THOUSANDS of years ago, our religious father Hazrat Ibrahim, driven by his love and submission to God, laid his beloved son Hazrat Ismail on the ground to sacrifice him.
This was the supreme sacrifice, attempting to give up the person he loved best in this world, for what he believed to be the command of his Creator. God, pleased by this obedience, sent a ram to be sacrificed instead and declared Hazrat Ibrahim His friend (Khalilullah).
In remembrance of this sacrifice, this ritual was made a part of Haj. Animals, brought up with love and care, would be sacrificed for God, as a token of submission to the command of God.
It is a demonstration of ‘Islam’ (submission) and our readiness to lay down everything we hold dear, to do what God commands us. It is our promise to sacrifice our desires, our wishes, our aims and our worldly freedom, to do what God would have us do: to be upright and side with justice and goodness.
Over the years, the spirit of submission to God and sacrificing our selfish desires has morphed, in many cases, into a show of wealth, lack of consideration to sacrificial animals and the overconsumption of meat. Buying the highest-priced animal is often viewed as a matter of pride and shown off not only in the neighbourhood, but also in the social media.
Are we ready to love God so much as to be prepared to relinquish the pleasures of this life?
Sellers inject their innocent cattle with drugs to swell up their bodies so that they can obtain higher prices. Unwittingly, buyers may be conned into buying sick animals.
A common demonstration of apathy to animals is to slaughter them in front of other animals. A crowd gathers around to watch, even as young men doubling up as butchers lay their blunt knives on the animals, without knowledge of where to slaughter while inflicting least pain.
Instead of being merciful and kind to animals that depend upon us, we are unfeeling towards them.
How many of us ponder over the incident that we pay homage to, and which person amongst us would dare to imagine what Hazrat Ibrahim went through as he prepared for this sacrifice? How should, then, these thoughts reflect over our manner of fulfilling this ritual?
In everyday lives, sacrifice means giving up what our nafs is egging us on to do — something that we are aware is not right, yet we are attracted towards it because it will give us momentary pleasure. Giving it up and turning to God is the spirit of sacrifice. Are we ready to love God so much as to be prepared to relinquish the pleasures of this life? Can we inculcate this spirit as we think of Eidul Azha?
The Prophet (PBUH) was known for his kindness to animals. He forbade cruel procedures of branding animals, or cutting pieces of flesh from living ones. For slaughter, he instructed that animals be given water to drink, knives be sharpened away from them, beasts not be slaughtered in front of other animals and the process be quick.
So kind was the Prophet and his companions to animals that it is believed that abused animals will testify against their oppressors on the Day of Judgement.
A common sight during Eidul Azha is that of streets red with blood and swarms of flies and crows hovering over offal. This is easily preventable, but only if the spirit of sacrifice is within us.
A religious ritual conducted while causing harm to others produces results opposite to what is desired.
All animals are creations of God. He has made some of them for the service of humans: as food and nourishment and others as a means to transport goods. Others are part of nature, contributing to its beauty and grandeur.
Every species has a role to play in the circle of life. Humans do not have any right to be cruel to animals, just as they cannot be cruel to other humans. They can, however, for the sake of consuming their meat, kill animals under certain conditions. These conditions have been prescribed in the Quran. These are hunger and specific sacrifice.
Sacrifice is not a fardh (essential) for those who are not performing Haj. If we really wish to remember Hazrat Ibrahim’s sacrifice, we can do a quiet sacrifice, observing humane procedures, and further avoid the flow of blood and offal into the streets. We can also give money for sacrifice elsewhere, with the meat distributed among those who cannot afford it.
The purpose of sacrifice is for God to accept our desire to submit to Him. Neither blood nor flesh reaches Him (22:37); it is only the good intent of believers that He would entertain.
The writer is a freelance contributor with an interest in religion.
Published in Dawn, August 9th, 2019