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The spirit of Eid-ul-Adha

chathan sevior

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Aug 23, 2017
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“Eid Mubarak, Uncle!”, greeted Omar, the young little son of my neighbour with beaming eyes. As I embraced him lovingly, I spotted a familiar delight in his eyes, a delight that was harmonious with my own feelings. The blissful day was lit up with the radiance of refreshed spirituality that lights up every parched soul on the day of Eid. The sea of worshippers at the Eid-Gah, the sounds of Takbir, Tahmeed and Tahleel (words of praises to God)reverberating  in the entire neighbourhood, the mutuality between complete strangers when they greet one another like brothers enliven one’s soul and add to the spirituality of the day.  What with getting ready for the prayers, dressing up in new clothes, visiting the Eid gah and offering prayers in congregation with family and friends, purchasing a cattle head from the cattle market, slaughtering the animal, distributing a part of the meat to the poor and the needy and carrying the rest to home where it would be further fractionated and distributed amongst close friends and relatives, Omar has a great day ahead. It’s no wonder that a young child of his age would be excited and belated!

Eid al adha (Eid of sacrifice) is the second of the two festivals of the Muslim community. While the feelings of joy and celebration always do exist on any joyous occasion, this Eid is earmarked for nurturing one value in particular- sacrificing one’s will before God. The Eid falls on the 10, 11 and 12 days of the 12th month of Islamic calendar ( Zul-Hijjah). It is in fact a part of the series of rituals that Muslims perform during the Islamic pilgrimage of Hajj and so also is imitated by the Muslims not attending the pilgrimage. The rituals of Hajj are symbolic representations of core Islamic concepts and values which the pilgrim ponders upon throughout the pilgrimage. For instance, a pilgrim heading off for hajj is clad in a garment comprising of two unstitched pieces of white cloth and this attire is reminiscent of his “unstitched shroud” in the grave. The pilgrim is prompted to think as to where his life is headed and is reminded not to forget his ultimate abode amidst the delusions of this life.​

Pilgrims from every nook of the earth, gather and circumambulate the Ka’bah side by side, offer the five daily obligatory prayers “shoulder to shoulder and feet to feet”. At a time when the entire humanity is plagued by notions of hate which are taking a heavier toll of human life than anything else, bringing together a governor  beside of a skin tanned labourer subdues the unholy cries of racial, ethnic or national superiority. It is indeed a magnificent view to just watch people from all backgrounds assemble in rows within minutes and prostate in unison to the sound of the Lord’s glorification. How true was the prophet who legislated, reinforced and reiterated in his sermon on the mount of arafah the most basic principle of today’s democracy- right to equality- in the Arabian desert 1400 years ago when he said: “All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action.”​

While the pilgrim enjoys a higher degree of spirituality than his fellow Muslim at home, the latter too is reminded that ” there are no days in which Good deeds are more acceptable to Allah than in the 10 days of Zul Hijjah”. Also fasting on the day of Arafah is said to expiate the sins of the preceding and the next year.​

Laden with such teachings, Muslims sacrifice an animal (goat sheep, camel etc) and by doing so they again symbolically perform the act of Prophet Ibrahim, who was an embodiment of complete obedience and surrenderance to the will of the Almighty. Ibrahim was commanded in a dream to sacrifice his only son, Ismail, attained at an elderly age. The devout man submits his will to God and heads off to perform as commanded. But God chose otherwise and reinstalls a ram in place of Ismail. Muslims thus commemorate this act on the day of Eid thus enlivening the tradition of their “father” Ibrahim.​

The Holy Quran repeatedly emphasizes the obedience shown by Ibrahim to God’s commandments as Ibrahim emerges successfully through every test that God places for him before honouring him with the title of “leader of mankind”. A Muslim is reminded of his “father” who chooses to be exiled from his home and hometown but refuses the unholy calls to worship other than the one true God. The pure monotheistic words of his “father” resound in his ears “Surely my prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are (all) for Allah, the Lord of the worlds” whilst  running his knife across the neck of the animal. Muslims remind themselves of their submission to God. They do not seek to slaughter animals solely for the sake of satisfying the whims of their tummy but also care for the less privileged members of the society for whom meat is a luxury.​

According to recent statistics, India suffers from two types of malnutrition: undernutrition and overnutrition. According to world hunger report, India ranks 20th globally in terms of mal-nutrition. About 50% of its children below 5 years suffer from stunted growth while a much higher fraction “suffer” from obesity. According to a UNICEF statistic report, half of the deaths in India below 5 years of age are due to undernutrition.​

The other stark side is too obnoxious to hear. India ranks 3rd globally in terms of the number of obese individuals (preceded only by US and china). In the words of Scott fitzgerald, “the rich become richer and the poor beget children” rendering them to remain poor causing the gap to widen further.​

One practical approach to bridge this gap between the two factions is the day of Eid. If the 41 million obese of India were to open their doors and welcome the poor at their tables sharing 1/3 of their sacrificial meat on the day of Eid, the results if not completely would definitely be somewhat fruitful and at least create a healthy social atmosphere.​
Having sacrificed my goat, I still can picture the joy in the weary eyes of the poor couple and their son Omar living in a tumbledown besides my apartment when “I gave them from what my Lord blessed me with”. I realised what Mahatma meant when he said: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
 
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