|Prophet Ibrahim (AS): Shaping the History|
|The True Essence of Eid-ul-Adha|
|Meaning of sacrifice|
|Hajj: A Commemoration of Sacrifice|
The Eid-ul Adha bears, among
other things, three-fold significance especially for the Mulisms living as
minority in the West:
1. It presents an attention-grabbing example to the West of the sharing and caring attitude of Muslims. On Eid and on other happy occasions, true believers do not forget about the less fortunate section of society. By giving a certain amount of obligatory charity to the poor on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr (the name itself being after the concept of charity) and by sharing meat and money on the occasion of Eid-ul-Adha, Muslims dazzle the parochial and narrow mentality of the world order.
2. Eid carries a mark of distinction for the Muslims. It reinforces their identity and shields them from cultural assimilation. A moving festival like Eid nullifies any defeatist mentality of blindly imitating other cultures dissociated from divine writ.
3. And finally, Eid reminds us that even in the happiest circumstances, we have to show our gratefulness to Allah by praying two raka'at Salat(ritual prayer). Our happiness and our gratefulness to Allah can never be torn apart.
In this issue of Al-Bayyinah, we have been lucky enough to present before our readers some valuable writings on Eid-ul Adha and Hajj. We hope that the deliberations will greatly benefit both Muslims and non-Muslims in understanding the true spirit of Islamic festivals with their historical tie. We believe that this issue of Al-Bayyinah will help us carry the teachings of Eid and Hajj throughout the year. May Allah accept all our efforts in his causes!
Prophet Ibrahim (AS): Shaping the History
Four millenniums ago, when humanity stooped to polytheism and moral degeneration in the helm of material progress, there came a man of vision and of towering personality who redirected humanity towards their role of vicegerency on earth. His unquestionable obedience to Allah (SWT), indomitable character and supreme sacrifice for his mission rewarded him with a covenant from Allah that his seeds would inherit the land.
'And when his Sustainer tried Ibrahim by His commandments and the later fulfilled them, He said : "Behold I shall make thee a leader of humanity." Ibrahim asked: "And of my offspring as well?" (Allah answered): "My covenant does not embrace the evil doers"' (Qur'an: 2:124).
Ever since Ibrahim (AS) challenged polytheism on earth, human history has been directly influenced by his legacy-the three monotheistic religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which had set the course of world affairs.
Ibrahim (AS), the maker of history, was born in a Mesopotamian city, Ur, in present day Iraq. His family belonged to the ruling class, the vested interest, so he could have easily absorbed in the traditional easy-going life and could have enjoyed himself well. But he chose a different course of life. Since his childhood, he was bent on reflection and inquisitiveness. He was inspired to rationalise his arguments in order to re-discover his Lord. 'But when it (the sun) went down, he exclaimed: O my people! Behold; far be it from me to ascribe divinity, as you do, to aught beside Allah. Behold, unto Him who brought into being the heavens and the earth have I turned my face, having turned away from all that is false' (Qur'an: 6:78). His intelligent and imaginative tactics to strike at the heart of polytheism by breaking all the idols, while leaving the biggest one undamaged, shattered the pride of the rulers. But they were fat with arrogance and could respond only with passing a severe punishment on him. He was thrown into a blazing fire. That was young Ibrahim's first test in which he showed extraordinary courage and reliance on Allah. The fire refused to burn Ibrahim (AS) by Allah's will and he came out unscathed. But, eventually, Ibrahim could not stay in his own homeland and had to leave with only few of his family members.
At an old age, Ibrahim was blessed with a lovely son, Ismail. However, the divine plan had to be administered in an apparently strange way. Ibrahim was asked by Allah to leave his beloved wife, Hajar, with her little son Ismail, in a barren and uninhabited land, Makkah, as it was at that time. Who then could imagine that 3000 years later Makkah would offer herself for a central stage in the new world and become the heart of a divine civilisation!
As the son was happily growing with the mother and the father visiting them occasionally, Ibrahim's love for Ismail knew no bounds. Allah wanted to test him once again by asking him to slaughter Ismail. Both father and son were on the verge of carrying out the apparently weird command when heavenly mercy fell on humanity. 'But as soon as the two had surrendered themselves to the will of Allah and Ibrahim laid him down on his face, We called out to him:
"O Ibrahim, thou hast already fulfilled that dream vision"' (Qur'an: 37:103-105).
