NEAR YET SO FAR…
The highlight of the day of Eidul Adhaa is when an animal is sacrificed in commemoration of the sacrifice of Nabi Ebrahim Alaihis Salaam. Year in and year out this is done with great enthusiasm, fervour and zeal by the millions of Muslims worldwide. And sadly this is where it all comes to an abrupt halt. This is the only sacrifice that we as an ummah can identify, relate to and discharge in our lives as muslims. Once our Qurbaani is offered we gloat and beam with pride over the fact that we have fulfilled our obligations as Muslims not even giving the slightest thought to whether this has been accepted or not.
When we look and study the history of Haj and its rituals of which Qurbaani marks the end, we find that almost every ritual bears within it a sacrifice made by Nabi Ebrahim Alaihis Salaam and his illustrious family. When we celebrate and commemorate the life of Nabi Ebrahim Alaihis Salaam and His family we should not be looking at just the one sacrifice that he made for the pleasure of Allah Ta’ala but should look at every sacrifice that dotted his entire life. This is what Qurbaani is in reality for a muslim-a lifetime of sacrifices. This is what made him not just Muslim but gave him even the higher and exalted rank of ‘The Khaleel of Rahman-the bossom friend of Allah Ta’ala.
A muslims life is all about sacrifice from start to end. He lays down for the pleasure of Allah Ta’ala his time, his energies, his wealth and his entire life all for this goal. This is what Qur’aan alludes to in the verse:
“Say O Muhammed ,My Salaah, My sacrifices My life and my death are all for Allah Ta’ala. (Suratul An Aam, verse: 162)
Year in and year out we perform qurbaani, but have we understood the message of Qurbaani? When we place the knife on the neck of the sacrificial animal do we care to ponder on the greater significance of this act of sacrifice- the significance that lies beyond the knife and the sacrificial animal itself?
Qurbaani’s deeper and more profound meaning is that it is a demonstration of total submission to Allah Ta’ala regardless. When a Muslim offers qurbaani he attempts to gain a proximity to Allah Ta’ala unlike before. When a Muslim offers a ‘Udhiya’ this is exactly what he intends to prove. Thus, the ‘Udhiya’ offered signifies that he is a slave of Allah Ta’ala at his best. And that he would not hesitate even for a moment once he receives an absolute command from his Creator to surrender before it, to obey it willingly, even if it be at the price of his life and possessions.
This is exactly what Nabi Ebrahim Alaihis Salaam did.
Apparently, there was no reason why a father should slaughter his innocent son. But, when the command came from Allah Ta’ala, he never questioned the inconceivable command nor did he hesitate to obey it.
This is the true philosophy of ‘Qurbaani.
The sacrifice of Nabi Ismail Alaihis Salaam by Nabi Ebrahim Alaihis Salaam in actual fact is the culmination of a series of sacrifices of an aged father and his young son. A father who before this, underwent a series of tests of devotion and loyalty to Allah Ta’ala. All these he passed with flying colours-when the final and ultimate test was presented to him there was a genuine reason behind it. This test was to be the test of distinction. It was the test, if passed, that would crown all previous tests and would place him on a new pedestal before Allah Ta’ala.
And thus in executing the final command of Allah Ta’a the aged Ebrahim leads the young Ismail to the place of sacrifice. The heavens and earth witness this spectacular demonstration of submission to the One Most High and Exalted as an old and weak father takes his young and vibrant son to be slaughtered. After all Ismail was no ordinary son. He was a boy extra-ordinary. Through him Allah Ta’ala brought mercy to the aged, lonely, almost despondent and anguished father and most trustworthy messenger. For Nabi Ebrahim Alaihis Salaam, Ismail Alaihis Salaam was not just the son of a sonless father. He was the end of a life of waiting, the promised reward of a century of suffering for the cause of Allah Ta’ala, the fruit of his life, the hope after despair and the young, vibrant and bubbly boy of an old and frail father.
