“And when he was old enough to run along with him, he said ‘O my dear son. I have seen in a dream that I offer thee in sacrifice. So consider what thou thinkest of it!’ He replied, ‘O my father. Do as thou art commanded; thou wilt find me, if God please, steadfast in my faith’” (Holy Quran, Chapter 37: Verse 103).
This is the story of Prophet Abraham (peace be on him) and Prophet Ishmael (peace be on him). Thousands of years ago, Prophet Abraham had a series of dreams. In these dreams, he saw himself sacrificing his eldest son, Ishmael. Prophet Abraham loved his son immensely, and would never want to kill him.
However, instead of questioning the reason for this dream, he inferred that it was God commanding him to sacrifice Prophet Ishmael. Thus, he decided to do as commanded and put his trust in God. This dream was a test of his faith. When he was about to sacrifice his son Ishmael, God replaced him with a ram.
The ram was a symbol of good news, showing that he had fulfilled His command. God was so pleased with the obedience of Prophets Abraham and Ishmael, and their willingness to make a sacrifice, that He blessed them and their progeny immensely.
Eid Al Adha and Hajj
This is the story that Muslims all over the world are reminded of when they celebrate Eid Al Adha, also called the Eid of Sacrifices. The central theme of this holiday is the importance of sacrifice. Eid Al Adha will occur later this month on July 31st.
Preceding the day of Eid, Muslims who can afford it must perform the pilgrimage to Mecca, called Hajj, at least once in their lifetime. We perform various ceremonies, such as going around the Holy Ka’ba seven times, running between the two hills called Safa and Marwa located near the Ka’ba, and much more. Millions of Muslims from all over the world gather and are unified as one at the Ka’ba.
As a Muslim, I’ve always enjoyed celebrating Eid. Putting on my best clothes, going to Eid Prayer at the local mosque, and feasting with friends and family are some ways I celebrate Eid. It is also a practice for Muslims who can afford it to sacrifice a goat or a similar animal.
However, the importance of Eid goes beyond these traditions. The essence of this holiday is to learn to be more willing to make sacrifices, both big and small, and to be obedient to the commandments of God Almighty. These are important qualities that Muslims are taught to have, just as Prophet Abraham and Prophet Ishmael had.
When Muslims celebrate Eid Al Adha, they are reminded of the importance of making sacrifices for God. I believe that the whole world can also learn a lot from the importance of sacrifice, and from the story of the Prophets. Sacrifice, in its true essence, is giving up something valuable in order to help a greater cause. Throughout history, the world as a whole has had to make many sacrifices. For example, during World War II, the American people were forced to sacrifice in many ways in order to help the war effort. Whether it meant fighting with the military, working in factories where tanks and other weapons were made, or rationing items like sugar, firewood, and medicine- the entire country played a part to win the war.
In the Midst of a Global Pandemic
At a time like 2020, sacrifice looks a lot different. Staying home doesn’t feel heroic and selfless like fighting in a war might be. However, this difference could be the difference that saves thousands of lives during this global pandemic. The healthcare workers who spend long hours fighting on the frontlines in hospitals and risk getting infected- it’s a sacrifice. The low income workers who have to live differently in order to make ends meet after changes to their jobs- it’s a sacrifice. The people that can’t see their sick relatives one last time to avoid spreading the virus to others- it’s a sacrifice.
These situations, along with so many others, remind me that the world is still fighting this war. They remind me that I can make the sacrifice of not hanging out with my friends for a few months, and that I can make the sacrifice of wearing a mask in public to protect others.
American society has been able to make many collective sacrifices throughout history. 2020 should not be any different. Being apathetic, and feeling that these small efforts are useless, is careless.
As a Muslim, sacrifice is a principle part of my faith. In the Holy Quran it says, “Never shall you attain righteousness unless you spend out of that which you love; and whatever you spend, God surely knows it well” (3:93). Sacrifice is giving up something important to you for a greater cause. Only with collective individual sacrifices, will we be able to beat this pandemic.