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Qurbani Requires Self-Denial

Eid ul Adha is not simply an occasion of festivity. On this Day we recall the unwavering faith, conviction and sacrifice of Nabî Ibrahim whom the Qur’ân describes in the following words:

Ibrahim was indeed a shining example of virtue, obedient to Allâh, ever inclined to Him and he was not of those who set up equals to Allâh. He was ever grateful for His favours, We chose him and guided him to a straight path; and We bestowed on him good in this world and in the Hereafter, he will surely be among the righteous.” (An-Nahl, 121-123)

A cursory glance at the life of Ibrahim ‘Alayhis Salâm reveals three occasions of unparalleled courage, sacrifice and commitment. These three occasions are not simply historical stories that we rehearse and teach our children, but rather they serve as guiding lessons to an Ummah that is one billion strong, yet faces an unrelenting political, social and economic onslaught. An Ummah whose mothers in Iraq sit silently in hospital wards hoping against hope that their children will be cured without any medicine. An Ummah whose daughters weep in silence after being repeatedly raped in the valleys of Kashmir. An Ummah whose fathers -doomed to living in refugee camps – still hold onto the keys of their houses in Palestine hoping that one day they will return to their homes. We need to go beyond the customary commemoration of the sacrifices of Ibrahim and Ismail, and focus on the lessons their lives offer us.

The first occasion:

Ibrahim ‘Alayhis Salâm was born in what is today known as Iraq. He lived in a society where gambling, intoxication, immorality, oppression, and shirk were the social norm. His message challenged the immorality, the tyranny, and the enslavement of people. He was subjected to torture, abuse and banishment. Eventually, Nimrûd cast him into the fire, which Allâh changed and transformed into a garden of bliss.

Muslims will also have to brave the heat of tyranny, oppression, and victimisation. The current ‘Global War on Terrorism’ is but a prelude of what is to come. As Muslims we are going to be ostracised, and victimised. We are going to become social lepers. Already 60% of all refugees in the world are Muslim. Are we prepared to follow the Sunnah of the Ambiyâ and brave the heat of banishment, promiscuity, and cling onto our faith even if it be like holding onto burning amber. The fire of Nimrûd is going to encompass the Ummah. Commitment to our faith is going to become the single most important challenge. Nabî Sallallâhu ‘alayhi wasallam has said: “Islâm grew against an environment that was gharîb, [strange/weird] and it will once again revert to the same. Glad tidings to the strangers!” Eid ul Adha is a reminder that Imân brings with it trials, tests, and hardships.

The second occasion:

Ibrahim ‘Alayhis Salâm was ordered to leave his birthplace, and migrate to Palestine. His wife Hajira eventually gave birth to Nabî Ismail ‘Alayhis Salâm. When he was only a few months old, Allâh ordered Nabî Ibrahim ‘Alayhis Salâm to take his wife Hajira and the Prophet Ismail ‘Alayhis Salâm to the valley of Bakkâh (Makkah). In accordance with the Divine Commandment he set out on a long and difficult journey. They finally arrived at the valley, which was hilly without any trees and water. They set up their tents and looked around but nothing was visible except sand. He left his wife and child and began to walk away. She asked: ‘O Ibrahim! Are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is neither any person nor anything else (to survive)?’ She repeated that to him many times, but he did not look back at her. Then she asked him, ‘Has Allâh instructed you to do so?’ He replied, ‘Yes.’…That was enough for Mother Hajira. Now she knew that it was according to the Divine Will. With the same nobility and dignity of faith she said, ‘Then Allâh will never leave us to perish. Makkah was not an inhabited place yet. Food and water that Ibrahim provided them with were exhausted. She started searching for water running back and forth through the valley between the hills of Safâ and Marwah. Eventually the Zam Zam gushed forth. During that time, the tribe of Jurhum, passed by the valley, they saw birds flying. Realizing that water must be available, they searched and discovered Mother Hajira and Ismail. They sought permission to settle there. Thus, the desolate valley of Makkah became an inhabited area.

Our challenge is to develop the conviction, and the yaqîn, that Allâh is The ONLY Provider, and The ONLY Protector, no matter what the circumstances are. Our challenge is to develop such a relation and religious atmosphere within our homes, that our wives and children understand the purpose of their lives and would be willing to sacrifice their existence for His pleasure. While enumerating the signs of Qiyâmah, Nabî Sallallâhu ‘alayhi wasallam said: “When a man obeys his wife and rebels against his mother, when a person will draw closer to his friend and stay aloof from his father than await the red dust storm, earth quakes, sinking of people, and disfigurement of people.” The total collapse of the family will lead to the collapse of morality in society, which will in-turn herald the major signs of Qiyâmah. Eid ul Adha requires that we re-examine our faith in Allâh, it requires us to re-examine our conduct as fathers and husbands. Is Islamic orientation taking place in our homes? Do we enjoy the confidence, trust and loyalty of our spouses and children? Are we prepared to brave the pangs of hunger, thirst and isolation in our quest for Divine pleasure?

The third instance:

Allâh tested Ibrahim ‘Alayhis Salâm again by instructing him to sacrifice his twelve-year old son. On the tenth of Dhû al Hijja, the father and his beloved son walked side by side. Their purpose was to carry out the orders of their Rabb. Nothing was dearer to them than the Service of Allâh. Eventually Allâh sent down a ram that was slaughtered. Today we slaughter in commemoration of Ibrahim’s sacrifice.

The animal we sacrifice is the symbol of our nafs, the ego, and the lower impulse within each and every one of us, which drives us towards immediate and selfish pleasures. The nafs is Shaytan’s ambassador to the soul. As a Hadîth puts it: “Your greatest enemy is the nafs which lies between your own flanks.” The sacrifice is a symbolic statement of unquestioned obedience, unyielding love and unwavering faith in our Rabb!

Eid ul Adha therefore demands that we prepare to be consumed by the fire of Nimrûd, that we dedicate ourselves to the tarbiyyah of our wives and children, and above all we place the sword of denial on our desires as we sacrifice our animals crying out: “Verily my prayer, my sacrifices, my very life and death are for Allâh the Rabb of the worlds.” (Al An’âm, 162)

May Allâh imbue our lives with the spirit of sacrifice, and may He grant us the faith, love and obedience to follow the example of Ibrahim ‘Alayhis Salâm
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