The festival of Eid al-Adha, better known as Eid-el-Kabir, being celebrated today across the world originated from one of the famous stories that connect Islam and Christianity: the sacrifice of Ismail in the former and Isaac in the latter – both entirely on the same account. Yet, to the extent that it is about how Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), in obedience to God was ready to offer his son in sacrifice before a ram was provided instead by divine providence, the true meaning and essence of this occasion are: total submission and love, virtues that are in short supply in our country today.
In the accounts of both religions, the faith of Ibrahim was tested to the limit of endurance but he was not found wanting. In a difficult situation, the father submitted to God; the son, to his father in absolute trust that was ultimately rewarded. Eid-el-Kabir is therefore a season that calls for rededication not only to our Maker but also to the cause of mankind; to appreciate the gift of life and to imbibe the virtues of tolerance, understanding and good neighbourliness. More importantly, it is a period that calls for caring for the less privileged of our society.
Indeed, the timing of the festival this year could not have been more auspicious, given that the economy is now in recession with all the attendant implications for millions of Nigerians. What that suggests is that the socio-economic condition of most Nigerians this year makes it compelling for adherents of Islam to look beyond themselves and their immediate environment, especially in this holy season.
The lessons of Eid el Kabir are simple: by paying attention to the plight of the poor, we invariably place the welfare of our neighbours as important as ours; by allowing others to partake of our wealth or material possessions, we honour the One who made the provision in the first place. This happens to be at the heart of all religions, but a virtue that is particularly at the heart of this festival.
While today is usually a day of merriment, it is important not to lose sight of the true meaning of this special occasion and the spirit of sacrifice it represents. With millions of our compatriots now refugees in their own country, the significance of Eid al-Adha this year cannot be overemphasised. The occasion should therefore go beyond the slaughtering of rams to sharing love and material possessions not only with relatives or acquaintances, but also with the displaced, the elderly, the orphans and other people at the margin of the society, including those with special needs. It is also important that Nigerians begin to embrace and support charitable causes and there is no better occasion than today’s to make such resolve.
What should never be forgotten on a day like this is that thousands of innocent women, children and men had in recent years been killed, maimed or displaced by a violent sect that professed to be acting in defence of Islam, yet propagating doctrines that are completely at variance with a religion synonymous with peace. Also, the future of many children who can no longer attend schools has been thrown into jeopardy while a huge percentage of the wealth of the nation is being diverted to fighting an internal and unnecessary war.
Therefore, as we celebrate this special festival, we must reflect on and imbibe the essence of sacrifice and humility for the promotion of harmonious relationship in our country. We also need to take this opportunity to reach out to everyone in promoting love, peace and unity.
We wish our Muslim readers Eid Mubarak.