Eid al-Azha, an annual festival of Muslims, is celebrated in the last month of the Hijra calendar, that is, Zul Hijja. Eid al-Azha is the second of the two festivals of Muslims. It is not simply an annual festival. It reflects the spirit required perennially of every individual.
Basically, two practices are performed by Muslims on the day of Eid al-Azha: congregational prayer in the mosque and the sacrificing of an animal. These two practices reflect the basic spirit of the occasion, a combination of two important states of mind – spirituality and dedication. Prayer is an expression of spirituality and sacrifice is an expression of dedication. The festival of Eid al-Azha is an annual re-enactment of Prophet Abraham’s actions. But its spirit must be kept up the whole year round in all the actions of Muslims, both men and women.
Sacrifice is the adoption of a higher level of living. When one endeavours to live above one’s material needs, and controls one’s desires for the sake of a greater cause, this is making a sacrifice. Sacrifice means living for ideals rather than for the material in life.
If physical sacrifice is for one day, spiritual or intellectual sacrifice continues for the rest of the year. In the ritual sense, Eid al-Azha means animal sacrifice, but in the spiritual sense, it means making a pledge to live for a higher goal, even if it requires abandoning material needs.
The message of Eid al-Azha is that one should adopt a higher level of life, control one’s desires, and manage negative thoughts to maintain a state of positivity at all times: one should adhere to moral principles, even if it requires the sacrifice of material interests.
At the time of the animal sacrifice, Muslims are required to recite this pledge: ‘My worship, conduct, my life and my death are totally devoted to God.’ These words reflect the true spirit of sacrifice. Eid al-Azha means a day of covenant to live a life that is God-oriented.
The Quran refers to the Prophet Abraham as an exemplary character for the faithful. The Quran reminds Muslims of how the Prophet Abraham along with his family dedicated his life for the peaceful divine mission. Muslims are required to remember this example on the day of Eid al-Adha every year and make the pledge to follow it. Muslims are required on this day to adopt this example in their lives with its letter and spirit. The life of Prophet Abraham and that of his family was entirely a peaceful life. Thus, Eid al-Azha reminds Muslims that if they want to receive the divine blessing that was sent to the Prophet Abraham, then they must follow his life pattern. And like this they will become a deserving candidate for that kind of divine blessing.
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