Ibrahim became Allah's khaleel (friend) and Allah saved human beings from slaughtering their beloved ones. The ritual of Hajj, commanded to every capable Muslim, is directly linked with the willing surrender of three great men and women; Ibrahim, Hajar and Ismail (peace be upon them). The legacy and spirit of human self-surrender to Allah is maintained in this fifth pillar of Islam. Ibrahim (AS) surrendered to Allah wholeheartedly. He was a thorough Muslim and as such Allah has made him the father of the Muslim nation.
'(And He made you follow) the creed of your father Ibrahim. It is He Who has named you Muslims in bygone time as well as in the divine writ' (Qur'an: 22:78).
Prophet Ibrahim (AS) had a clear mission ahead, so he deployed his elder son Ismail in Hijaj, younger son Ishaq in Palestine and nephew Lut in Jordan. These are the lands which had always been the cradle of human existence. Three millenniums after his death, humankind had seen their patriarch Ibrahim's prayer coming true through his progeny through Ismail (AS), Muhammad (pbuh), the leader of humanity, who rekindled and revitalised the original message to its peak.
'O our Sustainer ! Raise up from the midst of our offspring an apostle from among themselves who shall convey unto them Thy message and impart unto them revelation as well as wisdom and cause them to grow in purity' (Qur'an: 2:129).
Ibrahim (AS) was chosen to lead humanity in its darkest period. His legacy as a prophet and a great leader is a living memory for human kind. What is that we learn from his life in the midst of an overwhelming darkness in the post-modern world? The Qur'an refers to some of these qualities for us to emulate.
1. Prophet Ibrahim (AS) had an open and creative mind. He employed this openness on one occasion and observed the arrival and departure of heavenly bodies in order to come to a rationalistic conclusion about the all-pervasive power of Allah, the Lord (al-Qur'an 6:78). He even begged Allah to provide him with the tranquillity of heart apropos His omnipotence so that, as a prophet, he can discharge his mission with the fullest conviction. When Allah asked him to carry out an experiment with a bird, which came to life after being torn asunder and spread into four mountains, he prostrated to Allah in veneration.
2. Ibrahim's power of logical argument has crushed the myth that religion has little to do with rationality. He encountered the ignorant and non-believing king about the all-pervasive power of Allah. At the end 'he who was bent on denying the truth remained dumfounded' (Qur'an: 2:258). Thus Ibrahim marked the victory of faith over non-belief.
3. Ibrahim's unbending character in pursuing his mission is legendary in history. He displayed his strength of character in his youth when he was thrown into fire for establishing the fallacy of paganism and idolatry. His indomitable courage in the face of being burnt alive in fire is a lesson for righteous people. Later on, the prophets (AS) of Bani Israil, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and the upright people on earth followed his footstep with unwavering determination.
4. Prophet Ibrahim (AS) was fully aware of his responsibility to family. He left his dearest wife and son in the arid sands of Makkah by divine will only to visit them every now and then. The metaphor in advising Ismail (AS) regarding the door of the house (wife in the family), mentioned in a prophetic tradition, is a reminder for all the fathers' responsibility towards their sons in choosing grateful and righteous wives.
5. Ibrahim's reliance on Allah is epical in human history. He was unnerved in all the tests and tribulations that came upon him. He was like a traveller climbing up and up to the peak of spiritual height, and the more he was going up the severer the test became. The serenity he displayed during his attempted sacrifice of his dearest son has been preserved by Allah as part of a ritual for the rest of humanity till the end of the world. His was a sacrifice that knew no bounds.
Prophet Ibrahim (AS) remained a missionary and visionary all along. He witnessed the ignominy and sufferings of fellow human beings by their enslavement to the whims, desires, man-made idols and, of course, to other powerful men around. He remained in the front line of struggle by dedicating his life to liberate human beings from this enslavement and bring them to the real destiny, that is, Allah's emissary on earth. He started this alone, but this has now multiplied manifold over the millennia, by Allah's grace.
