By Durdana Najam
It was not a good sight. The annual ritual of sacrificing animals on Eid-ul-Azha had been described a fun activity on nearly every channel. No doubt, some animals are raised in a manner that stands them both in weight and price. These animals do make a story because of their uniqueness and having an element of interest. However, showing the sacrificial animals only as the item of interest because of their size, price and upkeep further erode the spirit of sacrifice.
Already our tendency to display personal grandeur has become so commonplace the originality appears to have lost its value. There is a general perception that big-ticket products, high-value items, and apparent beauty add to our personal worth. Morning shows on TV channels spend half of their time on discussing how to have long hair, make complexion fair, look smart even when overweight, how to select jewellery. Or time is wasted on giving a lesson on cooking. Marriage is made to show as one of the most important events in a girl’s life. The makeover of the morning show host and those invited as guests is usually breathless.
We talk about the lack of intolerance in our society. We talk about people becoming insensitive and indifferent. We speak of society propping up opportunists. We find self-praising and those who lick others’ boots ensconced in best places. We find merit thrown aside to accommodate our ‘ people’. We find everyone doing exactly what they should not be doing in the first place. There is a mess around that, unfortunately, feeds on self-promotion that comes when shallow thinking and appearances take the place of sophistication in thought. When we stop thinking, we become judgmental. Our society, in short, is a society of a judgmental lot. Therefore, we keep concentrating on appearances while the inner remains empty, hollow and dark.
The spirit of sacrifice that Allah made Abraham practice when he took his son in the wilderness and laid the knife on his neck was about giving up the dearest of things to uphold the will of Allah. The lesson is: the will of God is all-encompassing. Since Allah is Omnipresent and knows what has come before and what will come after we should not but bow ourselves down to His wishes and command. The easiest thing to give away in a sacrifice is anything material. Anything we are not attached to. Anything that is easy to substitute. Anything that could be easily replaced. The fourth chapter of Quran begins with the statement: “The highest virtue is giving away the dearest of thing in the path of Allah.”
The result of this sacrifice comes in the form of humility, self-denial, and a mindset that nothing we own belongs to us. When a person is convinced that nothing he/she owns is of his/her own doing or making, we become harmless and resourceful for others. It is through Allah that we come closer to people. However, looking deeper, another dimension of this spirit reveals itself to us: the path leading to Allah goes through His people. Surely, we do not parcel anything to Allah but send our virtue through His people in need. So it is the need to be loved, to love and show benevolence that makes this universe liveable. Only a heart with no aplomb, resistant to showing off and extravaganza would try to achieve this heightened level of virtue.
A surah in the Quran, famous among Muslim especially in Pakistan, is Surah Yaseen. We are advised to read it in the morning each day for blessing. Many quacks in the cleric circles have formulated different ways of reading this surah to yield different kinds of benefits. The central idea of this Surah though eludes many of its readers. Surah Yaseen is a reminder to its readers that all those people or idols that we depend on for worldly benefits could neither bestow nor deny us anything. It is just our imagination that lends the power to others we consider to have power. It is the power that corrupts, and giving more power to the influential by way of considering them our saviour we become subservient to the worldly wishes. Where begins the journey of downfall, if not materially, then spiritually.
When we depend on people to appreciate us for what we possess, we are giving them the power to decide our place in society. This equation of appraisal in the eye of the people, even when we are delegating in the way of Allah, does not link an individual with the world hereafter. It links him with the creature within, which longs for the show-off, aplomb, and appreciation by others. This angling of intention dissipates the spirit of sacrifice. In fact, such sacrifices or giving away of the best is not to submit to Allah’s will. Hence Allah’s blessing does not transpire in the sense that brings satisfaction, patience, tolerance, and humility. The result is that the world becomes unliveable.