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Happy Adha and My Two Cents

Happy Adha and My Two Cents

Let me just share a couple of ideas here.

Eid al-Adha (Adha i.e. sacrifice) is a religious Muslim holiday, also sanctioned by the Druze, that is universally celebrated by Druze and all Muslims (and employees of Muslims) to honor the obedient willingness of Prophet Abraham to sacrifice his incredibly cherished 13-year old firstborn son Ismail as an act of submission to God (and his son’s mature acceptance of the sacrifice btw) until God, who merely wanted to “test his faith”, intervened and provided Abraham with a ram to sacrifice instead. Abraham and Ismail’s pure faith was thus proven; Ismail went on to live a long fruitful life, and would become the forefather of the “Arabs”, or the alleged Muslims…

Now, let’s just assume for the sake of ease that we all believe that the above-mentioned story did actually occur. It was 2018 BCE, and back then God and the people were just tight like that, they talked. (One day we’ll find out why God went radio silent on the rest of us, but for now, let’s not raise that issue.)

So here we are, 3,813 years later, fashioning our holiday calendars, our family meetings, and our message-sending/social media-posting around the celebration of Abraham not killing his son, but opting for a ram instead. We celebrate around a sheep-holocaust, and we get a few days off of work and we don’t need to think about it… OK but here are my issues (yes let’s assume that everything I have said so far is NOT an issue):

1. One can choose to be literal about Abraham dodging his son’s sacrifice for a ram, one is free to do so, but I hardly think that God (assuming we choose to perceive God as loving, compassionate and merciful) wanted the message of this Abrahamic episode to be “KILL SHEEP!” But here we are, proudly slaughtering those sheep by the million, in a yearly mass slaughter, in order to “celebrate” the living of Abraham’s son who lived and died 3,800+ years ago. If I were to vouch for God here, and again he doesn’t speak to me or anything but I’ll just be creative and assume colorful things, like, maybe, maybe, MAYBE, what God was trying to say was: “Sometimes, you need to let go of the lesser important things in order to honor the more important things in your life.” Or sometimes you need to reshuffle your priorities and remember to honor what you love and cherish the most in this world…the earthly divine… like, family over work, health over wealth, humility over envy, love over aggression, or sometimes get your face out of your iPhone and honor the person sitting in front of you because it would mean a lot to them to earn your full presence, I don’t know. Sacrifice your allegorical sheep to honor the more important things… Call me crazy, but I believe that sounds a lot more humane and divine than going around murdering sheep by the billion.

2. Now. Let’s just say that we reject that first point because maybe God was not being philosophical or metaphorical, but God was actually being literal. Alright, so let’s be literal. Let’s talk about killing then, shall we? And in this episode, I am especially (though not uniquely) addressing the Muslims who are celebrating today: Adha celebrates human life, albeit at the expense of the sheep’s life, but that is what it is about: it is about celebrating and honoring human life, not just Abraham’s boy, but all of Abraham’s children, meaning all of us, because Abraham is the father of all human species, and that species includes Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Scientologists etc and even Beliebers, everyone, because those people didn’t come out of no volcano, nor were they spat out of some intergalactic hemorrhoidal asteroid, they came from the same gene pool as Muslims too. So in short, the Feast of Adha is the celebration of “human” life… But how would our precious God and Abraham feel about our track record of how we have honored human life in the past few years? And I don’t wanna go back centuries, I just mean those literal few years that you and I can remember without looking it up in history books (let’s say since Google’s birth). There is -nothing- honorable that the Muslim community has done to honor human life anywhere on God’s green Earth, and there is nothing for us to celebrate as a Muslim community anywhere in this world in the name of life or in the name of God for that in itself would be blasphemy due to our hypocrisy. In fact, we have probably acted as one of the most backwards and dishonorable of the human communities that exist today. No, we surely are not exclusive in that category, but we certainly place in the top five. We have killed human beings by the hundred thousands with no respite, no remorse, no consciousness and the wars are forcefully ongoing… in Syria, in Afghanistan, in Lebanon, in the USA, in Jordan, in Iraq, in Egypt, in Libya, in France, in Germany, in the Netherlands, in England, in Palestine, in Iran, in Pakistan, in India, in Saudi Arabia, in Bangladesh, in Tunisia, in Algeria, in Sudan, in Mauritania, in every country with a wide Muslim presence we have set a miserable track record against human life and the flourishing of life. What’s to honor? By “celebrating” today, we are accepting that fate. And I personally don’t accept it… No matter how much we holler “This is not real Islam! These are just Muslims gone “rogue!”, I still think that’s an awful big number of Muslims gone rogue no? Where is the good track record? What are we doing to punish all those people gone rogue? We’re killing sheep. Awesome. That’s one dinner. Then what? Onto the next vapid ceremony. Well, I don’t subscribe to any. Instead, I prefer to be vouching for realigning our true loving values with humanity, reconnecting with ourselves and our extended human family, and truly cherishing each other every day instead of being vacuously religious in our followership of empty occasional rituals that we don’t even understand and who turn us, ironically, into a herd of sheep.

There is nothing to be honored today if you cannot honor life in its entirety; and there is nothing to be proud of today if you are not proud of life in its entirety.

Instead of sacrificing those sheep by the millions, we should maybe be sacrificing our hatred, our unbelievably antagonistic ideas and our surrealistically blasphemous behavior; and let the poor sheep and everybody else live happily and peacefully.

That’s just my two cents for the day.

Happy Adha to everyone anyway. May sanity and compassion rule once and for all over human kind on this God-forsaken planet, consistently and invariably. Maybe then, God will start speaking to us again.

