Dr. Ahmad Shafaat
falls on the 10th day of the 12th month (dhu'l hijjah) of
the Islamic calendar. This is the day when the pilgrims gather in
Makkah by the millions come, after having completed many of the
essential rites of hajj, out of ihram
and out of the restrictions that go with ihram (e.g.
the restriction against putting on perfume, cutting nails or cutting
beard or other hair).
(which consists of two unstitched pieces of white cloth for men and
any modest dress for women) symbolizes kafan,
the white sheet in which the dead are wrapped in preparation of
burial. The restrictions associated with ihram further
reinforce this symbolism. When a pilgrim wears ihram on or
before the 8th of dhu'l hijjah he or she symbolically
passes to the OTHER SIDE (of the grave) and when on the 10th of
dhu'l hijjah he or she comes out of ihram it is
like a return to THIS SIDE. At this point the rest of the Ummah
which had stayed behind on THIS SIDE joins the pilgrims through the
festivities of 'id al-adha.
Thus id al-adha is linked
with hajj, the "fifth pillar" of Islam just as
id al-fitr is linked with fasting, the "fourth pillar". But
unlike id al-fitr which marks the end of fasting,
'id al-adha does not mark the end of hajj,
which continues until the 12th or 13th of dhu'l hijjah,
two or three days after the start of 'id al-adha.
'Id al-adha is a kind of joining in hajj by
those who could not make it to Makkah.
This "joining in" is done in two ways.
First, through 'id prayers. Just as the pilgrims have
gathered in Makkah for remembering Allah in various ways, so also
the rest of the Muslims gather in large numbers in their own cities
and remember Allah through special prayers. Second, through
sacrificing an animal. Just as many pilgrims (i.e. those that
perform hajj al-tamatt'u, one of three types of hajj) sacrifice
an animal on 10th, 11th or 12th of dhu'l hijjah, so also the
Muslims the world over perform sacrifices on one or the other of the
same three days. All other rites of hajj are bound with
specific places, e.g. tawaf with the ka'abah and
sa'i with the hills of safa and marwa. But getting
together and remembering Allah through prayers and takbirs
(calling 'God is greater than anything else) and making sacrificial
offerings is not so bound to any place. So the Muslims all over the
world "join in" hajj through these two types of actions.
If id al-adha is linked with
hajj in this close way, then its primary significance must lie
in the meaning of hajj, especially the two hajj rites
that pilgrims perform during the three days of 'id al-adha:
sacrifice of an animal (nahr) and stoning of the devils (rami
as we all know, commemorates the exemplary manifestation of
obedience and love shown to God by the prophet Ibrahim when he bowed
to God's command and prepared himself to sacrifice the dearest thing
he had in his life, his son Isma'il. Such surrender to the will of
God and love for Him is expected not just of prophets but of all
believers, since all believers are expected to be "Muslims", meaning
those who surrender their wills to God and all believers are
expected to "love God most of
all" (2:165). Nahr is meant to
remind us this stage of Islam and iman (inner conviction), if
not to make us strive to reach it.
also commemorates the mercy and love that God showed to Ibrahim when
He stopped him before he actually sacrificed his most beloved son.
This mercy and love of God for prophet Ibrahim is a manifestation of
the mercy and love that He has for man generally and nahr celebrates
The second hajj rite during
the days of 'id al-adha is stoning of three pillars that
symbolize three devils or three manifestations of the Devil:
batil (falsehood), kufr (rejection of God and His
signs) and zulm (oppression). This stoning clearly is meant
to remind us of the need of jihad in its various forms
against all kinds of forces of evil, jihad that occupied the
lives of all the prophets and must occupy the lives of all true
believers. This stoning is done again and again on three different
days. This is meant to make
the point the battle between good and evil is not a one time affair
but a perpetual one and the believers need to engage in it
throughout their lives with constancy.
It is interesting to note that although
stoning of the devils is done on three different days, many of us
spent our 'id al-adha without talking or thinking about it
even once. Is this a manifestation of the fact that over the
centuries we have somehow managed to remove from our consciousness
the dynamic part of Islam?
like 'id al-fitr is also a time for enjoyment and
entertainment. This is not in contradiction to the extremely serious
lessons taught to us by nahr and rami al-jamarat. For,
it is quite possible for a person to maintain a very serious outlook
on life and engage in very serious struggle and at the same time
indulge in a little light-hearted entertainment on the side.