Religious Importance of Eidul Azha -By Muhammad Jamil

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Haj is one of the five pillars of Islam, and occupies important position in ibada, as it is obligatory on the part of every Muslim to perform haj provided he can afford it and physically able to do so. According to hadith, Prophet Muhammad said: “Islam means that you openly state that there is no god except Allah, and Muhammad (SAW) is the Messenger of Allah; establish the prayer, pay Zakah; fast during the month of Ramadan and offer the Haj at the House of Allah if you can afford journey to it” (Muslim). A day after congregations at Arafat, hajaj offer animals’ sacrifice to commemorate Ibrahimi sunnah, which the Prophet (SAW) promulgated as per direction by Allah to keep it in practice. Historical evidence suggests that the pagan Arabs who, in spite of having forgotten most of the teachings of the Ibrahim, have been practicing Haj throughout their history as a religious duty. Muslims were however enjoined upon by Allah to follow the sunnah of Prophet Ibrahim.
At the end of the Haj (annual pilgrimage to Mecca), Muslims throughout the world celebrate Eid-ul-Azha. During the Haj, Muslims remember and commemorate the trials, tribulations and triumphs of the Prophet Ibrahim. The Qur’an describes Prophet Ibrahim: “Surely Ibrahim was an example, obedient to Allah, by nature upright, and he was not of the polytheists. He was grateful for Our bounties. We chose him and guided him unto a right path. We gave him good in this world, and in the next he will most surely be among the righteous” (Qur’an 16:120-121). One of Ibrahim’s main trials was to face the command of Allah to sacrifice his only son with his own hands. Upon hearing this command, he prepared to submit to Allah’s will. When he was all prepared to do it, Allah revealed to him that his sacrifice had already been fulfilled and accepted. He had shown that his love for his Lord superseded all others, and that he would lay down his own life or the lives of his dear ones in order to submit to God.
The religion brought by a Prophet always contained an ideology to arouse the slumbering masses to change the status quo, but with time it lost its revolutionary appeal and became a customary or classical religion with the distortional manoeuvrings of the clergy, the reflections of customs and traditions and the instinctive inclination of the people towards dogmas and doctrines than essence and spirit. The Qur’an however re-established this Ibrahimi worship in its original form and said: “And whosoever has the means and is physically able to do so must visit the House on pilgrimage as duty to God. Whosoever denies would be embracing kufr” (Al Qur’an ). In the holy Qur’an, where Allah instructs Ibrahim to invite people to come to Haj, said: “So that they may witness things that are of benefit to them” (al-Haj 22: 28). Hence, the real blessings of Haj can only be experienced by those who actually perform it.
Abul Aala Maudoodi, a great Islamic scholar described haj in these words: “One could see people from countless communities and countries converging on one ‘Centre’ through a thousand and one routes – from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. Their faces are different; their colors are different; their languages are different; but on reaching a frontier near the ‘Centre’ all change the varied clothes they are wearing for a simple uniform of the same design. This single, common uniform of Ihram distinguishes them as the army of one single King. It becomes the insignia of obedience and service to one Being; all are strung in one cord of loyalty and are marching toward one ‘Capital’ to file past their ‘King”. Unfortunately, some Muslims try to impose their version of Islam which is at variance with the great majority of the Muslims. Some misguided elements however use force and resort to heinous acts forcing others to accept their version of Islam.
Islam is against atrocious forces. It does not in any case allow acts of terrorism in any form or manifestation, and strictly prohibits shedding blood of innocents. At this point in time when Afghanistan is under occupation of the US and its allies; people of Kashmir and Palestine are victims of the occupiers who are perpetrating atrocities on them, they cannot celebrate Eid with real zeal and fervour. In Pakistan people are living in trepidation and fear from terrorists and suicide bombers who have wreaked havoc in the country. Thousands of people and members of the security forces have been killed by them.  Furthermore, economic crisis has made it difficult for a great majority of people to keep their body and soul together; how a large majority living below the poverty line can celebrate Eid? They cannot afford to buy new clothes and new pair of shoes; what to speak of buying a sacrificial animal.
The act of sacrificing animals and giving away the meat to others symbolizes willingness to give up things that are of benefit to us or close to our hearts, in order to follow Allah’s commands. It also symbolizes our willingness to give up some of our own bounties, in order to help those who are in need. We recognize that all blessings come from Allah, and we should share with others especially the needy. It is very important to understand that the sacrifice itself, as practiced by Muslims, has nothing to do with atoning for our sins. “It is neither the meat nor the blood (of the sacrificial animals) that reaches Allah; it is your piety that reaches Him” (Qur’an 22:37). The symbolism is in the willingness to make sacrifices in our lives in order to stay on the straight path. Each of us makes small sacrifices, giving up things that are important to us. A true Muslim, one who submits his or herself completely to the Lord, is willing to follow Allah’s commands completely and obediently.
“They question thee (O Muhammad), what they shall spend. Say: That which ye spend for good (must go) to parents and near kindred and orphans and the needy and the wayfarers. And whatsoever good ye do, lo! Allah is aware of it” (Al Quran 2: 215). Islam heralded the end of the ancient world of oppression, inequality and injustice, of pride and privileges based on distinctions of race, colour and creed. More than fourteen hundred years ago, Islam gave the message of peace, justice, human dignity, reason and light. Unfortunately, Islam has not been depicted in proper perspective for about thousand years so as to appeal to the intellect of contemporary leaders or to attract the raw senses of the masses. Its dogmatic aspects and rights of Allah have been emphasized to the neglect of haqooq-ul-ibad (rights of people) with the result that its followers lost the exuberance to receive conscious guidance, though Islam is embedded in their souls and thoughts.