Philosophy of Sacrifice in Islam

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Syed Atiq ul Hassan

In Islam, the act of sacrifice during Eid al-Adha is considered a sacred duty. It is believed that Allah has commanded Muslims to sacrifice their most precious and cherished possessions in His name and according to His will. This tradition finds its roots in the story of Ibrahim (peace be upon him), who was willing to sacrifice his son, Ismail (peace be upon him), as an act of obedience to Allah. However, Allah intervened and substituted a sheep for Ismail (peace be upon him), preserving his life.
The act of sacrifice on Eid al-Adha is not merely about following the example of Ibrahim (peace be upon him), but it also symbolizes Muslims’ willingness to obey Allah’s commands and make selfless sacrifices for the betterment of others.
The Message of Sacrifice: Qurbani, or the act of sacrifice, conveys a profound message to Muslims. It teaches them the importance of self-sacrifice and generosity toward others. Muslims are encouraged not to hesitate in giving up their most cherished possessions for the sake of Allah and to support those in need. Qurbani serves as a reminder that material possessions should not hold us back from fulfilling our obligations to Allah and serving humanity.
Sacrifice in Different Contexts: Muslims around the world fulfil their duty of sacrifice according to their means and circumstances. Even in non-Islamic Western countries, Muslims find ways to perform the act of sacrifice. While animal welfare organizations in Australia oppose animal slaughtering outside of designated slaughterhouses, Muslims ensure compliance with local regulations. They often contact halal meat shops to arrange for their sacrifice (Qurbani). The meat obtained from the sacrifice is typically divided into three parts – One for themselves, one for relatives, and one for poor people.
Challenges in Practicing Sacrifice in Australia: Practicing Qurbani in Australia presents unique challenges. Firstly, the lack of relatives residing in the country makes it difficult to distribute the sacrificial meat according to the traditional practice of sharing with relatives. Secondly, it is challenging to find genuine, needy Muslims who can accept the offer of meat. Consequently, many Pakistanis living in Australia choose to send money to their loved ones in Pakistan to perform the sacrifice on their behalf. Another option is to donate funds to local Islamic welfare or charitable organizations, which undertake the responsibility of sacrificing animals and distributing the meat to deserving individuals in poor countries. In Middle Eastern countries, people primarily rely on slaughterhouses or local butchers to fulfil their sacrificial duties.
Traditions and Challenges in South Asian Muslim Countries: In South Asian Muslim countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Afghanistan, the cultural and logistical aspects of sacrifice often diverge from government regulations. People commonly sacrifice animals inside or outside their homes, disregarding proper slaughtering arrangements. The excitement and preparations for Eid-Al-Adha begin well in advance, with special animal markets set up in various cities and towns. Some individuals engage in a competition to purchase the most expensive animals, showcasing them to relatives and neighbours. Unfortunately, these practices sometimes overshadow the true essence of sacrifice, leading to accidents and injuries caused by uncontrolled animals. Such incidents contradict the ordered sacrifices ordained by Allah and dilute the message of self-sacrifice.
The Experience of Pakistanis in Australia: This year, Pakistanis residing in Australia have observed a decline in the traditional excitement surrounding Eid-Al-Adha. Many Pakistanis express concern over the current conditions in Pakistan, feeling a sense of hopelessness regarding its future. Economic instability and social unrest have dampened the festive spirit among the Pakistani community.
Nevertheless, Muslims in Australia typically celebrate Eid by visiting relatives, hosting feasts, and participating in community programs. However, adverse weather conditions, including heavy rainfall and severe cold in Sydney and Melbourne this year, have led people to prioritize staying at home and limit the usual festive gatherings.
Conclusion: The philosophy of sacrifice in Islam holds great significance, teaching Muslims the values of obedience to Allah’s commands and selflessness towards others. Muslims worldwide fulfil their duty of sacrifice according to their circumstances, adapting to local regulations and customs. While challenges exist in practising sacrifice in different countries, the essence of sacrifice should not be overshadowed by traditional practices that deviate from the intended message. Despite the subdued Eid celebrations among Pakistanis in Australia this year, the spirit of unity and community remains strong within the Muslim population.