The Prophet Muhammad was asked: "What is sacrifice, O Prophet of God?" and The Prophet replied: "It is a tradition of your forefather, Abraham." Sacrifice started with the Prophet Abraham, who came 2,000 years before the Prophet Muhammad.
This great sacrifice was to settle his son Ishmael and his wife Hajira in the desert of Arabia, so that a new generation could be raised through them. In the pristine atmosphere of the desert, the people born and brought up there would be completely true to their nature.
The sacrifice made by Prophet Abraham is repeated annually at the Hajj or pilgrimage in Mecca every year. All these rites including the sacrifice of an animal represent the humble life that Prophet Abraham had led.
Sacrifice is linked to every aspect of our lives and covers family and society. Only if one person is ready to make some sacrifice, can another person get a chance to carry on his work. For example, during elections one party faces defeat and the other emerges as a victor. The losing party has to make a sacrifice, that is, to accept the opposing party has won. If it does not make this sacrifice and tries to unseat the winning party, then democracy will not be able to function properly and descend into anarchy. Thus, one has to lead one's life in this world with the spirit of sacrifice. When we do social work, we dedicate ourselves for others. That is a form of sacrifice, giving up the trivial for a higher cause.
Muslims today are in their phase of degeneration just like every other community. Eid is meant to revive the true spirit of Islam. The sermon or khutba delivered on the day of Eid in mosques is aimed at reviving the Muslims so that they dedicate themselves for the betterment of others. The sermons speak of values by which the Prophet and his companions lived.
Eid reminds us of the importance of modesty and humility. When we say "Allahu Akbar" repeatedly before and after namaaz, it is to remind us of its meaning that "God is great, I am not great."
Differences are a part of life and they will always remain within families, societies and nations. We cannot eliminate them, but we can learn to tolerate and respect people in spite of our differences. Eid teaches every individual to imbibe mutual respect, only then can we hope to form a better society.
This Eid, like always, I pray for peace. That is what lacks in the world today and is needed the most. Development and progress can be made only in a peaceful environment. Peace means a society devoid of hatred, revenge and anger. This is what I pray for.
(As told to Karishma Goenka.)