Sacrifice: The élan vital of love

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The sentiment of love has arguably been the rock of the vast amount of literature produced in the world since time immemorial, albeit in different forms and shapes – love for a person, for a place, for faith, for a nation and so forth. 

Read through the literature produced in the many centuries of human existence and one will find that sacrifice has been the bloodline for love in all its shades and derivatives. From Homer’s Odyssey to Wordsworth’s romanticism and all the way to modern-day fiction and poetry, love has remained the current that runs through human expression, and sacrifice, the undercurrent. 

What we know as Eid-ul-Adha is a reminder to all Muslims that love on its own is a body without a soul. Ahmadis are lucky not to have to wait for the annual cycle for this reminder; the pledge that every Ahmadi proclaims – from weekly meetings to annual ijtemas – is all about the love for the cause of the Promised Messiahas, resting on the pivot of sacrifice.  

“I shall be ready to sacrifice my time, wealth, honour, children …”: Anything and everything dear to us is sworn in by every Ahmadi – children or adults, women or men.  

So what makes sacrifice so important in Islam is not different from what makes sacrifice so very important in any affair of human society: Love. True love calls for sacrifice, not just words, and it is this distinction that defines true love and a hollow sense of belonging.  

The first reference to sacrifice in the Holy Quran is found in the story of Hazrat Adam’s two sons, who both offered sacrifice but not both were accepted by Allah the Almighty; acceptance of the sacrifice, the story indicates, is down to Allah Who accepts or rejects on the basis of “righteousness”. So, we see that what attracts Allah’s acceptance is not based on the quantity of the offering but the quality, and quality is added to the sacrifice through the love that works behind the act. 

The most detailed account of sacrifice mentioned in the Quran is of that of Abrahamas offering his son Ishmaelas to be slaughtered in the way of Allah the Almighty. Abrahamas passed what was only a test of his love and is honoured by Allah as “Khalilullah” (the friend of Allah) and certified as “loyal”. 

The strongest teaching of sacrifice and its philosophy found in the Holy Quran is, however, in the verse: 

لَقَدۡ‭ ‬كَانَ‭ ‬لَكُمۡ‭ ‬فِيۡ‭ ‬رَسُوۡلِ‭ ‬اللّٰهِ‭ ‬اُسۡوَةٌ‭ ‬حَسَنَةٌ

“Verily, you have in the Prophet of Allah an excellent model.” (Ch.33: V.22)

If Allah prescribes the practices of the Holy Prophet, Muhammadsa as the best model for the believers, then Allah is undoubtedly asking for a life of sacrifice to live up to it. 

A child born orphan, or, as some accounts suggest, became an orphan at a very early age, the Holy Prophetsa was to live a life of sacrifice from his birth to the time that he passed away. What kept him going, as is evident from his biographical accounts, was the sheer love of Allah the Almighty. 

From his self-imposed solitude in the blossom of his youth to offering every belonging in the way of Allah, the Holy Prophet’s life is the epitome of both love and sacrifice. 

It was quite natural for his wife to ask him why he stood in prayer all night long, even though he knew he was the beloved of Allah. His reply was, “Should I not be thankful for this great honour?” 

Saying this, he continued to sacrifice his sleep – the only one thing that could bring him some comfort. 

We find debates around a statement attributed to the Holy Prophetsa where he said: 

انا‭ ‬ابن‭ ‬الذبيحين

“I am the son of two slaughters”. Some experts in authenticity of hadith reject it on the basis of weak links in the chain of its narration; others accept it as authentic for having appeared in the works of Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Ibn Kathir and Qurtubi. The background, however, is interesting to note before we conclude this piece. 

Legend has it, as recorded by the likes of Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Hisham and Ibn Saad, that Abdul Muttalib had vowed to sacrifice one of his sons in the way of God. He cast a lot to choose the son to be sacrificed from his 10 sons (or eight according to some). The lot fell on Abdullah, the father-to-be of Prophet Muhammadsa.

Relatives and well-wishers advised that he sacrificed camels in lieu of his son and, thus, it is said that Abdul Muttalib sacrificed 100 (some suggest 300) camels; hence was saved the life of Hazrat Abdullah. 

The other “slaughter” this tradition refers to is that of Hazrat Ishmaelas, from whose progeny the Holy Prophetsa belonged. 

Not being in our scope to testify the authenticity of ahadith, we can, however, testify that the whole life of the Holy Prophetsa was laden with sacrifices. 

His life was to be mirrored in the Latter Days in the Promised Messiahas, who, as we know, lived a life of sacrifice. The Promised Messiah, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, to bring success to the mission of the Holy Prophetsa, sacrificed his wealth, time, honour, rest and peace; all for the love of his holy master, Hazrat Muhammad Mustafasa

Then followed Khilafat-e-Ahmadiyya where every Khalifa sacrificed every fibre of their being in the way of Allah. Calling for the same, they have always led by example.  

The Eid sermon we listened to on Wednesday was by a man who is sacrifice personified. From devoting his life to Islam Ahmadiyyat in the prime of his youth, to working under extremely challenging circumstances for the cause of Islam to sacrificing his sleep for the love of Allah the Almighty and for the people he knows are the last “Jamaat” to be divinely established.  

We all express our love for our beloved Imam, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaa. We all pledge to sacrifice anything and everything for him. But what do we actually sacrifice for the grand cause that he is the commander of?  

Every one of us will have their own answers. 

May Allah enable us to understand the call-of-the-time by the Khalifa-of-the-time and may we all be able to offer everything dear to us to nurture the love that we claim to have for Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa, the Promised Messiahas, the Holy Prophetsa – a chain of love leading ultimately to Allah the Almighty.

(By Asif M Basit, London)

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