Abraham’s (as) Great Sacrifice – Significance of the Eid-ul-Adha

43The Review of Religions – January 2007 ‘The Id-ul-Adha reminds us of the sacrifice of the most tender sentiments of man. The principle of sacrifice is universal, but the sacrifice of one’s offspring is the hardest of all. There may be men for whom it would be easier to sacrifice their offspring than forego their pleasures, but such persons are an exception, and are unfit on account of their perverted nature to be counted among human beings. The essence of human nature may be discovered from humanity as a whole. Ninety-nine percent of people, rather more will be found to be sacrificing themselves for the good of their children .The sentiment constituting man’s solicitude for his offspring has prevailed in the human race regardless of time and place, of caste, colour, creed and language, of one’s learning or ignorance. It is an astounding fact of life, enduring through the ages and has no other sentiment to equal it. Only an insane person or a human outcast may be devoid of it; otherwise everyone is possessed of it and acts in accordance with it, either merely because of the instinctive urge or because of the desire to win the pleasure of God. Strongest sentiment The Id, therefore points towards sacrifice of a sentiment which is the strongest and the most universal of sentiments of man.Thousands of years ago, today, Abraham(as) was com- Significance of the Eid-ul-Adha Abraham’s(as) Great Sacrifice (The following is an abbreviated English version of the sermon delivered on ‘Id-ul-Adha on February 22, 1937 by Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih(ra) II . 44 The Review of Religions – Janaury 2007 manded by God to sacrifice for Him that which was held to be the dearest thing by all mankind and for whom fathers and mothers of the world live their lives. Abraham(as) got ready at once, stopping not to enquire whether as it appeared it was an unnatural command, being against human sentiment vouchsafed by God Himself to man, and whether it would not injure beyond retrieve, the motherly feelings of one whose hopes and love centred in that one child. Abraham(as) was unmindful of his own feelings and those of Hagar; he forgot the cherished hopes of his ancestors who through him had yearned for the perpetuation of their progeny. Abraham(as) got ready to sacrifice in his old age his only son, when, humanly speaking no more issue could have been expected – he asked no questions, begged for no explanations, had not the slightest hesitation, nor worry for the why and wherefore of it; as if there was nothing extraordinary in the incident, or as if it was an ordinary happening in the day to day life of man. He asked his only son to lie down on the ground and taking up the knife in his hand, proceeded with great zest, to do that which was apparently against human nature, but which he thought constituted the highest objective of man. One is simply lost in wonder at Abraham’s(as) decision. Because of the remoteness of the time, a worldly man, ignorant of Abraham’s(as) traits of character might perhaps think him to be a mad man, to be devoid of tender feelings, callous and heartless. This is because he got ready to make a sacrifice which even the course nature of an ignorant rustic would not have permitted. But the Qur’an says that Abraham(as) was a wise, tender- hearted, godly person, that is the least painful incident affected him, brought tears to his eyes, made him sigh and rendered him restless. A proof of his tender- heartedness was to be found in his fervently praying for the rejecters of the Prophet Lot(as), imploring to spare the people the punishment which God had intended to inflict upon them, and desisting only when he had ABRAHAM’S(AS) GREAT SACRIFICE – SIGNIFICANCE OF EID-UL ADHIA 45The Review of Religions – January 2007 the painful realisation that the enormity of the people’s misdeeds had barred the door against all intercession. Abraham(as) therefore, was neither mad, nor devoid of sentiment. His feelings at the time when he offered his son can best be compared with the most tender parental feeings of the most loving father or mother. But while he was so very much pained when he came to know that Lot’s(as) people would be punished by God that he spent the whole night imploring the Almighty to spare the punishment, he did not ask any questions when under the Divine command he had to sacrifice his own son. When the Hajj pilgrims go from the Ka’aba to Mina, chanting ‘Here I am, here I am, there is no equal to Thee O Lord, “they present a visible representation of the readiness of Abraham(as) to abide by the command of Go. And our chanting frequently “Allah-o-Akbar” in Id prayers is a sign of our glorification of the sacrifice of Abraham(as) and is a verbal admission on our part that in his sacrifice we have witnessed the glory and greatness of God. It is a pity, however, that we do not wish to realise God’s glory and greatness in our own selves. We can very well sing aloud ‘Allah-o-Akbar’ and thus affirm the greatness of the sacrifice of Abraham(as). But we do not desire that we too might do the deeds which might for us resound with ‘Allah-o-Akbar’ from godly persons, echoes of which might fill the heaven and earth just as they are filled with the praises of God sung by all objects of nature. This is not something impossible. It is not that with Abraham(as) was a real son and we are stepsons of God. God does not fail; it is we who fail. In this world of ours, lovers yearn for their beloveds. But the world of spirit is a strange world. There the Beloved awaits you – His lovers. This, however does not make Him any the poorer in His Kingdom. He advances ABRAHAM’S(AS) GREAT SACRIFICE – SIGNIFICANCE OF EID-UL ADHIA 46 The Review of Religions – Janaury 2007 towards you but your indifference does not lessen His greatness; for He has no defects and is above weakness of all kind. Man cannot fathom His attributes, and human words cannot express His love which is stronger than mundane love, more tender than the delicate feelings of father and mother, more fervent than the sentiment of friend for friend. Notwithstanding that, man’s indifference does not affect Him in the least; it does not lessen His greatness. He is the seeker and man the sought, yet He is greater than man; man is a puny little creature, yet man turns away his face from Him. God’s solitude for man, however, is not the solitude of want but of compassion. His longing is not the longing of weak emotion, but that of knowledge and kindness. But man does not notice all this. He makes no advance towards Him. He is accustomed to see spurious and artificial kingly splendour in theatrical plays, but is unaware of the crown and robes of glory given to him by His Maker. Alas for such a man! Would that he had not been born, for his life is a blot on humanity – nay it is a shame even to the animals, for not being gifted with reason, yet they praise their Maker; but man being gifted with thinking faculties yet turns away from Him. He is given eyes but he does not utilise them. He is given ears but he makes no use of them; he is offered the sweet love of the Divine Being but he prefers the poison of this world. Yet God does not despair of him. How great God must be for He says in His Holy Word: man denied My prophets yet man’s denial did not make me desist from sending them. I send prophets even now and shall continue to send them. Let man deny them; I would not give up calling man; I would yet call him away to Myself for I have created man so he might serve Me; My paradise would be a desolate place without its dweller. Man must enter and occupy it, whether direct or through the purgatory of Hell. Man would in any case have to come to Me and I would not leave him till I bring ABRAHAM’S(AS) GREAT SACRIFICE – SIGNIFICANCE OF EID-UL ADHIA 47The Review of Religions – January 2007 him away and settle him near Myself. True stories of History Such is our loving God. Abraham(as) had a tender heart, but its Creator was the selfsame God that is ours. All mercy and all good is from Him. All beauty is His and all goodness comes from, and returns to, Him. He is, and all else is not. No story can stand without a central point. As long as our story revolves around this central point, it is a true and real story. When it breaks away from it, it becomes fiction – unreal and ephemeral. Try, therefore to make your lives true stories of history just as Abraham’s(as) life has become a true and historical story. Do not remove yourself away from God and do not thus waste away yourselves in small insignificant affairs of the world. For, the life that lasts is the real life and the ephemeral existence of this world is only an animal existence. The world experiences do not change by the death of a person who in life does not, like Abraham(as) go around the Divine Light in utter devotion. Grant, Lord, that we might learn a lesson from this Id, and our hearts might hover round the seat of His Love, saying: ‘Iam here, O Lord, I am here till the Divine Light burns and consumes us – its devotees – in itself, and our life, becoming one with the Light, furnishes a clear proof of the Oneness and Absoluteness of God’ ABRAHAM’S(AS) GREAT SACRIFICE – SIGNIFICANCE OF EID-UL ADHIA We wish our readers a very happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year