Eid-ul-Adha is celebration of sacrifice, which comes two months and ten days after 'Eid-ul-Fitr, the Eid that follows Ramadan. Muslims celebrate the sacrifice of the lamb in place of Prophet Ismail by his father, Ibrahim (Abraham). On this day after Salat al-Eid (the prescribed Eid Prayer), Muslims sacrifice an animal: a ram, goat, sheep, cow or camel. Muslims usually divide the meat of sacrifice into three parts, one part is distributed among the poor and the needy, one part is distributed among relatives and friends, and the family keeps the third for itself. This is also an auspicious event for Muslims to visit each other and give gifts to friends, relatives and, especially, to the children. Eid-ul-Adha is celebrated on the 10th of Dhul-Hijja, the 12th month of Islamic lunar calendar, and again it depends upon the crescent sighting for the first of the month. For those people who have gone to Makka for Hajj (the pilgrimage), staying in the Plain of Arafat on 9th Dhul-Hijja is the most important event. However, for those not performing Hajj, Eid-ul-Adha is on the 10th of Dhul-Hijja. In the Arabian Peninsula the calendar follows the local crescent sighting criteria, whereas in North America the local crescent sighting is used for determining dates. Eid-ul-Adha may be celebrated for four days from the 10th to the 13th of Dhul-Hijja, preferably, as Muslims all over the world usually do, on the 10th. The article briefly delineates the real spirit and essence of Eid-ul-Adha from Islamic perspective, as well as the practices of the Muslims in the present society, and shows some divergence between them. Data from my own 'participant observation', experience, and interviews have been used to supplement the secondary sources.
Since the dawn of humanity, sacrifice was the most popular system of approach to God in almost all societies. By many ancient and primitive nations, deities were habitually approached with gifts, and the presentation of the gift was the centra1 feature of worship. In some primitive societies human beings were generally sacrificed as a gift to gods and goddesses. It is assumed that the origin of human sacrifice is traceable to cannibalism. But, that can be ascribed only to savage tribes. The Carthaginians annually sprinkled their altars with a tribesman's blood. Among the Hebrews, Human sacrifice was made not only as a gift but also for expiating the sins and redemption (Fingrut 1993).
The mother of Mary had vowed that she would make a sacrificial present at the altar of her first issue, but when Mary was born, being a girl, she was not taken there. One should thank God for this, for it was she who bore a sacred personality like Prophet Isa (Jesus Christ). The Greeks too made similar sacrifices and the carcase of the victim was lurked or cast into the sea (Gilchrist 2002).
As societies advanced, a tendency grew to modify the horrors of the rituals either by accepting an effusion of blood without actually slaying the victim, e.g. in the flagellation of the Spartan lad at the altar of Artemis (Greek goddess associated with hunting), or by further extension of the doctrine of substitution. During the time of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), human sacrifice was religious custom. Anti-mundane methods of approach to a problem are very different from the mundane methods. The Quran bears witness to this. One night when Ibrahim saw a vision as if he was sacrificing Ismail, his affectionate son, in the name of God, the Almighty. On waking up, being divinely inspired, he decided to turn the vision into reality and put a direct question to his dear son:
O my dear son, I have seen in a dream that I must sacrifice thee. Now see what is thy view! He (the son) said: O my father! Do that which thou art commanded. God willing, thou will find me one of the steadfast". Then, when they had both submitted their wills (to God) and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice), We called unto him: 'O Ibrahim! Thou hast already fulfilled the vision!' -thus indeed do We reward those who do right. (Al-Quran, Surah 37: 102-105).
It is affirmed that Prophet Ibrahim did place a knife on the throat of Ismail, but God most benevolently replaced Ismail by an animal and thus rescued him. God was pleased with Ibrahim's and his son's sincere devotion and absolute resignation to the will of their Creator. Since then the idea of substituting animal sacrifice to human life gained momentum, and thus animal sacrifice became a common practice. From that happy day onwards, the Muslims have for all times sacrificed, according to their means, animals-big or small-in true acknowledgment to the Will of their Creator, on any of the three days following Hajj (Ali 2000).
But human sacrifice had not died away altogether. In Arabia itself Abdul Muttalib, grandfather of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had pledged to his deity that if a son were born to him he would dedicate him to the deity. When Abdullah, father of the prophet, was born Abdul Muttalib wanted to fulfill his pledge. But Abdullah was such a handsome babe that all relations and friends persuaded him not to sacrifice the child but, instead, to give away camels as his substitute. He drew lot over the camels. It came in favour of Abdullah, so he went on drawing lots till the number of camels reached hundred. It was then that the lot came in the name of camels and a hundred camels were sacrificed as substitute for Abdullah. Thus the Almighty God saved the personality who had to give to the world the noblest man and the greatest teacher.
