Originally published in Santa Barbara Independent
Eid-ul-Adha literally means “commemoration of the sacrifice.” Some 10 weeks after Muslims spent a month sacrificing food in the month of Ramadan, Muslims spend time to remember Prophet Abraham’s sacrifice. While Islamic holidays may focus on sacrifices, these sacrifices are a means for strengthening one’s connection with God.
This past Wednesday, 1.6 billion Muslims commemorated Prophet Abraham’s sacrifice. Along with the prescribed five daily prayers, Muslims provide additional supplications and reflect on the wisdom behind Abraham’s submission to God. The Qur’an succinctly illustrates Abraham’s sacrifice:
“And when he (Ishmael) was old enough to run along with him (Abraham), he said, ‘O my dear son, I have seen in a dream that I offer thee in sacrifice. So consider what thou thinkest of it!’ He replied, ‘O my father, do as thou art commanded; thou wilt find me, if Allah please, steadfast in my faith.’
“And when they both submitted to the Will of God, and Abraham had thrown him down on his forehead, We called to him, ‘O Abraham, thou hast indeed fulfilled the dream. Thus indeed do We reward those who do good.’” (37:103-106).
Through a dream from God, Abraham was willing to sacrifice that which parents cherish more than life — their child. Simultaneously, Ishmael is willing to sacrifice that which is most dear to any young man — his life. When history analyzes these individuals’ lives, one is astonished how two rational individuals could be making a seemingly irrational decision based on a dream. History attests that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam’s founding father was a rational, tender-hearted man.
Abraham’s sacrifice isn’t a testament to irrationality but rather a testament to his conviction and dedication to God. Believers and nonbelievers can both agree: If you believe in a higher being, then your belief should not be mere lip service. If true love is dedication of one’s life for your beloved, then why should your connection with God be any different? If you have a strong conviction toward a living God, then your submission brings you love from your Creator. As was the case here, God stopped Abraham before he could sacrifice Ishmael.
Jews, Christians, and Muslims can all learn from Abraham’s dedication. In particular, the Qur’an instructs Muslims to believe in “what has been revealed to Abraham and to Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob and his children, and what was given to Moses and Jesus.” (2:137). Eid-ul-Adha isn’t just a time to reflect on sacrifices, but it is a time to reflect on the universality of the world’s religions. Sacrificing ourselves for others is what we all can learn from Abraham. Believers and nonbelievers alike can appreciate the human capacity to sacrifice one’s most prized possession for one’s beloved.