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Of Faith And Pilgrimage

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The history and significance behind the Hajj and the Muslim celebration of Aidiladha.

What does sacrifice really mean to us? Is it letting go of something in order to gain something else? us individually, faith is invariably at the core of it. It is our conviction in believing that losing something important for a greater good we cannot yet see is the right thing to do. This ability to let go of our own needs and wants is where its meaning lies. The value and significance of this meaning is at the heart of the ‘Feast of the Sacrifice’ celebrations in the Islamic calendar, more commonly known as Aidiladha.Or is it losing out on something we hold precious for one reason or another? Whatever it means to

Sacrifice and Pilgrimage

Aidiladha, often referred to as Hari Raya Haji or Hari Raya Korban in Malaysia, is one of the most significant moments in Islamic history. Firstly, it marks the end of Hajj, the sacred pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca.

The Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam - a once-in-a-lifetime obligation upon Muslim adults whose health and means permit it. The whole rite lasts about a week and ends on the 10th of Dzulhijjah in the Islamic calendar - the date of Aidiladha. Its history can be traced back to the story of Prophet Ibrahim, his wife Hajar, and son Ismael, in Mecca. Ibrahim was ordered by God to leave his wife and son in the desert, where Hajar desperately ran seven times between the two hills of Safa and Marwah in search of water - this became one of the observances practiced by pilgrims performing the Hajj. Hajar then went back to Ismael to find the baby kicking the ground with his heels from which sprang forth water, now known as Zam Zam. Later, Ibrahim built the Kaaba near the site.

The pathway between Safa and Marwah
The pathway between Safa and Marwah

Years later, Ibrahim dreamt of being commanded by God to give up the life of his son, Ismael, as a test of his faith and piety. After both father and son heavy-heartedly agreed to it, they set off for the sacrifice. On the way, the devil attempted to lead them astray by disobeying God and not committing the act, but both remained steadfast in their mission. It seems that they passed the test and Ismael’s place was ordered by God to be replaced by a sheep to be sacrificed instead. This became the basis for the tradition of sacrificing livestock for Eid.

Meanwhile, the act of throwing stones at Mina is a symbolic gesture in reference to the moment when the devil tried to discourage Ibrahim, which was by pelting him with pebbles as he was making his way through Mina

Qurban and Hijrah
Air-conditioned tents in Mina provide temporary accommodation to pilgrims in the area where the symbolic "stoning of the devil" is performed.
Air-conditioned tents in Mina provide temporary accommodation to pilgrims in the area where the symbolic "stoning of the devil" is performed.

For those who are not performing the Hajj, Aidiladha is a celebration of our submission to God by way of reminding ourselves through symbolic acts of sacrifice and change (symbolising pilgrimage, or hijrah).

During the three days, but mostly on the first day, Muslims commemorate Prophet Ibrahim and Prophet Ismael by sacrificing an animal such as a sheep, camel, or a goat. A 1⁄3 portion of the meat goes to the needy, 1⁄3 is given to neighbours and friends, while the final 1⁄3 is for family.

Aidiladha reminds Muslims to share worldly goods with the less fortunate, and serves as an offer of thanksgiving to God. Muslims begin the day with morning prayers at the mosque, followed by visits to family and friends and the exchange of food. It is a celebration of faith by way of two of its biggest acts - sacrifice and pilgrimage.

Letting Go and Letting God Lead

How do we begin to give up on things and matters that are close to our hearts? Aidiladha is a history of how we can become more than we are by acting in spite of ourselves, in conviction of a much deeper and larger meaning that is beyond us, much like life and faith itself. That is how sacrifice begins.

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