Animal sacrifices have been generally of two kinds: (a) a mere payment of tribute and a gift to God; (b) an act of social fellowship between God and his worshippers and an actual communion in which God and His worshippers unite by partaking together the flesh and blood of a sacred victim. The idea is that God and His worshippers make up together a society of commensals. Animal sacrifices were made far more frequently and of far greater variety of objects than human sacrifices were done. Besides being a gift to God for communion with Him for redemption purposes, they are made to remove a disease to ward off ills; to do away with the effects of witchcraft and other evils. In India since pre-historic days sacrifices were done for all these purposes and even now it is a common feature as an animal gift to goddess Kali and her son Bhairo. Islam has established a practice of sacrifice in memory of Prophet Ibrahim's incident. This is held every year on the occasion of the festival of Eid-ul-Adha. The objectives of this are (a) to remind the spirit of self- sacrifice shown by Prophet Ibrahim; (b) to submit to the will of God; (c) to be so absorbed in it that there may not be any apprehension to reversion to human sacrifice, which is meant for higher purposes.
Essence of Eid-ul-Adha
We can turn our attention to the Quran to find the real meaning and significance of sacrifice. In Surah Al-Hajj it clearly states:
And to every nation did we appoint rites (of sacrifice), that they might celebrate the name of God over the sustenance He gave them from animals (fit for food), and your God is the One God: Submit then your wills to Him (in Islam): and give thou the good news to those who humble themselves. (Al-Quran 22:34)
The sacrificial camels We have made for you as among the Symbols from God: in them is (much) good for you: then pronounce the name of God over them as they line up (for sacrifice): when they are down on their sides (after slaughter) eat ye thereof and feed such as (beg not but) live in contentment and such as beg with due humility: thus have we made animals subject to you that ye may be grateful (Al-Quran: 22:36).
It is not their meat nor their blood that reaches God: it is your piety that reaches Him: He has thus made them subject to you that ye may glorify God for His guidance to you: and proclaim the Good News to all who do right (Al-Quran: 22:37).
The above verses clearly show that the idea of atonement is totally foreign to Islamic sacrifices and God is not pleased at the shedding of the blood, but He likes the deeper impression left by sacrifice on the heart. That deeper impression can better be felt than be expressed. It is the awakening of the latent moral faculties of man to greater sacrifice and deeds of action than mere animal slaughter. It demands of a man that for the sake of establishment of God's unity, propagation of truth, restoration of peace, freedom of conscience and preservation of the bonds of fraternity of mankind, the highest sacrifices be offered without demur and hesitation. In symbolic language it is an avowed declaration and confession on the part or the sacrifice that just as he has slaughtered and thus sacrificed the life of an animal which is inferior to hire, similarly he is prepared to cheerfully sacrifice his life when called upon to do so for the sake of motives more precious than his own existence.
It is called Eid of sacrifice because it stands for fortitude of forbearance in order to gain proximity and nearness to God and win His favour. If we ponder over the whole celebration, we will see that Eid-ul-Adha has much social significance:
(a) Just as meat is shared
with the poor, money, time, and comforts are also shared. God, as He says
in the Quran, does not delight in the flesh or the blood, but He will appreciate
the symbol of sharing the meat with the poor, with the fellow men, with the
hungry. It advocates for a caring and sharing society, where nobody is deprived
(b) God stopped prophet Abraham from sacrificing his own son. This shows that Islam abolished the practice of human sacrifice prevalent in past history (Ali 2000).
(c) Each Eid is a Thanksgiving Day where the Muslims assemble in a brotherly and joyful atmosphere to offer their gratitude to God for helping them to fulfil their spiritual obligations. This form of thanksgiving is not confined to spiritual devotion and verbal expressions. It goes far beyond that to manifest itself in a handsome shape of social and humanitarian spirit. Muslims, who have completed the course of Hajj at Makkah, as well as those who are at home, offer their sacrifices by slaughtering oblations to be distributed among the poor and needy. The distribution of alms and oblations constitutes a major part of the Eid's highlights. This Islamic way of thanksgiving is a wholesome combination of spiritual devotion and humanitarian benevolence (Ali 2000; Shah 2000).
