet Ibrahim’s love for Allah was far greater than his love for his son. That this was the kind of love every person should have in his heart. That any thing that belongs to this world is not to be the focus of our existence. That our attachment is only supposed to be with Allah, our love is only supposed to be for Allah and anything that we hold dear in this world is supposed be through Allah. It’s a pretty heavy concept to grasp, I know.

This does not mean that a person leaves the life of this dunya, becomes a dervaish and resorts to a life in eternal seclusion. This simply means that whatever a person sets out to achieve in this world, it is done by the will of Allah and is done for Allah.

It’s very easy to hold on to things and especially people because that’s all what we can see. It’s easier to love something that is physically present in front of you. It’s hard to love something or devote your life to something that is hidden from you. For example, wealth that you cannot imagine parting with, a piece of jewellery passed on to you from generations that you can’t let go of, a person you cannot imagine living without, children that you worked very hard to raise — all are examples of attachment. You might loose all your wealth. The piece of jewellery could get stolen. The person you loved dearly could leave you. The children you worked so hard to raise might only see you once a year. When you pin your hopes and your love onto all these attachments, you end up in despair when they disappoint you. You end up engulfed by a sea of emotions and misery.

The problem with all these attachments is that we let them consume our hearts. A heart that was made to be filled with the love of something perfect and permanent. But all of the above examples are examples of things that are imperfect and temporary. But then what is perfect and permanent? To me, I think, it’s the love of God. The belief that having and not having is a gift from Allah. The only place that is home is the Hereafter. The belief that this world is a bridge along the journey but not the ultimate destination.

I believe, every year, on Eid ul Azha, in fact through all the pillars of Islam, Allah gives us a chance to recalibrate our lives. Allah wants us to shift our focus back onto the perfect and permanent love that only the Creator can satisfy not the creation.

So this year, on Eid ul Azha, when you sacrifice an animal, remember to also sacrifice and let go of anything of this world that fills up your heart. Remember that pleasure and pain, both are temporary. Remember that gains are temporary. Remember that loss is temporary. Remember that all you so dearly love today will eventually persih tomorrow, like all things in this world, but all that you sacrifice for Allah, will be with Allah in eternity. Your sacrifice will be returned to you in the hereafter where everything is perfect and permanent, and in this dunya it will be replaced with something bigger, better and grander that your mind, which understands time as linear, cannot currently fathom.

Dedicated to every ambition that consumed my world, every person who filled my heart. Dedicated to apparent gains and losses. May the hereafter reunite us with all that we lost in this world.

Header Image is from The Majestic Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi, courtesy of Tehreem Iqbal (El Arte).


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