Eid-Ul-Azha: Where’s the Sacrifice in gluttonous slaughter of animals?
By Mona Hassan
September 6, 2015
(Photo Courtesy, Rembrandt)
Once upon a few centuries ago, in the desert lived a very old man with his wife, a concubine and kids. He started hearing voices in his head at this very old age and once of those voices told him to sacrifice his most precious possession; kill his own son. Legend has it, that a lamb or a ram miraculously replaced the boy when the old man was about to slit his throat.
Bible says it was Isaac that came under the knife and Quran say Ishmael. Islam also takes it a step further and glamorizes the story by turning the legend into a yearly tradition of celebrating the misery of a child who was escorted by his own father to the mountain to get slaughtered. Muslims call it Eid al-Adha, al-Azha in Urdu.
It is the festival of sacrifice where Muslims are supposed to spend a lot of money to buy a bound and dragged animal, and then foster him for few days, and then brutally decapitate him. I have seen and heard those noises that helpless animal makes when multiple men are holding him down and one of them is slitting his throat. I do not remember being more horrified by anything my whole life.
Some do a half day fast that day and break it with lunch cooked with freshly slaughtered animal’s liver. The evenings follow with feasts made with the same meat and families get together to have a party where people congratulate each other on a successful sacrifice and blessings of Allah. One third of the meat is distributed among the poor stand in line, more like a restless mob, in front of each house whole day to collect some meaty charity, and one third is kept for neighbors and family members.
The bloody madness lasts for three days. Intestines and pools of blood are seen on the street sides and dumpsters. Many NGO’s and social services organizations request the public to donate the skins of those animals to them, the leather industry make shoes and apparel from that skin.
Not just the goats, but cows and camels in Saudi Arabia also get slaughtered in the house of Allah with pools and pools of blood around the holy area. Imagine having those Saudis sitting in UNHRC!!
This festival comes a day after the grand yearly pilgrimage where Muslims from all over the world gather in Mekkah to circle around the black cube called Ka’aba. A pagan tradition that later was adopted by the same old man who tried to kill his son Abraham and Muslims.
The whole idea of dragging a living thing, keeping him bound, kill him, skin him, cut him into pieces and then devour him in the form of specially prepared food is sickening. The eating part is the only step of this ritual that separates us from ISIS or Taliban slaughtering innocent people here and there.
I have always wondered, what “sacrifice” has to do with this festival? The lexical meaning of the word sacrifice is an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy. With the usage of Sacrifice in cultural and religious sense, it soon took over the meaning as “an act of slaughtering an animal or person or surrendering a possession as an offering to God or to a divine or supernatural figure.”
The latter definition is missing an important component “giving up something valued.” If you are slaughtering an animal, you are taking another life, killing a living being. That poor animal is giving up his life without even gaining anything better or anything at all for that matter, not you, so where is the sacrifice?
Now, I understand you spent money on it; you fostered it for a week. But how is that animal you spend money on, with the intention of killing it after a week is something of a value to you? Its not! It’s pure torture.
Had that money was spent on buying books for a poor school, providing new clothing for the children who do not have access to it or fostering a kid to go to school or even donate it to Edhi foundation that feeds thousands of hungry and foster thousands of people who have no place to go and live, would have fit the definition of sacrifice.
As Mitch Albom said “sometimes when you sacrifice something precious, you are not really losing it. You are just passing it on to someone else.” How about donating to the Library for Lyari’s Children inside DCTO Campus for Kiran Foundation.
What would you get in return that is of greater value than that small chunk of money spent in helping another? Well, you feel good about it; about yourself; you sleep better at night knowing you helped someone go to bed with a happy belly or have given another a better chance at better education. If you don’t think you would feel that way, than sacrifices are NOT for you.
The whole idea of taking another life to please your God doesn’t make any one any different than people offering human sacrifices to God in ancient Egypt, or Taliban slaughtering kids in school because their religion calls for it to make their God happy, or some kiln owner burning an innocent couple alive crying blasphemy to hide his own evil doings.