(d) Each 'Eid is a Day of remembrance. Even in their most joyful times the Muslims pray to God and glorify His name to demonstrate their remembrance of His favours. Along with that course, they remember the deceased by prayer for their souls, the needy by extending a hand of help, the grieved by showing them sympathy and consolation, the sick by cheerful visits and utterances of good wishes, the absentees by cordial greetings and sincere considerateness, so on and so forth. Thus the meaning of remembrance on the Day transcends all limits and expands over far-reaching dimensions of human life.
(e) Eid is a Day of victory and empowerment. The individual who succeeds in securing his/her spiritual rights and growth receives the Eid with a victorious spirit. The individual who faithfully observes the duties, which are associated with the Eid, is a triumphant one. S/he proves that they hold a strong command over their desires, exercises a sound self-control and enjoys the taste of disciplinary life. And once a person acquires these qualities s/he has achieved the greatest victory, because such a person is free from sins and wrongdoings, from fear and cowardice, from vice and indecency, from jealousy and greed, from humiliation and all other causes of enslavement.
(f) Eid is a Harvest Day for the Muslims. All the good workers in the service of God, all the faithful believers reap the fruits of their good deeds on the Day, as God grants His mercy and blessings abundantly. The Islamic society, on the other hand, collects the due subscriptions to religious brotherhood, sorority and social responsibility, and they are paid in the shape of mutual love, sympathy and concern. Every member of the Islamic society will be reaping some fruits or collecting some revenue in one way or another. God gives infinitely, especially to those who are sincerely concerned with the general welfare of their fellow human beings. Those beneficiaries who cannot give will receive, along with God's enormous grants, the contribution to their fellow benefactors. The haves and have-nots will all enjoy the providence of God in a most plural fashion, and the Day is indeed a Good Harvest Day.
(g) Each 'Eid is a Day of forgiveness. When Muslims assemble in the congregation of the Day, they all whole-heartedly pray for forgiveness and strength in faith. And God has assured those who approach Him with sincerity of His mercy and forgiveness. In that pure assembly and highly spiritual congregation, any true Muslim would feel ashamed of himself/herself before God to hold any enmity or ill feelings towards others. A true Muslim would be deeply impressed by this brotherly and spiritual assembly, and would overcome hidden ill feeling if s/he has been exposed to any. Consequently, s/he would find themselves moving along with others responding to the spirit of the Day to purify heart and soul. In any case, s/he would forgive those who might have wronged them; because s/he themselves would be praying to God for forgiveness, and would do their best to acquire it. The spirit of this highly devotional assembly would teach Muslims that forgiving others would earn forgiveness for themselves. And when one forgives, the virtue of forgiveness will be mercifully exercised by God, and widely exchanged between the Muslims. And that marks the Day as a Day of Forgiveness.
(h) Each 'Eid is a Day of peace. When a Muslim establishes peace within his/her heart by obeying the Law of God and leading a disciplinary life, s/he has certainly accomplished a most enviable treaty of peace with God. Once a person is at peace with God, he is at peace with himself/herself and, consequently, with the rest of the universe. So when Muslims celebrate 'Eid in the right manner, they actually celebrate a Peace Treaty between themselves and God, and this marks 'Eid as a Day of Peace.
Deviation from the Essence:
God clearly mentions that the real intention or the inner motivation of sacrifice, rather than blood or meat, goes to Him. Behind all these activities, the basic and only purpose is to please God, though some Muslims fail to appreciate the actual significance of the sacrifice. Muslims should bear in mind that sacrificing animals on Eid occasion for any intentions (like showing off their wealth by sacrificing high-priced animals or showing pride, pomp and grandeur) other than pleasing God would eventually reinforce a clear segregation and polarization between rich and poor, whereas the real spirit of sacrifice is to bring about a convergence between rich and poor of the community.
Exchange of gifts during Eid is a good thing, and has been encouraged, but the danger lies when the whole celebration gets a colouring of commercialization and profit-making rather than social cohesion. The different business institutions, rather than one's moral code and individual choice, now determine what to buy and what to wear. Sociologist Karl Mannheim, therefore, says that modern society is characterized by 'functional rationality' when the people in power decide the way, rather than 'substantial rationality', when people decide their own way through experiences.
