QURBAANI-Close but not close enough!

QURBAANI-Close but not close enough!

Qurbaani’ is an Urdu and Persian word derived from the Arabic word "Qaruba Yaqrubu" which literally means to draw close to someone or something. The act of sacrificing an animal on the occasion of Eidul Adha is intended to draw us close to Allah Ta’ala, provided it is done with the essence of Qurbaani and not merely ritualistically.

Eidul Adha or Qurbaani is here once again. In its outward form it entails the purchasing of an animal, nurturing it and feeding it till the days of sacrifice and then sacrificing it on the appointed day. This we all understand and do with great zeal and enthusiasm. The millions of animals globally driven to various places of sacrifice and sacrificed amidst great joy and celebration attest to this fact.

However apart from its outward form, like almost every other injunction of Deen, there lies an inner form or what we know better as the essence or spirit of Qurbaani. This we have not yet understood. The worsening plight of the ummah at almost every level clearly attests to this. From the atrocities and brutalities that the Muslim world currently faces to the crime and corruption in our country and ending with the absence of peace and happiness within our very homes, all attest to this fact. Had we understood the essence of Qurbaani and carried out this, our situation would have surely been a different one.

It would be greatly beneficial at this stage to analyse and closely look at Qurbaani and its essence so that we may be able to move from the physical aspect of it and focus more on the spiritual aspect of this great act. Only when we do this will we be able to understand that Qurbaani is beyond just an animal.

To fully understand the essence of Qurbaani all we need to is take a close look at the life of Nabi Ebrahim Alaihis salaam around whom many rituals of Haj, culminating with Qurbaani revolve around. This was a prophet of Allah Ta’ala who was an epitome of sacrifice and hardship all borne amidst great difficulty only for the pleasure of Allah Ta’ala. His sacrifices spanned a lifetime. Thus the act of Qurbaani was not the first sacrifice of his neither was it the last. In fact it was the crowning glory after a series of lifetime sacrifices. Because of this Allah Ta’ala exalted Nabi Ebrahim Alaihis Salaam. In the words of the Glorious Qur’aan:

"Ibrahim was indeed a shining example of virtue, obedient to Allah, ever inclined to Him and he was not of those who set up equals to Allah. He was ever grateful for His favours, We chose him and guided him to a straight path; and We bestowed on him good in this world and in the Hereafter, he will surely be among the righteous." (Suratun-Nahl, verses: 121-123)

A close look at the life of Ebrahim ‘Alayhis Salaam brings to the fore three occasions of unparalleled courage, sacrifice and commitment. These three occasions are not simply historical stories that we rehearse and teach our children or mention in our Eid Khutbahs, but rather they serve as guiding lessons to an Ummah that is one billion strong yet so weak. An ummah that faces an unrelenting political, social and economic onslaught. An ummah whose mothers in Gaza and Syria sit silently in hospital wards hoping against hope that their children will be cured without any medicine. An ummah whose daughters weep in silence after being repeatedly raped in the valleys of Kashmir and the butchering grounds of Burma. An Ummah whose fathers -doomed to living in refugee camps - still hold onto the keys of their houses in Palestine hoping that one day they will return to their homes. And in a nutshell an ummah that is torn asunder wherever we go. We need to go beyond the customary and ritualistic commemoration of the sacrifices of Ibrahim and Ismail, and focus on the lessons their lives offer us. This is the time, more than any other, when we look beyond the sacrificial animal when executing the Ibaadah of Qurbaani. If we have missed the essence of Qurbaani for many years in the past it is never too late. This year our Qurbaani can be different when we heed the real message of Qurbaani.

The first occasion:
Ebrahim Alayhis Salaam was born in what is today known as Iraq. He lived in a society where gambling, intoxication, immorality, oppression, and shirk were the social norm. His message challenged the immorality, the tyranny, and the enslavement of people. He was subjected to torture, abuse and banishment. Eventually, Namrood cast him into the fire, which Allah Ta’ala changed and transformed into a garden of bliss. This was one of his sacrifices.

We as an ummah will also have to brave the heat of tyranny, oppression, and victimisation. The 'Global War on Terrorism' and Islamaphobia which still exists is but a prelude of what is to come. As Muslims we are going to be ostracised, and victimised. We are going to become social lepers. Already 60% of all refugees in the world are Muslim. Are we prepared to follow the Sunnah of the Ambiyaa Alaihimus Salaam and brave the heat of banishment, promiscuity, and cling onto our faith even if it be like holding onto burning ember. The fire of Namrood is going to encompass the Ummah. Commitment to our faith is going to become the single most important challenge. Eid ul Adha is a reminder that Imaan brings with it trials, tests, and hardships. The strength of this Imaan is determined by how we endure and face these.

