Muslims are challenged to “think” in the following three pieces written about the true meaning of Eid-al-Adha. Each article seeks to align it with the universal meaning of sacrifice. Many a Muslims recite that Allah is the creator of Aalameen, i.e., creator of the universe. Likewise, they jump to say Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the Universe, but not I am not sure if they really believe that Prophet was a mercy to mankind. Their actions defy their words. Instead, they have forced Allah to become their property and Muhammad (PBUH) to be owned by them. If Muslims really believe in it, then “their” Allah is merciful to every human being, and “their” Muhammad is kind to every human. As a Muslim and a follower of the universal creator and universal merciful man, you cannot be unkind to any human being. Allah is not yours, you share him with fellow humans.
Muslims also forget that Prophet Muhammad told Muslims in his last sermon to read and understand the Quran*** – he knew each person will apply his experience and understand it. Islam was about creating peaceful societies through equality, justice, rule of law, fairness and being truthful. Islam is about building cohesive societies where people can live without tension or apprehension. Islam is about free will and free speech. Islam is not about ruling others, Islam is not about compelling others and Islam is not about oppressing others. Islam is not about the dumb divisive idea of Darul Islam and Darul Harb. Islam is about living your life and letting others live theirs. Those who can think, and see the signs in the Quran, there are over 20 verses to understand.
Prophet Muhammad never assigned anyone to be the interpreter of the Quran – he did not say, you have to get your education from Al-Azhar or Madina University or Deoband. Islam is a simple easy to understand common sense religion. Indeed, I say, If it is not common sense, then it is not Islam. The prophet said, you read the book and understand it. If you want a world that is peaceful and just, that is what you find in this book. I don’t believe any one of the 1.5 billion Muslims can disagree with this. I did not go to Al-Azhar, but I have invested my time in understanding the book and its purpose. That is another topic to be covered in my upcoming book.
I don’t know how many Muslims know this fact – that Quran tells that we are all one people from Adam and Eve in different shapes, sizes, nations, cultures, and races while acknowledging that guidance was always given to every group of people no matter where. Then God says, if you care for your fellow beings, your recompense is with me, I will take care of you. You don’t have to be a Muslim to earn God’s grace. (6 verses)
I was attacked by a few Muslims for my credentials on Islam – heck I have the blanket permission from the prophet and of course the Quran. Sacrificing the animals is not mandatory, it is conditional, that is, if you can afford. Just like Hajj is conditional but not mandatory. The question before Muslims is the word sacrifice – is it limited to animal sacrifice or the larger meaning of sacrificing what is dear to you?
A few Muslims have attacked Arfa Khanum for not wearing the Hijab, which is a cultural expression of modesty and not a religious construct or requirement. Prophet did not design the Burqa or Hijab that women wear now. He simply conveyed God’s wisdom to cover the bosom to women and to lower the gaze to men. If the attackers really want to learn, pick the topic apart and show where and why they differ, but don’t attack the individual, it shows their inability and renders their criticism useless. We all can learn by being specific. I challenge each one of you to come up with specifics to negate what is said here. If you cannot, you don’t have to accept it, but learn to live with the differences.
The articles are listed in chronological sequence
12/15/13 – Eid al-Adha — What Should You Sacrifice? A Proposal for Muslims – https://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-ghouse/eid-aladha-what-should-yo_b_4099426.html
08/19/18 – Live Video on Facebook – A proposal for Muslims In Eid-al-Adha- https://www.facebook.com/Dr.MikeGhouse/videos/10160845516935249/?t=7
08/21/18 – Sacrifice, Obedience, and Enlightenment
08/22/18 – How some Muslims won’t sacrifice goats to help Kerala
All the three articles in one place
A Proposal for Musli-ms on the festival of sacrfice
By Mike Ghouse
Eid Al Adha – that is festival of sacrifice, and it is the 2nd most important festival for Muslims.
Sacrifice is the willingness to give up what is important to you, to someone who needs more than you. Why do we that? Those of us who have plenty to eat, wear and enjoy life, always wonder about the ones who don’t – God understands human nature, to ease the sense of guilt, he has suggested one to give a small portion of what one has with the others at least on joyous occasions. That is why you see much giving during Christmas, Diwali, Ramadan, Rosh Hashanah other festivities.
