Spirit of sacrifices: Reflecting on Huzoor’s Eid al-Adha sermon

Rameen Masood, Leicester, UK
20230629 104752 1137793D

“Say, ‘My Prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are [all] for Allah, the Lord of the worlds.” (Surah Al-An’am, Ch.6: V.163)

Celebrated on the 10th of Dhul Hijjah, Eid-ul-Adha, ‘the Festival of Sacrifice’, teaches us many lessons. It is a celebration that leads us to imbue the true odyssey of sacrifice and obedience within ourselves, both of which are significant rungs on the ladder of righteousness.

If we ponder deeply, we realise that sacrifice is a trait utilised in every stage and avenue of a person’s life. At times, we adopt it without even realising it. For instance, sacrifice is a vital part of a student’s life. A student makes sacrifices when they prioritise study time instead of leisure activities. A person sacrifices when they seek the fulfilment of long-term goals rather than instant gratification. These sacrifices foster self-discipline and prepare students for the next phase of life.

In a similar vein, our small spiritual sacrifices prepare us for greater sacrifices. Eid-ul-Adha teaches us that even the small sacrifices we make are rewarding. This is a life-long process whereby we begin making efforts to please our Almighty Lord and continuously strive to make these efforts and sacrifices.

We are all familiar with the profound submission exemplified by Prophet Abrahamas at the command of God Almighty, explaining which, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih Vaa, said during this year’s Eid ul-Adha sermon:

“The sacrifice of animals is a sunnah, a practice of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, and he always upheld this practice. In fact, he even made sacrifices of animals on behalf of the poor. This Abrahamic tradition has particularly been revived within Islam. It is not possible to understand this in developed countries; however, in poorer countries, when they are given meat to eat, their happiness is worth observing. There are many people in those countries who have not had meat for over two years! Thus, the sacrifice of animals is also a way of fulfilling the rights of the people and it results in increasing the love of God Almighty because one is able to serve the creation of God to seek the love of Allah.” (“Head of The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Delivers Eid-Ul-Adha Sermon from Islamabad”, www.pressahmadiyya.com/)

Notwithstanding the importance of animal sacrifice, it is not only its apparent meaning we should be content with. Rather, we should also seek to understand how this event is a beautiful allegory of spiritual values that we should endeavour to emulate, as Huzooraa also highlighted by saying:

“These physical sacrifices that we make are there in order to shake our spirit, to make it realise that just as this animal was sacrificed for our use, a true believer should be ready to make every sacrifice, following the commandments of God. Prepare both your physical and spiritual selves for making sacrifices and elevate your standards of righteousness.” (Ibid.)

The Promised Messiahas most eloquently encapsulates the doctrine of true sacrifice in the following words:

“These physical sacrifices are not the essence; they are merely the shell; they are not the spirit; they are merely the body.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 2, p. 206 [2019])

In my early childhood, I faintly recall a festive celebration at my elders’ residence in my home country. The excitement of the festival was evident as I spent time in merriment with my siblings and relatives. I suppose the younger me did not comprehend the importance of this occasion and was probably just really excited that it was finally Eid and I could play. However, as the years have passed, the notion of sacrifice has become more conspicuous. I’ve realised that there’s more to sacrifice than just something tangible. Spiritual sacrifice is the crux. This reminds me of the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, who said, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” (www.goodreads.com/quotes/1256288-it-is-only-with-the-heart-that-one-can-see) This quote emphasises how virtues and attributes that matter the most are often imperceptible or not recognised by the eye instantly. It requires a constant effort to observe and identify the subtleties of our actions.

Similarly, some of the sacrifices we make may not seem much in our eyes right now, but the indelible marks they leave on our souls will be impactful. The true joy of Eid-ul-Adha comes with this very realisation that no one is too young or too old to sacrifice. No one is too young or too old to connect with the Creator. While Eid is inevitably an occasion of rejoicing and festivities, it is also a time of self-reflection and searching within ourselves for the realisation that our souls yearn for the light of righteousness and communion with the Almighty. God has created these moments of joy for us so that we make greater progress, and these days act to revitalise the soul, encouraging it to quell the darkness within. The wicks of our hearts’ candles are kept alive through the struggles and sacrifices we endure, evermore believing that ‘Allah will not forsake us’.

What would be left of life if an abyss of perpetual merrymaking consumed us? How would we make progress? How would we ascend the ladder of righteousness further?

Going back to the Quranic verse at the beginning of this article, I can’t help but notice the eloquent lexical manner in which Allah the Almighty has alluded to the synonymity of prayer with life and sacrifice with a form of death. In the Five Volume Commentary, we read:

“As prayer imparts life to the worshipper, so it has been followed by the words, ‘my life.’ On the contrary, ‘sacrifice’ kills the self of man, so it has been followed by the words, ‘my death.’ These four words, i.e.,  prayer, sacrifice, life and death, thus cover the entire field of man’s actions, and the Holy Prophetsa has been asked to declare that all phases of his life were devoted to God alone.” (Five Volume Commentary, Surah Al-An’am, Ch.6: V.163) How invaluable is this lesson!

When celebrating Eid-ul-Adha, the Promised Messiahas urges us to contemplate: “This Eid-ul-Adha is greater than the Eid that precedes it, and people generally refer to this as the ‘Greater Eid’ as well, but reflect and do tell me, how many people, as a result of this Eid, are actually moved to purify their soul, cleanse their heart, partake of spirituality, and endeavour to absorb the radiance and light that is present in this duha (time of brightness)?” (Malfuzat, Vol. 2, p. 206 [2019])

These words of the Promised Messiahas empower and motivate us to seek our Creator, whose existence is proclaimed by every ounce of our being. Whether it is the mesmerising beauty of the cherry blossom trees or the rays of the scintillating sun dappling upon the dewy grass, everything points to the splendour of our Creator. In our spiritual conquest, God Almighty is there with us. All along the way. He protects and guides us, for He truly is ar Razzaq and al Hadi.

Eid-ul-Adha further enlightens us about our purpose and teaches how serving humanity is also an integral part of our existence. It urges us to embody selflessness in serving humanity and thus manifesting the purest forms of huquq-ul-‘ibad (the rights of mankind). We will achieve the essence of this Eid when we truly embrace the values of sacrifice, obedience, and service. Not only do these values form the bedrock of a just society, but they also increase our faith and strengthen our relationship with our Creator.

And what could be a greater victory than that? 

I would like to conclude this article with these couplets of the Promised Messiahas:

ہے عجب میرے خدا میرے پہ اِحساں تیرا

کس طرح شکر کروں اے مِرے سُلطاں تیرا

ایک ذرّہ بھى نہیں تُو نے کیا مجھ سے فرق

میرے اِس جسم کا ہر ذرّہ ہو قرباں تیرا

‘Thy blessing on me, my Lord, is most unusual. How can I render thanks to Thee, O my King. Thou hast not done even a tad of injustice to me. Every cell of my body may be sacrificed for Thee.’ (Durr-e-Sameen [English Translation], p. 47)

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