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The meaning of sacrifice

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    The meaning of sacrifice

    By Prof. Ziauddin Ahmad

    The Muslim world celebrates with great fervour and enthusiasm the festival of Eid-ul-Azha to pay tributes to Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) for the great spirit of sacrifice shown by him. The objective of this festival is to recall Hazrat Ibrahim's great act of courage to answer Allah's call. The sacrifice of animals on this day is made with a view to attaining communion with Allah.

    The sacrifice of animals - sheep, goats and camels - is in commemoration of the readiness of Hazrat Ibrahim Al-Khalil to offer, as a sacrifice to Allah, his own son, Ismail, and his obedience when he said to his father: "O my father! Do that which thou art commended. Allah-willing thou shalt find me of the steadfast".

    "Then, when they have both surrendered (to Allah), and he had flung him down upon his face, We called unto him: O Abraham! Thou hast already fulfilled the vision. Lo! thus we reward the Good". (37:202:105).

    It cannot be denied that since the dawn of humanity there had been sacrifices. During the time of Hazrat Ibrahim and in the land from where he came sacrifices, including the sacrifice of human beings, were prevalent and the idea behind these sacrifices was the warding off of the evils and calamities. The deity was regarded as jealous, adamant and very strict, who felt happy in sending calamities upon human-beings, therefore he must be propitiated by sacrifices.

    But Hazrat Ibrahim stood aloft and totally rejected these superstitious ideas to whom the Almighty Allah has revealed a higher and nobler truth. He, therefore, was inspired to sacrifice his beloved son, not with any motive of propitiating a jealous deity in order to escape from the consequences of misfortunes. It was his sincere devotion to the will of Allah and His Divine Decree that he had to translate into action. His righteous son, in complete faith of Allah's revelation, accepted His Command and submitted with steadfastness and exemplary patience.

    Allah was pleased with their obedience and faith and substituted a fine sheep for sacrifice. This was a great advance in the attitude towards, and concept of, sacrifice. But still there were people in those days, particularly the Israelite tribes, who persisted in their traditional sacrifice.

    In Islam, sacrifice stands for higher and nobler ideal. It nourishes and elevates the soul. It develops the personality of man and refines his Nafs (inner-self), the very soul of man which is known only to Allah but its potent to work good or harm in this world according to the state of its development. The cultivation of the soul, its fortification and beautification are matters of supreme importance. We have to strive hard to achieve that end.

    How are we to elevate and ennoble our soul? Allah has blessed man with wonderful gifts and talents. To ponder and reflect and observe the vast creation of the Almighty, have firm faith in the Omnipotent and Omniscient and the revelation, He sent down for mankind His Messenger, Muhammad (S.A.W.). He must follow the message and strive strenuously to overcome the glamour and powerful mundane influences which may divert him to reach the goal. And most of these influences are in his own nature.

    This spirit desists him from a broader and wider thinking for the service and amelioration of mankind and the welfare of Allah's creatures - our brothers and sisters. If one realises that right actions come from right thinking and right direction, and control of impulses and emotions, our lives would be completely transformed.

    We would acquire a new power, a new vigour, a new sense of responsibility and the desire and urge to serve and help other people. This awakening will make us conscious to sacrifice our animal appetites, some part of our emotional pleasures something of the comforts of life, some of the advantages of our worldly position - to Allah, to the study and practice of religion (Deen).

    Qari Mohammad Tayyab, a renowned scholar of the subcontinent has beautifully described the essence of sacrifices in Islam: "The ritual known as Sacrifice, too, has a body and a soul. Its body, or form, is the act of slaughtering the animal. Its soul, or the truth about it, is to generate in one's heart the supreme feeling of self-sacrifice. It is evident that this spiritual delight cannot be derived without slaughtering the sacrificial animal.

    There is no doubt that a body is recipient of only such soul as it is capable of holding. Prayer has its soul, charity has its soul, fasting has its soul, pilgrimage has its soul, and sacrifice has its soul, each distinct from the other. In short, to line upto the spirit of a particular ritual or act of worship, it is imperative to adopt the very form that Allah has ordained for it. Thus alone one can reach its soul."

    The spirit of sacrifice is piety and virtue. Then the question arises: if the objective of sacrifice is righteousness, what is the need of slaughtering an animal. It is enough to adopt the spirit of sacrifice, devoid of all external forms. This thinking will give vent to this idea: leave aside all Islamic practices and adopt only the virtue and piety which is their essence. The Divine Book states: "Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may learn self-restraint" (2:183).

    Similar is the Divine Decree for Prayers: "Prayers restrain from shameful and unjust deeds." (29:45).

    Sacrifice (Qurbani) is just an example for performing the highest sacrifice of life in the way of Allah if there need be and submission to His will to follow the lofty ideals and actions at His Command.

    On this day, the Muslims of the world, both of urban and rural areas of different strata of society and climes meet in mosques and Eidgahs donned in new, fine and motley attires and after the prayers will embrace each other with brotherly feelings and return home.

    Then, with great zest and interest, sacrifices of animals will be performed in every home and feasts will be given to friends and relations. Young and old, men and women, rich and poor will also move out to enjoy meals and buy sweets fruits and gifts for children. The day wears a cheerful appearance and becomes a blessing for the entire Umma.

    Dont think "you can" know "you can"
    .::. ﷲ ﻼﺃ ﷲﺃ ﻶ .::.