Today, Muslims all over the world celebrate Eid’l Adha which corresponds to the 10th day of Dhul al-Hijjah, the last month in the Hijrah Calendar (Islamic). The occassion of Eid’l Adha is very important to the Muslims. It commemorates the greatest act of obedience and faith exemplified by Prophet Ibrahim (Alayhis Salaam) or Abraham in the Bible. This is the culmination of the Hajj rituals which is 5th in the pillars of Islam. Muslims who can afford to perform the Hajj are required to do it at least once in their lifetime. However, those who cannot afford it God will not hold them accountable. Based on the Sunnah (Tradition) of the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) Eid’l Adha prayer commences earlier than the Eid’l Fitr congregation. In the Philippines, majority of the Eid congregations start their prayer around 7:00 o’clock in the morning.
Just like the Eid’l Fitr, this day is looked forward to as an occasion of festivity and sharing. It goes beyond family affairs as Muslims see it as an opportunity to hold community get-together activities characterized by the ritual of Udhiya or Qurban. Udhiya or Qurban is the slaughtering of goat or cow in commemoration of the act of Prophet Ibrahim (AS). Affluent families are enjoined to slaughter goat or cow and part of the meat will be distributed to the needy families. In a typical Muslim communities, it is common to see families inviting guests to partake the Eid food during family festivity or “kanduri.” This occasion is best used to strengthen family ties and friendship as it entail to emulate the values of forgiveness, love and compassion. Among the younger ones, parlor games of various kinds are held to entertain the children.
Reflecting upon the Quránic significance of Eid’l Adha, this occasion reminds us of the spiritual connection between Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The common reference of this connection is Prophet Ibrahim (AS). From Prophet Ibrahim (AS) and Sarah born Isaac from whom the lineage of Jacob and the 12 tribes down to Prophet David traced their descent. And from the lineage of David came Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. On the other hand, from Hajar the other wife of Prophet Ibrahim (AS) born Ismail considered as the Father of the Arab nations and to whom Prophet Muhammad’s family descent originated.
The Hajj and the Feast of Sacrifice
The Holy Qur’an narrates that Prophet Ibrahim (AS) saw in his dream, God commanding him to sacrifice his first-born child Ismail. This was God’s way to test Prophet Ibrahim’s faith and obedience. Without hesitation, Abraham obeyed God’s command. But God in His unfathomable love towards his faithful servant ransomed Ismail by sending a lamb for the great sacrifice (Qur’an 37:101-102). Surely, this act of obedience elevated Prophet Ibrahim’s status as the “father of faith” a claim both affirmed in the Islamic and Christian narratives (Qur’an 2:124).
However, when Sara gave birth to Isaac she asked Abraham to send off Hajar and Ismail away from them. Hajar and Ismail’s journey brought them to a place known as Al-Hijaz, the present day Saudi Arabia specifically in Makkah. Hajar was so desperate when she found out that all their water was gone and Ismail was tremendously suffering from severe thirst and hunger. Hajar ran to and fro in between two hills, Safah and Marwah hoping to find any water. But to her dismay, no one was around to help them. Hajar returned to her son and prayed in desperation. The account said that she heard a voice commanding her to strike her foot on the ground. She obeyed the voice and to her amazement from the ground came out the gushing water which later called Zamzam well. God answered the prayer of a depressed mother, Hajar.
The Quránic account further added that when Prophet Ibrahim (AS) visited Ismail, they built the Kaábah as a symbol of monotheism and the worship of the One true God. The Ka’abah is the black cube located at the center of Masjidul Haram in Makkah. From then on many people visited the Kaábah through an annual pilgrimage. However, the monotheistic nature of the Kaábah was eventually corrupted. In fact before Islam, the Kaábah housed more than 360 idols. It was during the time of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) that the Kaábah was restored to its original purpose.
Looking beyond the Rituals
Today, millions of Muslims all over the world go to Makkah to perform the annual pilgrimage. This ocean of humanity shares common spiritual experience affirming equality and universal brotherhood among people of different races, colors, nationalities and cultures. Facing the Ka’abah one sets aside his nationality and personal status to be subsumed under the banner of Islam, one God, one people. It is where Islam literally destroys the concept of racism.
Another important lesson that we can reflect upon from the Hajj ritual is the commemoration of the act of Hajar. The running to and fro in between the hills of Safah and Marwah in the Hajj rituals today is actually a re-enactment of Hajar’s desperation in looking for water. God directly intervened by providing the Zamzam well which eventually shaped the landscape of the future growth of Islam. No world religions, like Islam commemorates a woman’s act in a religious ritual like that of Hajj. Hence, Islam reinforces woman’s value in the realm of spirituality. And in a society perceived to be largely patriarchal lies the influence of a woman. Islam upholds woman’s dignity which includes her ability to chart her own destiny in accordance to the will of God.
Finally another important ritual that I want to highlight as a source of reflection to all Muslims is the ritual of stoning Satan at Jamarat. Each Pilgrim symbolically throws stones to ward off Satan who tried to tempt Prophet Ibrahim (AS) from obeying God’s command. But to my opinion, this ritual assumes new meaning. Remembering my experience at Jamarat, each stone that I threw symbolizes the negative traits like jealousy, greediness, and love for worldly things which are the real Satan inside us. And one of the great benefits of the performance of Hajj is that one’s sins are cleansed and God promises forgiveness. It accords new life and new beginning. In Islam, struggling to be better Muslims is the greatest Jihad. Eid’l Adha promises new beginning and enjoining each believer to shun away from sinfulness. Following the greatest example of Prophet Ibrahim (AS) is the core essence of our celebration today.
We never forget our Muslim brothers and sisters all over the world especially those afflicted with wars, hunger and sufferings from all types of discrimination due to the rising Islamophobia in our midst. Despite all these sufferings, we can always find reasons to celebrate this great Eid. God loves us all.