The second occasion:
Ebrahim Alayhis Salaam was ordered to leave his birthplace, and migrate to Palestine. His wife Hajira Alaihas Salaam eventually gave birth to Nabi Ismail Alayhis Salaam. When he was only a few months old, Allah Ta’ala ordered Nabi Ebrahim Alayhis Salaam to take his wife Hajira and the infant Ismail Alayhis Salaam to the valley of Bakkah (Makkah). In accordance with the Divine Commandment he set out on a long and difficult journey. They finally arrived at the valley, which was hilly without any trees and water. They set up their tents and looked around but nothing was visible except miles and miles of sand. He left his wife and child and began to walk away. She asked: 'O Ebrahim! Are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is neither any person nor anything else (to survive)?' She repeated that to him many times, but he did not look back at her. Then she asked him, 'Has Allah instructed you to do so?' He replied, 'Yes.'...That was enough for Hajira. Now she knew that it was according to the Divine Will. With the same nobility and dignity of faith she said, 'Then Allah will never leave us to perish. Makkah was not an inhabited place yet. The food and water that Ebrahim provided them with were exhausted. She started searching for water running back and forth through the valley between the hills of Safa and Marwah. Eventually the Zam Zam gushed forth. During that time, the tribe of Jurhum, passed by the valley, they saw birds flying. Realizing that water must be available, they searched and discovered Hajira and Ismail. They sought permission to settle there. Thus, the desolate valley of Makkah became an inhabited area. This was another sacrifice of Nabi Ebrahim Alaihis salaam.

Our challenge is to develop the conviction, and the yaqeen, that Allah is The ONLY Provider, and The ONLY Protector, no matter what the circumstances are. Our challenge is to develop unshakable belief in Allah Ta’ala within our homes, that our wives and children understand the purpose of their lives and would be willing to sacrifice everything, solely for His pleasure.  Our mothers and sisters need to become like Hajirah who stood firm in her belief in Allah Ta’ala and kept her family together against all odds. Our children need to become like Ismail who was prepared to lay down his life even at a tender age. Eid ul Adha requires that we put our faith in Allah Ta’ala under a microscope, it requires us to re-examine our conduct as fathers and husbands and mothers and wives. Is Islamic orientation taking place in our homes? Do we enjoy the confidence, trust and loyalty of our spouses and children? Are we prepared to brave the pangs of hunger, thirst and isolation in our quest for Divine pleasure?

The third occasion:
Allah Ta’ala tested Ebrahim Alayhis Salaam again by instructing him to sacrifice his twelve-year old son. On the tenth of Dhul Hijjah, the father and his beloved son walked side by side. Their purpose was to carry out the orders of their Rabb. Nothing was dearer to them than carrying out the command of Allah Ta’ala. Eventually Allah Ta’ala sent down a ram that was slaughtered. Today we slaughter in commemoration of Ebrahim’s sacrifice but have forgotten all his other sacrifices which is the need should we wish for a better ummah.

The animal we sacrifice is the symbol of our nafs, the ego, and the lower impulse within each and every one of us, which drives us towards acts of self-gratification. Our greatest enemy is our nafs. The sacrifice is a symbolic statement of unquestioned obedience, unyielding love and unwavering faith in our Rabb!

Eid ul Adha therefore demands that we prepare to be consumed by the fire of Namrood, that we dedicate ourselves to the tarbiyyah of our wives and children, and above all we place the sword of denial on our desires as we sacrifice our animals crying out: “Verily my prayer, my sacrifices, my very life and death are for Allah the Rabb of the worlds.” (Suratul An’aam, verse 162)

This is exactly what the essence and spirit of Qurbaani is. The brand of Qurbaani of Nabi Ebrahim Alaihis Salaam and his family is what is needed. It is only this brand of sacrifice that made Nabi Ebrahim Alaihis Salaam worthy of the appellation of Khaleelur Rahmaan (The Bosom friend of Allah Ta’ala) conferred by Allah Ta’ala Himself. And it will only be this brand of sacrifice that will bring us closest to Allah Ta’ala. Until we don’t change our brand of sacrifice which is restricted to an animal, our situation will remain lost! The lofty position that this ummah once enjoyed will remain only in the history books of Islam. In fact we will continue to sink in the abysses of despair, persecution and degradation.

Sacrificing an animal will surely bring us close to Allah Ta’ala but not close enough to deliver and rescue us from our miserable, pitiable and heart-rending plights that we face as an ummah.

The knife needs to go not only on the throats of the animals around us but also most importantly, the animals within us. Only this will give us the closeness to Allah Ta’ala which is what He expects. Otherwise it would remain just an outward act devoid of essence and spirituality. We would be close but not close enough to warrant the eradication of all our troubles as an Ummah and return to us the glorified title of Khairul Ummam, the best of nations.

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