During the times of Abraham, Krishna, Zarathustra, and others, a man’s wealth was measured by the number of goats, cattle, camels horses and other livestock.
The ultimate sacrifice one would make is to give away his precious wealth to the needy. If you have seen the movie ten commandments, there was a conversation where Moses says he did not have any animals to give to his father in law. In small villages in India, while I was growing up, a Cow, buffalo or goat were the wedding gifts given to the groom to provide a source of income to the son in law. I attended a wedding in Jangam Kote, where the groom refused to say I do until his bicycle gift was produced.
The story of the festival goes like this, please don’t take it literally, but for the message, it communicates. One of the examples set up for guidance was the test of Abraham’s faith, love, and devotion. God asks of him what every man and woman in love does: “If you love me, you would this for me.” In human terms, those conditions are merely a test of one’s devotion, and in return, a simple assurance and re-commitment to the relationship would suffice, be it your fiancé, spouse or mother.
It was Abraham’s turn to face the command of God to sacrifice his son, who was born after a long time and Abraham loved him dearly. I hope you can understand that in my own case I was the first child to survive after 4 kids, so I was very dear to my Dad. Upon hearing this command, Abraham prepared to follow the command, our kids don’t want to hear that – it is not literal sacrifice my friends, but a narrative to make a point, the point is are you willing to sacrifice what you have for the common good? If you love me, would you do this? When he was all prepared to do it, God revealed to him that his “sacrifice” had already been fulfilled. He had shown that his love for God or common Goodness superseded all others.
At that moment, a lamb was produced for Abraham to make the symbolic sacrifice. Here is where the law of substitution comes in to play. Which means if you don’t have money to give, give clothing if you don’t have clothing to give, give a smile and hope to the ones who are in despair. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, if you have nothing to give to others, give them a smile, it uplifts the downtrodden.
It takes me back to my youth years; there was a bakery across my home down the street, where they sold the best cakes in the world. Every week, I would stop, buy a piece of cake and eat. Once a little boy by the name “Russel” stood in front of me and stretched his hand for the cake – I deliberated it, he probably never had a cake, so I gave it to him, and he beamed up…. and for nearly 30 years after that, I did not eat Cakes. I see his face as I speak.
During that time, poverty was rampant, and people could not get the meat, it was considered a festive item – so sharing meat was considered a good gift.
Muslims have observed that tradition – a 1/3rd of the meat goes to the poor, a 1/3rd to the relatives and the rest, the family gets to keep. It is a practice of sharing what you have with others.
Sacrifice is the willingness to give up what is essential for our survival. It is about parents going to sleep without food but feeding their kids; it is clothing for their kids while waiting to get their own. In case of extremities, we would instead get the bullet and save our loved ones, we are willing to rescue the child from a freezing lake risking our own life, and even strangers do that. That is a sacrifice: the willingness to value the experience of the loved ones over our own.
Today, the most cherished possession is money, and people are willing to give up many things but the money. Money is indeed our precious asset, as it can buy just about everything we need.
It is customary for Muslims to sacrifice an animal or two on the day of the Hajj; in fact, millions of animals will be slaughtered on that day.
What are our alternatives?
The purpose of the festivities is to share. Should we not think of the other options? Here are a few thoughts from Muslims:
The poor do not need a little bit of meat once a year. They have many more and urgent needs. I suggest we should start a worldwide appeal to Muslims to contribute to a common fund which should be solely to help the poor, regardless of their religion, meet their daily needs, including meat, of course, a tradition.
The guidance from the Quran is to take care of fellow humans, regardless of their religion, race, ethnicity or any other uniqueness.
Dr. Nauman Anwar of Gainesville, Texas, share this thought, ” Sacrificing animals without making a public spectacle is still a good idea, as long as no wastage of the meat and hides occur. Many countries have much poverty, and if meat reaches the deserving population, it will help improve the nutritional status of the poor (small amount of meat is good for health).”
You are not accountable to any human how you did your sacrifice, the Qurbani (animal sacrifice) or not. You can put that money to a different use that will do greater good like lending to a street hawker who can sell things from a cart and take care of his family or a single mom who can make baskets or make sweaters to take care of her family. The beauty of those systems is you can make the same money repeatedly work for the common good. Please remember, God’s guidance is to help all human beings because we are all his creation. Quran never suggests helping Muslims only.
