Eid is an Arabic word meaning ‘festivity’. When our Holy Prophet Mohammad (SAW) arrived in Medina, he (S.A.W) found that people of the city celebrated many festivals. He (S.A.W) abolished all these pegan observations and told the Muslims that the two Eids were prescribed for them as festivals, one being ‘Eid Ul-Fitr’ and the other ‘Eid-Ul-Zuha’. Eid-Ul-Fitr falls on the first day of Islamic month of Shawwal, the 10th month of the Muslim calendar, and marks the end of fasting observed during the month of Ramadan. The festival of Eid-Ul-Azha is celebrated on the 10th of the month of Zillhijjah, twelfth month of the Muslim lunar calendar. Eid-ul-Azha is one of the most significant festivals in Islam celebrated by Muslims all over the world. The history of offering animal sacrifice is as old as human history itself. In the primitive times man offered sacrifice of animals even of human beings to express his faith, devotion and spirit of sacrifice and humility. The first sacrifice of human history was offered by the two sons of Adam (AS), Abel and Cain. The Holy Qur’an says, “And tell them accurately the story of the two sons of Adam. When the two offered their sacrifices, the offering of the sacrifice of one was accepted but that of the other was not accepted” (Al-Qur’an,5:27) Abel offered the sacrifice of the best ram out of his flock happily for the sake of Allah and whereas Cain offered a portion of useless corn unwillingly. The sacrifice of Abel was burnt up by a fire from heaven and this was a sign of its acceptance, but Cain’s offering was left and rejected. The sacrifice (Qurbani) is a unique kind of act in Islam, the example of which is not found in any religion. Eid Ul-Zuha basically means, the festival of sacrifice in Islam. The story about the great trial of Prophet Ibrahim (A.S) is an interesting one and there are many lessons that can be derived from it by those who believe in Prophet Ibrahim (A.S) and claim to follow his creed. Prophet Ibrahim (A.S), known as the father of all Prophets was born on the 14th of Rajab in an Idolator house named Azar, a sculptor of idols in Babylon. He (A.S) did not believe in idolatry even from a very tender age and believed lifeless and helpless idols can not be of any help to those praying them. So, he spent much time on a mountain meditating on who could be God. Prophet Ibrahim (A.S) was endowed with spiritual understanding from an early age. Stubborn to show the villagers that idols were not God and that they were only human’s creation, Ibrahim (A.S) went to the temple where lay the idols and set out on destroying them. His aim was to make people understand that idols can neither profit nor harm anyone (Quran, 21: 59-67).When the idolaters came to know about that, they suspected Ibrahim (A.S) and the King (Namrud) of Babylon ordered to burn Prophet Ibrahim alive. However Allah’s desire was not so thus Prophet Ibrahim (A.S) came out from the fire unhurt.
Allah wants to see the deed and intention of His worshipper only and is not interested in the blood or meat (Quran, Al-Hajj V.22-23).
The people realized the senselessness of their beliefs; however their arrogance would not allow them to admit their foolishness. This miracle shamed the tyrants, but it did not cool the flame of anger in their hearts. However, after this event many of the people followed Ibrahim (A.S) although some kept their belief a secret for fear of harm or death at the hands of the rulers. When the King ‘Namrud’ heard of Ibrahim’s (A.S) safe exit from the fire he became very angry and feared. He summoned Prophet Ibrahim (A.S) to the palace and held a dialogue with whom Allah Almighty recounted: Have you not thought about him who disputed with Ibrahim (A.S) about his Lord (Allah) because Allah had given him the kingdom? When Ibrahim (A.S) said to him: My Lord (Allah) is He who gives life and causes death. He (Namrud) said: I give life and cause death. Ibrahim (A.S) said: Verily, Allah causes the sun to rise from the east; then cause it you to rise from the west. So the disbeliever was utterly defeated. Allah guides not the people who are Zalimeen (wrongdoers etc) (Quran, 2:258). Prophet Ibrahim (A.S) fame spread throughout the entire kingdom. However in spite of love and care for his people, they felt angry and deserted Prophet Ibrahim (A.S). Any one whom Allah leaves to stray, there is none to guide! Only one woman named Sarah (A.S) who became his wife and one man of his people his nephew named Lut (A.S) shared his belief in Allah. When Ibrahim (A.S) realized that no one else was going to believe in his call, he decided to emigrate. He left his people and traveled with his wife and his nephew Prophet Lut (A.S) to a city called Ur, then to Haran, then to Palestine, then to Egypt, calling people to believe in Allah wherever he traveled, judging fairly between