The basic purpose of this paper was to identity the real spirit and essence of Eid-ul-Adha. The real spirit is no doubt very noble. Ceremonies or festivals bring people together, and, according to Durkheim, it becomes a great force in the society. They are means of social cohesion and solidarity. We have looked at the real spirit of Eid-ul-Adha from Islamic perspective. It advocates for a caring and sharing society with utmost community feelings, though it cannot be denied that many people miss the real significance because of their mixing it up with parochial and narrow mentality.
1. Eid-ul-Adha: The Significance of Sacrifice" in Al-Binoria. April 1998. Web address: http://www.binoria.org/magazines.html
2. "Significance of Eid" in http://www.islaam.org/Eid/Eid.htm (date of retrieval: March 03, 2002)
3. Gilchrist, John (2002). "Eid-ul-Adha: Abraham and the Sacrifice" in http://www.answering-islam.org/Gilchrist/eid.html (date of retrieval: March 02, 2002)
4. Ali, M. Amir (Not dated). "Islamic Celebrations" III&E Brochure Series. Chicago, Illinois: Institute of Islamic Information and Education
5. Kazim, Ibrahim (2000). Significance of Eid-ul-Adha. In Muslim World League Journal. Vol. 27, No. 12, March. Makka, KSA: Muslim World League
6. Shah, Syed Iskandar (2000). Ibadah: A Concept beyond Ritualism in Islam. Al-Nahdah. Vol. 19, No. 2. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
7. Fingrut, David (1993). Mithraism: The Legacy of the Roman Empire's Final Pagan State Religion. Toronto: SEED Alternative School
8. Berktay, Farmagul (1998). Women and Religion. Montreal: Black Rose Books
9. Ali, Abdullah Yusuf, (1989). The Holy Quran: Text, Translation and Commentary. Maryland: Amana Corporation
Graduate Programme in Sociology
York University, 2060 Vari Hall, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M3J 1L2
As the holy month of Dhul Hijja is here, Masha-Allah, I would like to convey the important meaning of sacrifice during this blessed month.
* Reminds us of Ibrahim's (AS) offering his son's life as a sacrifice to Allah and Allah's replacement of it by an animal in exchange for Ibrahim's submission to Allah's will;
* Was the ending of idolatry among the Arabs;
* Is an offering of thanksgiving to Allah, the Lord of the creation, Who, out of His benevolence, has truly been merciful to humanity;
* Teaches and inspires those who are fortunate to share their blessings, by the grace of almighty Allah, with the less fortunate ones. The verse 22:36 in the Qur'an says, 'And the Budn (cows, oxen, or camels driven to be offered as sacrifices by the pilgrims at the sanctuary of Makkah.) We have made for you as among the Symbols of Allah, therein you have much good. So mention the Name of Allah over them
A Commemoration of Sacrifice
Ever since the time of prophet Ibrahim's prodigious surrender of his love for his beloved son to the love of Allah, the month of sacrifice (Dhul Hijjah) brings in the Ummah a mixture of passion and awareness for real sacrifice in the way of Allah. The monumental act of submission to the will of Allah by both Ibrahim (Abraham) and his son Ismail (peace be upon them) is the essence Hajj.
'Then when they had both surrendered (to Allah), and he had flung him down upon his face. We called unto him, O Ibrahim! You have already fulfilled the vision. Lo! thus do We reward the good.' (Qur'an: 37:105)
As millions of Muslims from four corners of the globe converge to the house of Allah (SWT) for Hajj, the Ummah is poised to elevate itself to the spiritual height by ritual sacrifice of slaughtering animals. Conscious sacrifice put Prophet Ibrahim (alaihis salam [peace be upon him]), who is termed in the Qur'an as the father of the Muslim nation, in the leadership of humanity.
'And (remember) when his Lord tried Ibrahim with (His) certain commands; and he fulfilled them. He said: Lo! I have appointed thee a leader for humanity.' (Qur'an: 2:124)
Hajj, every year, is a revisit of submission and sacrifice. Slaughtering animals is a symbol which carries a weighty meaning only when the soul and mind are ready to sacrifice for Allah. What Allah wants is the heart and soul behind any act of worship.