Hence, donating money to meet the needs of people would be the right thing to do, as they can pay for their own prioritized needs instead of meat from everyone that they cannot store.
No Muslim is going to demand that you do certain things. You have the free will what you do with your sacrifice, whom it goes and what purpose it serves.
Lastly, God wants us to be, so please do not discriminate in giving — God doesn’t do that (remember Solomon’s story about lording over food?). Anyone in need is suitable to receive your help, be it a Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Jew or anyone in your neighborhood. They have the first right to your goodness.
Lastly, don’t forget to thank the men and women in uniform who are there to guard our safety. Please walk up to the policeman, fireman, national guard, men and women in armed service and thank them for their service.
you will find the article at www.WorldMuslimCongress.org, a think tank committed to building cohesive societies
Mike Ghouse is a Muslim speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, Islam, interfaith and a few other topics. He is committed to nurturing pluralistic values embedded in Islam and building cohesive Societies and offers diversified solutions on issues of the day. www.WorldMuslimCongress.org
How some Muslims won’t sacrifice goats to help Kerala
‘The Quran says that saving one life is like saving humanity. So by donating for Kerala, you are following what Allah told you.’
‘This gesture would create goodwill for Muslims and work as a counter to the hostility they face.’
Jyoti Punwani reports how some Muslims won’t sacrifice goats this Bakri Eid, instead donating the money towards relief efforts in Kerala.
Two of them have always performed the ritual sacrifice for Bakri Eid. The third stopped doing so 15 years ago.
But this year, these three Muslims will observe Bakri Eid differently.
Arfa Khanum Sherwani, senior editor at The Wire, has donated half her salary to Kerala’s Chief Minister’s Relief Fund in lieu of the ritual sacrifice on Bakri Eid that has been her practice till today.
Talha bin Mohsin, advertising executive, will do what he always has done: The regular qurbani. This time, though, he has chosen to curtail its scale so that he can donate for Kerala’s flood-affected.
Rana Safvi, Delhi historian and founder of shair#, a Twitter forum on Urdu poetry, has kept aside one-third of the money she always spends on charity on Bakri Eid, for Kerala. The other 2/3rds will go to two different charities.
The suggestions of these three Muslims on social media to make the Kerala floods, not animal sacrifice, the focus of this Eid, has drawn praise from some and flak from many of their own community.
The main allegation being made against them is that they are ‘RSS agents’. But Arfa Khanum has had an additional barb thrown at her: A ‘bepurdah‘ woman like her anyway can’t know anything about Islam.
How about sacrificing her expenses on make-up and sending that amount to Kerala, she has been asked.
“I didn’t think the attacks would get so personal,” Arfa tells Rediff.com, “but I can understand where they are coming from. As it is Muslims are worried about the aftermath of the qurbani — will they be able to carry the meat safely home? — and here I’m saying ‘Don’t even do the qurbani.”
So why did she suggest this?
“I saw the pictures of the floods, and thought here’s my community busy buying animals for sacrifice. What if the money spent on this was to be diverted to those desperately in need in Kerala?”
“It would send a great message of empathy at a time when everyone is trying to tear us apart and tell us that we are either Hindu or Muslim. This would show that we think like Indians,” Arfa explains.
“These days there is so much talk about the North-South divide. So many Muslims live in the North. Somebody in Lucknow thinking of the flood victims in Kochi — that would be a thread that would unify in so many ways,” she adds.
“This gesture would create goodwill for Muslims, who are being derided today as ‘beef eaters’ and what have you. It would work as a counter to the hostility they face, and could defeat the politics of polarisation.”
To some extent, this did happen: Arfa’s suggestion was welcomed by Hindus too, including those who had often criticised her for her anti-BJP views. Their appreciation might appear to validate the views of those Muslims who are accusing her of trying to flow with the ‘naya mausam‘, of trying to ‘build bridges’ with the ruling party.
But Arfa disagrees with this interpretation. “I feel there’s a grey area between those who are absolute bhakts and those who are absolutely anti-BJP. That’s the section one must reach out to.”
But neither the praise of this ‘grey section’ nor the condemnation of many in her community, made her rethink her suggestion. What was more important to her was that at last count, about 70 Muslims had declared that they would follow her example this Bakri Eid.
What of her immediate family? Arfa’s husband agrees with her, but her mother kept silent when Arfa informed her that for the first time this Bakri Eid, she would not be sacrificing a goat.