And then the blow came in the form of the divine command. "O Ibrahim put the knife to the throat of your son and sacrifice him with your very own hands!" Words would never adequately convey the feelings that were stirred within Nabi Ebrahim Alaihis Salaam at this instruction. In fact it would be impossible to convey in words what it must have meant for Nabi Ebrahim Alaihis Salaam to be commanded by Allah Ta’ala to sacrifice the only joy of his life.
But then this was no ordinary command. It was a command from the Most High, The Supreme Being and it had to be carried out. Nabi Ebrahim Alaihis Salaam, the most humble and ever-obedient servant of Allah Ta’ala crumbled. The great idol destroyer of history was shattering to pieces.
But the choice had to be made sooner or later! O Ebrahim, the options are clear! Choose the love of Allah Ta’ala over the love of Ismail! Choose Prophethood over fatherhood! Loyalty to Allah Ta’ala over loyalty to your family, truth over reality, consciousness over instinct, responsibility over pleasure, duty over right, Tawheed over shirk! The aged Ebrahim gave preference to advancing over remaining. He chose Allah Ta’ala and gave up Ismail!
Nabi Ebrahim Alaihis Salaam attached his heart to Allah Ta’ala, took the Ismail of his life in one hand and the knife of his faith in the other and he walked until his reached the place of sacrifice. The searing pain of Nabi Ebrahim Alaihis Salaam can only be imagined. He wished that the situation could be turned around but then when no instruction to this effect came, he laid his little Ismail on the ground, turning his face away so that his gaze does not meet that of his son lest his heart melts and the command of Allah Ta’ala is broken. With trembling hands and a crushed soul the weak and aged Ebrahim places the knife on the throat of Ismail and begins to cut! The heavens and earth shudder and shake! The angels all cry out in unison, “O Allah have mercy on the aged and weak Ebrahim! O Allah have mercy on the young Ismail! Allah Ta’ala rendered the knife useless on the throat of Ismail but sent a ram from Jannah to be sacrificed in his place! And then the crown of distinction was finally placed on Ebrahim by the words of Allah Ta’ala.
“O Ebrahim, you have confirmed the vision and like this we reward those who do good”(Surah 37, verses104-105)
Ebrahim gained everything and kept Ismail. His was a win- win situation all the way. Not only did he get to keep his dear Ismail but together he secured the title of Khaleelur-Rahmaan. This is what Qurbaani in essence is. We need to give up and sacrifice all that which displeases Allah and in return we get Allah! Allah did not want Ismail to be slaughtered. He wanted Ibrahim to be the slaughterer of Ismail. When he displayed his willingness, the slaughter became useless.
Thus Islam is all about a lifetime of sacrifice not just an annual event restricted to the sacrifice of an animal. Mankind has needs but Allah has no needs. He is Self-Sufficient. Allah Ta’ala tested Ebrahim to the ultimate test and when He saw his unwavering loyalty and command He returned his Ismail back to him unscathed. The only one that bled here and was injured brutally was shaytaan.
The plight of the Ummah globally has become proverbial. We need not elaborate on this. Should we want this to become a distant memory we need to do something.
Without doubt, as we place the knives on the necks of our sacrificial animals, we would experience a sense of nearness to Allah Ta’laa but if this is going to be the only sacrifice we would make for His pleasure then we would be near to him only for that moment but very far at every other time.
This year, as we place the knife on our sacrificial animals and experience a proximity to Allah Ta’ala like no other we also need to make a resolve that from this day on we will sacrifice everything else that invites the wrath of Allah Ta’ala. As long as we are not prepared to do this, this Qurbaani would give us nearness to Allah Ta’ala but only for the time it takes to slaughter. This is the paradox of the Qurbaani’s offered today. The success of the ummah lies in becoming near to Allah Ta’ala and remaining there. The recipe for this is sustained and continued sacrifices throughout life.