By Sh Abu Eesa Niamatullah
As we prepare to focus on the last few special moments of these blessed days of Dhu’l-Hijjah, I do want to give a heads-up on something which I feel is very important to remember for ‘Eed.
The disregard that the Muslim community in the West generally gives to ‘Eed’l-Adhā is undermined by at least two negative factors which effect the Muslim psyche.
Firstly, because this particular ‘Eed is traditionally seen as the one that some Muslims don’t take a holiday for, or don’t make much of a fuss about, the importance of the event as a religious celebration and an exclamation of Allah’s greatness jalla wa ‘alā is decreased in our hearts and the hearts and minds of our families, particularly our children.
Naturally, it’s not easy when this particular ‘Eed isn’t preceded by a tiring, difficult month of fasting, or when the celebration itself is spread over 3-4 days, or when the people some years (quite incredibly considering the pull of those standing on ‘Arafah) still celebrate the ‘Eed day itself over three different days, or when the day itself is freezing cold, dark and dreary etc etc.
Add to this the second negative factor, that of ‘Eed’s current proximity to Christmas and Thanksgiving, and you soon realise we’ve got a real problem. When you see such a consumer-focused materialistic society go into meltdown over Christmas, people prepare so much for it, spend so much on it and mentally psyche themselves up to celebrate it so much, it really does leave the Muslim community in the West looking at their own ‘Eed and feeling rather sad, particularly for our children. It is little surprise then that our children love and value their birthdays, Easter and Christmas parties at school so much, and why they talk about it constantly at home with their parents who really have no-one else to blame but themselves.
Yet all these factors should surely encourage the Muslim community to wake up and start to make both ‘Eed celebrations something really worthwhile, both with respect to the men so as to not let ‘Eed’l-Adhā become a token ‘Eed prayer in the morning followed by a day at the office and a night out with the lads in the evening, but most importantly their children so that our kids really have something to talk about, be proud of, and wait and dream about in anticipation for weeks in advance.
Moreover, when you do find yourself spending some rare quality time with your family this ‘Eed, take another look at how the non-Muslims ear-mark Christmas as the big family reunion and remind yourself that even such a single huge effort is unacceptable for a practising Muslim. If ‘Eed is becoming our only time that we remember the family and so on, then be warned that Allah jalla wa ‘alā demands the very highest standard of maintaining family ties, all the time, every time.
Know that our relations with our extended families are at an all-time low. As the elders become older, and we become more wealthy, independent, professional and isolated from our traditional ghettos of first generation Islam, the apparent need to keep in touch doesn’t seem important any more. Perhaps this is because we’ve forgotten that Allah jalla wa ‘alā has promised the tie of kinship (al-rahim) that He will cut off he who breaks family ties, and will maintain those who maintain family ties. Perhaps we’ve forgotten that the one who doesn’t maintain family ties will not enter Paradise. Perhaps we’ve forgotten that mercy will not descend upon a nation that has within it those who don’t maintain family ties. This is all authentic from the one who we claim to follow unreservedly ‘alayhi’l-salātu w’l-salām.
Maybe the most shocking development is our disintegrating relationship, adab and manners with our parents. Not only is our frequency of contact decreasing, but our manner of interaction is at another all-time low despite this being from the most deadly of the destructive sins and that the one who continues in ill-manners with one’s parents being condemned to the hell-fire. We seem to have forgotten as in the last ten years, with the increasing percentage of Muslim parents entering old peoples’/residential homes, that they have an absolute right they hold over us. The fact that we are humiliated by not getting to Paradise by not looking after them ourselves, and indeed the startling fact that Allah jalla wa ‘alā emphasises care of the parents only second to worshipping him (al-Isrā’, 23) seems to be left by the wayside. Again, this is all authentic from the one who we claim to follow unreservedly ‘alayhi’l-salātu w’l-salām.
