“And for every nation we have appointed religious ceremonies, that they may mention the name of Allah over the beast of cattle that he has given them for food. And your Allah is one Allah so you must submit to him alone. And give glad tidings to the Mukbitin whose hearts are filled with fear when Allah is mentioned; who patiently bear whatever may befall them; and who perform asSalat, and who spend (in Allah’s cause)out of what We have provided them.” (Al-Hajj: 33-34)
It was 4pm and only one-tenth of the student population were left The rest were already on their way home or were relaxing with their family members at home. The reason? To celebrate Aidiladha. And I kept wondering, why the balik kampung fuss? Why do students have to skip lectures, queued long lines and beat the heavy traffic jams just to spend the weekend with their families? Is it really necessary? And they complained when the tickets were sold out and they couldn’t go home.
Aidiladha or as the Malays call it, Hari Raya Haji is the Muslim festival to commemorate the act of sacrifice of prophet Ismail by his own father, prophet Ibrahim. It’s a day that marked the greatest sacrifice a human could perform before his God, to slaughter his own flesh and blood, his first-born son whom Allah s.w.t gave him in his old age. Ask any Muslim and they can tell you the story. Therefore in conjunction to the hajj season, Muslims who do not perform hajj would sacrifice cattle in their own countries.
“Ewww, but it’s so gross!” comment a Christian friend.
“Why do they have to slaughter the cows? So cruel, pity the cows that shake and kick as blood ooze out from the necks, yucky!!”
“Right, why kill the animals in open air? Imagine the dust and the bacteria.”
“See Christian way better mahh, no need do sacrifice, Jesus already died for us all.”
Those were the comments I’ve heard when I was a non-Muslim when the word ‘korban’ was mentioned. As I didn’t want those commentators to know my interest in Islam then, I had kept quiet. Interestingly, nobody bothered to say the same things to me now that I am “one of them”; otherwise I would have a lot to say in reply.
Sometimes I wonder how many people, born Muslims actually know the meaning behind the sacrifice or ‘korban’. I also wonder as I’m writing, how many of those people who are rushing home know why they are rushing home for. To be with their family members? To help in the slaughter of the cattle? To cook the beef ? Or to merely enjoy the food and wear another set of new clothes? What is the essence of ‘korban’?
Being a busybody, I asked my friend, a born Muslim, if she was going to fast on Arafah Day, the day before Aidiladha.
“What’s that?” she asked me back in surprise. “I thought we cannot fast before Hari Raya Haji.
Masya Allah, I spent half an hour explaining to her about benefits of puasa on Arafah Day, although I can’t perform mine this year. I wasn’t surprised actually by her ignorance because I know that many Muslims seldom perform the sunat fasting. “The heart is willing but the will is weak,” explained another friend for his lack of optional sunat fasting.
Anyway, I’m happy to report that the friend concerned, after listening to my explanation, fasted for the first time on Arafah Day.
What is ‘korban’ actually?
To me, it’s not just the slaughtering of the cow, the camel or the goat.
The sharing of three parts of the cow for three different groups of people is also a form of giving thanks to Allah s.w.t. Besides, slaughtering an animal as big as a cow or a camel itself needs more than a man to do the job. Hence, it also strengthens the siratulrahim or brotherhood among Muslims.
‘It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah, but it is piety from you that reaches Him ( al-Haj: 36)’
“Korban” is the time we actually reflect upon the blessings that Allah s.w.t has bestowed upon us, and how willing we are to sacrifice all the things we love for His sake.
Just like prophet Ibrahim, how willing are we to give up our beloved family members for the sake of Islam?
Just like Hajar, prophet Ibrahim’s wife and prophet Ismail’s mother, how many of us are willing to obey our husband’s righteous command and bow to the will of Allah s.w.t, believing that nothing but goodness will come of it?
Still, how many of us are willing to give up our food to feed another family who is in greater need?
How strong are we to withstand life’s tests patiently and without complaints?
How wide a smile can we give if we have to give up our seat for an old lady in a crowded bus or the LRT?
Just as I’m writing this, there are 14,000 Muslim brothers and sisters who are facing hardships due to heavy floods in some parts of Malaysia. Many have lost their homes and belongings due to the flood. Roads to many towns are still being cut off due to the floods. Do spare a thought for these people who are having their patience and faith tested.
Well, ‘korban is not just killing animals on the day of Aidiladha. It has a deeper meaning but as I watched the youngsters hurrying home for the festival, crammed like a pack of sardines in the local bus, I pray that they were not going home just for the sake of eating home cooked meals. I know that for some Muslims, the religious meanings behind the festivals are slowing being replaced by commercialism. Most look forward to new clothes to wear, and fresh cookies to eat, but not many took the trouble to fast, and zikir for the first ten days of Zulhijjah.
Aidiladha, the festival of sacrifice, is a special time for Muslims. As we sit at our comfortable homes, also remember our brothers and sisters, family members and friends who are performing their hajj in the Holy Land. May Allah s.w.t. guide and bless them, amiin. And may Allah extends His invitation to us to be His guests during the hajj season in the near future so that we too, can experience the true meaning of sacrifice in the land of our prophets , insyaAllah.
Salam Aidi-adha everyone :)
(PHOTO: korban By bdkleovirgo on Flickr)