Yesterday marked the start of Eid-al-Adha, the second of the Islamic holidays observed worldwide. Here Rawa Hussain, a member of the Post Office BAME group, shares what the holiday means to her.
Have you ever stopped and thought about what your true purpose on this earth is? Why life maps out the way it does and what will happen to it all when you are no longer here? As a Muslim, we grow up believing that we are alive in this world for one reason only- and that is to serve and obey the rulings of our Creator. We believe that if we follow the right path and carry out the 5 pillars of Islam, surely we are destined for a better place when we part this world, a Heaven as a reward for our obeying the Most Merciful and Most Gracious. It is all a test and ultimately one where the end will justify the means.
One of the 5 pillars of Islam is the pilgrimage to Mecca known as Hajj. Every Muslim is required to carry out this pilgrimage only once in their lifetime. They must be of sound mind and physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey. Every year about 2 to 3 million people from across the world gather in Mecca for the Hajj. It is the largest single gathering of people on the planet and the purpose of this pilgrimage is to repent, ask God for forgiveness in the hope and belief that all your sins will be forgiven.
When I embarked on this spiritual journey many years ago, I cannot find any words to truly explain to you how I felt and the experience I went through. It was the most spiritual and humbling experience of my life. It was the one time where I felt I knew my true purpose and the one time I felt that everything I was doing, every step I took and every sacrifice I made on this trip was for once not for anyone other than my God. The tiredness was worth it- it was not like how when someone is tired from looking after the kids all day or from working in the office all day- it was a different type of tiredness where you didn’t mind it as there was a purpose behind it and it was all for my Creator. I felt selfless and liberated all at the same time. In life, we get so consumed with “living” and devoted to our material possessions that we forget the ultimate purpose and our destiny. We work for ourselves and for our families, so we can eat, have shelter and live a comfortable life in this life- it is not really an act for God. We do things for our friends, our families and get so consumed in the materials of this world that we forget its Creator and what have we really done for Him? So yes, we have the prayers where we pray 5 times a day (another one of the 5 pillars of Islam) for that reason- to remember and thank God for everything but even prayers are rushed or forgotten because of the demands of this life. Hajj is the one time I feel I took 2 weeks away from the rest of the world and truly gave my Lord the time he deserved. With every breath, sweat and tear I carried out all the rituals that take around 5 days to complete and once completed, I felt reborn, lighter somehow as if all my sins were truly forgiven and no longer burdening me anymore. It was a fresh start, a feeling you try so hard to cling onto when you come back home and hit reality until it consumes you again.
On Tuesday 21st August 2018, Muslims will be celebrating the second Eid of the year called Eid al Adha also known as the ‘Festival of Sacrifice’. The origin of Eid al Adha dates back to the story of the prophet Ibrahim, also told in the Quran. After years of longing for a child, Ibrahim and his wife were given a son in their old age. But, as a testament to his love for God, Ibrahim was asked to sacrifice him. The couple travelled to Mecca to carry out the task. On their journey, they were repeatedly met by Satan who tempted them to break their promise to God, but they threw stones at him to drive him away. Similarly, in Hajj as part of the pilgrimage and one of the rituals that is performed there, stones are thrown at symbolic pillars, an act known as ‘stoning of the devil’, in commemoration of the couple’s rejection of the Satan. However, before the blindfolded Ibrahim could carry out the sacrifice, God replaced his son with a ram in a fraction of a second, which was slaughtered instead. In celebration of Ibrahim’s love for God and this ultimate act of devotion, Muslims honour this by sacrificing an animal on Eid al Adha every year and feeding the poor with it.
This Eid al Adha is different. I feel it is more for the people who have endured the hardships of hajj- it is truly meant for them and we are celebrating their journey. Many families celebrate in different ways. Usually, new clothes are worn, there is a special Eid prayer performed in the mosque in the morning and after that, its all fun and games. Eid presents are exchanged and families get together for lunches or dinners be it at home or in restaurants. It is a time for us to be thankful and grateful and appreciate all the good in our life and knowing that it is never too late… there is always an opportunity to reflect and ask God for forgiveness and we know that we will be rewarded for the sacrifices we have made and endured in this short-lived life.
Happy Eid to all celebrating! Enjoy the festivities (and the food!).