As a Christian, I grew up on the stories from the Old and New Testaments. There is this story in the Old Testament of Abraham’s sacrifice to God.
The Jews, the Christians and the Muslims – all claim that Abraham is their forefather… the founder of their religion… or, their Prophet. His sacrifice to God – of his only son – is revered and remembered by all these faiths.
Today, the Muslims – all over the world – celebrate ‘Eid’… in remembrance of Abrahams’ (Prophet Ibraheem’s) sacrifice of his only son.
There is a dharga close to our housing complex. On the day of Ramzan or Eid, it is a sight to behold: a sea of worshipers, all dressed in immaculate white, march towards one direction – the dharga/the mosque… as the prayers are said on the loudspeakers… It is all, so beautifully scheduled… the direction the faithful face, the position they take, the reverence… the synchrony… and, the hope. For years, I have been beholding this sight… and, each time, I do it, it makes me feel glad that there is so much in common in our prayers, our hopes and our beliefs. Yes, they call us a Hindu a Muslim a Christian or a Sikh. We all have come from the same source, the same stream… we all will be going back to the same stream. All our prayers need us to be on our knees… all our hopes need us to look unto the heavens… Our angels and Satan are there to perform the same jobs: to draw us unto God or to tempt us away from Him. The promise of the Heaven or the warning of the Hell… all the same. Very same.
So, as my Muslim brothres and sisters celebrate today ‘Eid al-Adha’ – the Feast of the Sacrifice – I felt within me an urge of going back to the source: the story of Abraham, which, as a small child, they had told me in my Sunday-school. For a change, I wanted, today, the ‘Great story-teller of our times’ – ‘Wikipedia – to tell me the story of Eid… the Great Sacrifice, in whose remembrance, this day is observed. Here I take you:
One of the main trials of Abraham's life was to face the command of God to devote his dearest possession, his only son. Upon hearing this command, he prepared to submit to God's will. During this preparation, Satan (Shaitan) tempted Abraham and his family by trying to dissuade them from carrying out God's commandment, and Ibrahim drove Satan away by throwing pebbles at him. In commemoration of their rejection of Satan, stones are thrown at symbolic pillars signifying Satan during the Hajj rites.
When Ishmael was about 13 (Abraham being 99), God decided to test their faith in public. Abraham had a recurring dream, in which God was commanding him to offer his son as a sacrifice – an unimaginable act – sacrificing his son, which God had granted him after many years of deep prayer. Abraham knew that the dreams of the prophets were divinely inspired, and one of the ways in which God communicated with his prophets. When the intent of the dreams became clear to him, Abraham decided to fulfill God's command and offer Ishmael for sacrifice.
Although Abraham was ready to sacrifice his dearest for God's sake, he could not just go and drag his son to the place of sacrifice without his consent. Ishmael had to be consulted as to whether he was willing to give up his life as fulfillment to God's command. This consultation would be a major test of Ishmael's maturity in faith, love and commitment for God, willingness to obey his father and sacrifice his own life for the sake of God.
Abraham presented the matter to his son and asked for his opinion about the dreams of slaughtering him. Ishmael did not show any hesitation or reservation even for a moment. He said, "Father, do what you have been commanded. You will find me, Insha'Allah (God willing), to be very patient." His mature response, his deep insight into the nature of his father’s dreams, his commitment to God, and ultimately his willingness to sacrifice his own life for the sake of God were all unprecedented.
Abraham could not bear to watch his son die so he covered his eyes by a blindfold. When he cut Ishmael's throat and removed the blindfold, he was astonished to see that Ishmael was unharmed and instead, he found a dead ram which was slaughtered. Abraham had passed the test by his willingness to carry out God's command.
This is mentioned in the Quran as follows:
"O my Lord! Grant me a righteous (son)!" So We gave him the good news of a boy, possessing forbearance. And when (his son) was old enough to walk and work with him, (Abraham) said: O my dear son, I see in vision that I offer you in sacrifice: Now see what is your view!" (The son) said: "O my father! Do what you are commanded; if Allah wills, you will find me one practicing patience and steadfastness!" So when they both submitted and he threw him down upon his forehead, We called out to him saying: O Ibraheem! You have indeed fulfilled the vision; surely thus do We reward those who do good. Most surely this was a manifest trial. And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice. And We perpetuated (praise) to him among the later generations. "Peace and salutation to Abraham!" Thus indeed do We reward those who do right. Surely he was one of Our believing servants.
As a reward for this sacrifice, God then granted Abraham the good news of the birth of his second son, Is-haaq (Isaac):
And We gave him the good news of Is-haaq, a prophet from among the righteous.
Abraham had shown that his love for God superseded all others: that he would lay down his own life or the lives of those dearest to him in submission to God's command. Muslims commemorate this ultimate act of sacrifice every year during Eid al-Adha.
“Insha’Allah” means ‘God willing’.
Every time, my Muslim brother or sister says it with their unmatchable grace, I look unto the Heavens and smile…
“There can be only one God in the Heaven,”
I feel it even stronger,
“there can be only one sacrifice
to appease my God:
to give Him what I hold closest to my heart.”
And, that shall, eternally, remain the toughest… as it was for Abraham, thousands of years ago!
“Eid Mubarak to all my brothers and sisters.”…
“All,” I said.
Pics.: Roopa Sushil