Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Kurbani and Nonviolence : Prof. Mehboob Desai

The episode of Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, is given in the Holy Quran in the Surah As-Saffat, from Ayat №- 101 to Ayat №-107. This episode is the founding source of Islamic tradition of sacrifice. As per this episode, after a long and unbroken service to Allah, Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, got a son at the age of 86 years. The son was named ‘Ismail’. Prophet Ismail, peace be upon him, was brought up with love and affection by his parents. When the son was 8 or 10 years old, Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, had a vision. In the vision, Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, was ordered to sacrifice his beloved son for the sake of his Lord. In such ways, Lord tests His believers.
As soon as he received the order of sacrifice from his Lord, Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, took his son Ismail, peace be upon him, to a forest. Son Ismail, peace be upon him, was also willingly followed his father. He knew the order of his Lord and he requested his father to sacrifice him as per the order of his Lord. Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, took his son to a mountain, kept the head of his son on a stone, and he tried to cut off the throat of his son with a sharp sword. At that moment, once again the Holy God spoke to him, “O Ibrahim!” You have already fulfilled the vision!” Then, God made Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, to sacrifice a ram instead of his son, Ismail, peace be upon him. Since then, as a redeeming of one’s own sins, sacrificing of beloved animal has been adopted by the people of Book, i.e. Jews, Christians etc. The very same tradition is adopted by Islamic believers too. Holy Quran reads,
“So, We gave him the good news of a boy ready to suffer and forbear. Then, when the son reached the age of serious work with him, he said: "O my son! I see in vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: now see what is thy view!” The son said: "O my father! do as thou art commanded: thou will find me if Allah so wills one practicing Patience and Constancy!” So, when they had both submitted their wills to Allah and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice). We called out to him "O Abraham!” Thou hast already fulfilled the vision!” Thus indeed do We reward those who do right. For this was obviously a trial. And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice.”
In Islam, sacrificing of animal is widely practiced. The sacrificing and the performance of Hajj are interrelated. So, about the sacrificing of living animals, Holy Quran says,
“The sacrificial camels we have made for you as among the Symbols from Allah: in them is much good for you: then, pronounce the name of Allah over them as they line up for sacrifice: when they are down on their sides, after slaughter, eat ye thereof and feed such as, beg not but, live in contentment and such as beg with due humility: thus, have we made animals subject to you that ye may be grateful. It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah: it is your piety that reaches Him: He has thus made them subject to you that ye may glorify Allah for His guidance to you: and proclaim the Good News to all who do right.”
In the above Ayats, Allah clarifies to His believers that the meat and blood of sacrificed animals do not reach to Him. In doing so, the piety of believers surely reaches Him. Every sacrifice shall have to be done with piety, piousness and pity towards the poor. Instead of keeping the whole meat of sacrificed animal, a believer shall have to distribute it to other people generously and freely. In a sacrificing of an animal, the killing of an animal is not important. The piety and pity are very important. This intention is clarified in another Ayat of Holy Quran. Holy Quran clarifies,
“And complete the Hajj or `Umra in the service of Allah. But if ye are prevented from completing it, send an offering for sacrifice such as ye may find, and do not shave your heads until the offering reaches the place of sacrifice. And if any of you is ill or has an ailment in his scalp (necessitating shaving) (he should) in compensation either fast or feed the poor or offer sacrifice; and when ye are in peaceful conditions again, if anyone wishes to continue the 'Umra on to the Hajj he must make an offering such as he can afford it he should fast three days during the Hajj and seven days on his return making ten days in all. This is for those whose household is not in (the precincts of) the Sacred Mosque. And fear Allah and know that Allah is strict in punishment.”
If a believer does not like to sacrifice an animal, out of kindness towards animals or due to any other reason, Allah gives him a chance to avoid a sacrifice of animals. The believer may fast in ransom of sacrificing of an animal. This facility in Islam shows that piety in creed and pity towards animals are very important in human life. Practically, Islam is in support of nonviolence. When we observe the history of all religions, we find that in the ancient and medieval times, every religion permitted the bloody animal sacrifice. The legend of Sheth Ragapashah and Chailaya is similar to the episode of Prophet Ibrahim and his son, Ismail, peace be upon them.
In short, the Islamic principles of sacrificing an animal are very logical and practical. They are not aiming at violence and blood shedding. In an animal sacrifice or in the substitute method, important is to have piety towards one’s Lord, sacrificing of self-interest and contribution towards the needy people. The core of Islamic sacrifice is theological. It is not bloody and violent. It is not too much to say that for a reasonable human being, the Jain Dharma’s nonviolence seems to be excellent. At the beginning of this Essay, I have already said,
“The nonviolence of Mahavir is delicately intricate and divine, whereas the nonviolence being adopted and practiced by Mahatma Gandhi is humane in nature. When compared to these two kinds of nonviolence, the Islamic nonviolence is innate, sensible and practical.”
Once Gandhiji said,
“Many Muslim friends have told me that Muslims will not accept nonviolence indiscriminately. As per their saying, for the Muslims, the violence is as righteous and necessary as nonviolence. One of two may be adopted as per one’s need.”
For establishing the righteousness and equality of these two things need no need of citations from Holy Quran. The creed of sacrificing animals is adopted by human race since the times immemorial. Moreover, nowhere in the world, there is no indiscriminate violence. Exactly opposite to it, I have heard from many of my Muslim friends that Holy Quran recommends practice of nonviolence many a time. As per its instructions, patience and pardoning is more important that revulsion and retaliation.

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