Sharing is one of the most important characteristics of Islam, so much so that Muslims have a duty to share what they possess, “even if they themselves are in need.”
Even prisoners of war are no exception to this: Muslims are encouraged to give aid to captives, too: “They give food, despite their love for it, to the poor and orphans and captives.” (Qur’an, 76:8)
Eid Al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice) is one of the greatest examples of solidarity in our faith. Sacrificing an animal for God is one of the observances that encourage sharing.
The performance of sacrifices is found in all the Divine faiths throughout history. Most people therefore possess at least some knowledge about this act of worship: “We have appointed a rite of sacrifice for every nation so that they may invoke God’s name over the livestock He has given them. Your God is One God so submit to Him. …” (Qur’an, 22:34)
The meaning of the word sacrifice is, “Something which is instrumental in leading to a closeness to God.” In Islamic terminology it means, “Something which draws one close to God in spiritual terms.” In other words, it means, “Killing the sacrificial animal with the intention of performing a religious observance, at a specific time and under specific conditions.” God reveals the following in a verse: “We have appointed the sacrificial animals for you as one of the sacred rites of God. There is good in them for you, so invoke God’s name over them, as they stand in rows. And then when they collapse on their sides, eat of them and feed both those who ask and those who are too shy to ask. In this way We have subjected them to you so that hopefully you will be thankful.” (Qur’an, 22:36)
The sacrifice expresses that everything, one’s life or possessions, may be given up on the path of God, as well as submission to God and being filled with gratitude toward Him. The sacrifice is a physical act of faith. It also means spending one’s material possessions on the path of God. It is a symbolic expression of the fact that believers can even give up their lives for God when necessary. The sacrifice is one of the forms of giving in Islam. It is a campaign for sharing and humanitarian aid. It is an explicit manifestation of the fact that life is not a thing of conflict, but rather, meaning is to be found in solidarity, mutual aid and blending.
The sacrifice is an instrument of plenty, not only for the people of the country concerned, but for all. Indeed, many of the animals sacrificed in Turkey are sent abroad as food aid. In this way, the religious observance of the sacrifice is also an act of worship resulting in the spreading of Islam and praising of the name of God across the whole world. It thus encourages preaching the word and raises awareness of spending on the path of God.
The sacrifice is an instrument whereby characteristics such as brotherhood, mutual aid and solidarity, which all societies need and which represent the solution to many of the problems we’ve seen of late through the world, can be preserved. Of course, the sacrifice also makes a significant contribution to social justice, and thus shows the practicability of this moral virtue and the abundance that results when it is applied.
The observance of the sacrifice means that wealthy people become used to sharing their assets with others, and purges people of parsimony and devotion to this world. It is also instrumental in the needy giving thanks to God.
The intention within the performance of the sacrifice is of the greatest importance, because the act must propel a Muslim in the direction of piety and fear of God. As our Lord reveals in His holy verses:
“Their flesh and blood does not reach God but your piety does reach Him.” (Qur’an, 22:37)
The Holy Qur’an describes the proper intention with which the animal must be sacrificed: “Say: “My prayers and my rites, my living and my dying, are for God alone, the Lord of all the worlds.” (Qur’an, 6:162)
As revealed in this verse, a believer does everything for God’s sake, and strives for His approval throughout the day. Acts of observance performed at specific times, such as fasting, the daily five prayers and the sacrifice, are instruments of joy and happiness for Muslims.
All Muslims therefore await the blessed Feast of the Sacrifice with great excitement and preparations typically begin weeks ahead. When the day of the sacrifice dawns, there is great excitement in the home. The meat of animals ritually sacrificed to the accompaniment of prayers is joyously handed out to the needy and to relatives.
The 10th, 11th and 12th days of the month of Dul Hijja are those when animals are to be sacrificed. This period extends to the sunset of the twelfth day of the month.
As with all things done to attain the approval of God, the essential thing in the observance of the sacrifice is to have the proper intention and sincerity, because our Lord reveals in the Qur’an that He will only accept the worship of those who have piety. There is also a command of expiation if one cannot perform this observance. This act of worship, which has fine results in the social and economic spheres, is a sign of dedication to God.
The alms we donate during this Feast of the Sacrifice can also, at least partially, lighten the sufferings of our refugee brothers and sisters across the world, and once again allow them to experience the joy of being one community, the peace of mind of brotherhood and the plenty of mutual solidarity. May God accept all our acts of worship!
The writer has authored more than 300 books translated in 73 languages on politics, religion and science.