By Zahra Nayyar
When I think of the month of Dhul Hijjah, I immediately envision ihram-clad Muslims circling the majestic Kaabah and the echoes of the Labaik. Then it hits me, another year and my desires to behold this amazing experience in person remain incomplete. Many of us feel a kind of anguish, a deep yearning to visit the House of Allah (SWT) but cannot for one reason or another. It becomes easy for us to think that the efforts that are required of the pilgrims are not required from us and so we tend to take it easy. But, this year, I took the time to reflect upon what this month means to me and one word resounded in my mind loud and clear; sacrifice. This is one of the main themes of this season of worship that is upon us.
We commemorate the awe-inspiring sacrifice of Ibrahim (AS), whose life is an exemplary account of sacrifice. But there is one particular sacrifice that Allah (SWT) accepted from him and that is when asked to sacrifice his own son, he and his son both were satisfied upon this command from Allah (SWT). They proceeded to fulfill it and as soon as the knife came down upon young Ismael’s neck, Allah (SWT) pleased with their commitment to Him, replaced Ismael with a ram.
I’ve noticed that when certain religious rituals are part of our practice since our childhood, we tend to see them as merely an event or celebration. We forget their significance. It happens every year and I sincerely hope some of us can stop for a few moments as we are reading this, and reflect upon what this month of sacrifice means for us sitting at home. We have bought an animal to sacrifice like we do every year, but is that really it? Does that fulfil the responsibility that Allah wants us to take? Let’s see what Allah has said about this sacrifice:
“And the camels and cattle We have appointed for you as among the symbols of Allah ; for you therein is good.”
And the verse after it:
“Their meat will not reach Allah, nor will their blood, but what reaches Him is piety from you. Thus have We subjected them to you that you may glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and give good tidings to the doers of good (Muhsineen)”
[Surah Al-Hajj, 22:36-37]
I learnt from these verses that the cattle and livestock that eventually will be sacrificed in a few days’ time are merely a symbol from Allah (SWT), a point to focus on, to remind ourselves of Ibrahim (AS)’s ultimate sacrifice. As we reflect upon this sign, we need to ask ourselves what am I really sacrificing this Eid? I am sure you realize I don’t just mean the animals because Allah says from this whole labour-intensive process of sacrifice, what really reaches Him is your Taqwa.
As Muslims we know the very essence of Taqwa is to have an ever-present awareness that Allah is always aware of us, watching over us night or day. It is a feeling that leads us to prevent ourselves from sins and correct our intentions. But, there is a catch; often in a flurry of emotions and logistical aspects of this Eid, it is this very feeling that is sacrificed if you will, when it shouldn’t be. What stops you from submitting your will to Allah’s will? Do we hold someone or something more beloved than Allah (SWT)? Maybe the verse below helps you identify your dearly beloved/s:
Say, [O Muhammad], “If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your relatives, wealth which you have obtained, commerce wherein you fear decline, and dwellings with which you are pleased are more beloved to you than Allah and His Messenger and jihad in His cause, then wait until Allah executes His command. And Allah does not guide the defiantly disobedient people.”
[Surah Tawbah 9:24]
This verse is a wake-up call for when this Dunya compels us to love it more than we love Allah (SWT) and His Messenger (PBUH). When I read this verse, I realised the things I love that hold me back from submitting to Allah (SWT). It is my bed. The warm comfortable bed that beckons me especially at Fajr, sometimes I will the battle long enough to pray on time and other times I don’t. It is my home, which I value more than my commitment to charitable causes and volunteering for the sake of Allah’s Deen. It is my mobile phone, which often removes me from my responsibilities to Allah and my family. It is really hard admitting this, maybe you’re judging me or not. But I am taking myself to account first. Because this verse reminds me that one day I can be amongst those wretched ones who will beg and plead to Allah for just one more moment upon this earth to say ‘La illaha illa Allah‘. The fear, the anguish of that moment rests heavily on my heart.
The time for sacrifices is now when they are not in vain. I truly feel Allah prepares us for different levels of ibadah (worship). I understand this now because I see the level of Taqwa Ibrahim (AS) had and as a result, his test was even greater than any of us can unflinchingly even imagine for ourselves. So, the greater the level of Taqwa the greater the test and ultimately the greatest of joys await all these sacrifices; Jannah. The comfort of the highest level will be part of our daily life there because let’s face it when it comes to sacrifices of any kind the first thing you have to leave is your comfort zone. ‘Nothing grows in the comfort zone’, a quote I read somewhere and it’s true. We as Muslims cannot develop without passing through Allah (SWT)’s trials.
So, while we take Eid as a means of rejoicing and happiness I continually look within myself an ask; who or what am I sacrificing? I also remind myself that it’s only the 10 blessed days of Dhul Hajjah for which I am required to sacrifice. Eid-ul-Adha is not just a celebration. It is a signal of the sacrifices we are required to make in our lives to attain the ultimate goal that is Allah (SWT)’s pleasure in the afterlife.
I cannot hope to achieve any worthy good deeds that will benefit me in this life and the next if I don’t choose to sacrifice my beloved things for Allah. Without this sacrifice, I would return to my old ways and be complacent that Allah (SWT) does not require much from such a mediocre person like me. But the signs are clear as day to me; if you and I have reached this month of sacrifice, even if we weren’t destined for Hajj, Allah (SWT) knew we are capable of sacrificing much more than we choose to do or admit to even ourselves. He is Al- Aleem (The All-Knowledgeable). That is perhaps why I can imagine Ibrahim (AS)’s) heart was content with the command from Allah when he prepared to sacrifice Ismael (AS). So this in these ten days of Dhul-Hijjah, I ask myself with a little more determination; “What are you sacrificing?”