‘Eid-al-Adha is a day of great joy and celebration, but it is also a day of reflection and introspection. What then is the social message of ‘Eid al-Adha?
At this time we are witnessing the ongoing cycle of violence and suffering in Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. We are also witnessing a dramatic rise in Islamophobia and an unprecedented assault on our civil liberties. All of these unsavory developments impact negatively on the devotion, serenity and compassion that are the hallmarks of this blessed day of ‘Eid.
Never before in recent history have our religious commitments to a more just and peaceful world been more tested, tried and challenged than it has been during recent times. How can we play our role as both conscientious Muslims and responsible citizens of a torn and troubled world.
First, we must not become weary from stating unequivocally that acts of wanton violence and barbarism, no matter who commits them are contrary to the teachings of Islam. In Islamic ethics, the end does not justify the means. Religious extremism has no virtue in Islam and has been unequivocally condemned by Rasul Allah (saw) as He is reported in a tradition to have declared thrice, “The extremists shall perish” (related by Muslim). For contemporary Muslims this means to acknowledge, no matter how painful it is, that we do have extremists (mutatarrifin) within our ranks. This is of course not unique to Islam. What is peculiar in this case is that extremists appear to have a disproportionate influence within the house of Islam, mostly because of the proclivity of the media and for sensationalization and a government with a need for a scapegoat.
Second, we need to support the call for a public debate concerning the most effective means that should be employed in counteracting religious extremism. We need to join the many voices all over this country and the world that are questioning the wisdom of the current strategy pursued in the “war on terrorism”. We need to back the call for a serious reassessment concerning the controversial US foreign policy which aids authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and elsewhere and in particular its uncritical support for the policies of Israel. And the strange result, viewed from the vantage point of mainstream Muslims is that both the agenda of this administration and that of extremist Muslims is generating conditions that favor extremism rather than its opposite. This, perhaps unintentional, coincidence, makes the task of mainstream Muslims who are yearning to live in peace extremely difficult.
Third, notwithstanding the despondency, which abounds both within and outside the Muslim community it is the responsibility and duty of conscientious Muslims to keep alive the lamp of hope. There are many Qur’anic passages that exhort us in this regard. The verses from surah al-inshirah, chapter 94, verses 5:8 may provide us with great spiritual comfort and solace at this hour of our trial:
So we see, when trying to build peace and establish justice, betterment does not come with merely hoping. We have to remain true to our lord and retain our faith. People of faith and hope, are at the same time realists, who do not close their eyes to the situation with all its positive and negative aspects. Social transformation and moral elevation does not come about merely by hoping but also with striving. In the Islamic tradition hope has to be accompanied by three other qualities:
1.Sabur – patient perseverance which comes from spiritual perseverance
2.Umur – performing works in our din but in this case also in the form of social reform and
3.Iman — intellectual and spiritual renewal – faith
Hope can only be sustained by the three elements of mind, body and spirit, or intellectual renewal, reform and spirituality.
Fourth, despite the animosity engendered by the press and government in the current crises there has been a greater interest in Islam and countless displays of solidarity for the plight of Muslims from our non-Muslim neighbors. Many new opportunities have opened up for us to foster interfaith solidarity. This represents a wonderful opportunity for Muslims to counteract negative stereotypes about Islam and Muslims and to cooperate in the pursuit of a better world. Moreover, the Qur’an itself exhorts us to display kindness and equity in our dealings with non-Muslims.
In Surah al-Mumtahinah, Allah the Sublime declares:
It is encouraging that Muslims all over the country have utilized this newfound public forum in which to bear witness to the true and tolerant teachings of Islam. We need to continue these important bridge building efforts in the future right here in our own communities.
Fifth, at the very heart the social message of the Hajj is that of equality in which Islam holds all humankind. This we contend should also be the heart of the social message of ‘Eid-ul-Adha. In his famous farewell sermon at ‘Arafat on his final pilgrimage, just before his death, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) summed up the essence of the message of the Hajj when he proclaimed:
“All human beings are descendent from the prototype Adam, and Adam has been created from the earth. There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab, nor for a non-Arab over an Arab. Neither is there superiority for a white person over a black person, nor for a black person over a white person, except the superiority gained through God-consciousness. Indeed the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one with the most righteous conduct (taqwa).”
It is this exact message which inspired and transformed the famous African-American leader, Malcolm X/Malik al-Shabbaz when he performed hajj. He recounts his hajj experience in the following quote:
“There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a sense of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and the non-white.” “During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate and drunk from the same glass and slept in the same bed (or on the same rug) – while praying to the same God with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blonde, and whose skin was the whitest of white. And in the words and in the actions and in the deeds of the ‘white’ Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan, and Ghana. They were truly all the same-brothers.” (Autobiography of Malcolm X, New York, 1964)
In 1948 Professor Arnold .J. Toynbee one of the most famous contemporary historians wrote this about his findings concerning the historical Muslim consciousness:
“The extinction of race consciousness as between Muslims is one of the outstanding achievements of Islam, and in the contemporary world there is, as it happens, a crying need for the propagation of this Islamic virtue.” (New York 1948)
And it is no different today, inroads into racism have been made in this country since then but the equally vicious and destructive forces of religious discrimination and anti Arab/anti Muslim racism have grown. We need to work hard to live up to the Islamic ideal of anti-racism. We need to look inside ourselves and become introspective, and undertake a robust, but well-defined action plan to rid our community from the scourge of racism as it still appears today.
Last but not least, the most important place of refuge and revitalization is the comfort zones of our family lives. The Islamic family should also serve as a place of refuge from the harsh psychological and emotional trauma we have to endure as a result of the hostile environments and world within which we live. There can be no better place for securing comfort than from a loving and caring family. It is within the family context that we nurture hope and optimism and zest for life. For the family, however, to play this supportive role it would need to be a mature Islamic family.
On this great day of ‘Eid, which is also a day for celebrating the family, we need to heal those relationships which have been impaired. It is reported on the authority of Abdullah bin Amr al-As (may Allah be pleased with him) that Rasul Allah (saw) said:
“One who recompenses the good done to him by some one (relative) is not the one who upholds the ties of relationship. The one who truly upholds family ties is the one who keeps good relations with those relatives who cut asunder the bond of kinship with him. “(Bukhari)
In response to the above advice of our beloved Rasul Allah (saw) let us on this day of joyous celebration open up our hearts and in a spirit of magnanimity embrace those of our close or even distant relatives with whom we have severed bonds of kinship. Let us use this great day of ‘Eid as the starting point for a new consciousness and appreciation of the role of the family in the face of the current crisis. We have a responsibility to reflect on the problems of our broader society and world and to create intimate and socially responsible families.
In conclusion, spare a thought this great day of ‘Eid-al-Adha for the suffering masses everywhere in the world, especially all the flood victims, landslide victims, the refugees, the people of Syria, the people of Iraq and Palestine and wherever they may be and whether they may be Muslim or non-Muslim. We pray that wisdom, mercy and generosity will guide world leadership at this time. May Allah (swt) grant us the strength as a world community to live through this tragic moment in history with dignity and compassion. We pray that Allah, aza wa jal, will give us the strength and fortitude to never forget the sacrifice of our Prophet Ibrahim and its meaning for us. At this time we also call to mind and pray that Allah, (swt), grants all of our brothers and sisters who have been blessed to have been present at ‘Arafat this year an accepted Hajj, forgiveness of their sins, and allows them to return to their homelands as true ambassadors of Islam.
And Allah knows Best