Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Inner Dimensions of Sacrifice (Qurbani) of Eid Al-Adha (Bakrid) and it's lessons for life:

 Say: My Prayer and my sacrifice, my living and my dying belong to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds (al-An'am 6:162).

The annual ritual of animal sacrifice in Islam has important and far reaching lessons and implications for our life. It's not just limited to slaughtering an animal.

Rather, it is meant to inculcate in us a never ending spirit of sacrifice for the sake of Allah who gave us all that we possess in the first place.

Sacrifice, Islam and Iman:

Islam simply means surrender to God of your whole being, not of just some possession. Put in the language of our present discourse Islamic life is a life of sacrifice par excellence. It entails a struggle that must be ceaselessly waged, to actualize Islam, inwardly and outwardly, to make it a living reality.

Sacrifice is the nourishment without which the tiny seeds of Iman will not grow into mighty, leafy trees, providing shade and fruit to the countless caravans of mankind (Ibrahim 14:24-5). 

It is one of those keys without which the closed doors do not unlock (al-Baqarah 2:214). It is true whether the path taken is personal - to reach spiritual and moral heights, or social - to cast life and society in the mould of Islam (surrender to One God). And it is true, when these two paths most desirably merge together. For the loftier the goal and more arduous the way, the greater the need to sacrifice, and sacrifice more and more.

Every act of sacrifice nourishes and increases your Iman; for it transforms a verbal confession and a mental conviction into a living reality. 

It confirms, and thus increases, your love for Allah; for at every step you give up something for the sake of this love (al-Imran 3:172-3). 

It reinforces your loyalty and fidelity to Allah; for all other loyalties become secondary as they are sacrificed for the sake of this loyalty. 

In short, sacrifices bring you nearer to Allah. The process is mutually interactive: the stronger the faith, the greater the will and capacity to sacrifice; the greater the sacrifices, the more internalized and deeper the faith.

Sacrifice and Tazkiya:

Sacrifices are essential for the development of all moral and spiritual qualities, but especially for the development of patience, endurance, perseverance, fortitude, resolve and determina tion. These can be summed up in just one word: Sabr. 

Every sacrifice reinforces the quality of sabr, making it grow in quality and strength. Sabr, in turn, sustains and increases the capacity to sacrifice. 

Again, the process is dialectic. All promises of help from Allah, all assurances of success in this-world and rewards in the Hereafter, have been made conditional upon the attainment of Iman and Sabr (al-Imran 3:139,125 ; al-Anfal 8:46 ; al-A'raf 7:137 ; al-Zumar 39:10).

Sacrifice primarily means slaughter of an animal. To remember the examples of Ibrahim and Muhammad you sacrifice an animal each year on the day after Hajj; Hajj itself being a worship rite which incorporates the most intense and sustained sacrifices.

Here we must remember two important lessons of sacrificing animals:

One: What finds acceptance with God is not the sacrificial animal, but our willingness and preparedness to sacrifice, His love in our hearts, our obedience to Him. Never lose sight of this root principle; never be content with 'form' without spirit; nor,though, ever give up forms.
The flesh of them shall not reach God, neither their blood, but godliness from you shall reach Him (al-Hajj 22:37).

Two: The supreme sacrifice is the sacrifice of life. By giving away your physical life in the way of Allah, you die once. And that is the ultimate sacrifice. But you are required to die every day and every moment as you overcome your deeply-rooted loves, as you offer yourself totally to God, as you obey Him against all opposition from within and without. Thus you lay down your life, not just once, but again and again. That is the supreme sacrifice.
Say: My Prayer and my sacrifice, my living and my dying belong to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds (al-An'am 6:162).

Sacrifices of Hadhrat Ibrahim A.S:

By sacrificing animals for Allah's pleasure on Eid al-Adha, Muslims are commanded to follow Ibrahim (AS), that paragon of sacrifice in the way of Allah: 
First, he had to repudiate his father and even forgo his desire to seek Allah's forgiveness for him. Later, he had to demonstrate his willingness to sacrifice his son literally.

The sacrifices we are to make:

In a way we are required to make small, very small, sacrifices every moment in life. For at every step and every moment we are faced with a choice - however small - to go one way or to go the other way. Every choice made to please Allah means taking a decision to sacrifice something. Even, as you choose to offer Fajr (morning) Prayer, you sacrifice your sleep and the warmth of your bed.