'It is not their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah, it is your piety that reaches Him.' (Qur'an: 22:37)
When a servant of Allah understands his position on earth, the word 'sacrifice' gives him/her a true meaning. Do human beings really possess anything from which they can sacrifice something? Do we own even our own self? Those who believe that life is a gift from Allah for a specific time, these questions should awaken their consciousness.
'Lo! Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their wealth because the paradise will be theirs. . . .' (Qur'an: 9:111)
What a deal the almighty Creator is making with His servants! Paradise, as the reward of making proper use of one's life and wealth which are in fact on lease to him/her! Can we really call this a sacrifice? Treading the way Allah wants and facing His test is the expression of gratefulness.
'Do you think that you would enter paradise without Allah testing those of you who fight hard (in His cause) and remain steadfast?' (Qur'an: 3:142)
In Islam sacrifice starts from the conscious surrender of one's freedom of choice to the will of Allah. Once an individual makes the decision, the actions then obviously follow. Allah has elevated humanity to the level of His vicegerency on earth. Allah wants the involvement of human endeavour to establish His rule on earth so that human beings, instead of being slaves to the numerous mini/quasi gods, can live as true servants of Allah. As man has always debased himself by adopting ignorant steps, Allah sent His prophets to bring them back to their correct position.
Human beings have certain things in their possession. Their brain and hand earn them wealth and other fortunes. Although an individual earns provisions through his/her effort, these are the gifts of Allah. Human lives come and go but the properties that they amass remain in this world. Intelligent are those who realise that death snatches away everything from them and, accordingly, sacrifice some of their wealth for those who are less fortunate. The prophet (pbuh) said [while quoting Allah],
'Spend, O son of Adam, and I shall spend on you.' (Hadith Qudsi; Bukhari & Muslim)
Sacrifice is an inescapable phenomenon for the Islamic work. Islam is a call to the unsettled heart which, when surrenders to Allah, enjoys the heavenly pleasure. Love of Allah then precedes everything on earth. Sacrifice becomes ingrained into the heart.
Sacrifice, being an essential training for the servants of Allah, shapes an individual's character and personality, compatible to his/her role of a vicegerent on earth. Greed and selfishness gradually disappear from him/her. To become victorious in the struggle between good and evil demands steadfastness. Sacrifice makes a Muslim earn that steadfastness and prepares him/her for the prescribed responsibility.
'Do men think that they will be left alone on saying 'we believe' and they will not be tested? We did test those before them and Allah will certainly know those who are true from those who are false.' (Qur'an: 29: 2,3)
Sacrifices and sufferings are historical phenomena. They merge together when it comes to the struggle for establishing Islam on earth. All the prophets had to undergo various levels of sacrifice in order to uplift their missions. The last prophet's life is a glaring example in this respect. He and his companions had to suffer inhuman atrocities and cruelties by the infidels of Arabia. The prophet accepted them as the stepping-stones on his road to success and did neither curse the persecutors nor did attempt to take any revenge. The extent of his sufferings is mentioned in the Qur'an, which mentions his ritual prayer. On one occasion, he was virtually being strangulated by the enemies of Islam.
'And when the slave of Allah stood up in prayer to Him, they crowded on him almost stifling.' (Qur'an: 72:19)
Needless to say that sacrifice is the prophetic experience towards achieving the pleasure of Allah, be that in the successful establishment of Allah's rule on earth or His ultimate salvation and pleasure in the hereafter. The history of Islam down to our present day teaches us one single message, that is, sacrifice is the essential step toward success.
Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence
By Mohammad Hashim Kamali
Shortage of adequate reading materials in English on Islamic law has been a big stumbling block in learning Islamic law for the non-Arab students. Mohammad Hashim Kamali's Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence is a great work towards reducing that problem to a certain extent. Prof. Ahmad Ibrahim, Dean of the School of Laws, International Islamic University Malaysia, rightly comments, 'Students and readers of Islamic jurisprudence in English-speaking institutions of higher learning who do not read Arabic will find this book a significant contribution in the depth and detail of information that it provides along the lines one would expect to find in the Arabic sources of its origin.'
