This whole week and its weekend turned out to be Holy Days for those who are believers in Jewish and Islamic faith. As Hajj concludes, the Muslims are celebrating holiday Eid al-Adha this weekend; and Yom Kippur completes the period of High Holy Days.
The Greater Eid commemorates the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of obedience to Allah – and Allah’s mercy in putting a lamb in Ishmael’s place at the last moment. Eid also marks the end of Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia undertaken by about 1.5 million Muslims.
According to scholars, the Greater Eid is the opportunity to give and forgive and reminisce about the story of the great sacrifice made by Prophet Ibrahim (Peace be upon him). The celebrations are interrelated with worship in Islam and are meant to develop and achieve piety, and make Muslims closer to God Almighty
In the meantime, Yom Kippur completes the period of High Holy Days for the Jewish community. Ten days of reflection and repentance that began with Rosh Hashanah end today, on Friday, with the arrival of Yom Kippur at sundown. The High Holy Days is a period of introspection — a time when Jews ask God and acquaintances for forgiveness for wrongs committed during the past year, said Rabbi Debbie Stiel, of Temple Beth Sholom. http://m.cjonline.com/life/religion/2014-09-19/high-holy-days-begin-sundown-wednesday#gsc.tab=0
One of the secrets of this day, sometimes referred to in whispers as “Yom HaKadosh” (“The Holy Day”) is that it allows Jewish believers to begin again. This is a day for transformation, a day to let go of the past and to set new, real, achievable goals toward being servants of God. “This is a time to begin again, particularly regarding our efforts to begin again. Like Aaron we must bury the approaches, the context and past years. It’s time to dress in white both metaphorically and actually and to start on starting again”.
Secrets Of The Holy Day Wed, 10/01/2014 Rabbi Neil Fleischmann Special To The Jewish Week
“And Aaron is to come to the Tent of Meeting and remove the linen garments that he had put on before entering the Sanctuary, and he is to leave them there” [Leviticus 16:23].
Eid al-Adha, The Greater Eid
According to Islamic tradition, approximately four thousand years ago, the valley of Mecca (in present-day Saudi Arabia) was a dry, rocky and uninhabited place. God instructed Abraham to bring Hagar (Hājar), his Arabian (Adnan) wife, and Ishmael, his only child at the time, to Arabia from the land of Canaan.
As Abraham was preparing for his return journey back to Canaan, Hagar asked him, “Did God order you to leave us here? Or are you leaving us here to die.” Abraham didn’t even look back. He just nodded, afraid that he would be too sad and that he would disobey God. Hagar said, “Then God will not waste us; you can go”. Though Abraham had left a large quantity of food and water with Hagar and Ishmael, the supplies quickly ran out, and within a few days the two began to feel the pangs of hunger and dehydration.
Hagar ran up and down between two hills called Al-Safa and Al-Marwah seven times, in her desperate quest for water. Exhausted, she finally collapsed beside her baby Ishmael and prayed to God for deliverance. Miraculously, a spring of water gushed forth from the earth at the feet of baby Ishmael. Other accounts have the angel Gabriel (Jibrail) striking the earth and causing the spring to flow in abundance. With this secure water supply, known as the Zamzam Well, they were not only able to provide for their own needs, but were also able to trade water with passing nomads for food and supplies.
Years later, Abraham was instructed by God to return from Canaan to build a place of worship adjacent to Hagar’s well (the Zamzam Well). Abraham and Ishmael constructed a stone and mortar structure – known as the Kaaba – which was to be the gathering place for all who wished to strengthen their faith in God. As the years passed, Ishmael was blessed with prophethood (Nubuwwah) and gave the nomads of the desert his message of submission to God. After many centuries, Mecca became a thriving desert city and a major center for trade, thanks to its reliable water source, the well of Zamzam.
One of the main trials of Abraham’s life was to face the command of God to devote his dearest possession, his only son. Upon hearing this command, he prepared to submit to God’s will. During this preparation, Satan (Shaitan) tempted Abraham and his family by trying to dissuade them from carrying out God’s commandment, and Ibrahim drove Satan away by throwing pebbles at him. In commemoration of their rejection of Satan, stones are thrown at symbolic pillars signifying Satan during the Hajj rites.
When Ishmael was about 13 (Abraham being 99), God decided to test their faith in public. Abraham had a recurring dream, in which God was commanding him to offer up for sacrifice – an unimaginable act – his son, whom God had granted him after many years of deep prayer. Abraham knew that the dreams of the prophets were divinely inspired, and one of the ways in which God communicated with his prophets. When the intent of the dreams became clear to him, Abraham decided to fulfill God’s command and offer Ishmael for sacrifice.
Although Abraham was ready to sacrifice his dearest for God’s sake, he could not just bring his son to the place of sacrifice without his consent. Ishmael had to be consulted as to whether he was willing to give up his life in fulfillment of God’s command. This consultation would be a major test of Ishmael’s maturity in faith; love and commitment for God; willingness to obey his father; and readiness to sacrifice his own life for the sake of God.
Abraham presented the matter to his son and asked for his opinion about the dreams of slaughtering him. Ishmael did not show any hesitation or reservation even for a moment. He said, “Father, do what you have been commanded. You will find me, Insha’Allah (God willing), to be very patient.” His mature response, his deep insight into the nature of his father’s dreams, his commitment to God, and ultimately his willingness to sacrifice his own life for the sake of God were all unprecedented.
When Abraham attempted to cut Ishmael’s throat, he was astonished to see that Ishmael was unharmed and instead, he found a dead ram which was slaughtered. Abraham had passed the test by his willingness to carry out God’s command.
This is mentioned in the Quran as follows:
100 “O my Lord! Grant me a righteous (son)!”
101 So We gave him the good news of a boy ready to suffer and forbear.
102 Then, when (the son) reached (the age of) (serious) work with him, he said: “O my son! I see in vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: Now see what is thy view!” (The son) said: “O my father! Do as thou art commanded: thou will find me, if Allah so wills one practising Patience and Constancy!”
103 So when they had both submitted their wills (to Allah), and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice),
104 We called out to him “O Abraham!
105 “Thou hast already fulfilled the vision!” – thus indeed do We reward those who do right.
106 For this was obviously a trial–
107 And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice:
108 And We left (this blessing) for him among generations (to come) in later times:
109 “Peace and salutation to Abraham!”
110 Thus indeed do We reward those who do right.
111 For he was one of our believing Servants.
112 And We gave him the good news of Isaac – a prophet – one of the Righteous.
—Quran, sura 37 (As-Saaffat), ayat 100–112
Abraham had shown that his love for God superseded all others: that he would lay down his own life or the lives of those dearest to him in submission to God’s command. Muslims commemorate this ultimate act of sacrifice every year during Eid al-Adha.