Editorâ€™s note: Azher Quader is President of Community Builders Council, www.cbc7.org. His opinions are his own.
Thanks to the lively controversy between the moonsighters of America and the moonsighters of Arabia we have two days of Eid ul Adha to celebrate again here in Chicago. With all the wonderful advances in technology and communications the world has made, it is indeed impressive that we insist on remaining frozen in time and tradition, refusing to bow down to either change or circumstances. But Chicago Muslims need not complain. This kind of debate provides for greater choices and greater flexibility for those of us who are ordinarily caught in tight work schedules. A two day Eid is certainly a welcome relief!
At times of Eid in addition to the usual exchange of greetings, we might do well to pause a while and take stalk of ourselves. For after all every ritual in Islam has meaning and purpose. For Eid ul Adha there is the timeless story of Syedina Ibrahim (PBUH) with the message of submission and sacrifice. There is the soul stirring advice of our beloved Prophet (PBUH) enshrined in the last sermon that he delivered from Mount Arafat, that lays down the concept of the brotherhood of man, the unity of the ummah and the foundations of human relations, ranging from humility to humanity, from racial parity to gender equity. These are powerful stories that need repeating even as we indulge ourselves in the celebration of the moment, inclining to be casual and not wanting to be serious. They give us glimpses of men with great spiritual strength and vision, in whose words and deeds we may yet discover, if we cared to look in, the remedy for all our present woes. In their lives we can find an uncompromising submission to His will that demands sacrifice above self, endurance above envy, compassion above hate. In their example we can see the power of patience, the magic of mercy and the capacity of the human soul to be victorious through faith and determination. Their stories need to be recounted because they are so relevant for us today.
As we witness on video the vengeful beheadings by ISIS of innocent civilians in Muslim lands, as we struggle here in America to fight discrimination, media bias, the phantoms of prejudice and neocon paranoia, we may find these stories from our past of much help. By reflecting upon the brutality of Taif in his life we may find the strength to overcome the anger and anguish of Islamophobia in our world. By remembering the sacrifices of Badr and Uhud, we may find reason to sacrifice a lot more than money and matter in the defense of His causes. By reviewing the Treaty of Hudaibiya we may find clues to the wisdom of making agreements with those that disagree with us, by relinquishing our favored positions of the present, in order to win the promise and possibilities of the future. In remembering his bloodless conquest of Mecca and in his declaration of a general amnesty for the entire enemy, there is a powerful lesson for us to learn of the enormous embrace of forgiveness and its capacity to heal. Finally from his return to Medina after the conquest of Mecca, is perhaps the most noteworthy lesson for those of us who left our native lands either by choice or force, and long to return to them, to recognize that emigration is not only pragmatic but prescribed, that love of land and attachment to even the holiest of hallowed grounds cannot be as endearing or special as the relationship to a community of believers.
These and numerous more timeless lessons of our history are as relevant today in our daily lives as they have been to many other generations of Muslims before us. The choice is ours to make to learn from them if we may. It is up to us to look in the mirror and see who we really are. It is only when we decide to live our lives with purpose, letting go of vanity and ego, embracing humility and humanity, that the image in the mirror will become pleasing to the beholder. Too many of us in America have fallen prey to a life of material comforts and trivial pursuits. We live here but exist in other worlds and rarely connect with the societal issues that surround us. We were once the champions of social justice, the learned and the educated, the repositories of compassion, the healers of the ailing, the benefactors of the poor and the defenders of the oppressed. Today we are the illiterate, the ailing, the poor and the oppressed. If we are to change our destiny we will have to go beyond the superficial to the substantive and travel beyond the debates of hilal and halal.
We are all given one life to live. The day we were born the dice was cast. How well we play this game is all a matter of the choices we make. It is never too late to make better ones. Our quest for glory that was once our lot can only be realized if we choose to ravel the road.
In just a few days our families and friends will be returning from their spiritual journeys to Mecca. A journey that some say can transform the human soul. As we joyfully wait to embrace them when they return, let us pray that the goodness they bring will transform our lives too.