The only reason this horror story is still followed by millions of Muslims because whoever decided to alter it did by replacing a lamb or ram with a child, was to make it more palatable.
Modern researchers state that it is possible that in the original story Abraham does actually kill Isaac. Francesca Stavrakopoulou in “King Manasseh and child sacrifice: biblical distortions of historical realities, (pp.193-194) says that “It may be that the biblical story contains traces of a tradition in which Abraham does sacrifice Isaac, for in Gen. 22:19 Abraham appears to return from the mountain without Isaac”
Richard Dawkins in his book God’s Delusion writes about the binding of Isaac; “A modern moralist cannot help but wonder how a child could ever recover from such psychological trauma. By the standards of modern morality, this disgraceful story is an example simultaneously of child abuse, bullying in two asymmetrical power relationships, and the first recorded use of the Nuremberg defense: ‘ I was only obeying orders ‘ Yet the legend is one of the great foundational myths of all three monotheistic religions.”
Dawkins sums up the exact problem with this ritual and indoctrinating our kids’ little brains with the idea that it is ok to take a life; shed blood and then eat the same being just to please your God. It’s sickening and very immoral to every standard of humanity.
There are many examples of true sacrifices and none involve killing another innocent being. Remember Bhagat Singh? He sacrificed his OWN life, liberty and enjoyment and spent his young days fighting to liberate his homeland, Hindustan and died in the very location called the land of pure, Pakistan, by its inhabitants who curse him for being an infidel.
In 2011 Japanese Tsunami, when the ten meter wave hit, Takeshi Miura and Miki Endo, two government risk management workers tasked with warning and directing people to safety, remained at their posts and kept broadcasting until they were killed, directing people of town to safety.
Richard Rescorla, led the evacuation of 2,500 people until he was killed in the attacks of 9/11. Abdul Sataar Edhi, rather than living a comfortable life, he lives in simple clothing and spend all his time and money to help poor people of Pakistan indiscriminately. Don’t forget Jinnah, needless to mention his sacrifices. He didn’t care about his own health and fought hard to get the Pakistanis their own country while he was still sick.
We have a living-breathing example of Jibran Nasir. He has taken the most dangerous job telling Taliban off and working everyday for the betterment of his fellow citizen and that too all pro-bono.
These and many other examples including pet animals that have put people or their owner’s lives before their own. All of these examples are different from the Holy sacrifice in one major aspect, the lives that are affected or harmed were not of another being whereas, the holy sacrifice calls for taking another’s life. How is that holy? Besides, sacrificing an animal on Eid is a Sunnah, that too of Abraham, not mandatory so skipping it shouldn’t make one feel guilty instead why not do something better, that is less bloody and more beneficial to the society and would supposedly make you god happy?
If you must sacrifice something on that day to please God or feel good, how about give up eating meat for three days of the Eid? Spare the animals’ life, bring inflation down, eat healthy vegetables and fruits and give something to the community.
Despite my few disagreements with Gandhi’s actions, I feel he is sending a powerful message to anyone who puts an animal’s life in danger in his autobiography, the story of my Experiments with Truth; “I could not swallow this. I told him that, if the sheep had speech, they would tell a different tale. I felt that the cruel custom ought to be stopped. I thought of the story of Buddha, but I also saw that the task was beyond my capacity. I hold today the same opinion as I held then. To my mind the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body. I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man. But he who has not qualified himself for such service is unable to afford to it any protection. I must go through more self-purification and sacrifice, before I can hope to save these lambs from this unholy sacrifice. Today I think I must die pining for this self-purification and sacrifice. It is my constant prayer that there may be born on earth some great spirit, man or woman, fired with divine pity, who will deliver us from this heinous sin, save the lives of the innocent creatures, and purify the temple. How is it that Bengal with all its knowledge, intelligence, sacrifice, and emotion tolerates this slaughter?”