Eid ul-Adha

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by Rafiq Clarkson

Assalaam walaikum everybody and Eid Mubarak!

As we approach Eid ul-Adha I have been reflecting on the story of Abraham and his son (Peace and blessings be upon them both) and Allah's request for human sacrifice. (You will notice that in deference to the clash of traditional Jewish and Islamic interpretations of whether Isaac or Ismail was involved I will only talk about Abraham's eldest son or his 'righteous son' and I will let you decide on who was involved).

I would like to share a few ideas that I have been reflecting on about this amazing event. It seems to me that there are two aspects to this story. The first aspect is the submission of Abraham and His son to the will of God. This aspect of Eid receives the most attention in sermons as Imam's get us to reflect on what are we willing to sacrifice or give up for Allah. Invariably reflecting on what we will do for Allah and the fact that there is a lot of meat available, also leads many teachers to emphasise our response to the poor.

I think that this line of teaching is very worthy and I always feel challenged to think about how I can further submit myself to Allah especially in terms of helping the poor. I certainly do not want to water down this teaching, yet I do think that this is only one aspect of the Abrahamic story.

To the question "who provided the sacrifice" the answer is Allah not Abraham. While we should reflect on Abraham?s willingness to provide a sacrifice and therefore what are we willing to sacrifice, there seems to be a lack of reflection at Eid on Allah's provision. The actual Qu'ranic text seems to ask for this reflection.

For example let's pick up the story in Surah 37:105. We have already read that Abraham shared the vision with his Son and that his son consented to submit to God's will. So Abraham is about to kill his son when he hears Allah cry out and say, "thou have already fulfilled the vision".

To me this seems to state on face value that Abraham at that moment has fulfilled the requirements of the vision. That is, he has done what God has asked of him.

So then why does the Quran then state:

"And we ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice" (37:107)

OK, so the first question this raises for me is that if Abraham had already fulfilled the requirements of the vision in what way did Allah need to "ransom him" (i.e. Abraham's son). I am not sure of what ransom means in Arabic, but it is a very emotive word in English. It assumes someone being held hostage with a price on his head. Presumably it was not enough for Allah to just state, "let him go- you have done enough". In some ways a price had to be paid and that price was paid by Allah with a 'momentous sacrifice'.

Isn't this act the pinnacle of the story with Abraham and his son's submission acting as a prelude to this great drama of ransom and sacrifice?

If I have stated the events correctly then the question becomes "why". Why didn't Allah just let Abraham's son go if they passed the test? Why did Allah see the sacrifice as a means on ransoming Abraham's son?

The struggle for me is in reconciling what sense does Abraham and his son fulfilled the vision and commands of Allah and in what sense did Allah still needed to act to pay a price. From a literal perspective I suppose Abraham had not complied with the command to kill his son that means that something still needed to be done to satisfy Allah's command. Can we reconcile this tension by saying that Allah somehow says "OK you have done enough, now let me finish it"?

Or maybe Abraham and his son's actions are more than 'just enough' but instead they fulfill the vision in the sense of doing all that is humanly possible. Yet complete human submission is still short of Allah perfect requirements. So while Abraham and his son fulfilled the vision from a human perspective, there was still a requirement of the vision and hence a price that was outstanding. Thus Allah in his mercy provided the momentous sacrifice himself rather than ask Abraham to go through with it.

I am open to other interpretation as I am only speculating here. If the speculation stimulates you then great but I don't want to distract too much from my basic point that there are two aspects to this story and the idea that Allah provided the sacrifice is often lost. There are many dangers in not reflecting on the two sides of this story.

Firstly it seems to me that many Muslims that do slaughter an animal on Eid can start to think that the killing of the animal is an indication of how much they are willing to submit to Allah. In other words, the sacrifice becomes their offering to God. This is a complete reversal of the story. We don't offer a sacrifice to God, God in his mercy provides the sacrifice.

For me the story of Abraham is symbolic of the spiritual dynamic that is at the heart of a living Islam. Namely that submitting to the Will of God is not an end in itself but rather places us in a state where God can act in our lives. Without being open to God breaking in with 'a momentous sacrifice' our religious acts become meaningless ritual.

I would love to hear a sermon this Eid that elaborates on this spiritual dynamic: Yes do your good works yet recognise that Allah is the initiator, sustainer and perfector of your good works. Allah in his mercy is looking to "make up the difference" between your offerings and his perfect requirements. Do your good works in such a way that you experience the wonderful bounty of Allah's grace through this freedom. The Abrahamic story is a coupling of duty and underserved mercy. Do not just do the duty and miss out on experiencing the mercy.

I think of the story of Imam Hanif who would have done the Hajj 50 times in his life, founded one of the great Fiq traditions and did many other good deeds, yet exclaimed as an old man circling the Kaabah. "Ya Allah, all I have to offer you is my white beard"; meaning that he was aware that his good deeds did not replace his need for Allah's mercy. In fact I would argue that his continual good deeds made him more aware of his need of Allah's mercy.

After reflecting on these matters I am excited to pray for an Australian Islam that is not centered on meaningless rituals but seeks out a state of being that allows Allah to work and provides a 'momentous sacrifice' on our behalf.

