When ritual becomes religion — Ishtiaq Ahmed

Would it be heretical to suggest that instead of sacrificing animals and overeating meat for several days, pious Muslims should donate money to help poor people undergo some simple eye operations that will save or restore their sight, or do some other good deed that will bring joy to the lives of those who are deprived of decent living conditions?

Long years ago, I went to see a feature film in my native Lahore but it turned out to be a documentary mainly about the hajj (annual Islamic pilgrimage). In those days, I had a very idealistic faith and used to attend all public meetings by leading ulema who visited Lahore. So, a chance to see the whole hajj onscreen thrilled me quite a lot.

Among the rituals shown was the sacrifice of animals at the time of the Eid-ul-Adha to commemorate the tradition of Prophet Abraham. To my great horror, men with long knives cut open the throats of goats, sheep and other animals, and, while they were writhing in excruciating pain, threw them into long ditches. As soon as one ditch was filled, the bulldozer would cover it up with dust and sand and then more animals where cut up and thrown the same way into another ditch. One could see rows and rows of ditches and lots of blood splattered all over.

I must confess, I could not find any sense in God wanting animals to be killed in such a grotesque manner and thrown into ditches. The explanation we had been given at home was that the meat of the sacrificed animal was to be shared with the poor, relatives, neighbours, and indeed by the family that offered the animal for sacrifice. In Saudi Arabia, it was nothing of the sort.

Even when we would offer a goat on Eid-ul-Adha, the actual act of slaughter always saddened me. We bought that animal and took care of it for weeks if not months, taking it to the park to graze grass. Naturally, as children we began to love it. Then the butcher would come with his knives and slit its throat before our eyes. I remember always feeling bad when eating its meat. …

Read more : Daily Times

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