In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate. Salaam and heartiest congratulations to our readers all over the world on the auspicious occasion of Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice, which is also known as Eid Qorban. It is the day of thanksgiving to God Almighty for having substituted a ram for Ishmael, the firstborn son of Prophet Abraham, who as a divine test and tribulation merely intended to carry out what he had seen in his dream.
“And We ransomed him with the Great Sacrifice.” This is what God Almighty says in ayah 107 of Surah Saffaat of the holy Qur'an. God speaks of how He saved Ishmael in the days of antiquity, when no chronicler was present in remote and obscure Mecca, and no impact such a sacrifice would have made on the primitive world of those days. After having tested the firm and unshakable faith of Abraham, Divine Providence had rushed a ram to replace Ishmael on the altar, assuring both father and son of the acceptance of their selfless endeavours. Moreover, it is against the principle of Divine Justice to command a virtuous father to kill an equally virtuous son, or for that matter any virtuous living soul.
But would a mere quadruple be a ransom for the efforts of Abraham and Ishmael, especially in view of the fact that the last and greatest of Messengers, Prophet Mohammad (SAWA), with his universal message of Islam, will be the direct descendant of these two models of monotheism? These are the thoughts that flash across our minds while we celebrate Eid al-Adha, as well as the minds of the Hajj pilgrims who have assembled in Mena outside Mecca this day.
The pilgrims, having stayed overnight in Mash’ar al-Haraam, enter Mena after sunrise today, with hearts full of God’s love and ready for offering sacrifices. They display in Mena what they have gained spiritually in Arafat and Mash’ar. Mena is the place of sacrifice. A sincere pilgrim intends to sacrifice the world for the satisfaction of God. Our wealth, position, reputation, and even our children have to be sacrificed for God. Mena displays to the world people spiritual assets of perfect persons who tread in the footsteps of prophets. It is the manifestation of God’s special favour to the faithful.
Although Mina is no more than a small valley, it extraordinarily accommodates a crowd several times its capacity and the abundance of food, welfare, and comfort in this place comes from invisible source. It is a blessed place. According to Imam Ja'far Sadeq (AS) the 6th Infallible Successor of the Prophet:
“When people arrive in Mena, a herald will call out: ‘O Mena, your dwellers have come! Open your arms and fill your pools with water!’ Another herald will call out: ‘If you know before Whom you have come, you will gain certitude about forgiveness and compensation of what you have spent."
Another obligatory act in Mena, following the symbolic stoning of the big Satan, on Eid al-Adha is sacrifice of an animal (camel, cow, or sheep), which should be free from any defect and not thin. It is called ‘Qurban or offering-’, because this act of worship is aimed at getting close to God. Therefore, ‘qurban’ is any good deed for those seeking God’s mercy. Since sacrifices are offered in the early hours of the day, it is also called Eid al-Azha, and the animal sacrificed is called ‘zahiyya’.
Sacrifice is a symbol of devotion and offering one’s life in the way of the Beloved and the maximum degree of submission to God. As we said earlier, the offering of animal sacrifice on Eid al-Adha enlivens the memory of Prophet Abraham and his son Ishmael, who was eventually saved by God, Who says that he was ransomed by the Great Sacrifice. When we contemplate on the Divine Words of the holy Qur'an, we begin to realize that the ransom of Abraham has to be something really great, and greater than Ishmael himself, for something not equal in value, if not more than that, cannot be a substitute.
In other words, we discover that the divine tribulation of father and son had not been cancelled by God, but had been postponed to a later date in the full limelight of history. As exegetes of the Holy Qur’an explain on the basis of hadith, the Great Sacrifice refers to hearts larger and firmer than that of Abraham and Ishmael with due respect to these two prophets and their lasting legacy. In view of the fact that the impact of such a sacrifice should be universal and fresh in every age and era, the reference of the holy Qur'an as "ransom' or "Great Sacrifice", is only to one immortal instance of human history.
The Great Sacrifice is undoubtedly the martyrdom of Imam Husain (AS), the worthy descendant of Abraham and Ishmael. In other words, Karbala is the culmination of the selfless endeavours of all divine messengers, whose mission was striving for justice and refusal to yield to oppression.
Thus the grandson of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA), by refusing to yield to tyranny and agreeing to give not only his head, but also witness the tragic death of his near and dear ones including his two sons, the 18-year old Ali Akbar and the 6-month infant, Ali Asghar, did justice to the ordeals of Abraham, Ishmael, and all other Prophets. Congratulations to all Muslims on Eid al-Adha in the true Abrahamic manner with a heartfelt salutation to the immortal Martyr of Karbala for ransoming humanity and all humanitarian values.
These are the points to ponder while celebrating the Eid, performing the special prayer, offering the sacrifice, meeting friends and families, and performing all other acts of worship. This is the reason, it is highly recommended to recite the salutation to Chief of Martyrs, Imam Husain (AS) on the is auspicious occasion with a worthy salutation by turning in the direction of Karbala, and greeting this immaculate descendent of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA).