This was written on the day of Eid Adha 22 August 2018
Photo by Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images.
I hesitated to post this for a few reasons, one being the fear of backlash. But now I guess instead of thinking about the possible negative outcomes, I look forward to possible productive discussions.
Waking up on Eid Adha this year felt weird.
It has never felt like a big celebration anyway compared to other countries, especially those in the West.
In my point of view, Malaysian Muslims are just so reward driven. We look forward to Eid Fitr because that marks the end of a month-long fasting. For most, fasting is literally a once a year thing, so it’s understandable that they make a big deal out of that Eid.
Imagine being able to eat lunch again.
But for Eid Adha, it’s not a “goal” to look forward to. There’s no compulsory fasting leading up to it. You don’t really have to do that one huge commitment in order to taste the sweet victory.
Instead, it seems like Eid Adha benefits those who go to Hajj or the pilgrimage to Mecca.
And for those who don’t perform Hajj, most would look forward to the ritual slaughter of livestock and the feast thereafter.
I didn’t go for Hajj and I certainly had nothing to look forward to, as I don’t eat meat.
So what’s the point of Eid Adha?
It’s a question that fellow Muslims like myself who have been so comfortable growing up in a safe “Muslim country” would ask at some point in our lives.
It’s a question that my Muslim friends in the West could answer better, including the muallafs (reverts).
I felt ashamed of my lack of understanding despite having learnt this topic in secondary school.
So I set out to learn it again and seek different points of view.
What I strongly remember from school is that besides the pilgrimage, they taught about the conditions and mechanics of the ritual slaughter aka Qurban.
But I don’t remember any mention of personal sacrifice to God.
I don’t remember that it’s about you humbling yourself and submitting your soul to God.
All I remember is that after the non-obligatory (sunnah) Eid prayers, it seems obligatory to sacrifice an animal for the sake of the needy and community.
That doesn’t sound right to me.
Have I misunderstood the concept of Eid Adha all this while?
In Islam, we’re taught to value our prayers as that’s when we may get the most powerful connection with God.
And yet on the holy day of Eid Adha, it seems like we value blood sacrifice more than presenting our bare souls to God in prayer.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not denouncing the ritual itself.
I do see its necessity in conditions where arable land is scarce or when a socioeconomic situation depends on it.
Historically, it made sense.
But in this age of abundance, convenience and worldwide import export trade, it just doesn’t make sense anymore.
Most of us eat meat every single day. It has become so affordable nowadays. It’s not a luxury anymore.
What’s a luxury is housing, high-paying jobs and healthy organic foods.
The context of the world has shifted.
What I’ve come to understand about the teachings of Islam is that things have to be put into context. Take it out of context and it can mean a whole different thing.
I’m sure you know the story of Abraham who was tested to sacrifice his son (who willingly consented) to prove his devotion to God. And because of both of their piety, a ram was given to be sacrificed.
As a vegan, I have wondered why God the All-Loving and All-Merciful would place an animal for sacrifice. Why does he allow animal slaughter at all?
As a believer of a Higher Power, I know that God is God and He can do whatever he likes. He placed us all here for some reason and gives us guidance through the holy books. Islam is the final revelation in a series of revelations.
So from my understanding, animal slaughter with very strict regulation is described in the Quran for situations where it’s necessary. Without such, humans would have zero respect towards other creatures in dire situations.
Realising the current conditions of the world and my way of life, I see it’s not necessary to slaughter animals for survival anymore.
In the case of Eid Adha, yes the story of Abraham is described and the term sacrifice is mentioned.
But nowhere in any of those texts is any mention of the ritual slaughter being a compulsory act. The texts simply mention that that was what happened at that time in that situation.
Should we continue the historical act in a literal sense?
We are given intelligent minds to think. Looking at the current context of the world, heck even in my own country–poverty, food waste, factory farming, deforestation–I think we are distracted with traditions.
We just don’t want to face our own truths.
Are we really doing this as a sacrifice for God to help the needy?
Or is it just because of our social ranking, that we have the means, we are just so used to doing so to keep up the facade of kindness when we are just maintaining social hierarchy and/or traditions?
Because if we are truly kind and philanthropic, why are there still people living on the streets? Why are the indigenous people being pushed away from their homes to make way for townships for the rich? Why are livestock animals being put in cages and treated like dirt so that we can live so comfortably?
Have we forgotten the true teachings of Islam?
Although I grew up in a Muslim household and community, I only “found” Islam just before entering my 20s. I was drawn to it because of its kindness and sense. Dissociating myself from the community that I grew up in (because of studying abroad) helped to see clearly how beautiful Islam actually is.
The toxicity comes from the people.
We all have our good and bad, which is what Islam acknowledges because God knows we’re not perfect; He created us after all.
But for some reason we are not striving to use our intelligence. We’re not questioning ourselves and we’re not actively seeking answers.
Instead, we let society decide for us and we enjoy the pleasures of the dunya too much.
So what do I as a vegan and a Muslim feel about Eid Adha?
I think it’s a humbling concept of giving your whole naked Self to the Higher Power who have made life possible.
In relation to the community, it encourages a form of socialism whereby those who can afford would offer their property or services to those who need them.
But in reality, it’s just so focused on the ritual and material that I genuinely feel sad and disconnected from the community.