Eid-ul-Azha: Celebrating the first human settlement – A story of giving and not giving
Islam ordains the practice of giving, but Muslim children are taught only the theory of it and not the meaningful practice. One example of giving is sacrificing an animal during Eid and distributing its meat among the deserving. I am associated with this type of distribution, so I would like to share my perspective – why the grand Eid and why the sacrifice!
In 1985 the first Hajj sacrificial meat (distribution) project was initiated by the Islamic Development Bank on behalf of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The purpose was to introduce and implement an elaborate program to manage the Hajj sacrificial meat and ensure the distribution of the meat among deserving persons all over the world within the Shariah framework and rules. At that time it was estimated that annually around 1 million animals were being slaughtered at the Makkah surroundings and the meat was wasted.
By all means the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Sacrificial Meat Project was a challenging, an innovative, and a revolutionary and large initiative. Initially since the project was understaffed and being established our team asked to translate the introductory brochures into Urdu both for the print and electronic media as well as to establish a liaison with Hajj officials from Pakistan for publicity of the program.
So I also started developing my perspective about the sacrifice. I understand that from around 5000 years back, one of the first recorded human settlements was known as the Um Al Qura – literally the mother of all human settlements. The settlement started with establishing the House of Allah (Baitullah). It was the house of the family of Prophet Ibrahim (A.S) and was established as ordained by Allah. It is where Muslims gather in millions and literally billions of faithfuls -since Ibrahim’s family resided here – have visited here chanting Allah is Great. It is where Ibrahim’s footprint is symbolically preserved as the Zero Point of the Earth.
When the house was completed and the settlement was established, to confirm the final seals of commitments that were required for the peaceful sustainability of the settlement, Prophet Ibrahim (A.S) was asked by Allah to sacrifice his most precious and dearest asset – his son Ismail.
From a purely worldly and egoistic perspective, the settlement itself was for Ismail (A.S), and now the boy was to be sacrificed.
Ibrahim knew that there was no point of establishing a conflict between on one side Allah and on the other side the only heir of the new settlement, his son Ismail (A.S). Ibrahim (A.S) also knew that his plan to implement Allah’s order needed an equal commitment by Ismail (A.S). When the joint commitment of Ibrahim (A.S) and Ismail (A.S) was confirmed as the pinnacle of all commitments, Allah turned the grand occasion of test into the grand celebration. A grand Eid with the sacrifice of a sheep instead.
It was the celebration of the first human settlement and the celebration was confirmed by giving the most precious asset. What is giving in this sense? It is the sacrifice of the ego. A son is the most important symbol of the ego – it was at the time of Ibrahim and it remains till this very day as well. The world, and specially Muslims are shattered – because we might have learnt the sacrifice of animals but we haven’t learnt the sacrifice of our egos.
Let us first sacrifice our egos so that our sacrifice of animals may be acceptable to Allah and our conditions will improve to the status of Ashraf-Al-Makhluqat – the best of all creatures. At present we aren’t the best of all creatures and don’t deserve the grand Eid as such.