Exactly why do muslims observe Id al-Kabir?
In the name of the Almighty, the Compassionate, the Merciful.…Thus We have subjected these animals to you so that you may be grateful. It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches Him but your piety (Q22: 36-37)
The ‘Id al-Kabir is the great festival. It is great because of the merger which the occasion usually evolves between the profane and the sacred. This is a festival which predates Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W); it is a festival instituted by the Almighty through the agency of Prophet Ibrahim and Ismail (upon them be peace and blessings of Allah).
Here goes the story, the story of faith and the faithful. He started out as a believer, a lonely believer in the Almighty at a time humanity chose to disbelieve in Him. He started out by asking his mother who his creator and God was. His mother told him it was his father, Azar. Prophet Ibrahim was not contented. The notion that his father was his god appeared jejune to him. So he asked his mother once again: “who is the Creator of my father?”. His mother told him it was Nimrod, the emperor, the king of the time. “If Nimrod is the god of my father, who is the Creator of Nimrod”? Ibrahim queried. But nobody could provide a categorical answer. But Prophet Ibrahim knew the answer. He knew that his Creator is neither a human being nor a Jinn. He knew his Creator had no beginning and no end. He knew that his Creator is both undated and undatable. He knew that his Creator is He who fashioned and created the cosmos out of nothing.
Thus he chose to believe in Him. He chose to believe in the Almighty. But to believe in the Almighty is to make a difficult but extremely rewarding choice. To believe in the Almighty at a time humanity has apostacized is to run the risk of oppression and humiliation. Thus he was tormented and punished by the idolatorous community in which he was born. But he knew that adversity is a precondition or prerequisite for posterity, not the other way round. He knew he would win but he had to endure tribulation. Thus he was thrown into a burning fire but the power to burn was taken away from the latter by the Almighty. He therefore emerged from the inferno unscathed. By coming out of the fire unhurt, Prophet Ibrahim became an eternal model for all pretenders to faith. He became an exemplar in our on-going battle against earthly principalities. Brethren, whenever they gather together to oppress, torment and subject you to untold suffering, the Id al-Kabir takes place every year to remind you of the emptiness of that threat once you stand for and with your Creator.
Brethren, let us quickly fast forward to the family established by Prophet Ibrahim, a family of faith, piety and perseverance. Prophet Ibrahim (a.s) was the patriarch, not a masculinist. Sarah was the wife, the extremely contented and humble mother of Ishaq, from whose womb the Jews emerged. Hajar was also the other wife, mother of Ismail from whose womb Ismail emerged. Prophet Ibrahim’s family featured a man, two women and two sons all of whom were individually destined to impact human history in extremely dissimilar and similar ways. In other words, every action of these characters, while they were on earth, was destined to be a signifier. They were all involved in creating history without actually knowing it; they ‘transacted’ in spiritual-mundane businesses which eventually became models till eternity.
For example dear brethren, Prophet Ibrahim dreamt he offered his son, Prophet Ismail, as sacrifice to the Almighty. He proceeded to inform him of what he saw and the latter, without hesitation, encouraged his father to carry out the divine inspiration without prevarication. Why was Prophet Ibrahim blessed with such a child who was ready to travel with him in the wilderness of spirituality? Why was he blessed with such a faithful child? My teachers suggested it was pay-back-time for him. Yes. Prophet Ibrahim was equally dutiful to his parents; the Almighty therefore would not and could not have blessed him with another son other than a lovely and dutiful one. My brother where and how is your father today? Pause a moment and ask yourself: where and how is your mama now?
Thus in that lonely desert that day, father and son got together to do what the father deemed to be the bidding of the Almighty. He wanted to sacrifice his son; the son wanted to offer himself to the Almighty. Father desired to please the Almighty; the son wanted to curry the favour of the owner of the heavens and earth. Meanwhile the mother of the son, Hajar, occupied a lonely space. In silence, she bore the pain of the inevitable loss of her son.
In silence, she opened up her hearts to the Almighty. Ismail, was the only fruit of her womb. She had hoped he would be alive to take of care of her tomb. But there she was all alone as she submitted her desires and aspirations to the Almighty, the owner of her womb and tomb. She knew He was there watching over her son as he went through the most painful experience in submission and devotion.
Brethren, Id al-Kabir is around to remind us, once again, of how the Almighty usually intervene to turn a situation of hopelessness to that of hope and happiness. Prophet Ibrahim was told: “You have indeed affirmed the dream” and consequently a beautiful ram was given to him as ransom for his son. Thus sacrifice became not an end in itself but a means towards a nobler end: an end to the sacrifice of humans in history, an end to the ascension of pernicious authorities in humans which usually make them go against the will of the Almighty, an end to greed, self-conceitedness, and inane glorification of the ephemeral not the eternal. Sacrifice of animals on this day reminds the servants of the Almighty of their utter weakness in relation to every entity in the universe. Were it not for the WILL and favour of the Almighty, how could we by ourselves control and exert our authority over these sacrificial lambs?
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