By V. M. Khaleelur Rahman
The festival Id-ul-Azha, popularly known as Bakrid, is celebrated on the tenth day of Zul Hijjah, the twelfth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, in memory of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) (Alaihis salam -AS) who is said to have lived about 4500 years ago. He was an embodiment of selfless sacrifice and deep devotion to Allah. Once dreamt as if commanded by God, he was ready even to sacrifice his only son Hazrat Ismail (Ishmael) who was also all the more willing to give up his life as per Divine order. But it was stopped as it was not what God wanted but he was only tested for his faithfulness and forbearance. In this connection the holy Quran says in its inimitable expression that it is not the "flesh and blood" that reach God but the devotion one has for Him.
The most important aspect, associated with this festival, is the Haj pilgrimage to Makkah. It is one of the five "pillars" of Islam. The others being belief in God, prayer - five times a day, fasting during the month of Ramadan and compulsory payment of 2.5% called "Zakath"on one’s assets to the poor and needy. It was Prophet Ibrahim (AS) who built the "sacred refuge" of Makkah-based Kaba, "the first House of worship, full of blessings and guidance for all mankind " and "Pilgrimage thereto once in one’s life is a duty people who can afford it owe to God"– i.e. if one is physically and financially sound - according to Islamic yardsticks.
The sacred "Zamzam" water which Haj pilgrims fondly drink and bring home for distribution among relatives and friends is from the place where a divine miracle had happened. It is recorded that when Hazrat Hajira (Hagar), wife of Prophet Ibrahim (AS) and her infant son Ismail were taken to a rocky and barren valley in Makkah to settle down there, her son grew very thirsty. There was no sign of water anywhere in that vast uncultivable area. She did not know what to do and ran desperately helter-skelter seven times praying to God between two hillocks, Safa and Marwah, in search of water to quench her son’s thirst. Suddenly a spring of fresh water came gushing miraculously under his feet to her utter surprise. The pilgrims perform what is called "Saee" remembering this divine mercy by walking briskly seven times between Safa and Marwah – a distance of about 500 metres,
The Islamic equality and brotherhood of mankind is manifest in the mammoth gathering of more than two million Haj pilgrims, drawn from different parts of the world, irrespective of their colour, creed or country, joining together at a place, men in a white unstitched "uniform" of two pieces of cloth called "Ihram" and women with a head-cover and usual dress, doing "tawaf" (circumambulation) and praying to Almighty God with absolute devotion and wishing for world peace and prosperity. This spectacular annual assembly of Haj pilgrims, full of piety and Divine wisdom, is of great significance.
The holy Quran says: "O People! Behold, we have created you all out of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes only for the sake of identification and knowing one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is pious and God-fearing"( Al-Hujurat 49:13). It also says that "God does not love the proud ones" and Prophet Mohammed (Sal-am)’s warning is that "he who has a grain of pride in his/her heart will not enter heaven."
If the purpose of religion being love is properly understood and followed, we can get a just world order wherein one can live, develop and prosper happily in an atmosphere free from fear, oppression and exploitation and also make the other world hereafter, called "Aakhirah", a paradise. A Haji – one who returns after Haj pilgrimage – is expected to be as innocent as a child without enemies from within such as envy, greed, ill-will etc. and lead a life getting the pleasure of God.