By: Sadruddin Noorani, Chicago, USA
Dhu al-Hajj is the twelfth and final month in the Islamic calendar. It literally means “The Month of the Pilgrimage”. During this month, Muslim pilgrims from all around the world congregate at Mecca to visit the Kaaba. The Hajj is performed on the eighth, ninth and the tenth of this month. Day of Arafah takes place on the ninth of the month. Eid al-Adha, the “Feast of the Sacrifice”, begins on the tenth day and ends on sunset of the 13th day.
The Hajj Pilgrimage has been canceled this year for Muslims residing outside Saudi Arabia, announced by the Authorities of the Saudi Kingdom due to the coronavirus pandemic. This is not the first time in the global phenomenon of the Hajj that it has been limited to local residents but in small numbers (Fewer than 10,000 people are to perform the 2020 Hajj) due to public health precautions. The Hajj has been interrupted or canceled approximately 40 times since 700 AD due to plagues, conflicts, political unrest and battles. Covid-19 pandemic has upended the plans of millions of Muslims, for whom the once-in-a lifetime trip is a sacred milestone. The pilgrimage conveys such religious status that most Muslims add the honorific “Hajji (for male)” and “Hajiani (for female)” to their name as their title.
Dhu al-Hajj is a very sacred month in the Islamic calendar, Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, is celebrated throughout the Muslim world in this month. The Eid commemorates Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) (peace be upon him)’s trial of faith. In Qur’an al-Karim it is said that Prophet Ibrahim saw a vision in which he was sacrificing his son Ismail (Ishmael). He shared this vision with his son who expressed his willingness to be sacrificed, believing it to be a command from Allah (God)(All Glory Belongs to Him). As the two, father and son, prepared themselves to submit to the Divine Will, God called out to Prophet Ibrahim saying that he has fulfilled the vision. Like other prophetic parables in the Qur’an Prophet Ibrahim’s story inspires us to draw particular lessons from his life.
Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son exemplifies an unconditional commitment to submit to the Will of God. It is for this reason that in the Qur’an, Prophet Ibrahim is referred to as a Muslim, that is, one who submits to God. He is also called a Hanif, which came to mean one who is righteous, and is presented as a religious and moral model for later generations. Allah mentions in the Holy Qur’an in chapter 2 of al-Baqarah, verse 124th:
“And remember that Ibrahim was tried by his Lord with commands and he fulfilled: [Allah] said: “I will make thee an Imam to the Nations.” He pleaded: “And also (Imams) from my offspring!” He answered: “But My promise is not within the reach of wrong-doers.”
Thus, as we will be celebrating Eid al-Adha, not only as an example of sacrifice but also as a reminder of the continuum of guidance from God through our present Imam Shah Karim al-Hussaini (aka: Aga Khan IV), who is from the progeny of Prophet Ibrahim.
We have recently celebrated Imamat Day on 11th July, Aga Khan’s 63rd anniversary of the accession, even with most JamatKhanas around the world still closed due to Covid-19… The Ismaili TV and The Ismaili App has come at the right time and we are seeing the creativity of the Jamat.
Now, on tenth day, we will be celebrating Eid al-Adha which provides us with an opportunity to reflect on and further the goals of the Aga Khan, he articulated at the Dinner hosted by the Globe and Mail, Toronto, Canada, 14, May 1987:
“I have sought to underwrite our endeavors in social development with initiatives designed to promote economic progress. The two are inextricably linked and must remain so if people are not to be faced with the unacceptable choice between the poverty of the economics of welfare, on the one hand, and raw material greed untempered by any social conscience, on the other.” (www.theismaili.org)
During this festive month of sacrifice, it would be appropriate for each one of us to ask: what is my personal responsibility, as a global citizen of what Aga Khan calls a “large global family”? As the occasion epitomizes the ideals of submission and sacrifice, how do I participate in the Imamat’s endeavors to relieve poverty and suffering, bringing happiness and prosperity to family, friends and neighbors? (AKDN.org)
For example, over 2 million students benefit from AKDN’s education programmes annually, which range from early childhood development to primary and secondary schools, and from vocational studies to university degrees. We as a community can contribute our skills, resources and time and knowledge to support these educational endeavors and other aspects linked with quality of life. Volunteering time and offering material resources have been part of our Islamic ethos, which have significantly benefited the communities in which we live and the world at large.
On 18th of Dhu al-Hajj (August 7) we will also be celebrating Eid Al-Ghadir, an important holiday, it is considered to be among the “significant” feasts of Shia Islam. At the time when the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) appointed Ali ibn Abi Talib (A.S) as his successor.
Imam Jafar Sadiq (A.S) says that: “Six things benefit a man after his death; a pious son who asks for forgiveness on his behalf, a copy of the Holy Qur’an he read from, a tree he planted, a glass of water he quenched others’ thirst with, a well he dug, and a good tradition or habit he left behind to those around him.”
Eid al-Adha is an important festival reminding us of values, such as strength of belief (iman), absolute submission of trust, that is, tawakkul in God; and sacrifice (qurbani), which we need to put into action. Our offering of time, knowledge, and material resources is but one form of sacrifice that, on the one hand, expresses our gratitude to God and, on the other, allows us to offer our qurbani in the service of the community and society at large, which is rooted in Muslim ethics.