By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
September 09, 2016
September 11, 2001 was one of the most tragic events of recent times. On that day, Muslim terrorists hijacked two aeroplanes and crashed them into the 110-storey towers of the World Trade Centre in New York. Within a matter of two hours, the two buildings collapsed, and killing more than 3,000 people. As a matter of coincidence, this year Eid al-Azha falls around the same time, that is, 9/13.Although 9/11 in the year 2001 was a story of death, the annual Eid al-Azha observation is a story of life. Eid al-Azha is remembered for the great life-giving-planning organised by Prophet Abraham. Born in the ancient city of Ur in Iraq in 19th century BCE, Prophet Abraham lived for 175 years. The times in which he lived were marked by widespread tribal violence.
Unaware of the value of peace, people in the tribal age were frequently engaged in violence. Acts of violence would create the thirst for revenge, which in turn would lead to perpetual fighting. There could be no constructive activities in the prevailing rampant violence of those times.
Because of this culture, which had lasted over several thousands of years, people had become conditioned to this state of affairs. Thus they failed to accept the peaceful mission of Prophet Abraham. After seeing how negative the consequences were, Prophet Abraham, under divine guidance, made a new plan. He left Iraq for Arabia, a desert area where present-day Mecca is situated. Here he settled his family — his wife Hajarah and son Ismael. This story has been mentioned in the Quran in brief (14:37) and in detail in various books of Hadith, for example, Sahih Bukhari (Hadith no. 3184) and in Tafsir al-Tabari (vol.2, p. 554). This plan of Prophet Abraham was a case of ‘desert therapy’. This therapy involved settling his family to be trained in the environment of the desert. The purpose of this training was to build a new deconditioned nation in a natural environment — a nation based on peace instead of on violence.
It was into this nation that Prophet Muhammad was born 2,000 years later, in 570 CE. The people of the nation that emerged after a long process of this desert therapy in Arabia were known as the Ishmaelites. The training centre for this generation was the Kaaba, which was built by Prophet Abraham himself. The Kaaba and its surroundings are known as Balad-Eharam, prohibited area. Here, any kind of violence, even the killing of animals, is forbidden. Along with this arrangement, the annual pilgrimage to the Kaaba was prescribed. The conduct to be adhered to during this pilgrimage is described thus in the Quran: ‘Whoever intends to perform it…must abstain from indecent speech, from all wicked conduct, and from quarrelling while on the pilgrimage.’ (2:197).
The generation thus prepared in Arabia is mentioned in the Quran: ‘You were enemies and then He united your hearts and by His grace you became brothers; you were on the brink of an abyss of Fire and He rescued you from it.’ (3:103). This clearly shows that the people of Arabia at that time had been indulging in violence, but as part of Prophet Abraham’s plan of de-conditioning, these people were then trained to abandon violence and tread the path of peace.
During his last days in Iraq, Prophet Abraham saw a dream in which he was sacrificing his son Ishmael. The sacrifice of the son in the dream was purely symbolic. It meant that Prophet Abraham had to reformulate his plans for the success of his mission — that is, he had to settle his son in the desert of Arabia. This desert therapy entailed a great sacrifice, which is called Dhibh-E-Azeem in the Quran (37:107).This was a ‘living sacrifice’ in that it involved extreme dedication for a positive purpose.
Hajj is performed in Mecca at the end of the lunar calendar. Muslims all over the world annually celebrate this day in the name of Eid al-Azha. In fact, Eid al-Azha is observed in remembrance of the sacrifice of Prophet Abraham. It is a pledge that, in later times, according to their circumstances, Muslims will continue to carry out Prophet Abraham’s peaceful planning symbolically, so that it may remain alive in all ages. In modern times, ancient tribal history is repeating itself in the form of violence and suicide bombing. Today Eid al-Azha, therefore, reminds us that we should re-enact Prophet Abraham’s historical example.
Need to Decondition
It is due to wrong conditioning that people become engaged in violence. The solution lies in preparing a new, positive and peace-loving generation through deconditioning. Today, planning is required on the lines of Prophet Abraham’s desert therapy. In the modern age, this planning will be based on education, both formal and informal. It is the pressing need of today that the ancient desert therapy be revived along the lines of education therapy. With successful de-conditioning through education, we can look forward to more peaceful people, communities and nations. This will put an end to violence and restore the culture of peace once again in the modern age