COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 31 July) — Except that it is a non-working holiday, I have never given much thought about the Muslims’ celebration of Eid’l Adha; What it meant and the shared root it has with the Christian faith. This year, however, my peacebuilding journey led me to Islamic Relief Worldwide-Philippines (IRW-Philippines) where this festival is seriously observed with a humanitarian distribution of qurbani meat to less fortunate members of the community.
The story of Eid’l Adha revolves around the sacrifice that Abraham, the prophet of both Christians and Muslims, was commanded to do by the Creator. Abraham, who predates the advent of Jesus Christ and Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.) was asked by God to offer his favored son Ishmael as a sacrifice. Religious scholars interpreted this as a test of Abraham’s obedience to Allah. In the tradition of the Christians, Abraham’s son who was offered as a sacrifice was Isaac. Generally, both Muslims and Christian scholars hold the same interpretation of why this sacrifice was asked of Abraham.
Abraham followed the Creator’s command. When he was about to slaughter his son in the altar at Mt. Mt. Moriah, the Creator intervened in the last minute and spared Abraham’s son. In his stead, a ram was sacrificed.
My introspection of this story is that Eid’l Adha is a dialogue between men and women and the Almighty; a discourse of human’s faith on one hand, and God’s great love and mercy, on the other hand.
The story illustrates that humans, as represented by Abraham and his son, proved their faith and obedience to the Creator by willingly offering the life of his son. The Creator, on the other hand, demonstrated great love and mercy by calling-off the offering of a human life.
From that point of the religious history up to this day, this story is commemorated. For Muslins, it has become a Sunnah (The Way of the Prophet) in the form of the Eid’l Adha or the Festival of Sacrifice.
Ustadz Montaser Paki, during a “Mashwara (Collective Discussion) on the Importance of Qurbani in the Present Times,” said that the Sunnah is obligatory on condition of the individual’s capacity to do the sacrifice. More importantly, it specifies what qualifies for a Qurbani meat on this day, which includes that the animal for sacrifice should be healthy and without any bit of infirmity like a broken horn for cows and the likes. The Mashawara was organized by IRW-Philippines last July 30th, a day prior to the Eid.
For me, the thoughts shared by Ustadz Paki, executive assistant of the Bangsamoro Grand Mufti Abu Huraira Udasanof, was a reminder that the Creator demands and deserves only the purest of sacrifice, the standard of which is Ismael (or Isaac in the Christian tradition), the favored son of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham). The purest of sacrifice is demanded from us every day of our lives and in everything that we do. It is demanded, especially so, from the leaders of the country like it was demanded from Prophet Ibrahim, the father of nations.
In the same vein, Eid’l Adha is not just about the sacrifices of humans. It tells us about God’s great love and mercy when the Almighty spared Ismael by placing a qurban in his place. This speaks about a merciful God. That mercy, for me, is an assurance that God will not cause humans pain; that God does not relish on a human sacrifice that brings pain. Thus, in time of Covid19 pandemic and the senseless violence and oppression from the hands of men and women, we have the opportunity to celebrate Eid’l Adha because we have been spared; because the Almighty has protected us with his mercy and love.
While we give qurbani meat to our brothers and sisters, friends and strangers, remember that the qurbani is meant for subhanahu wa-ta’ala, for God.
Eid Mubarak in remembrance of the adha, my friends.
Finally, let me say that I am not an expert on the Bible nor the Qur’an, thus I ask for forgiveness if the thoughts expressed here may be contrary to what is commonly believed.
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Jules L. Benitez is the Peacebuilding Project Manager of Islamic Relief Worldwide-Philippines. The thoughts expressed here are his own and may not necessarily reflect that of the organization)