By Amin Valliani
September 26, 2014
EVERY nation, tribe and community living on earth has certain festivals to celebrate. In agricultural societies, people usually celebrate the days of sowing or harvesting their crops. Governments allow citizens to celebrate days of national importance, while in some societies people celebrate the days of their heroes’ birth or death anniversaries etc.
The Muslim Ummah, ever since the establishment of the state in Madina in the 7th century, celebrates two major annual festivals: Eidul Fitr and Eid ul Azha.
Eid ul Fitr is of course celebrated on the first day of the 10th Islamic month, Shawwal, to mark the completion of fasting in the month of Ramzan. Eid ul Azha, on the other hand, is celebrated in the month of Zilhaj to commemorate the grand sacrifice of Prophet Ibrahim as per the wish of Allah. Muslims around the world sacrifice countless animals to relive the tradition established by Ibrahim.
Believers should understand the purpose of sacrifice.
The life of Hazrat Ibrahim is a unique example for believers to remain steadfast in search of the truth. Hazrat Ibrahim wandered in different lands, pondering over the natural phenomena, faced hardships but never gave up his holy search. He was tested by Allah through a series of trials including the symbolic sacrifice of his beloved son. He remained upbeat and pious, which led him to success in his goal. The Quran says about his sacrifice that it was a great trial and immortalised among the generations to come (Surah Saffat).
For believers, piety is the sole purpose of sacrifice. The Holy Quran unequivocally says “it is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah. But it is piety from you that reaches Him. …” (22:37).
The Eid day starts with the offering of special Namaaz with the humble sense of gratitude for the plentitude of blessings bestowed by Allah. After Namaaz, believers greet each other with the phrase ‘Eid Mubarak’. ‘Mubarak’ is an Arabic word, derived from the root/origin ‘Baraka’, which means plentitude, as believers receive many blessings from Allah to bear hardship on the path of piety. After Namaaz and the exchange of greetings, the process of sacrificing animals begins.
However, our present style of sacrifice needs re-adjustment. Animal sacrifice is carried out mostly in the middle of streets, roadsides and other open areas. Onlookers, especially children, are especially affected in a negative way because of the method through which the slaughtering process is carried out. The felling of the animal, throat-cutting, blood-spilling and skinning need refinement in the light of Sharia and modern knowledge.
Many untrained butchers who undertake the process appear to be devoid of the required knowledge. They get many orders for slaughtering animals and therefore seem to be in a hurry. Consequently they perform their work haphazardly. Besides, the areas become an eyesore and a threat to public health. One can observe bloodstained ground, offal and animal waste all over the place.
On the other hand, even after Eid, some people continue to consume meat for many days consecutively, inviting ill health and obesity.
Therefore, it is of utmost importance that believers should understand the purpose of sacrifice, ie to earn blessings, not to contaminate the environment, nor to damage public health. The local authorities should consider fixing specific city areas where the process of slaughtering sacrificial animals is carried out.
Islam, being a complete way of life, encourages sharing and altruism. Every society consists of haves and have-nots, people differ in terms of their social, economic and other material aspects of life. Islam encourages those who are well-off to be mindful of the needs of others.
Eid is an occasion where people of all categories converge and share their happiness. The difference between the haves and have-nots is minimised and values of mutual respect, generosity and sharing are demonstrated. This not only fulfils the needs of the underprivileged, but also takes one closer to Allah, as mentioned in the Quran.
Family reunion is also an important aspect of the celebration of Eid. In the modern era, family members are dispersed, they work and study in different fields at remote places. This is true especially for those who live in major urban centres. Eid provides an opportunity to these scattered family members to gather and collectively enjoy the festival. This strengthens a sense of belonging and unity amongst them. Eid also provides an occasion to remember the deceased members of the family; believers pray for the departed so that their souls may rest in eternal peace.
Though both Eids are celebrated each year, their messages have permanent values. They give us the chance to turn these values into reality. These need to be understood, demonstrated and expressed as often as possible.
Amin Valliani is an educationist with an interest in religion.