Hajj and `Eid Al-Adha take us back in history to the time of a 97-year-old man being asked to take the life of a 13–year-old boy. Who is that man? And who is that boy? And who is the one who is making this request? If we know who the three points in this equation are, we would have a better perspective on life and on what life is all about.
The man who was asked at 97 years of age to take the life of a 13-year-old boy is none other than the close friend of Allah, the Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him), the father of the prophets and messengers. And the 13-year-old boy whose life Ibrahim was asked to take is none other than his own son. Ibrahim had waited for 83 years to see him walk around him, touch him, and give him the pleasure of being a father. All of us know what that means; all of us know what it really means for your son or daughter to come and show his or her love that he or she possesses for you.
But when the boy reached the age when he was able to run and play around his father, Ibrahim went to him and said, “My darling son, I saw in my dream that I was sacrificing you.” We all know that the dreams of prophets and messengers are forms of revelation from Allah Almighty. So it was the truth.
Now, who was the one who made that request? It was none other than Allah. The One Who created life had asked Ibrahim to take the life of his son away. And we know that His decree was that Isma`il’s life would not be taken away, but it was a lesson for humanity to understand what life is all about.
Allah wanted Ibrahim to teach humanity a lesson. Thus, brothers and sisters, we have to understand this lesson and reflect upon it. There are two things in life that Allah Almighty made beautiful in this life. These two things are mentioned in the Qur’an more than once:
(Wealth and children are an ornament of the life of the world.) (Al-Kahf 18:46)
That is it! Wealth and children make life beautiful. Look what happened! Allah Almighty chose one individual to sacrifice one of these two things, and He did not ask any other human being to do the same. One individual was enough to sacrifice one of these two things, and that is his child, and He asked all of us to sacrifice the second one, wealth, so that by seeing how one man was able to do something which we cannot, we are able to sacrifice the second of the ornaments of life. Because Ibrahim passed the test, Allah Almighty called him an ummah (one man equal to a whole nation, a whole ummah).
One individual became an ummah. Why? Because Ibrahim passed the test of a whole ummah. He was asked to sacrifice one of the two things that are ornaments of life, and all of us have been asked to sacrifice the second. So because of that, he indeed, is an ummah in the same way that we are an ummah. He truly deserves that title:
(Lo! Abraham was an ummah, obedient to Allah.) (An-Nahl 16:120)
This is the spirit of `Eid Al-Adha. We have to sacrifice, brothers and sisters, when we are called upon to sacrifice what we really like to keep:
(Ye will not attain unto Birr (piety and perfect goodness) until ye spend of that which ye love.) (Aal `Imran 3:92)
If you have a lot of money and you take a thousand dollars and give it, this would not be birr. Birr is to have two dollars and to give one of the dollars away although you need the two dollars and would like to keep them for essentials. This is a sacrifice. Sacrifice is to do something that is difficult to do. This is sacrifice. It is not a sacrifice to do an easy thing and then to appear at the surface as if you did a lot. No, only Allah Almighty knows what sacrifice is all about. So, brothers and sisters, after we finish this salah, let’s go and consider what we really need to sacrifice. Each one of us has an Isma`il in his or her life that needs to be sacrificed—each one of us!
By Dr. Munir El-Kassem**
Based on a Friday sermon delivered by Dr. Munir El-Kassem on January 21, 2005 at the Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario, Ontario, Canada.