“We are a large family and our father brought us up to follow our heart. So while some of us may perform the qurbani, others may not. I think it’s very good to have a sense of democracy within your family,” she says.
Talha bin Mohsin’s suggestion made on his Facebook page was different from Arfa’s. Do both, he said, if you can afford to: Perform the qurbani and also donate for Kerala’s flood-affected.
Buy a cheaper goat, take a smaller share if it is a joint qurbani, and use the money saved for Kerala.
When he told his father he wanted to scale down his qurbani this year so that he could donate for the Kerala floods, his father supported him. So did many of his friends, some of whom are five-time namazis.
Mohsin has always lived in Delhi’s Jamia Nagar and is a product of Jamia Milia Islamia right from nursery up to graduation.
Describing himself as a “proud practising Muslim”, Mohsin is somewhat amused at those accusing him of knowing nothing about Islam. “I probably know more about Islam than these trolls.”
Islam is not just about qurbani, says Mohsin. It is also about saving lives.
“The Quran says that saving one life is like saving humanity. So by donating for Kerala, you are following what Allah told you. A good Muslim has to care about others.”
It was just a coincidence, says Mohsin, that he linked the Kerala disaster with Bakri Eid. “There is nothing anti-religion in what I suggested. It was because Bakri Eid was round the corner, and everyone was buying animals that I said what I did. Otherwise I would have said buy a cheaper T shirt or forego a movie to donate for Kerala.”
In fact, inspired by his suggestion, a Hindu from Maharashtra suggested that instead of hiring a music system for the coming Ganpati festival, Hindus should donate that amount to Kerala.
“I wanted to inspire people’s imagination. I didn’t spell out any directives,” says Mohsin.
For Rana Safvi, this year, only the recipient of her donation was different. She stopped doing the qurbani in 2001 and has since been donating the amount that would have been spent to an orphanage.
“My husband and I decided on this after finding that the qurbani wasn’t achieving what it was meant to,” explains Rana.
“Bakri Eid is about the spirit of charity. You must donate one-third of the meat to the poor, one-third to family and friends, and keep only one-third for yourself. But we found that neither the poor we were distributing it to, nor friends, wanted it because they had already received enough from others.”
Donating the amount that would have been spent on the qurbani to an orphanage ensured that the poor were fed in a more sustained way, over a month.
Besides, says Rana, sacrificing an animal was a Sunnat, something practised by the Prophet, whose example should be followed, but it was not a farz or duty.
For those doing the Haj, it is a duty. But when she undertook the pilgrimage in 2005, Rana chose the option of donating money to an agency that makes sure that an animal is sacrificed in an abattoir and the meat sent to the poor.
“The Prophet Ibrahim’s story in the Quran (he dreamt that Allah had asked him to sacrifice his only son, and just as he was going to do so, Allah, pleased with his obedience, substituted his son with a ram) is primarily about submission to Allah,” says Rana.
Rana is dismissive of those who have criticised her decision. “This is between me and God. Who are these people? What can they do to me? We can’t live our lives by what people think. Ultimately I’ve to face God and answer him.”
Like Rana, there are Muslims across the country who have quietly stopped doing the qurbani and spend the money on education.
Professor Farrukh Waris, former principal of Mumbai’s Burhani College, had seen her father do the same half a century ago in Lucknow and Allahabad.
This year, she will donate Rs 76,000, the price of four goats, to pay a student’s college fees. “I have always been saying that our community can use the qurbani money for community welfare,” says the professor.
“Islam is one faith where your intent or neeyat is given maximum weightage. If your neeyat is to give something in the path of God, then sacrifice money for charity instead of sacrificing living things,” Professor Waris adds.
In Bengaluru, a group of 25 Muslims who have been quietly spreading this message for the last decade are steadily getting support.
The leader of the group who did not want to be named fearing an orthodox backlash would undo their efforts told Rediff how they had managed to convince even the elderly in their families to donate instead of sacrifice an animal.
“We explain to them that Hazrat Ibrahim’s was a pastoral society and sacrificing an animal was appropriate as animals were storehouses of value. People ate their meat, used their milk, tanned their skins for water bags and tents, rode on their backs and exchanged them in bazaars.” So the tradition continued for thousands of years.
“The Prophet Mohammed continued the practice as the context had not changed,” he explains.
