Eid al-Adha, also known as the festival of sacrifice, is celebrated by Muslims around the world to mark the end of the rites of Hajj, performed during the annual pilgrimage to Makkah in the last month of the Lunar calendar.
During the period, Muslims remember and commemorate the attributes and triumphs of Prophet Ibrahim or Abraham.
One of the most significant of these attributes was his unflinching obedience to Allah. According to narratives in the Holy Qur’an, Allah commanded Ibrahim to sacrifice his son, Isma’il or Ishmael.
His obedience of that command secured for him the Mercy of Allah Who replaced Isma’il with a Ram for the sacrifice.Indeed, Allah mentioned in the Holy Qur’an Chapter 16, Verses 120 to 121, that “surely Abraham was an example, obedient to Allah, by nature upright and he was not of the polytheists.”
Consequently, during the Eid al-Adha Celebration, Muslims commemorate Ibrahim’s obedience and love for his Lord by slaughtering an animal, such as a sheep, goat,cow or camel.
The meat from the sacrifice is divided into three equal parts. One third of the meat is eaten by the immediate family, the other is shared to friends in the neighbourhood, while the third potion is giving to the poor.
This act of sharing symbolizes the willingness to give up things that are dear to the heart of the believer in compliance with the commandment of Allah. It also strengthens ties of friendship and help to the needy.
The prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, was reported to have said that when slaughtering the animal, a person is slaughtering stubbornness, desires and rebellious acts for the sake of Allah.
This is the reason the celebration is not just about eating the flesh of the animal. Rather, it represents a profound spiritual significance in the lives of Muslims.
Allah says in the Qur’an Chapter 22, Verse 37, that “it is neither their meat nor their blood but piety that reaches Him.” It is therefore important for Muslims to slaughter their animals with the pure intention of worshiping Allah and seeking His Divine Mercy and Forgiveness.
For those who cannot afford to sacrifice an animal, they should bear in mind that it is not a compulsory act. Allah sees their intension and would reward everyone accordingly.
On this day, every able-bodied Muslim is expected to attend Eid prayers in their locality, except for those performing the Hajj pilgrimage. This is followed immediately with the slaughtering of the animals. The next most important duty is the visit to families and friends and the exchange of gifts.
This year’s Eidal-Adha comes with a great difference due to the global lockdown enforced in the wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic. In virtually every country, Nigeria inclusive, the pandemic has had a telling impact on all facets of life, with restrictions on religious and socio-economic life of all citizens.
The Saudi Arabian government’s suspension of the 2020 Hajj pilgrimage by Muslims outside the Kingdom has left many Muslims unable to perform the annual pilgrimage.
Furthermore, as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll on interactions and activities, the impact will undoubtedly affect the Eid al-Adha celebrations.
In Nigeria, the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 has already issued guidelines on Eid prayers and safety measures to be observed to minimize exposure and contagion.
In particular, Muslims who go out to perform their religious acts in congregations have been enjoined to strictly observe Social Distancing protocols and must at all times wear their face masks, to protect themselves, their families and all other Nigerians.
In the spirit of the message of obedience, love, trust and sacrifice which the Eid al-Adha signifies, Nigerian Muslims are required to stay safe and follow all the safety guidelines issued by constituted authorities, for a safer nation during and after the Eid celebrations throughout the country.
Instructively, Nigerians are blessed with diverse cultures and religions that are pointers to the intendment of harmony, peaceful co-existence and assistance to all those in need, especially in this season of sacrifice underpinned by the COVID-19 pandemic.