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Essence of Eid-ul-Azha

As we in Pakistan are passing through a trying and difficult period calling for great sacrifice and steadfastness, Eid-ul-Azha this year takes on added significance. The example of Hazrat Ibrahim and his son (Peace be upon them) is of course inspiring for all Muslims but for us it has a special message in the context of our present predicament. Upholding this glorious tradition demands dedication of the highest order and full faith in Allah to overcome seemingly insuperable obstacles and problems. The Quranic version of the ultimate test prescribed for His Friend (Khalilullah), his unhesitating compliance with it and the great rewards that followed is most instructive. It needs to be recalled on this day to strengthen our will and conviction.

Born in a leading family of idol-worshippers, Hazrat Ibrahim rebelled against the prevailing polytheistic order and challenged the false gods fearlessly. The enlightening flame of faith within him could not be extinguished by the direst of threats and consequently the blazing fire into which he was thrown was by a miracle transformed into a garden of roses. He preferred to abandon his home rather than his mission and stuck to his resolve in the face of the most fierce trials. After passing through these ordeals courageously and successfully he was made by God an "Imam to the Nations."

Those who claim to follow Ibrahim's Sunnah in letter and in spirit must search their souls to see if they are embracing only the symbols without the substance. In slaughtering an animal do they tame the animal hidden in the inner recesses which keeps rearing its ugly head and which feeds on base desires? As the Quran says, "It is not their (animals') meat nor their blood that reacheth Allah. It is your Taqwah (piety) that reaches Him." The quotation conveys the purpose behind the ritual of slaughter that can only be realized if honestly and sincerely imbibed and grasped.

Hazrat Ibrahim's mission reached its culminating point and crowning glory in the life and tradition of Muhammad (Peace be upon him), the final Prophet and Messenger of Allah. In his first address from a mound in the Valley of Safa, he exhorted his followers to stop worshipping man-made images of mud and stone and to believe in one God Who has no equal. This stirring call struck the order of the time as a thunderbolt and those very people who regarded him as "the most honest, the most truthful" (Sadiq and Ameen) turned against him, tormented and tortured him till he was forced to leave Makkah. But like Hazrat Ibrahim he stood firm by his convictions and wrought a revolution in a record time. In his last memorable message three months before his death, the vast Haj concourse in Arafat heard him speak from atop Jabal Al-Qaswa.

His farewell address knocked down the false notions of tribal, racial, national and parochial prejudices. This in fact was a charter emphasizing the Unity of God and Unity of Mankind which Hazrat Ibrahim sought to deliver. Ever since then the increasing multitude of pilgrims who throng to Makkah and go round the Kaaba every year have been hearing echoes of this inspiring oration. Muslims from many lands, belonging to different nationalities - rich, poor, young, old, black and white - come together under one banner of faith, congregate in the same mosque and perform Haj all as one fraternity.

Those who perform Haj and chant "Here I come, O Lord" make a solemn vow that should be fully grasped and absorbed in one's conduct. The Millat as a whole must resolve anew at this time to act in keeping with their Faith. Unity, fraternity, equality and discipline in evidence during Haj could change the destiny of the Muslims who are unfortunately divided, disorganized and as such deprived of the promised blessings. In order to reap the divine reward in this world and hereafter and hold the banner of Islam aloft, they should regulate their lives according to the tenets of their faith. Sectarian differences leading to murder and riots must be eschewed and the broader spirit and vision of Islam imbibed. Perseverance, patience and constancy are essential to realize the goal of higher humanity. We can give concrete expression to the spirit of sacrifice by struggling ceaselessly to bring about a change for the better. When our actions conform to our faith and our vows, the day of deliverance will dawn, Insha Allah. This is the meaning and message of Eid-ul-Azha. Courtesy, Dawn, March 6, 2001