By Sadia Dehlvi
Sep 23, 2015
Hajj, the pilgrimage to the house of God, is the fifth pillar of Islam. According to Islamic doctrine, Prophet Adam built the Kaaba at Mecca. It is believed that the house of God was damaged in the floods during the time of Prophet Noah. Eventually the Kaaba was rebuilt by Prophet Abraham and his son Ismael. Traditionally, Hajj is looked upon as turning away from the trappings of this world towards God.
Prophet Abraham was made to give the call to Hajj. The Quran affirms: “And proclaim the pilgrimage among men; they will come to thee on foot and (mounted) on every kind of camel, lean on account of journeys through deep and distant mountain highways… That they may witness the benefits (provided) for them, and celebrate the name of Allah, through the days appointed, over the cattle which He has provided for them (for sacrifice): then eat ye thereof and feed the distressed ones in want… Then let them complete the rites prescribed for them, perform their vows, and (again) circumambulate the ancient house.”
Hajj is seen as a kind of death for the Quran refers to death as a meeting with God and the Kaaba is the house of God. The return from Hajj is a spiritual rebirth as the pilgrim seeks forgiveness for all his/her past sins.
Id-ul-Azha, marks the culmination of Hajj. The “celebration of sacrifice” is the day when Muslims around the world join millions of pilgrims in their joy and thanksgiving to Allah. When the Prophet Abraham completed the repair of the Kaaba, he had a dream where God asked him to sacrifice his son Ismael. On hearing God’s wish, Ismael told his father that he was ready to be sacrificed in the way of God. As Abraham proceeded to make the sacrifice, placing a knife on his son’s jugular vein, Allah called: “O Abraham, you have fulfilled the dream! Thus do we reward the good doers! That was a clear test.” A ram was sent down from heaven to be sacrificed instead of Ismael. Abraham sacrificed it and shared the feast with Ismael. Id-ul-Azha celebrates this absolute submission to God. One should be willing to make any sacrifice for the righteous path. During the celebration of Id-ul-Azha those Muslims who can afford an animal, sacrifice a sheep, goat or other prescribed animals, for the Quran says, “It is not their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah; it is your piety that reaches Him.”
The festival of Id-ul-Azha begins with congregational prayer, followed by the sacrifice of animals. Then, one-third of the meat is given to the poor, one-third is distributed amongst neighbours, relatives and friends, and the remaining one-third is cooked for traditional Id family feasts.
Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi-based writer and author of Sufism: The Heart of Islam. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org