Written by Sara El-Yafi

18 Comments

  1. Bassem Kamel · October 15, 2013

    Very inspiring and thought-provoking post Sara. I highly respect and value your opinion. You read my mind. Happy true Adha holiday, with the symbolic and real sacrificing and slaughter of hate and ignorance in the hearts and minds, instead of those poor sheep 🙂

    • Sara El-Yafi · October 18, 2013

      Thank you Bassem for putting it this way. I appreciate your comment. Indeed, happy real Adha to you too.

  2. Sumer Daou · October 15, 2013

    If you can convince the Druze and Muslims to sacrifice themselves instead of sheep for just only one Adha, the problem would be solved the next year, and God would be very understanding under the current circumstances.

  3. Abdel Latif · October 15, 2013

    I can’t agree more the way you describe it, But most Muslims can not agree unless they reach high level of sophisticated knowledge to understand and act as proper and peaceful Islamic Society, then…. God can Speak to us again … Well done Sara El-Yafi

    • Sara El-Yafi · October 18, 2013

      Thank you Abdel Latif for your words. I completely agree. I believe that, to use your words, ‘high levels of sophisticated knowledge’ can be reached when Muslim believers stop taking things literally, but instead start taking things more figuratively. There are so many beautiful allegories in the works of the Quran, but if taken literally, they would wreak havoc in a society, and they have. How can the divine with all his might decidedly decree things upon us “literally” when the beauty of the universe rests in its majestic possibility? Life can be so much more beautiful and peaceful if we pacify our interpretation of it. Thanks again Abdel Latif.

  4. Hassane 'Sean' Mahfouz · October 15, 2013

    If God speaks to us now… we’ll be put in a mental asylum! hehehehhe Love it! *fist bump*

  5. Mazen Tayara · October 15, 2013

    On point…You speak my mind…as always

  6. Mohamad Abdul-Hamid Ajam · October 15, 2013

    Hi Sara. We want an Arabic translation of it. Let me know if you need help!

    • Sara El-Yafi · October 18, 2013

      Mohamad, thank you for your comment. That is probably something I would need help in. Where would you like to see it published?

  7. Namir Nasir · October 15, 2013

    Eid Mubarak Sara, hope you have an awesome day celebrating!

  8. Stephanie Maalouf · October 15, 2013

    Deep.. Respect!

  9. Mohamad Fakhreddine · October 15, 2013

    Dima El-Charif

  10. Dima El-Charif · October 15, 2013

    I think it’s great that there is someone that questions the social traditions that are established in our culture and I feel like it is necessary that someone like Sara points the absurdity of our actions. That being said, from an anthropological point of view the slaughtering of animals has been a consistent and persistent part of traditions everywhere in the world, throughout many cultures. I personally don’t like the idea of slaughtering anything, but I still feel like a tradition from an insider’s perspective brings joy to the community and should be respected and interpreted as such….

    We’re at a weird point of history where we’re exposed to thought and ideas in a much more open way. Some things that really repels some of us (like female genital mutilation) is still debated as a “tradition” by others. And i think we’re all fighting to establish new traditions in our society. So although I understand people wanting to slaughter sheeps, i think Sara is freaking awesome because it’s people like her that changes the definition of society.

    • Sara El-Yafi · October 18, 2013

      Thank you Dima for such a comprehensive thoughtful comment. You are completely right that traditions forge the bonds of society and in many ways inspire culture, but yes advancement rests on adapting our social biases to newer healthier formats, especially when questioning those biases can spark wider debates about social betterment in general. Thanks again Dima.

  11. Noor Aghar · October 17, 2013

    Abraham Saw the whole story in his sleep as a dream ie It’s all a symbolism of love and sacrifice….one should not take it too literally 🙂 but oh well…

  12. Omar Dulaimi · December 9, 2013

    I do understand what you are trying to say, however don't you think that there are many Muslims that are trying to do good with their lives? and yet they can still practice their believes whether it is Adha or Eid or whatever other "event" they might have?.. one can not simple generalize or stereotype.

    Honestly I would not take Afghanistan as an example here, this one has a totally different story, however The problem with the Muslim world is the extremists..
    Take away people's jobs and decent living, you will take away education as it will no longer be important in life, and once education is no longer a important, ignorance strikes, and once that strikes people are blind… and in the land of the blind the one eyed man is king. That's sadly what is happening in the Muslim world today.

    And I might as well say that you my friend with your article (even though it ticks me off a little bit lool) you are honoring the human life (i take it you are a Muslim due to this phrase "…for us to celebrate as a Muslim community…") well here you are honoring the human life ever since google's birth 😛

    But as you mentioned, true change comes from with in.. and trust me there are a lot of people like you and I trying to make things better in this world, maybe not for us but for the future generations.

    Well done 🙂

    • Sara El-Yafi · January 9, 2014

      Dear Omar, I owe you an apology for not having seen your comment before today. For some reason, I did not get the notification when you posted it, very sorry. Thank you very much for taking the time to voice your opinion on my article. I definitely see where you’re coming from, yes I agree that the problem with the Muslim world is extremism and the extremists are relentless in all factions of society, however, it is up to the moderates to make sure their actions are louder than their extremist counterpart. The world is full of challenges, and nature is very, very harsh; human nature by default is competitive and defensive. That’s the default setting of the world, but for those of us who were dealt a better hand and who can choose the loving and compassionate ways to live, I think it is imperative for us to make sure we are heard better than the extremists.
      In any case, I appreciate the fact that you had nice words for me despite the fact that you don’t fully agree with me, and hopefully my next posts will not tick you off at all 🙂

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