“But today, money is the most prized possession for everyone. Sacrificing money for education for the poor or for their daily needs is more valuable.”
This man narrates an interesting anecdote. He had broached this sensitive topic to an 80-year-old academic and told him that he had given up animal sacrifice eight years earlier.
To his surprise, the old man shook his hands and said, “If you won’t tell my wife, let me share the secret that I have not been doing sacrifice for the last 40 years. I tell my wife I’m sending money to sacrifice a goat in my village. But I am actually funding the studies of rural youth and have produced 16 graduates.”
This week, the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha, a four-day feast that usually includes communal prayer, presents for children and visits to family members and cemeteries. But the key ritual will be what gives the holiday its name: “Adha” means “sacrifice” in Arabic. Most families who can afford to do so will slaughter an animal — perhaps a sheep, goat, cow or camel. The animal will be blindfolded, gently put down and then slaughtered while the name of God is praised. The meat is consumed by the family and also distributed to neighbors and to the needy.
For some non-Muslims, it may seem puzzling that Muslims engage in such a bloody ritual. But Jews and Christians should be able to relate to the holiday’s origin: the biblical story of the sacrifice of Isaac.
This story is in both the Book of Genesis and, with some interesting variations, the Quran. In the story, Abraham receives a shocking injunction from God: He must offer his beloved son as a sacrifice. As a devoted servant of God, he agrees to obey and takes the child to Mount Moriah to slaughter him. At the last moment, God, satisfied with Abraham’s devotion, saves the boy by sending a ram as a substitute sacrifice.
There are minor differences between how the story is told in Islam and how it’s told in Judaism and Christianity — such as the name of the child, which the Quran doesn’t mention and Muslims gradually accepted as Ishmael. But the moral lesson is the same: Abraham’s piety should be celebrated. He was willing to obey God’s order, even if it meant killing his son.ADVERTISEMENT
In the Christian tradition, though, this view encountered a bold challenge during the Enlightenment. Immanuel Kant, the 18th-century German philosopher, criticized Abraham’s blind submission not as an example to emulate but as a failure to avoid. Abraham should have been certain about his own moral sense, Kant argued, and suspicious about an ostensibly divine voice commanding him to do something as cruel as sacrificing his son. Kant wasn’t advocating defying God, necessarily, but he was empowering human reason.
The Muslim world at large has not had its own Enlightenment, but that doesn’t mean Muslims never developed similar ideas. Medieval Islam had its own rationalists who also took an unorthodox position on the sacrifice story for the same reason Kant did: They could not accept that God would have ordered something so cruel.
These were the Mu‘tazilites, members of a theological school that flourished in Iraq around the 9th century, which argued that “good” and “bad” were defined not just by divine verdicts, as their rivals claimed, but also human reason. For example, murder wasn’t bad simply because God told humans so — it was objectively bad. Moreover, God would never do, or order people to do, something that is bad. So, they reasoned, Abraham could not really have been commanded to carry out child sacrifice.
This view was further articulated by Ibn Arabi, a Sufi master from medieval Spain, who highlighted an important nuance in the Quranic version of the story. Unlike the Bible, in which Abraham receives an explicit commandment from God to sacrifice Isaac, the Abraham of the Quran only has a dream in which he sees himself sacrificing his son. He then consults his son, and they together decide that this is a commandment from God. But this was a wrong interpretation, Ibn Arabi argued, and by sending a sacrificial ram at the last moment, “his Lord rescued his son from Abraham’s misapprehension.”
If this take on the sacrifice story is true, then the lesson for Muslims is that they should be cautious about obeying what seems to be the will of God and compare religious commandments with their moral sense. This is especially true for ordinary mortals like us, who learn religious commandments not from direct revelations, as the prophets do, but rather from the transmissions and interpretations of fallible men. Our guide should be not blind obedience, in other words, but reasoned deliberation.
There’s another lesson to keep in mind this Eid al-Adha: The centrality of the sacrifice story in Islam is a reminder of how Islam is a deeply and literally Abrahamic religion. That is why Muslims are going through the same theological conundrums that Jews and Christians have also discussed throughout their histories. And that is why, in the next few days, hundreds of millions of Muslims will honor Abraham with their sacrifices. “Oh our God,” they will also say during their daily prayers, “bless us as you blessed Abraham, and the family of Abraham.”