There are sacrifices to be made in regular day to day living - in home, in work place, in market, in social contact, at home, even in privacy - which are likely to be missed. They are more difficult to make simply because they are not even recognized as suitable stuff for sacrifice.

What to sacrifice:

Sacrifice, as we have seen, simply means to give up things which we love and hold dear, which in our eyes have some value for us. We may possess them now or hope and aspire to have them in future. The things may be tangible and concrete or intangible and abstract. 

Important among concrete things are time, money, worldly possessions, physical abilities, life. 
Important abstract things may include our ties of love and affection, especially familial, likes and dislikes, preferences and prejudices, views and opinions, desires and aspirations, pleasures and comforts, status and roles, or merely our ego.

The Three basic principles of sacrifice:

There are three basic principles which, in my view, are important to understand if we want to have a full understanding of sacrifice.

Firstly, giving up something deserves to be called a sacrifice only when we love and value it. Hence, it is difficult to draw a clear line of demarcation between the concrete and the abstract. In the final analysis, every sacrifice is a sacrifice of our love or value. When we give away money, or life, or a familial tie for the sake of Allah, what we realty give up, and that makes it a sacrifice, is our love for money, life or a relative, not the object itself.

Secondly, it is more difficult and more necessary to sacrifice abstract things rather than the concrete.

Thirdly, we can give up something we love and to which we attach value only for something we love more and to which we attach greater value.


How to draw from within yourselves the inner resources which would generate, nourish and sustain your spirit and capacity to sacrifice? How can you become, and remain, willing and prepared to offer sacrifices required of you?

There are certain fundamental inner resources which need to be emphasized and remembered, which you must try to generate within yourselves.

1. Love for Allah

Love lies at the root of every sacrifice. You can therefore realize what you need most to help you gain the inner strength necessary for offering sacrifices. It is your love for Allah. How much do you love him? Do you love Him more than everything else?
That is why the Qur'an says: 'The [true] believers love God more than all else' (al-Baqarah 2:165). That is why it confronts every Muslim with one simple but profound question: Whom do you love more? Allah, His Messenger and Jihad in His way, or fathers, sons, wives, brothers, wealth, houses, commerce, careers? (al-Tawbah 9: 24).

Only with such love for Allah will sacrifice turn into an inner urge, rather than remaining a motion of compliance with an external exhortation. Then you will derive the true delight and pleasure in fulfilling the demands of Iman. 

The Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, said: 'There are three things, only the one who has them will taste the sweetness of Iman: [first of them is] that Allah and His Messenger he loves more than any other thing beside them . . .' (Bukhari, Muslim).
How to attain love for Allah which exceeds every other love? There are not, and cannot be, any precise formula for this purpose. But a few things will help. And each in turn will become a rich inner resource you will need to fulfill the demands of sacrificing.

2. Remembering Allah (Dhikrullah)

Remembering Him as often as you can is essential and fundamental. It will help you not only to attain love, but all other resources you need to develop your spirit and capacity of sacrifice: mindful of living in His presence, attaching real value to meeting Him and receiving His rewards, understanding the worth and place of this-worldly life, grateful and humble before Him, fearful of never having done enough, prepared and willing to obey His commands.

3. Living in His Presence (Ma'e at)

Live as if you are in His presence. Remember that 'He is with you wherever you may be' (al-Hadid 57:4). When you are called upon to make a sacrifice, or you prepare to make it of your own accord, remember that you are before His eyes. That is what He asks us to be mindful of: 'Surely you are before Our eyes' (al-Tur 52:48).
Coupled with your conviction that whatever you are sacrificing belongs to the One who is seeing you, and His reward would be manifold and eternal, this should give you some measure of that inner urge and strength essential to you.
This consciousness of being in His presence, of His Eyes being upon us, of Him listening to us, of doing our duty as our Master is with us, praising us generously, rewarding us kindly, is a prime source for creating the spirit of sacrifice. This also creates trust in Him, because once you know that you are with Him, you can entrust all your affairs to Him.

4. Thinking of the day of Meeting with Allah

 If you understand the nature and reality of this-worldly life, if you know that you can receive your fair wages only upon meeting Allah, then you will develop two feelings.
One, a desire to meet Him, however you may fear Him on account of your own misdeeds.
Two, the preparedness to sacrifice everything that belongs to this-world for what you will earn in reward in the Hereafter.

