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Celebration: The Spirit of Sacrifice

By Nasrin Modak-Siddiqi Email By Nasrin Modak-Siddiqi
October 2013
Celebration: The Spirit of Sacrifice

Eid-al-Adha is not a race to buy the most expensive animal for sacrifice, but it is a day that stands for the willingness to let go and follow the Almighty's command.

Just as the delirium of Ramzaan winds down, the preparations for the next Eid get queued up. The frenzied bazaars provide a rich taste of the festive atmosphere—a rush to the tailors to stitch new clothes; that mad hunt to find matching accessories to go with the dress; new curtains and cushions to complement the fresh coat of paint at home; young girls scouting for trending designs and the darkest hue of mehendi cones; ladies discussing how to do justice to the upcoming freezer full of meats and sharing recipes of mutton, kalejis and botis—all of it make for a happy, cheerful portrait.

Celebrated two months and ten days post Eid-al- Fitr (Ramzaan Eid), Eid-al-Adha or Bakri Eid as they love to call it in India also sets forth a competitive race to shop for the perfect goat or two. Days before the festival, makeshift bakra mandis are set up. These cramped markets aren’t always a pretty sight and are definitely not for the faint-hearted but if you dare to make a trip here, you could end up sighting some very interesting breeds of goat and sheep. Several large ones, some limp, too, some white, black, brown and some spotted ones in various breeds including Barbari, Jamunapari, and Desi are found here. Many of them are dyed and often over-accessorised with shiny decorations and colorful antennas, making for a good photo op. While a decent goat could cost around Rs.10,000 ($150), the rate for certain breeds can be over a lakh ($1500), but prices never prove to be a dampener; the mandis are always full. It’s just that, amidst all the chaos, choosing the right animal could take an entire day.

Back home, the rest of the family waits anxiously and sets the stage to welcome the new member. The moment the vehicle with the animal arrives, everyone including the neighbors go crazy to be the first ones to catch a single glimpse of the creature and give their comments about its health, price, and size. It’s interesting to see how the owner and his entourage then roam around the neighborhood holding the rope attached to the animal, flaunting their latest buy only until a bigger and more expensive animal arrives in the area and comparisons are drawn.

In the days preceding Eid, children are busy feeding, grazing, and bathing these animals. Some even give their pet a name and get emotionally attached to them. Their young hearts are torn on the day of Eid-Al-Adha, which roughly translates to the ‘celebration of sacrifice,’ a festival that memorializes the deep, selfless love of Prophet Ibrahim for Allah through his readiness to sacrifice his son Ishmael to God. But the kids know that to sacrifice their tamed animal on this day is synonymous with the ability to forgo worldly desires and attachments for the sake of the Almighty.

In the morning of Eid, Muslims dress in their best and perform the Eid prayer at a mosque or an eidgah. The air resonates with the recitation of takbir, the declaration of faith. Post namaaz, the sacrifice of the animals begins wherein participants recite the name of Allah along with an offering statement and supplication as a reminder that all life is sacred. About one-third of the meat is given to less fortunate people so that they, too, can join in the celebrations, another one-third is shared with relatives, and the balance of the meat is cooked over days as part of a feast to share with family and friends. Of course, no Eid is complete without everyone’s favorite sheer kurma and sevaiya.

Eid al-Adha is also the Eid of the pilgrims as it marks the completion of the Hajj, a pilgrimage which has its origins rooted in Prophet Ibrahim’s life. On this day, pilgrims descend Mount Arafat in Saudi Arabia and pelt the satanic pillars in Mina with pebbles, similar to the stoning of the devil by the prophet when the Satan tried to dissuade him from sacrificing his son. Hajj is an obligation for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to make the trip in order to renew their faith and sense of purpose in the world. Every year around two million Muslims from all over the world converge at Mecca, wearing simple white clothes and standing before the Kaaba, a house built by Prophet Ibrahim praising Allah. This goes to show that everyone is equal in the eyes of the Almighty.

However, in the frenzy of things, one must not forget the true essence of the festival. Eid-Al-Adha is not a race to buy the most expensive animal for sacrifice. Allah doesn’t want the meat of an animal or its skin, nor is he going to assess you based on it. The Almighty will judge you based on your intentions because in the end, it’s between you and Him anyway!

The story behind the animal sacrifice: 
 
 When Prophet Ibrahim had dreams where he was commanded by God to slaughter his only son Ismael (who was born after years) with a sharp knife, his wife and he were distressed, but being a Prophet he knew what was expected of him. Rather than protesting, Ismael accepted this command from God as his presumed fate, followed his father to the altar and willingly presented his hands and legs to be bound to be positioned for slaughter. Just as the Prophet raised the razor-sharp knife, uttered the name of God, and was about to strike Ismael, God commanded angel Jibrael to replace the child with a sheep. Thus, both prophets Ibrahim and Ismael, who were tested by their Lord, succeeded in their spiritual faith. Eid-al-Adha is a reminder of this sacrifice and an undying love for God.

[Reprinted with permission from The Indian Trumpet (www. theindiantrumpet.com)]



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