people, and guiding them to truth and righteousness. Prophet Ibrahim’s (A.S) wife Sarah (A.S) was sterile. Sarah (A.S) thought she and Ibrahim (A.S) were lonely because she could not have a child. Therefore, she offered her husband her servant Hajra (A.S) in marriage and prayed Allah to bless Hajra (A.S) and Ibrahim (A.S) with a child. How unselfish Sarah (A.S) was! For her, the need to have an offspring who would carry the Message after Ibrahim (A.S) was greater than her pride. Fourteen years later Allah rewarded Sarah with a Son, Ishaq (A.S) in spite of her old age. Prophet Ibrahim (A.S) prayed, O God! Grant me with a righteous son. So we gave him the glad tidings of a forbearing son (Quran, 37: 100-101). Hajra (A.S) gave birth to her son Prophet Ismail (A.S) when Ibrahim (A.S) was an old man. One day Ibrahim (A.S) woke up and asked his wife Hajra (A.S) to get her son and prepare for a long journey. After a long journey they reached the desert of Arabian Peninsula, named Makkah, an uncultivated valley having no fruit, no trees, no water, no sign of life. After Ibrahim (A.S) had helped his wife and child to dismount, he left them with a small amount of food and water which was hardly enough for 2 days. He (A.S) turned round and walked away. His wife hurried after him asking: Where are you going Ibrahim (A.S), leaving us in this barren village? Ibrahim (A.S) did not answer her, but continued walking. She (A.S) repeated what she had said, but he remained silent. Finally she understood that he (A.S) was not acting on his own initiative. She realized that Allah had commanded him to do this. She asked him: Did Allah command you to do so? He replied: Yes. Then his great wife said: We are not going to be lost, since Allah who has commanded you is with us. Prophet Ibrahim (A.S) walked away until he got out their sight, he (A.S) raised his hands and prayed Allah: O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring dwell in a village with no cultivation, by Your Sacred House, in order that they may offer prayers. So fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and provide them with fruits, so that they may give thanks. There, alone with suckling Ismail, Hajra (A.S) had to rely on a nearby well. Unfortunately, this water was san depleted and Hajra (A.S) was so thirsty that she made her way from Al-Marwa hill to nearby mount as-safa seven times in the quest of water. In the end, tired, she came back to Al-Marwa, when to her greatest surprise Angel Gabriel (A.S) came and dug the ground until water flowed and still does! This is our holy Zamzam water. The angel said to her: Don’t be afraid of being neglected, this is the House (Kaba) of Allah which will be built by this boy (Ismail (A.S)) and his father Ibrahim (A.S) and Allah never neglects His people. The kaba later built by Prophet Ibrahim (A.S) and his son Prophet Ismail (A.S) is the central structure around which the Hajj takes place.
No Hajj is valid without going around this structure. As a result of the flowing water, Arabs joined Hajra (A.S) and Ismail (A.S) and a village was formed. It was from this civilization that Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W) was born. Years later, Prophet Ibrahim (A.S) came to visit his son whom he missed much. Then one day Allah wanting to test Ibrahim’s (A.S) faith, asked him in a dream to sacrifice Ismail (A.S) for the love of Allah. Allah wanted to see whether Ibrahim (A.S) had not grown to love his son more than the Almighty Allah. When Ismail (A.S) attained around 9 years age, Allah commanded Prophet Ibrahim (A.S), in his dream to sacrifice him for his sake. When he was old enough to assist in his endeavour, he said: My son! I see in my dream that I am sacrificing you. See what you think? (Quran, 37:102). Because it was the command from Allah, the righteous son encouraged his old father to discharge his duty. He (Ismail (A.S)) said: ‘O Father! Do whatever you have been commanded. If Allah wishes, you will find me to be patient.” (Quran, 37:102). Prophet Ibrahim (AS) set out with his son Prophet Ismail (AS) to the sacrificing spot. It was certainly not an easy task! On the way, Shaytan (Iblis) tried to stop Prophet Ibrahim (A.S) and Prophet Ismail (A.S), but because of the strong faith in Allah, both, the father and the son chased Shaytan away. They then arrived at the sacrificing spot at Mina. Prophet Ibrahim (A.S) tied the hands and the legs of his son so as not to be perturbed by his pain and restlessness. He blindfolded himself and carrying the knife enacted the command of Allah (S.W.T). Allah saw that Ibrahim (A.S) was willing to sacrifice his most dear thing (son Ismail (A.S)) for Allah and so Allah thought this was enough and said sacrifice this Ram instead. Allah did not want Prophet Ismail (A.S) to be sacrificed, but Allah wanted Prophet Ibrahim (A.S) to