Another concern which reduces the impact and sacredness of our ‘Eed’l-Adhā is our insistence in always offering our udhiyah (qurbani) abroad, albeit with the noble intention of giving it all to charity, especially currently in areas of major need as we all know so well . Leaving out those few who are just taking the cheaper option of doing it abroad where it can cost upto four times less than it does in the West, by “going abroad” one misses out on the Sunnah of eating from that blessed meat itself. Actually, after the intention of worship for Allah’s sake during the sacrificing, the eating of the meat is the most important aspect of the whole qurbani and is the main aspect which has been rigorously authenticated from the Prophet. Later scholars suggested that the meat should be divided into three parts: one for the family to eat from themselves, one part to be donated out amongst family, friends and neighbours and then the final part to be distributed to the poor in the locality.
Although it is accepted that we don’t have extremely poor people in our midsts, by missing out on the first two aspects of the sacrifice, we have not taken the best route. An important wisdom to remember is that it is the Muslim community’s obligation to help the poor around the world in offering them food and meat for that matter all through the year during their times of difficulty, but at ‘Eed’l-Adhā the focus turns to ourselves and our friends, family and neighbours. That is why the scholars have agreed on the excellence of sharing the sacrificial meat with our close ones whether they are rich or poor. Likewise, in those poorer areas of the world, the local wealthy people should be encouraged into the habit of looking after their own poorer neighbours in the same way. And if those areas don’t have local supplies or such wealth, then we should be supporting them throughout the year more, and or giving extra sacrifices at ‘Eed’l-Adhā if we are able to do so, to maximise all of the benefits on offer to us at such a blessed time.
An example can be given with zakāh: the scholars are always trying to discourage those who wish to give their obligatory zakāh in certain areas and projects in which they should be offering sadaqah throughout the rest of the year instead. One of the intrinsic wisdoms of restricting the recipients of zakāh to only the eight groups mentioned in the Qur’ān is so that the people are ‘forced’ to give to the other needy projects from the rest of their wealth, thereby ensuring greater social responsibility for all quarters of the community at all times of the year. The qurbani at ‘Eed’l-Adhā should also be seen in a similar light.
These statements might be idealistic looking at the realities of the world today, but one could respond that Islam achieves our ideals completely (and indeed goes beyond) and the only reason our ideals are criticised by some Muslims is because the apathy and lack of taqwa of the international Muslim community has allowed their own Muslim countries to fall into such destitute poverty, and not just due to natural factors and anti-Islamic aggression alone.
Returning to the issue of offering a local qurbani, it is accepted that local farming laws make offering the sacrifice in some Western countries very difficult and in some cases illegal, but that doesn’t mean all other means shouldn’t be exhausted such as instructing the local abbatoir to do it on your behalf or finding various suppliers that will be able to help. In the Muslim societies around the world, ‘Eed’l-Adhā is completely based on the excitement, challenge and enjoyment of the qurbani - excellently named (taken from the verb “to be close/near”) as it illustrates our qurbah or achieving “closeness” to Allah by this great act of worship. By returning back to this Sunnah, we will give ourselves a real fighting chance of making ‘Eed’l-Adhā a real event for us here in the West too so we can feel the vibe as well!
Finally, it’s back to our children. If we don’t give them the same concern we show them on ‘Eed every day, we’re only going to allow something else to replace that, something which will invariably be more damaging in the long run. Undoubtedly, this will take great effort on our behalf but this is what communal gatherings and celebrations help us to do: remind us of what we need to prioritise and sort it out before it’s too late.
Let’s ensure that our family become our absolute priority in these times, in the very best of manners, and that we then carry on these sentiments that we find in a correctly celebrated ‘Eed or simply in the example of individuals fulfilling their family obligations in a worthy and responsible way.
In any case and in advance, the very happiest of ‘Eed Greetings to all of you from myself and my family – may Allah accept our righteous deeds, and bring us peace, joy and glad tidings all year, every year. Amin!
Taqabballāhu minnā wa minkum sālih’l-a‘māl, wa kullu ‘āmin wa antum bikhayr!