Significance of Eid el-Kabir
…It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches Him but your piety (Q22: 36-37)
The Eid el-Kabir is the great Festival. It is great because of the merger which it 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). Eid el-Kabir is a story. It is the story of a man and his pious family. It is the story of belief in the season of disbelief.
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, the family established by Prophet Ibrahim (A.S) was a family of faith, piety and perseverance. It 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’ 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, Eid el-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. Thus, on this hallowed day, prepare to observe the Sunnah of our leader. Take a bath before Fajr prayers and put on new clothes (or the best available). It is sunnah for men to use perfume not only on Id days but always. Observe fasting while going to the praying ground. Set out early. Stop on the way to offer seats in your car to your brethren. Do not wait to be asked before you offer such assistance. In low voice, say the glorification of the Almighty. Remember Eid el-Kabir signifies our arrival for a religious duty; it also signals our constant departure to walk with our creator. Somebody asked me “who knows tomorrow?”; a brother intervened and said “nobody does”.” But who owns tomorrow?” he queried again. ‘It is the Almighty’. We all chorused.
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Oladosu is a Professor of Middle Eastern, North African and Cultural Studies, and Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan.
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