Few days ago, Muslims all over the world celebrated their festival of sacrifice known as Eid ul-Adha. This very significant day falls on the tenth day of Dhu-al-Hijjah which is the twelfth month of the Islamic Calendar.
Eid-ul-Adha is celebrated to commemorate the devotion of Prophet Ibrahim to his Lord and teaches how he was ever-ready to sacrifice his son based on the command of his Lord. A ram was provided to replace his son the very moment he was about carrying out the Lord’s dictates. Thus, his will and wits were tested by Allah and his level of commitment was found to be without blemish.
The festival is for a day but the celebration lasts for four days. Thus an animal could be slaughtered on any of the four days including the festival day. The act of sacrifice is carried out immediately after the Eid prayers which are done congregationally in mosques and open spaces. This consists of slaughtering an animal as a sacrifice to signify that of Prophet Ibrahim to Allah. The animal could be a camel, bull, cow, lamb, sheep, goat in a very healthy condition and over a certain age in order to be slaughtered, in a “halal” friendly and Islamic way and shared to family, friends and those in need.
Two months 10 Days before that also the Eid-ul-Fitr is celebrated across the globe. Ramadan, which happens to be the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, doubles up as the holiest and observed as such by all Muslims alive. It is characterized by a month-long period of fasting, and the putting up of the best and pristine of human behaviors. The end of Ramadan is marked by the Eid-ul-Fitr which signifies the breaking of month-long fasting. During this Eid celebration, Muslims increase their spirit of comradeship by going round to share pleasantries. They greet each other by saying 'Eid Mubarak' or in Hausa “Barka da Sallah”, meaning “Have a Blessed Festival ". Dishes of different kinds are prepared and consumed with all pomp and pageantry. These are the two main Eid celebrations in Islam and we want to, in the light of life and business discuss some lessons we can take from them.
One cardinal importance of life is to accomplish the task each of us is given. Our lives will lose their meaning if we do not work on this important task. But along the flow of life in our work, a lot of things will have to face some tests. The ideas we hold, the ideals on which we want to build our lives on, our convictions, and our drives will seriously be tested. Sometimes we might even want to let go of the foundation on which we were built. Prophet Ibrahim faced a real test from his Lord and he passed with distinction. No great life ever flowed without passing through fire, without having to overcome challenges, without having to struggle against forces. No great life ever had it easy. These tests refine and make you a better version of yourself.
Muhammad Ali who has been touted as one of the most successful men that ever lived captured it well for me in his autobiography The Soul of a Butterfly. He stated that “All through my life I have been tested. My will has been tested, my courage has been tested, my strength has been tested. Now my patience and endurance are being tested. Every step of the way I believe God has been with me. And, now more than ever, I know that he is with me. I have learned to live my life one step, one breath, and one moment at a time, but it was a long road. I set out on a journey of love, seeking truth, peace and understanding. I am still learning.”
One important lesson we take from the Eid Ul-ul-Adha is the fact that, the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God's command stands strongly as a testament to the fact that you have to let go of something very important in order to attain something pristine. You will have to leave your comfort and trust in Him. We should not sacrifice only when we do not have an option. There are two types of sacrifice; this is only based on my observation. One which we only sacrifice because we do not have an option and the other, when we have so many options yet choose to surrender. In a world with so much to keep us astray, let's choose subservience and sacrifice our ego and heart desires for the sake of God. Do away with gambling, theft, adultery and fornication, hatred and the likes.
Likewise in business, we should be discerning in our decision making and trust that God will see us through the challenges and give us better alternatives to making profits when we choose to deal in legally accepted businesses.
Another lesson we learn is the development of the capacity for true altruism. That we must appreciate those above us and not forget those below us in the privileges that life provides. And also we should work diligently to make our homes sanctuaries of tranquility, prosperity and spirituality. It is very easy for us to look at those above us, as competition has become the order of the day. But what if you choose gratitude for what we are able to do for ourselves and what others are able to do for themselves. That the people below us both in terms of materialism and apparent show of faith teach us gratitude for where we are. Isn’t it the attribute of God within each of us that we are glorifying through actions? To scale in your business, acknowledge your progress and growth while striving to reach highest potentials and also offer support to smaller businesses when you can. Resources are unlimited and there is something for everyone.
Nourishing of minds
One important lesson to take from these festivals is not to forget to nourish our minds. Our minds are the grasslands given to us to produce our needs. Either we keep it fertile or sterile is up to us. Oliver Wendell Holmes states that “the mind once stretched with an idea never returns to its original dimension.” Let’s endeavor then to sharpen our intellect and brighten our corner. Our country will be far better off when we have a nation of more enlightened men and women. An enlightened citizenry is definitely an empowered citizenry. There is no better way to get enlightenment than the act of burying your head in a book to read. Reading opens up the mind and creates room for imagination and critical thinking. Reading allows you to question what you’re told. It broadens one’s world view and opens one up to bits of knowledge from different fields. When you read a good novel, for instance, you are likely to end up learning aspects of law, culture, philosophy, governance and a lot more things. Sometimes you decide to research a topic or subject you find interesting in a novel. So one who reads varied areas is better informed than one that does not read at all. So when readers apply what they read to public discourse, they sound mature and are able to bring different perspectives to the discussion. There’s no better way of enriching national discourse than the contribution from reading minds.
Love for one another
Love, the most powerful force in action is the harbinger of hope, purveyor of glad tidings and single most important thing that we live for. It is one of the lessons we take from the Muslim festivals. In the book Healthy Muslim marriage, a scholar attempts to define love that it cannot be defined but can only be felt. But true love is the love of God. A profound teaching of the Prophet of Islam dictates that to love God is to love His creation, for His sake only and not for any benefit that comes from them. In service to man and opening our hearts to serve God, we experience divine love. The love for one another, the race to support the lower ones amongst us and the struggle to be more God-conscious.
So that when you are blessed to make a sacrifice of whatever animal, you thank God by serving humanity from the sustenance He blessed you with.
Let’s use these joyous festivals as a nursery bed to scale through this hurly-burly that the world finds itself in and make it better.
NB: Inusah is a Youth-Activist and Executive Secretary of Success Book Club.
Sabena Abdul Raheem is the author of Growing Up Muslimah and the Director of Modest Code.