by Syed Abuzar Rayees
“The flesh does not reach Allah, nor does their blood, but the piety from you reaches Him” (Al-Haj-V-37). The Eidul-Azha is only a few days away, and the sacrificial animals are reportedly reaching the various cities of our South Asia. The faithful are preparing to observe this tradition in the memory of the great sacrifice offered by the worthy father Hazrat Ibrahim (AS) of his worthy son Hazrat Ismail (AS). The Almighty, generous and benevolent as He is, while accepting the sacrifice, directed the boy’s replacement by a ram. In fact, it was actually the piety of the father and son that was the accepted offering.
At Hajj, which is mandatory for every physically and financially able Muslim at least once in a lifetime, the animal sacrifice forms a part of the Hajj ritual. Blessed are those who perform the Hajj, spending much money and suffering physical exertion solely to please God. Hardly any Hajji offering an animal sacrifice thinks of the quality and weight of the flesh. In fact, they don’t really even view their animals. Their minds are occupied with the love of God, the memory of the total submission to His will by Ibrahim (AS), and Ismail (AS). Surely their piety will reach Him who is fully aware of what is in their hearts and mind.
Now, let us turn to ourselves in South Asia and do some soul-searching – just a little is enough to reveal the truth. For us, it is a day for fun and amusement. Days in advance, we, the faithful, start making the rounds of various Bakra Pirhis for the best bargain. Even those among us of very modest means don’t lag behind and wouldn’t hesitate to ask for advances on our salaries or even borrow money. After the qurbani, the flesh is apportioned into three parts; one is for self-consumption, and one is sent to friends and relatives (who fully reciprocate the gesture; thus, the balance is maintained). The third part is meant for poor, hungry people, of whom there is no dearth in our land of the pure, but who really need bread for a few days rather than meat for just one day, the immediate consumption of which becomes a problem for them.
Even the meat that is bought for oneself, which would normally be consumed in a few weeks, is gluttonously consumed in just a few days. The same meat is very methodically evaluated, and pieces are put aside for stews, kebabs, grills, etc. Is it not a fact that many of us who don’t say our compulsory five-times-a-day prayers nor keep one month of Ramadan fasting are very particular about this ritual of meat-eating? As suggested earlier, if we do just a little soul-searching, many of us will find ourselves guilty of nurturing lies in our souls. There is hardly any piety folded up in this outright slaughtering of animals, which we falsely call a “sacrifice.” How this lofty idea of the great sacrifice is being polluted by our coarse hands!
Later on, the skins are collected by volunteers of the various social, religious, and even political groups, some of which are doing a really good job. Let us ponder a little at this stage. If so much philanthropic work can be done just through the sale of skins, how much work could be done if the faithful would donate the cost of their proposed sacrificial animals? With such a fund, the various honest charitable institutions in every village, town and city could build houses for the poor or add to the existing ones in the name of Ibrahim (AS) and Ismail (AS), which would be a far better way of paying homage to them. Remember that only one’s piety reaches Him.
We can still rejoice and have fun, but with much less expense, by buying a little more than the usual daily meat and having one or two extra dishes, thus avoiding waste and delivering the money we saved to the most appropriate places.
By the way, animal flesh is not an essential ingredient of rejoicing. We Muslims of the subcontinent can make ourselves happy even without that. The good examples are the other religious festivals of equal importance, like Eidul Fitar (popularly known as Mithi Eid, celeberated at the end of the holy month of Ramdhanul Mobarak); Eid-e-Miladun Nabi (birthday of the holy prophet Mohammed p.b.u.h.) and Shabe Birr-at, just to name a few. On all these three occasions, sweet vermicilles, sweet meats and halva, respectively, are prepared in many different varieties and distributed. There is hardly any mention of beef, meat, or even smaller creatures like chickens or turkeys.
"There is not an animal that lives on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but they form communities like you. Nothing have we omitted from the Book, and they all shall be gathered to their Lord in the end" - Al-Qur'an, 6:38
"Whoever is kind to the creatures of God, is kind to himself." - The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), narrated by Abdallah bin Amru in Bukhari and Muslim collections