Thursday, 15 September 2016

This Year's Eid-Ul-Adha

Literally translating as the “festival of the sacrifice” and also known as the “Greater Eid”, Eid al-Adha marks the end of Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca undertaken by Muslims all over the world. It is distinct from Eid al-Fitr, the festival that comes immediately after Ramadan which was celebrated last month. During the Greater Eid, Muslims commemorate the day Ibrahim was about to sacrifice his son but was told by God to kill an animal instead. The celebration symbolises Ibrahim’s devotion to Allah. It honours his willingness to sacrifice his son, as an act of submission to God's command.

The Eid sacrifice is a frank reminder of the great expression, not only of Abraham's love for God, but of God's great love for hell-bound sinners in giving his only Son to die for the sins of the world so that some, by forsaking their sin and by trusting in the Son, might be redeemed from the awful wrath of God and become instead, the heirs of his grace. The timing of the celebration is dictated by the lunar cycle, so the festival falls on a different date every year, just as Easter does. The day is set when a new moon is sighted – but there is no exact definition of what this means. There is little agreement within the faith about whether the moon must be spotted with the naked eye and whether it should be seen in the country where the celebrations are happening. The result of the varying interpretations of the rule is that Greater Eid falls on a different day depending on what sect, mosque or region you are in.

This year, the Eid was expected to have fallen on September 11, which was yesterday, which co-incidentally marked the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon. Concerns arose that the holiday would be misunderstood to mean Muslims celebrating the atrocities. One cannot also rule out the possibility of some unscrupulous elements in the society taking advantage of the celebrations and the Day to launch attacks similar to those which took place in 2001. As soon as it became apparent that this year's Eid was likely to fall on 9/11, religious leaders in many parts of the world put their communities on high alert. Mosques which normally hold outdoor prayers on Eid are reportedly considering moving indoors amid worries about security. This is imperative due to the surge in suspected hate crimes after terrorist massacres in Paris and California. As Akbar Ahmed, a chair of Islamic Studies at the American University in Washington DC said: “One act of violence could trigger another as there is heightened tension." It is therefore not surprising that the Eid has been shifted to today. In any case, these fears and concerns cannot take anything away from the significance of the Day. It is a joyous occasion. Men, women, and children dress in their finest clothing to perform Eid prayer in large congregations in open fields or mosques.

The regular charitable practices of the Muslim community are demonstrated during Eid al-Adha by concerted efforts to see that no impoverished person is left without an opportunity to partake in the sacrificial meal during these days. Affluent Muslims who can afford it sacrifice their best domestic animals (usually a cow, but can also be a camel, goat, sheep, or ram depending on the region) as a symbol of Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his only son. Even as Muslims and indeed all Ghanaians celebrate this very important festival, we must be reminded of the recent happenings at the Asawase Town Hall when some people lost their lives in a stampede during an Eid-ul-fitr night jam. In as much as these are joyous occasions, people must learn to celebrate in moderation. Reckless riding of motor bikes, alcoholism and the likes should not form part religious festivals. Even as the nation goes to the polls in December, let us use this occasion to pray for peaceful elections. But more importantly, let our conduct on this occasion demonstrate that we are have the fear of God in us and we love peace.

Eid Mubarak.


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