One of the du'as the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, used to make says:
Allah! Grant me the delight of looking at Thy noble face and a longing to meet Thee (Nasa'i, Ahmad, Hakim).

5. Gratefulness and Humility

Whatever the nature of sacrifice, and whether big or small tangible or intangible, offer it in gratitude and humility. It so often happens that one begins to get weary and tired of giving in the way of Allah. One, then, begins to say, 'We have already spent so much time; we have already given so much money; how much more shall we give?; we have already made so many sacrifices; what else is required of us?' This will happen only if you are making sacrifices not to please Allah alone; but then you are motivated by something else. Or, when you do not realize that you should indeed be grateful to Him for every opportunity you get to offer some sacrifice. Also offer every sacrifice in all humility.

Let us be very clear that whatever things you sacrifice, you do not give it to some person, nor to some organization. Nor do you give it to Allah, though He is Merciful and Generous enough to say that whatever you give is a loan to Him, which shall be repaid manifold. You give everything to yourselves. Does one ever get tired of giving more and more to himself?

Now this is not selfishness. It only means that we believe that our ultimate prosperity lies in submission to the will of Allah. Through sacrifice we seek our betterment in this life and we desire a successful, eternal life in the Hereafter. At the same time, every sacrifice we make, everything we give in the way of Allah, makes our community stronger.

Therefore be grateful to Allah for having given you the opportunity to sacrifice, for having called upon you to serve Him, for having blessed you with the ability to offer something in His way. Things might have been otherwise. We might have been left wandering astray: we might not have been given the opportunity to sacrifice wealth and thus reap eternal reward. You should therefore give every sacrifice in the spirit of gratitude. To Him you should look for acceptance.

And also humility. You should never have the feeling of having done enough. Once the disease creeps into your heart that you have done enough, then all is lost. You should always think that whatever sacrifice you may offer, it is still nothing compared to the obligations you have to discharge towards Allah.

Being fearful of never having given away enough is very fundamental to your sacrifice. The Qur'an says: 'They give what they give, but their hearts tremble' (al-Mu'minun 23:60).

6. Inner Urge and Ikhlaas

The primary motivating force that drives you to make sacrifices must lie inside your own self. The urge should come from within. 
The roots must lie deep in your heart and soul. Neither group approval, nor conformity, nor organizational discipline, nor any other external pressure, should provide the compulsion to come forward with your sacrifice. Each one of them is important and has an important role to play in shaping our conduct. But if sacrifices are offered for any reason other than Allah's pleasure, it would be extremely difficult to offer large sacrifices, or offer them continually, under all circumstances. The will and spirit to sacrifice must be internalized.

7. Willing Choice and Ridha

Choice to sacrifice should be made willingly. This means that you should, by your own choice, come forward to offer whatever you can to secure Allah's pleasure. Your will should harmonize with His will.
This does not mean that one should not feel any pain or discomfort while making a sacrifice. Once you give up your love or your desire or your value, to feel pain is only human. Indeed, if you feel no pain in giving up something, that giving up may not be worth being called a sacrifice. You are throwing away something which is of no value to you. Rather, the greater the pain, the greater the worth of the sacrifice. But pain ought to be followed by contentment; contentment for having given up something you considered valuable for Allah's pleasure which is really the most valuable, for having willingly borne pain for the sake of your love for Allah which supersedes every other love.

Two Basic Aids in acquiring these qualities- SALAT AND SABR:

We have been given two basic aids to help us develop all those inner resources which I have put before you. I can only mention them in passing, for each deserves to be treated in detail in its own right.
O Believers! Seek help with Sabr and Salat (al-Baqarah 2:153).

What is Salat? 
Salat of course is a ritual worship. It consists of certain physical postures. It also consists of certain words which we utter from beginning to end. But the whole purpose of Salat is to remember and to be conscious of Allah. This is what the Qur'an very clearly states: 'Establish Prayer to remember Me' (Ta Ha 20:14).

What is sabr? 
It is very comprehensive in meaning. Literally sabr means to bind and restrain. In the Qur'an it encompasses qualities as wide as restraint and resolve, patience and the will to sacrifice, discipline and steadfastness. It binds you to your pledge to Allah, to your brothers, to your good in the Hereafter.

Hold on to Salat and sabr and you will gain the strength you need to offer sacrifices.

(-Excerpted from a speech by Khurram Murad.)

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