Today's Mental Image:
As A Sheep Lead Forth For Sacrifice
The Festival of Sacrifice
[FOR THE YEAR 2009]
Today is Eid al Adha, The Festival of Sacrifice.
Imagine our surprise when our Muslim hurried us into the conference room a little before noon.We had been informed that they would be cooking for us and we always look forward to the wonderful Bosnian dishes. BUT today started off different. Sajida, announce that this was a special day and was clearly excited to tell us about it. At the time it did not register. Today was Eid al Adha. On this day, she explained, Muslims sacrificed a sheep. Now we Christians were doing a double take. This sacrifice was required of all Muslims once per year and, according to Sajida, was a thankoffering for forgiveness of the Muslim's sin.
Now do I have your attention!
Sajida, like many Christians did not have all her
facts straight - modern Islam does not
tie this sacrifice to forgiveness
of sin. But she believed
it did and was
This festival is a very happy time for Muslims for special prayers, visits to family and friends, gifts to children and, of course by food. For many families, it may be one of the few times during the year that they have the opportunity to enjoy meat, and only the best dishes are served.
[In this picture, in the house of the headmaster of the Pikine 3 Poteaux school in Dakar, is in every Muslim family house, the throat of the sheep is slit according to a very precise ritual: a prayer is first said after turning the beast towards Mecca, and then, with a very sharp instrument, an experienced person carries out the sacrifice. The sons watch in order to learn.]
-The boy looks up lovingly at his father, despite the knife in his father’s hand - a knife which, he believes, will soon end his life. A grimace of pain is hidden behind the father’s beard. The father ignores the ethereal whispers that surround him, coming from the very devil himself, urging him to desist. He knows what must be done.
The father looks at the boy, then, slowly, reluctantly, raises his knife to strike the boy down.
The strike is never made. Instead, God, who, in order to test Ibrahahim's faith, had ordered Ibrahim to kill his son, intervenes, sending an animal to be sacrificed in his place. From this day forth, no human sacrifice would ever be made by the people of the book.
And to this day Muslims remember the story of Abraham on Eid Al Adha - the feast of sacrifice. This day starts as, and is above all else is, a day of prayer. The people's joy is like that of our day Christmas.
Dedication to prayer. Remembering the mercies and provision of God. Sacrificing the best and with joy sharing it with others - friends, to strength the ties of love and heartfelt community; and those in need or who at least can share in this day's spirit of generosity. And we wonder why Muslims so often are most critical of our devotion to Christ. Besides Christmas, they see nothing even remotely expressive of our prayer, joy, community, and generosity as identifying corporate acts. Thanksgiving sounds great, but when they participate with us there is little by way of prayer. Less by way of joy and celebration toward God. And even less of generosity to the unfortunate as sacrifice of praise. And Christmas - well what can we say about our Christmas?
So are Muslims better than Christians? No. But Jesus words are true when he warns that the children of this world and more expressive and faithful than we are. May the Spirit of Christ brings us to the transformation he came to institute. May his accusation against God's people the Jews not stand against God's people the Christians. Amen.
FURTHER READING ABOUT EID AL ADHA
[including translations of some of the ritual prayers]
-The day starts very early. Muslims dress in their best clothes, and go to a communal morning prayer.
As Ibrahim did, all financially able Muslims must make a sacrifice (Qurban). Families who are not financially able may get together to pool their money and buy an animal.
The animal sacrificed must be of a certain age and quality. As Muslims make the sacrifice they will recite a prayer:
During the celebration of Eid al-Adha, Muslims commemorate and remember Abraham's trials, by themselves slaughtering an animal such as a sheep, camel, or goat. This action is very often misunderstood by those outside the faith.
Allah has given us power over animals and allowed us to eat meat, but only if we pronounce His name at the solemn act of taking life. Muslims slaughter animals in the same way throughout the year. By saying the name of Allah at the time of slaughter, we are reminded that life is sacred.
The meat from the sacrifice of Eid al-Adha is mostly given away to others. One-third is eaten by immediate family and relatives, one-third is given away to friends, and one-third is donated to the poor. The act symbolizes our 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 strengthen ties of friendship and help those who are in need. We recognize that all blessings come from Allah, and we should open our hearts and share with others.
It is very important to understand that the sacrifice itself, as practiced by Muslims, has nothing to do with atoning for our sins or using the blood to wash ourselves from sin. This is a misunderstanding by those of previous generations: "It is not their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah; it is your piety that reaches Him." (Qur'an 22:37)
The symbolism is in the attitude - a 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 fun or 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. It is this strength of heart, purity in faith, and willing obedience that our Lord desires from us.
The following are the English translations [Muslims call them interpretations becasue they are not in heaven's language the Arabic of Muhammed's day]:
In the name of Allah.
And Allah is the greatest.
O Allah, indeed this is from you and for you.
O Allah accept it from me.
May Allah accept [good deeds] from us, and from you.
Allah is the Greatest.
There is no god worthy of worship except Allah.
Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.
All praise be to Allah. [a statement of thanks, appreciation, and gratitude from the Creature to his Creator]
Allah is Exalted. Glory be to Allah. Far removed is He from anything imperfect associated with Him and from anything unsuitably ascribed to Him.
I seek refuge in Allah from the outcast devil. In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.
O Allah, we beseech Thy help and ask Thy protection and believe in Thee and trust in Thee and we praise Thee in the best manner and we thank Thee and we are not ungrateful to Thee, and we cast off and forsake him who disobeys Thee. O Allah! Thee alone do we serve and to Thee alone do we pray and make obeisance and to Thee we flee and we are quick and we hope for Thy mercy and we fear Thy chastisement, for surely Thy chastisement overtakes the unbelievers.
"Surely Abraham 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)