Every festival brings in a remembrance of rejoicing moment which had passed long ago. A festival brings in its own uniqueness, a message, history, sacrifices involved, and most of the times an opportunity for us to connect ourselves to our creator – essence of our spiritual lives.
Every religion has its own set of festivals. Some have more and some have less.
Similarly the ummah of our last and beloved prophet Muhammed PBUH is also gifted by two occasions by Allah SWT to cherish and celebrate. The occasions are Eid-ul-fitr and Eid-ul-adha. Eid-ul-fitr falls on 1st of shawal (10th month of the lunar calendar) and Eid-ul-adha falls on 10th day of zul hijj (12th month of the lunar calendar). Muslims have a very different approach of celebrating festivals than others.
The prophet use to celebrate Eid by increasing the remembrance of Allah SWT. Two rakahs of special prayer was offered by the prophet PBUH and the way these two rakahs are offered is different from the normal prayers. On the occasion of Eid-ul-adha Prophet PBUH used to recite takbeer (La ila-ha ill-lal-lah. ALLAHo-Akber, ALLAHo-Akber. Wa-lilahill hamd) from Maghrib on the 9th Zdilhijjah and last until the Asr on the 12th Zdilhijjah. The takbeer translates as: ALLAH is greater. ALLAH is greater. There is no God but ALLAH. ALLAH is greater. ALLAH is greater. And all praises are for ALLAH. As said every festival has a moment of remembrance behind it.
This very Eid-ul-adha carries a rich history of ALLAH’s (SWT) beloved slave; prophet Ibrahim. This prophet was put to a lot of trials. Right from his childhood he had the essence of tawheed (monotheism) in him. The whole clan of prophet Ibrahim was idol worshippers but he never indulged in that, instead he rouse in revolt against it for which he was awarded severe punishment and torment. In his youth he was married to Sarah. The couple was not blessed with a child for a long period. Prophet Ibrahim then married Hajira. She bore a child i.e. Prophet Ismail. The first wife Sarah became a little jealous of Hajira and her child hence Allah SWT ordered Prophet Ibrahim to leave the land of Palestine and migrate to the land of Makkah.
Allah SWT ordered prophet Ibrahim to leave his wife Hajira and son Ismail in the lifeless valley of Makkah. As prophet Ibrahim was getting ready to return to the land of Palestine, his wife Hajira asked him: “Who ordered you to leave us here”? When Ibrahim replied: “ALLAH”, Hajira said: “then ALLAH will not forget us; you can go”. Although Ibrahim had left a large quantity of food and water with Hajira and Ismail, the supplies quickly ran out and within a few days the two were suffering from hunger and thirst. Hajira had to face lots of difficulties to quench her and her son’s thirst. But she got away by having a strong faith in ALLAH (SWT). True that supreme faith in Allah SWT tides away any hardship.
After some time when prophet Ibrahim returned to meet his wife and son they were quite happy with whatever the Almighty had bestowed on them. Allah SWT wanted to put Prophet Ibrahim in yet another trial but this was the toughest of all. ALLAH (SWT) had ordered Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son. Prophet Ibrahim was in dilemma as to what to choose? Is it Love of God over the Love of self, Prophet hood over Fatherhood, Loyalty to God over Loyalty to family, Truth over Reality, Responsibility over Pleasure, Duty over Right, Tawheed over Shirk. He preferred to choose ALLAH (SWT) and decided to sacrifice Ismail.
On the grounds of Mina near Makkah, an amazing conversation between father and son took place. Ibrahim said to Ismail: “O my Son, I see in a vision that I offer you in sacrifice. Now see what is your view?” (Quran – 37:102). Ismail replied in comforting words: “O my father! Do as you are commanded. You will find me, if ALLAH so wills, patient and constant” (Quran – 37:103). This shows the staunchness of faith in the young Ismail.
This gave Ibrahim strength. Ibrahim tied his heart to ALLAH (SWT), he took Ismail his only son in one hand and the knife in the other and he walked until he reached the place of sacrifice. Ibrahim was suffering a lot at every moment. It was possible for him to retract and turn back. Yet he laid Ismail on the ground, putting his face away from him to give strength to his crushed soul and paralyzed hand. And so he began to slaughter Ismail. But, by ALLAH’s grace, the knife did not cut. Ismail was replaced by a heavenly sheep and the later was sacrificed.
ALLAH (SWT) was extremely pleased by this act of his beloved prophet and said: “O Ibrahim! You have confirmed the Vision Thus indeed do We reward those who do right this is indeed the manifest trial!” (Quran – 37:104-105) But today do we really understand what Ibrahim went through? Do we appreciate what it was like to be Ibrahim? Can we grasp in thought what happened? Why is it that we regard Ibrahim as the father of faith? The patriarchal figure of the three major world religions, i.e. Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
What we really need to understand is that by offering the sacrifices to Almighty we must go to an extent to which Prophet Ibrahim went. Mere sacrificing an animal does not suffice. ALLAH (SWT) says: “Never does their flesh nor their blood reach ALLAH, but your piety successfully reaches Him” (Quran – 22:37).