Rather than look at this week’s celebration of the Muslim holiday Eid from the outside-in, I thought it would be more interesting and thought-provoking to focus on personal experiences and local celebrations. I looked for stories about Eid in the news and asked bloggers to share their thoughts on the holiday with us here on Inside Islam.
The Spirit of Eid
During Eid ul Adha, it’s tradition to sacrifice an animal in celebrating the holiday. While this practice could seem inhumane and fanatical to people observing the festivities from outside the traditional context, this act of sacrifice and the feast that follows represent the spirit of Eid in a profoundly meaningful way. The story of Abraham and his son Issac, a tale associated in Islam with this holiday, serves as a powerful allegory for obedience to and sacrifice for the divine.
We will hear about the story of Eid in tomorrow’s post. Today’s entry is about the spirit of Eid: sacrifice. Writer for the National Hadeel al Shalchi touched on the taboo act of sacrifice in modern times in his article, “Al qahirah: Taking the Eid sacrifice out of the supermarket.” To continue the dialogue between modern society, rituals, and religion underlying this article, we’re featuring a guest post from Naeem Mayet. He joins Inside Islam today to tell us about his personal experience of the holiday as a youth growing up in South Africa. In the post below, Naeem asks the question he has as an adult celebrating Eid al Adha in today’s world, “Are we losing the spirit of Eid ul Adha?”
Are we losing the spirit of Eid ul Adha?
by Naeem Mayet
When I was growing up, back in a little suburb of no more then 1000 Muslim families, most of our family friends and relatives used to take a 10 or 20km drive out to the nearby farm areas and slaughter our sheep. We used to have a braai (b.b.q) for lunch with freshly slaughtered sheep. A hilarious incident involved my elder brother stepping into a little hole filled with blood, wearing his brand new sneakers! We did warn him not to wear new clothes to the farm as we all rough it out a bit.
As the years passed, we sometimes cut at neighbour’s houses, at our house, there was no need to visit farms anymore. But then the whole ‘send your qurbani abroad’ thing started. Suddenly families decided – We don’t need this mess, the overpriced sheep, the messed up garden, worry to have the meat cut up and refrigerated – So they bought their sheep from local charities at a fraction of the price and have their sheep cut in Malawi, Mozambique, India and other poor countries.
Now in my 20’s, there is an entire generation of kids blissfully unaware of the joys and horrors and hilarious antics of a true Eid, where they would run around trying to catch sheep, feed them some hay and water a few days before Eid and so on.
I’m happy to say, our family, every year we make sure we cut at least one sheep in our family. One or two members would send ‘abroad’ while we’d get together and slaughter at least 4 or more sheep at our homes. One can not explain the feeling one goes through when slaughtering a sheep that you have purchased with your own hard earned cash. You and a few guys hold it down, ensure your blade is sharpened and swiftly slaughter the animal while reciting “Bismillahi Allahu Akbar.” At that very moment even the sheep is in a state of calm and you just know that you are doing your bit for your Imaan, Ummah, and keeping the spirit of Eid alive.
Muslims must continue this important ritual, yes send meat and qurbani’s to poorer nations but at least cut 1 sheep with your family. Just to keep the spirit alive, to show your kids that Islam is not all about being in a masjid praying salah and reading quran. Get them dirty, let them try to clean the sheep, jump around, let them partake of the spirit of Eid.
Naeem is a blogger, graphic designer, photographer, and web strategist. He also aggregates interesting content about Islam for his website MyUmmah.