Rafiq ClarksonAssalaam walaikum everybody and Eid Mubarak!

As we approach Eid ul-Adha I have been reflecting on the story of Abraham and his son (Peace and blessings be upon them both) and Allah's request for human sacrifice. (You will notice that in deference to the clash of traditional Jewish and Islamic interpretations of whether Isaac or Ismail was involved I will only talk about Abraham's eldest son or his 'righteous son' and I will let you decide on who was involved)

I would like to share a few ideas that I have been reflecting on about this amazing event. It seems to me that there are two aspects to this story. The first aspect is the submission of Abraham and His son to the will of God. This aspect of Eid receives the most attention in sermons as Imam's get us to reflect on what are we willing to sacrifice or give up for Allah. Invariably reflecting on what we will do for Allah and the fact that there is a lot of meat available, also leads many teachers to emphasise our response to the poor.

I think that this line of teaching is very worthy and I always feel challenged to think about how I can further submit myself to Allah especially in terms of helping the poor. I certainly do not want to water down this teaching, yet I do think that this is only one aspect of the Abrahamic story.

To the question "who provided the sacrifice" the answer is Allah not Abraham. While we should reflect on Abraham?s willingness to provide a sacrifice and therefore what are we willing to sacrifice, there seems to be a lack of reflection at Eid on Allah's provision. The actual Qu'ranic text seems to ask for this reflection.

For example let's pick up the story in Surah 37:105. We have already read that Abraham shared the vision with his Son and that his son consented to submit to God's will. So Abraham is about to kill his son when he hears Allah cry out and say, "thou have already fulfilled the vision".

To me this seems to state on face value that Abraham at that moment has fulfilled the requirements of the vision. That is, he has done what God has asked of him.

So then why does the Quran then state:

"And we ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice" (37:107)

OK, so the first question this raises for me is that if Abraham had already fulfilled the requirements of the vision in what way did Allah need to "ransom him" (i.e. Abraham's son). I am not sure of what ransom means in Arabic, but it is a very emotive word in English. It assumes someone being held hostage with a price on his head. Presumably it was not enough for Allah to just state, "let him go- you have done enough". In some ways a price had to be paid and that price was paid by Allah with a 'momentous sacrifice'.

Isn't this act the pinnacle of the story with Abraham and his son's submission acting as a prelude to this great drama of ransom and sacrifice?

If I have stated the events correctly then the question becomes "why". Why didn't Allah just let Abraham's son go if they passed the test? Why did Allah see the sacrifice as a means on ransoming Abraham's son?

The struggle for me is in reconciling what sense does Abraham and his son fulfilled the vision and commands of Allah and in what sense did Allah still needed to act to pay a price. From a literal perspective I suppose Abraham had not complied with the command to kill his son that means that something still needed to be done to satisfy Allah's command. Can we reconcile this tension by saying that Allah somehow says "OK you have done enough, now let me finish it"?

Or maybe Abraham and his son's actions are more than 'just enough' but instead they fulfill the vision in the sense of doing all that is humanly possible. Yet complete human submission is still short of Allah perfect requirements. So while Abraham and his son fulfilled the vision from a human perspective, there was still a requirement of the vision and hence a price that was outstanding. Thus Allah in his mercy provided the momentous sacrifice himself rather than ask Abraham to go through with it.

I am open to other interpretation as I am only speculating here. If the speculation stimulates you then great but I don't want to distract too much from my basic point that there are two aspects to this story and the idea that Allah provided the sacrifice is often lost. There are many dangers in not reflecting on the two sides of this story.

Firstly it seems to me that many Muslims that do slaughter an animal on Eid can start to think that the killing of the animal is an indication of how much they are willing to submit to Allah. In other words, the sacrifice becomes their offering to God. This is a complete reversal of the story. We don't offer a sacrifice to God, God in his mercy provides the sacrifice. T

For me the story of Abraham is symbolic of the spiritual dynamic that is at the heart of a living Islam. Namely that submitting to the Will of God is not an end in itself but rather places us in a state where God can act in our lives. Without being open to God breaking in with 'a momentous sacrifice' our religious acts become meaningless ritual.

I would love to hear a sermon this Eid that elaborates on this spiritual dynamic: Yes do your good works yet recognise that Allah is the initiator, sustainer and perfector of your good works. Allah in his mercy is looking to "make up the difference" between your offerings and his perfect requirements. Do your good works in such a way that you experience the wonderful bounty of Allah's grace through this freedom. The Abrahamic story is a coupling of duty and underserved mercy. Do not just do the duty and miss out on experiencing the mercy.

I think of the story of Imam Hanif who would have done the Hajj 50 times in his life, founded one of the great Fiq traditions and did many other good deeds, yet exclaimed as an old man circling the Kaabah. "Ya Allah, all I have to offer you is my white beard"; meaning that he was aware that his good deeds did not replace his need for Allah's mercy. In fact I would argue that his continual good deeds made him more aware of his need of Allah's mercy.

After reflecting on these matters I am excited to pray for an Australian Islam that is not centered on meaningless rituals but seeks out a state of being that allows Allah to work and provides a 'momentous sacrifice' on our behalf.

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