Muslim and Arab nations are celebrating Eid al-Adha, may Allah return it many times with all its blessings. It is the anniversary of sacrifice, and a vivid representation of Islam’s message since Allah created earth and Adam to populate it and worship Him. The message of Islam is the same message carried by all messengers and prophets, even if they lived in different places and times, and spoke different languages. Difference is an everlasting rule of the universe, that’s why Allah the Almighty tells us, “That (we) may get to know one another.”
This is the origin of our lives, but wars, conflicts, animosity and hatred among sons and daughters of Adam have originated due to envy and greed. The rule is to live in harmony and submit to Allah, the Lord of all worlds. No wonder, Allah quoted Prophet Abraham describing us as the ones who submit (which means “Muslims” in Arabic). The three Scriptures, Torah, Gospel and Quran, are mainly the embodiment of this submission to the Lord of the worlds, the One, the Sustainer, with whom we should not worship any other gods. We should believe in the transcendent Creator whom we should worship with sincere devotion, even to the dismay of the disbelievers.
Definitely, the life story of Abraham (Peace be upon him) is not narrated for entertainment, but for the moral lesson it provides for people of reason. This story cannot be a fabrication. Allah chose Abraham for the title Al-Khalil (Allah’s close friend) because of his honest resolve. Abraham kept his unwavering call for the truth at any price. He faced the gravest afflictions with patience and devotion to communicate Allah’s message. His trials were multiple in time, place and faith. In his faith, he was tested with the idea of worshipping the sun and planets until they faded by Allah’s will, so he cried that he would not be guided unless Allah led him to the truth.
Abraham was also afflicted with being thrown in fire, which could not burn him and remained cold and calm for him. Allah was able to put it out for him, but Abraham was destined to be thrown into the smoldering fire to show how his belief was unwavering. Allah made it cold and calm for his faith and resolve.
Abraham was also afflicted with the migration from his homeland in Ur to Harran, then to the Levant, then to Egypt, then to the land of Canaanites. He then headed south to Hejaz where he faced his major affliction when he had to leave his only son Ismail, who was born to old Abraham from Hajar, the Egyptian handmaiden of his barren wife Sarah. It was a great sacrifice by Sarah to offer her husband to marry her maid in order to bring him an offspring who would inherit prophecy.
Prophet Abraham had to leave Ismail and Hajar in the barren wilderness. It was an unmatched sacrifice by Hajar who had deep belief in Allah’s wisdom that He would never abandon her and her son. When her husband told her it was Allah’s order, her eternally famous reply was, “Allah will not forsake us” to testify to her strong faith. Then, the Zamzam well would spring to attract birds and convoys to where Hajar and Ismail were. The tribe of Jurhum would ask Hajar’s permission to reside nearby, and the tribe of Amalek would do the same until the barren wilderness would become a strategical location for convoys to pass by.
Another test Abraham had to go through was to raise the foundations of the House (Kaaba), when he supplicated to Allah, “Our Lord, accept [this] from us. Indeed You are the Hearing, the Knowing.” Then the most difficult test came when Allah ordered Abraham to sacrifice Ismail. He went to obey the order, and when Satan came to dissuade him, Abraham stoned him. It was one of a series of sacrifices that Al-Khalil had to give. Allah sent a big sheep as a ransom to Ismail, who was true to his promise and would become a prophet for Muslim nation and an embodiment of sacrifice. Allah does not look for the flesh or the blood being sacrificed, but the piety in our hearts, which is the most comprehensive meaning of sacrifice. Prophet Abraham would announce, “Indeed, my prayer, my rites of sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah,” so Muslims would follow the rites of their father Abraham.
Life was prolonged for the grandchildren of Ismail so they lost their way. Amr Ibn Luhay brought idols to Kaaba and ordered people to worship them in order to bring them closer to Allah. However, the rituals of Hajj continued and were inherited by the grandchildren of Ismail a generation after the other.
Quraysh tribe, especially Abd Manaf clan, gained high profile as they were responsible for Rifada, Hijaba, Siqayah and all maintenance and services provided for pilgrims. It was not surprising that seeds of animosity were sowed between Banu Hashem and Banu Abd Shams, when the later was excluded from serving pilgrims. That was the main root of the great sedition that took place after the assassination of Uthman Ibn Affan and the pledge of allegiance to Ali Ibn Abi Talib, as a representative of Banu Hashem. Mu'awiya, of Banu Abd Shams, refused this pledge of allegiance just to prevent Banu Hashem from acquiring both glories of prophecy and caliphate. Banu Abd Shams were people of worldly life and politics while Ali was one of the people of religion. At that time, politics was on the rise, while religion was backsliding, so Mu'awiya prevailed leaving an incurable wound on the Sunnah and Shia divisions against a political backdrop with a philosophical flavor.
As years go by, the meaning of sacrifice as represented by Prophet Abraham remains evident and maintains a value that encourages self-denial and submission to Allah, who sent Abraham and other prophets to establish Allah’s religion as the savior of justice across the ages.
Philosophy attempted to fulfill this role, as philosophers imagined Utopias and visualized roads for justices. When powerful followers of these bright philosophical views came to apply their doctrines, injustice and corruption prevailed in the name of justice, piety and truth. On the other side, faith succeeded in what philosophy failed to do, because faith is from Allah who created our souls while philosophy is the result of reasoning by people who have changing minds and don’t perceive but material values. They can not perceive how Abraham was Hanif nor understand his sacrificial faith which Muslims observe every year in commemoration of the rites performed by the father of the Prophets, the origin of Abrahamic religions.
Now let the calls of “Labaik” and “Here I am, O Allah” resonate in Makkah.