TODAY is the 10th day of Zul-Hijjah of the lunar-based Islamic calendar. It is more popularly known as Aidiladha or Hari Raya Haji in Malaysia.
This is a major festival for Muslims. Historically, it is more important than Aidilfitri because of a significant event associated with this festival.
That event is the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice Ishmael, his long-awaited, beloved and only son, because it was an order from God. It symbolises the highest degree of submission — to give a life away as a test of loyalty to God and to get His ultimate blessing. Fortunately, God displayed His utmost mercy by switching Ishmael with a lamb at the very last minute. This was unknown to Abraham as he had closed his eyes to carry out his duty.
PROOF OF LOYALTY
Abraham and Ishmael passed the loyalty test with flying colours. Both father and son then rejoiced in God’s mercy and blessings. Not many people would have dared to follow that ultimate instruction. But their faith in God was so strong, they found strength in each other. Ishmael even said that if that was God’s order, he was willing to give his life away.
They were not the only people involved in the sacrifice order. Years earlier, Ishmael’s mother, Hajar, had also sacrificed her relatively good life to raise her son. God ordered Abraham to bring the family to a dry, uninhabited valley (now Mecca) for safety reasons. He had to leave them there with a heavy heart, but Hajar knew that it was God’s order. So she took it in her stride and totally submitted herself to God. Again, God’s mercy saved them when he gave them an endless stream of water (now known as Zamzam Well).
GIVE BEFORE YOU RECEIVE
Today, Muslims all over the world replay those sacrifices during their haj pilgrimage. As they do so, they are reminded of the sacrifices made by Hajar, Abraham and Ishmael. Haj is a ritual that replays the family’s actions in search of God’s blessing.
Sacrifice is probably God’s way of teaching us that before you receive something good, you must be willing to sacrifice or give away something you love.
Hajar gave away her youth to raise Ishmael, but in the end they built a new city (Mecca) and country (Saudi Arabia).
Abraham was ready to give away his only son but, in the end, he was rewarded with prophecy and became a legend.
KEEP IT ALIVE
There are many lessons in their stories which we can still reapply in today’s modern, hurried world. In our quest for a better, wealthier life, we often forget the sacrifices we must make to achieve a bigger objective.
Even the haj pilgrimage is a sacrifice. Pilgrims have to leave behind their comfortable homes and families to mingle with some three million others in a relatively confined space.
Then there are those who sacrifice their lives for others. Working parents spend most of their time and energy to earn a living. Stay-home parents go all out to deliver the expectations of their spouses and kids. Mothers stay awake through the night to take care of their sick children. They also sacrifice their energy to breastfeed their newborns to ensure that they get the best nutrition.
The list is endless. But one thing’s for sure — we have to make sacrifices to receive something better.
People have argued that sacrifices are not sustainable in the long term. After some time, doubt may seep in especially if they feel that they are the only one doing so. They may also be burnt out and stop giving.
But the good news is that once we understand the need to sacrifice, we wouldn’t feel that way.
It starts with ensuring that everyone plays his or her role well, like Abraham’s family. Teach our children that they need to sacrifice their time (for example, away from gadgets) and energy before they can expect good grades. Tell them that we are not doing it to please a specific family member, but to achieve a bigger cause in the family’s journey.Life is a daily struggle. But with the right sacrifices and teamwork, it will be a worthwhile, memorable and beautiful struggle.BY ZAID MOHAMAD - NST Lifestyle 5 OCTOBER 2014 @ 8:01 AM