show his willingness to sacrifice Prophet Ismail (A.S), which he did bravely. It is in honour of this test of Prophet Ibrahim (A.S) determination and his faith that Muslims around the word offer the Eid Prayers, sacrifice an animal on the occasion to show their faith, allegiance, submission and sincerity to Allah. This sacrifice is a ritual now known as Eid Ul-Azha celebrated by Muslims all over the world in the memory of the sacrifice of Prophet Ibrahim (A.S) and Prophet Ismail (A.S). The Muslims on every Eid-ul-Adha sacrifice animals to obey Allah’s Will. The animal is sacrificed after the Eid Prayer is offered and the sacrifice can be done on the first day of Eid and on the two following days called Ayyam-al-tashriq. Allah wants to see the deed and intention of His worshipper only and is not interested in the blood or meat (Al-Hajj V.22-23). He is interested in the Spirit and piety of the Muslims. He wants that there be a Spirit of sacrifice in the Muslims when his neighbours, community and dear ones are in trouble and misery. He should be ready to offer sacrifice for the cause of humanity. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) says about the act of sacrifice (Qurbani) “The person who possesses necessary means and does not offer sacrifice, he ought not to come to the place of Eid Ground (Idd Gah)”. (Abu-Hurairah (RA). Prophet Muhammad (SAW) again says that “On the sacrifice day (Qurbani), Allah likes most the blood of animals which are sacrificed”. The animal for sacrifice should be without any blemish or defect and must be healthy, strong and stout. In case the camel is sacrificed, it must be five years old, the cow two years old, the goat and the sheep not less than one year. Our beloved Prophet (SAW) says, “Don’t sacrifice but a musinnah (year-old animal) unless it is difficult for you to get it. In that case sacrifice Jadha’ah (one six month’s old she-ram)” (Muslim). One goat or one sheep can be sacrificed on behalf of one man or the household but a cow or a camel can suffice for seven persons. Hazrat Jabir (RA) reports that Prophet (SAW) said, “Sacrifice of a cow suffices for seven persons and that of a camel also for seven persons” (Muslim). The following verse (Prayer) is recited on the animal which is to be sacrificed.
“Verily, being submissive, I have turned my face towards One, Who created the heaven and the earth upon the religion of Abraham (AS) and I am not among the Polytheists. Undoubtedly, my worship, my sacrifice and my life and death are for Allah alone, the Creator of the worlds. He is One and there is no partner with Him. And this I am commanded and I am the follower and the Muslim. O Allah! It is thine and for thine, from Muhammad (SAW) and his community. In the name of Allah, Allah is Great”. After the animal is sacrificed, the Prayer is recited again. “O Allah! accept the sacrifice from me as You accepted from your beloved Prophet Mohammad (SAW) and your friend Hazrat Abraham (AS)”. The sacrifice reflects that we submit ourselves to Allah and the sacrifice on animals is a rehearsal for us to prepare for other sacrifices. The sacrifice is not only confined to our wealth and cattle but it involves everything including our life. We can not please Allah by sacrificing an animal and He is pleased with the Spirit of submission and our obedience to His commands which He has given in the Holy Qur’an. He is pleased with us when we isolate ourselves from the evil doings, immoral actions and other irreligious acts. He wants us to sacrifice our comforts and luxuries and take the path of righteousness which may involve difficulties and hazards. COVID-19 pandemic has struck the world due to rapid human-to-human transmission. whereas there is no evidence for infection among the livestock animals or in general for animals being involved in the transmission of the virus to humans. To prevent its rapid spread, general public should follow guidelines of government, health ministry and Islamic scholar. We should not give any chance COVID-19 to spread on this festival while Eid shopping, performing Eid prayers, buying and sacrificing of animals, social visits etc. The tradition of “Eid Embracing” is likely to increase transmission so it should be avoided for this Eid. Muslims of the world including Kashmiri Muslims are at present facing many social, political, health and other challenges. We can overcome these difficulties Insha Allah with faith and trust in Allah and with unity and solidarity among ourselves. We pray to Allah (SWT) on this great day of Eid Ul-Azha help us follow the path of Prophet Mohammad (SAW) and forgive all our past and future sins. EID MUBARAK !
( The author is an Associate Professor at S K University of Agriculture Sciences & Technology-SKUAST Srinagar and writes regularly on Islamic topics exclusively for Kashmir Horizon)