Like their other 1.5 billion counterparts all over the world, Muslims in Nigeria today celebrate the Eidel Adha, the greater of the two major festivals in Islam. The traditional festival of sacrifice is celebrated with fun and fanfare worldwide, despite the hydra-headed challenges facing us all. Essentially, today’s festival is a symbolism of the faithfulness of the father of faith, Ibrahim (PBUH), the progenitor of the adherents of the revealed religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Ibrahim was sacrifice personified and the pilgrimage rites in Mecca, which actually heralded this festival, are an attestation to Ibrahim’s unflinching faith: what you were we are; what you did we do.
That pilgrimage itself as a quintessence of sacrifice, of money, time, comfort and other appurtenances of “good life” is wellknown. It is the journey of a lifetime. As it is with opportunity cost, all life is about sacrifice, the virtue of giving away something of value in order to gain something else of more value or avoid a greater loss.
The festival is to calibrate in us the faith of Ibrahim. Ibrahim or Abraham was born to Usha and Azar, the latter a descendant of the Prophet Nuh, in the city of Hara, in modern-day Iraq. He was born during the reign of Namrud, a royal dictator who revelled in self-adulation and idol worship. By the time Ibrahim attained maturity, the senselessness of bowing before carved images had dawned on him and his superb logic of trying the moon and the sun as possible gods and his subsequent renunciation of both in submission to God is portrayed in the Qur’an (2:76-79).
It wasn’t long after Ibrahim’s prophethood that his rejection of idolatry engendered a clash with his father and then absolute King, especially after he demolished the carved images his people called gods. An attempt to burn him alive was futile as God made a mockery of their inferno, a situation which made them banish him and his wife, Sarah.
He had to migrate to Egypt, where he spent many years. It was when he was old that he gave birth to his son, Ismail, through Hajar, a believing lady his wife, Sarah, suggested he should marry in Egypt.
As God would have it, Sarah would also be delivered of a child, Ishaq. Ismail had not weaned before Ibrahim received a vision of settling his family in Becca in Arabia, which lies in a valley within hills and mountains. He pro- ceeded on his journey and it was the fate of the young mother and her son that they would be left in God’s hands as Ibrahim supplicated for them in the desolate region he left them in with little provision.
The young mother’s quest for water made her run seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwa until water sprang forth from the boy’s feet and the prayer of Ibrahim for God’s care was answered.
Ibrahim returned occasionally to visit his family and his son assisted him in rebuilding the first house made for mankind, the Ka’aba, which was then in ruins. It was during one of such visits that Ibrahim had a vision of sacrificing his son. The distressed father discussed the vision with his son and the obedient boy asked his father to do as he was directed by God: sacrifice me! As Ibrahim made to fulfil God’s purpose, he was called, “O Ibrahim!
You have fulfilled the vision. Indeed, we reward those who do right, for this was a clear trial”. God provided him with a ram to sacrifice as he was satisfied with his Prophet’s faithfulness (Quran 37:105).
Pilgrimage to Becca or Mecca was thereafter established with the completion of the Ka’aba by Ibrahim with the assistance of his son, Ismail. Ismail would later give birth to twelve children, including Kidar, who is the progenitor of many Arabs.
It is against the foregoing background that the most enduring lesson of the season is sacrifice, a core component of faith. The corollary of sacrifice is service, working without consideration for self and exerting oneself for the common good or the good of the others.
As Muslims engage in festivities today, the overarching lesson of the season is that life is not all about self, money, power and transient privileges. It is about the sacrifices one can make to add more value to the lives of others. It is about foregoing personal comfort and even entitlements in order to put smiles on the faces of others.
On many occasions, it takes sacrifice to cement friendship and camaraderie. Sacrificing time, money, thoughts and interests is often required to let people know we really care about them. It is not about being right always, it is about being good and caring. For our collective peace and development, owe ourselves a duty of taming the beast of selfishness and materialism that has reduced us to a nation of people without conscience. We need to embrace sacrifice because nothing ventured, nothing gained.
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