Eid-el-Kabir: Big feast, big lessons in perseverance
The Eid-el-Kabir is the great festival 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).
The narration captures the story of faith and the faithful. Prophet Ibrahim 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 confusing to him. So he asked his mother once again who was the creator of his father. His mother told him it was Nimrod, the emperor, the king of the time. “If Nimrod is the god of my father, who was his own creator?” 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 beyond spatial limitations. 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 apostatized is to run the risk of oppression and humiliation. Thus he was tormented and punished by the idolatrous 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 (Q21V68-70). 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 ongoing battle against earthly principalities.
The lesson here is this: when someone proposes to oppress, torment and subject you to untold suffering, the Eid-el-Kabir takes place every year to remind humanity of the emptiness of that threat once you stand for and with your Creator.
But the greatest lesson is in the character of the family established by Prophet Ibrahim, a family of faith, piety and perseverance. He 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’ spiritual-mundane businesses which eventually became models till eternity.
For instance, 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?
History chronicles that it was pay-back-time for Prophet Ibrahim as he 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.
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 heart to the Almighty. Ismail was the only fruit of her womb. She had hoped he would be alive to take 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.
Thus, Eid-el-Kabir is around today 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 (Q37V101 – 111).
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 the occasion of Eid-el-Kabir reminds people of the world 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 people by themselves control and exert authority over these sacrificial lambs?
Moreover, it should be reiterated that sacrifice of animals as a form of worship is as old as human existence on the surface of the earth.
Indeed, in certain ancient and even contemporary societies, sacrifice of animals is a form of worship. In others, human blood and flesh, despite their incongruity to reason and revelation, are still prized materials being sought after by agents of darkness. The poignant sign of this unwholesome practice is being witnessed nowadays as ritual killings, cultism and occultism which are being elevated as civilised culture of modernity.
Significantly, Eid-el-Kabir became institutionalised to put an end not only to the killing of humans by humans as a form of worship to gods but equally to properly situate the meaning of sacrifice as a positive driver of noble of actions. Most importantly, sacrifice is, among others, meant to commemorate the unparalleled readiness of Prophet Ibrahim (AS) to dedicate his choicest and priceless treasure (his son) to the service of his creator.
Thus, whenever Muslims sacrifice animals, it is usually with the acute awareness that neither the meat nor the blood of the animals reach Him, the Almighty. What He desires from us is to submit ourselves to His will, to “slaughter” our pride, our ego, our lack of contentment and our avarice the same way we are slaughtering the animals in His name.
The Almighty says- “It is not their (animals) meat nor their blood that reaches Almighty; it is your piety that reaches Him: He has thus made them subject to you that ye may glorify the Almighty for His guidance to you: And proclaim the good news to all who do right. (Quran 22: 37).
Eid-el-Kabir as season of acts of worship and sacrifice, the stellar virtues of love and compassion, promotion of kindness and generosity should become template of engagement in order to create enduring peace and harmonious co-existence. Nigeria, and indeed the whole world will be better and much more homely if leaders and followers alike imbibe these virtues and make them a way of life.
Also, Eid-el-Kabir reminds humanity, especially Muslims of the triumph of faith over profanity and the valorisation of spiritualism over materialism. The festival is here to remind us that terrestrial success lies not in material acquisitions but in cooperation by Muslim families in carrying out the will of the Almighty faithfully and sincerely.
The Guardian wishes all Muslim and all Nigerians happy Eid-el-Kabir celebration.
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