In this book, Kamali makes an attempt to convey not only the contents of usul al-fiqh as one normally finds in Arabic texts on the subject but also brings in the tone and spirit of source materials. He focuses more on usul al-fiqh itself than on the historical developments of usul al-fiqh, as adequate information is available on the history of Islamic jurisprudence in English. He does not delve into the historical development of Usul, instead, he tries to cover most relevant topics of usul al-fiqh in appropriate range and depth.
In discussing certain doctrines such as ijtihad, ijma, istihsan and maslahah, Kamali attempts to present the contemporary opinions and, occasionally, his own views, as to how these principles could be applied in present-day legal and judicial system.
Within the span of nineteen chapters, he covers what is usul al-fiqh, the Quran and the Sunnah as the principal sources of Shariah, rules of interpretation of the Quran and the Sunnah, classification of Quranic vocabulary, Amr (commands) and Nahy (prohibitions), naskh (abrogation, that is, suspension or replacement of one Shariah ruling by another), Ijma (consensus of opinion) and Qiyas (analogical deduction). Ijma, which is basically a rational proof, is considered as the 3rd proof of Shariah after the Quran and the Sunnah. In Usul terminology, Qiyas is extension of a Shariah ruling from an original case to a new case because of their similar effectiveness. Among the other issues Kamali deals with in this book are revealed laws preceding the Shariah of Islam, the Fatwa of Sahaba (opinion or ruling of companions of Prophet Muhammad [pbuh]) and Istihsan (equity in Islamic law). Istihsan is a method of exercising personal opinion to avoid any rigidity and unfairness that might result from literal application of a Shariah ruling without taking the circumstantial factors into consideration. Istihsan as a concept is close to equity in Western law though the dynamics that work behind them are different from each other.
In chapter thirteen, the author introduces Maslahah Mursalah (considerations of unrestricted public interest) and, in this regard, quotes a number of prophetic traditions in support of it. Then he brings the issue of Urf (custom) and defines it as 'recurring practices which are acceptable to people of sound nature'. He makes it clear that to become a valid basis for legal decisions, custom must be sound and reasonable and in consonance with the general spirit of Islam.
In discussing Istishab (presumption of continuity), he rules it out to be an independent proof or a method of juristic deduction in its own right; instead, it mainly functions as means of implementing an existing indication (dalil) whose validity and continued relevance are established by the rules of Istishab.
Kamali explains Sadd al-Dharai (blocking the means) in a full chapter, like Hukm Shari (Law or value of Shariah). He notes the types of Sadd al-Dharai and who has accepted it and who hasn't. In the penultimate chapter, the author details upon Taa'rud (conflict of evidences), a very important issue of usul al-fiqh, the negligence of which breeds many problems in the Ummah. In the case of conflict between two Shariah evidences of equal strength, Kamali suggests that 'in making a decisions, it is essential that the mujtahid does not act against the general principles and spirit of the Shariah. When he weighs the merits and demerits of conflicting evidences he must never lose sight of the basic objectives of the Lawgiver.'
Hashim Kamali mulls over the issue of Ijtihad or personal reasoning, its requisites and procedures in the last chapter. He makes his point that Ijtihad is the most important source of Islamic law after the Quran and the Sunnah and establishes its validity and the importance of its permanence with proofs from the Quran and the authentic Sunnah. He remarks that discontinuity of Ijtihad among the Ummah has caused intellectual damage in terms of stagnating the flow of analytical reasoning and it has developed a gap between Shariah rulings and the changing social order. He asserts that the quest for better solutions and better alternatives lies at the very heart of Ijtihad, which must, according to the classical formulations of usul al-fiqh, never be allowed to discontinue. Ijtihad being a collective obligation of the Muslim community, its scholars need to exercise it to find solutions to new problems and to provide the necessary guidance in matters of law and religion. In the end, Kamali recommends that in a Shariah-oriented government the range of selection to senior advisory, educational and judicial posts should include qualified mujtahidun.
In short, the Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence is a great contribution to the existing bulk of Islamic jurisprudence literature. Distinguished by its clarity and readability, it is an essential reference work not only for students of Islamic law, but also for inquisitive people with an interest in Muslim society or in issues of comparative jurisprudence.
First published in 1989 by 'The Islamic Texts Society', 5 Green Street, Cambridge, CB2 3JU, U.K., it has been republished afterwards. May Allah grant the author the fullest reward for writing this weighty work!
Reviewed by Atiq Ahad