Dr. Farida Khanam | Speaking Tree | July 21, 2021
Eid al-Adha is a festival celebrated by Muslims in the Islamic month of Zul Hijjah. Eid al-Adha literally means Eid of sacrifice, as Muslims symbolically sacrifice an animal in an act known as qurbani. It is a symbolic rehearsal of high values of faith, and it is required that these values be translated into practical life all the year-round. Two practices are performed by Muslims on the day of Eid al-Adha: congregational prayer in the mosque and the sacrificing of an animal. These two practices reflect the basic spirit of Eid al-Adha, which is a combination of two important states of mind – modesty through prayer and selflessness through sacrifice.
Prayer inculcates modesty in a person. A Muslim offers two units of namaz in the mosque. Besides the other prayers, the namaz of Eid includes the takbir which is recited more than once. Takbir means ‘God is great.’ The true significance of this takbir is that ‘God is great, and I am not great.’ So, the essence of takbir is modesty. In prayer as in all aspects of our lives, we should relate to God through humility and modesty, as God’s servants.
In these challenging Covid times, everyone should offer Eid prayers in their homes, in order to show our solidarity with other human beings, that we wish them peace, wellbeing and good health. Such well-wishing is essential in our closely interlinked world, which is facing such challenging times.
God is Great, and we are not great. God is the Giver, and we are recipients. In this sense, the only appropriate way to relate with God is through modesty. Even the word ‘Islam’ has the connotation of modesty. The word Islam means ‘submission’ or ‘surrender’. And submission or surrender indicates modesty. This means that Islam is a religion of modesty.
Modesty is, in fact, the culture of the universe. In the vast space, there are numerous bodies, and all of them are moving according to a destined path. They never stray outside their orbit. All the planets and stars, including our earth, are moving in a completely controlled and orderly way. They modestly follow the command of God. None of them ever rebels. None of them goes against the law of nature. They all willfully submit to the law of nature. The whole universe presents a picture of modesty. Following the dictates of nature and Islam, man must also remain modest, both in front of God and to his fellow human beings.
The second important activity performed on Eid al-Adha is an animal sacrifice. This is an annual re-enactment of Prophet Abraham’s actions. Prophet Abraham dedicated his entire life to the cause of God. The full extent of Abraham’s dedication was demonstrated by his readiness to sacrifice even his own son for God. Every Muslim symbolically re–enacts their readiness to sacrifice for the cause of God on this day, as did the family of Abraham–the father, Abraham, the son, Ishmael, and the mother, Hajira. Referring to sacrifice, the Quran states: “Their ﬂesh and blood do not reach God: it is your piety that reaches Him.” (22:37)
From this verse of the Quran, it is clear that while it appears the animals are being presented before God, in reality it is human beings who are presenting themselves before Him. In other words, through sacrifice we express our determination to slice off our egos for the sake of God, to sacriﬁce our own personal interests and be ﬁrmly established in the path of righteousness. It is on these two fundamentals—humility and sacriﬁce—that the entire ediﬁce of the faith stands.