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Monday, September 25, 2023

Eid al-Kabir: Benedictions and lessons of a great festival


Tomorrow, over two million Gambians will join two billion other Muslims throughout the world to celebrate the festival of Eid al-Adha, known as Eid-el-Kabir. The festival is rooted in scriptural accounts of both the Islamic and Judeo-Christian theology as evinced in Al Qur’an Kareem and the Old Testament respectively.

The scriptural accounts (Qur’an Chapter 37; Genesis Chapter 22) highlight how, in a singular act of obedience to divine command, Prophet Ibrahim took Ishmael (Isaac) his son who he begot in his old age, to a location and prepared him for ritual of immolation as piety to God. As Ibrahim was about to cut the throat of his blindfolded son, a ministration came from the heavens.

Allah conveyed the good tidings stopping the killing and revealed that a ram had been approved by Him as a replacement for the sacrifice. Allah added that Ibrahim had passed the ultimate test of faith and would be amply rewarded. The ram was promptly slaughtered while both father and son returned home in ecstatic joy. This exemplary story of Prophet Ibrahim’s fully manifested intent to sacrifice his most adored son is well known, but many do not bother to imbibe its essence.

The demonstration of this sublime virtue of selfless yield to the divine fiat is a reference point in the relation between God and man. As the embodiment of all knowledge and Wielder of all powers, only Allah is the Guiding Light to the path of redemption. There are enough injunctions in our religious books that would have made the society better if willingly obeyed. But what we often have is a case of selective obedience if not outright disobedience or crooked manipulative interpretations of God’s words to suit our pre-conceived foibles and whims.

Today, God may not require us to kill our children to prove our unconditional submission to His will, but how many are truly eager to comply with even the comparatively easier obligations required of us? The two Holy Scriptures are replete with passages urging virtues of honesty, righteousness, integrity, good neighbourliness and love. But do we practice them? Underscoring the imperative of yielding to God, The Qur’an, in Chapter 4, Verse 125, says: “Who could have a better religion than someone who submits himself completely to God and is a good-doer, and follows the religion of Abraham, a man of pure natural belief?”

Now, if we find it difficult to submit to God in the relatively easier obligations confronting us today, how miserably would we fail if called to make superior sacrifice like Prophet Ibrahim? Superior sacrifice consists of giving away one’s most prized possession.

Indeed, most of the problems facing us as a country and as a people stem from our attitude of superimposing personal preferences and selfish agenda over all other things, including God’s commandments and directives. God says we should not kill; we always find excuses to do so. He says we should not steal; we do for personal aggrandisement. He commands us to show love to our neighbor; instead we engage in basest sadism borne of wanton hatred. Politicians who steal with impunity from the public treasury know that God abhors it, yet rather than give up such selfish pursuits in the light of the Creator’s antipathy to the vice, they expect Him to compromise His standards and overlook the disobedience!

As we prepare to celebrate this year Eid al-Kabir, let us be remind that the essence of this great festival is total submission to the will of God; it is not reckless bingeing and partying; it is not mere storing of mutton in fridges for hedonistic purpose of titillating the palate in drawn-out consumption many weeks after the eid. Neither is it an occasion to flaunt wealth. The demonstrative purpose of Prophet Ibrahim’s sacrifice story is to underscore the virtue of total submission to the will of Almighty Allah. Following His will invariably inspires the spirit of love, charity, caring for others and selflessness.

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