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30 July, 2020 03:25:39 PM

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Eid-ul-Azha: Spirit long gone

Islam decrees that the place of human sacrifice was to be taken by goats, cows, camels, etc. And these animals were not to be slaughtered in a lurid manner; it was to be a solemn act of thanksgiving by sharing meat with fellow humans
Professor Dr. Kamaluddin Ahmed
Eid-ul-Azha: Spirit long gone

The spirit with which the sacrifice used to be made so many years ago is long gone. It is now more like a ritual for Muslims around the world, where the meaning of Qurbani has long since deviated from the truth.

A follower of Islam should sacrifice a domesticated cow, one that he has developed some affection for. The objective is to sacrifice something a devotee holds dear to the heart. This does not happen anymore. What we do now is buy a cow or a goat, make arrangements for it to be kept in the vicinity of our homes, feed it till Eid day, and sacrifice it on the day after prayers. The person who is making the sacrifice should be the one who must perform the Qurbani. If it is done in the name of seven persons then one of them should perform the Qurbani. Instead this sacred task is given to a paid hujur who performs the Qurbani.

Hours are spent treading over the various haats (cattle markets) in the city looking for the perfect animal, which will not only serve as a sacrificial animal, but also be of adequate proportions to show off our status and position in the society.

In recent times, after camels made their appearance in the local markets, people are buying it solely to be different and showy. We are made to believe that size is what matters. Such intentions of purchasing a sacrificial animal by asking how much meat it will give and searching for size is against the principles of Islam. The haats where sellers bring in sacrificial animals for sale from all over the country are leased to interested parties for a certain amount of money.

These days cows and goats are also seen on display on the streets up for a sale–a usual sight seven days prior to the sacrificial ceremony on Eid day. Cows from various countries ranging from Australia to India are sold in the local haats for sacrifice. Local cows are also sold. These animals which vary in size and colour are priced accordingly costing from more than one lakh to less than twenty thousand.

A visit to the haat is an experience in itself. Upon entering, one finds oneself in the middle of a sort of a mob. People are on all sides and cows and goats can be seen everywhere. If one has sensitive olfactory nerves, a handkerchief is strongly recommended, because the smell at the haat is quite unpleasant. One should also be careful to mind one’s step. The entire area is littered with manure and flies.

Despite these drawbacks, the haat is a colourful place. Cows and goats of a variety of colours can be seen. The cows from Australia and New Zealand are well fed and healthy with glossy coats of red white and patches. Indian cows are, also big animals with shiny coats in white black and brown. Most of the cows are also brightly decorated in order to attract buyers. Kaleidoscopic garlands of either paper or cloth laced with brilliant gold and silver threads adorn their necks, and their horns are also covered in similar multi coloured cloth. The goats are sold on the other side of the haat are adorned with garlands in similar fashion.

In order to be able to buy these animals from the haats one must be good at bargaining. Upon asking, the salesman will quote an impossibly high price. After much haggling, the price of the goat or cow can be reduced to almost half the original value and can then be purchased at a reasonable amount. Sacrificial animals can be bought for even less if one is willing to wait. The night before Eid, the sellers go from door to door to sell their animals that are not sold at the regular haat. Since any sale is better than taking animals back and tend to it for another year, these animals are sold at a fraction of their original price. If one waits some more and decides to offer sacrifice in the second and third day of Eid, they can buy cows or goats for even less on the night of Eid.

Sadly people seem to have forgotten the true purpose of Eid ul Azha. Buying animals for slaughter now seems to be an indication of one’s wealth. Many wealthy people buy a cow with more than Tk 100000 and several goats for Tk 10000 each. The trend seems to be buying animals at prices and then boasting about it to their neighbours.

The actual sacrificial ceremony is a messy affair. Over the years many buildings have mushroomed all over the city leading to a lack of open space. Previously, animals used to be slaughtered in many fields that once existed. A hole used to be dug in the ground and the animal is slaughtered in that hole to ensure a clean and sanitary environment.

The scenario has changed drastically. Most people now live in apartment buildings and almost none of the complexes have the provision of fields. The animals are therefore slaughtered and cut up in the garages. It is a beastly sight, blood and gore all over the place and flies galore. A terrible odour also fills the place, creating a sickening atmosphere.

Some who do not have the above opportunities take to slaughtering the animal in front of the gate, blocking the entrance to the house itself. Visitors have a perilous time having to dodge the flying chunks of meat in order to reach their destinations. They must also try their acrobatic skills while trying to side step the blood and at the same time ensure that their shoes and clothes are not stained.

Actually God wants our devotion (Taqwa) and tests our will. Blood and flesh are of no account. The sacrifice of Ismail (AS) was symbolic. The actual act of slaughter was not necessary for the fulfillment of the vision. This establishes a cardinal principle of Qurbani made clearly in the holy Quran: ‘Neither the flesh, nor the blood reaches Allah; it is your piety that reaches him’. It is said that Abraham sacrificed a ram as a symbol of thanksgiving. Commentators say that this negated forever the concept of human sacrifice, which was prevalent among ancient nations. Islam decrees that the place of human sacrifice was to be taken by goats, cows, camels, etc. And these animals were not to be slaughtered in a lurid manner; it was to be a solemn act of thanksgiving by sharing meat with fellow humans.

Therefore, the ancient principle of sacrifice has deeper and purer meaning in Islam. It is not carried out to appease a jealous or angry deity, nor is it done to atone for sin. It is a symbol that we are ready to lay down our lives according to God’s will.

The writer is Treasurer, Jagannath University

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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