Essence of Eid-al-Adha, a Muslim Festival of Sacrifice

What does submitting to God really mean from a non-religious perspective? It simply means subscribing to the idea of a cohesive environment where each human being is respected for his or her place, nourishment and nurturance.
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Eid-al-Adha is also known as Bakra Eid, Eid-el-Kabir, the Big Eid and by 20 other names including a non-Eid sounding phrase 'Waliya Perunnal' in Malyalam language. If you wish to greet Muslims on this day you may say "Happy Eid" or "Eid Mubarak" and even Eid-al-Adha Mubarak. Eid is celebration and festivity.

At the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, known as Hajj nearly 2 Million Muslims visit Mecca and perform the rituals initiated by Prophet Abraham. Throughout the world Muslims celebrated Eid-al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice) on Sunday, November 6, 2011.

During the Hajj, Muslims remember and commemorate the trials and triumphs of Prophet Abraham. The Qur'an describes Abraham as follows: An-Nahl (The Bee) 16:120 -- "Verily, Abraham was a man who combined within himself all virtues, devoutly obeying God's will, turning away from all that is false, and not being of those who ascribe divinity to aught beside God"

Abraham's commitment

Love is sacrifice. God wanted to test Abraham's faith, love and devotion and asks of him what everyone in love asks; "If you love me, you would..." the routine. No one wants the beloved to give up his or her life, but wants a simple assurance and commitment to the relationship. It was Abraham's main trial to face the command of God to sacrifice his only son. Upon hearing this command, he prepared to submit to God's will. When he was all prepared to do it, God revealed to him that his "sacrifice" had already been fulfilled. He had shown that his love for his Lord superseded all others that he would lay down his own life or the lives of those dear to him in order to submit to God.

Thus the tradition of symbolic sacrifice began. During the celebration of Eid-al-Adha, Muslims commemorate and remember Abraham's trials by sacrificing an animal such as a sheep, camel, or a goat. This action is very often misunderstood by those outside the faith.

What does submitting to God really mean from a non-religious perspective? It simply means subscribing to the idea of a cohesive environment where each human being is respected for his or her place, nourishment and nurturance. Chief Seattle, a Native American said this perfectly: "All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does it to himself."

That is perhaps the idea of one God, one web that the monotheistic religions talk about. Indeed, the idea of the world as one family is talked about in native religions as well as the Hindu and other dharmic religions in words like Vasudaiva Kutumbukum. It is this oneness of diverse elements to function well that every religion addresses.

God does not need one to sacrifice; it has nothing to do with atoning sins or using the blood to wash ourselves from sin.

Qur'an 22:37 in the chapter Al-Hajj (The Pilgrimage):

Never does their flesh reach God, and neither their blood. it is only your God-consciousness that reaches Him. It is to this end that we have made them subservient to your needs, so that you might glorify God for all the guidance with which He has graced you. And give thou this glad tiding unto the doers of good.

The act symbolizes our willingness to give up some of our own bounties in order to strengthen and preserve the web and help those who are in need. We recognize that all blessings come from God, and we should open our hearts and share with others. The meat from the sacrifice of Eid-al-Adha is given away in three ways; self, relatives and the poor. It is a symbolic act of sharing with people who are malnourished and don't get to eat the meat as we do.

The symbolism is in the attitude -- a willingness to make sacrifices in our lives in order to stay on the right path (subscribing to the oneness of humanity and oneness of creator the God). A Muslim is one who submits himself or herself completely to the Lord. It is indeed the strength of heart, purity in faith and willing obedience that our creator desires from us. Most people follow this guidance with the exception of 0.1 percent of the group, a recurring percentage in every religious group.

God does not want anything more from us than asking us to be just and truthful. It brings tranquility and balance to an individual and what surrounds him; life and environment. The creator would be pleased when his creation is nurtured, cared for and sustained. Indeed, to be religious is to be a peacemaker, one who seeks to mitigate conflicts and nurtures goodwill for peaceful co-existence.

Just as a parent would risk his or her life to protect the child, people in love have the passion to value their beloved's life and are willing to get the bullet and save the life, they are willing to rescue the child from a freezing lake risking their own life, even strangers do that. It is the willingness to put the life of the loved one' above one's own life.

Honoring Police, Firemen and soldiers

Every day our police officers risk their own lives to protect ours, the firemen and women risk their lives to save a child, a pet or an aged person from a fire; and every day our soldiers put their lives at risk to save fellow soldiers and to save our freedom.

I urge fellow Muslims and all others to stop and salute every one of these men and women, honoring them for their sacrifices and their love for humanity. Better yet, call the firemen, policemen and let them know that as a Muslim you appreciate their sacrifice, and this festival is also about appreciation for such sacrifice.

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