Amid a most difficult time, this year's Eid-ul-Azha like the previous year's, is going to be celebrated on a subdued note. This time the pandemic has turned more ferocious than it was last year. Many families who have their members admitted to a hospital or are struggling with treatment of their near and dear ones may even have to forgo the religious rituals let alone sacrifice of animals. Health and hygiene considerations may also force some local communities severely affected by infections to limit their observance of the occasion to the minimum. This, however, quite conforms to the spirit of sacrifice that led Hazarat Ibrahim (SM) to get ready for offering his son Ismail at the bidding of the Almighty Allah. Here the Islamic tenet is at its best by highlighting the total supplication of man to the omniscient and omnipresent.
When Hazrat Ibrahim was asked if he were ready to sacrifice what he loved most, the prophet readily thought of his own life but Allah the benevolent wanted him to think deeper and thus he knew the life of his son was dearer to him. On that count, what ordinary mortals offer as a sacrifice is nothing but symbolic. Yet a true follower of Islam can transcend the boundary of the ordinary rituals on to a higher plane by virtue of his/her sheer devotion and submission to the will of Allah. Slaughtering cows or other animals in the name of the Almighty is more symbolic than responding to the call for making the best possible sacrifice on the part of a Muslim. It is the respect for the act of sacrifice and living up to the spirit that one must strive to attain in order to receive God's blessings. For spiritual attainment, one has to overcome one's arrogance and prove innocence of soul.
On the materialistic front, though human considerations are more mundane and fraught with many failings. One of this obviously is to flaunt material possessions so much so that the moneyed people purchase the choicest of the animals at fabulous prices only to show off their money power - of course, there are exceptions. When it comes to sharing the meat, the poor may be given less than their due. There lies the problem with closed minds. They cannot rise above small considerations to embrace all on an equal footing and thus disrespect one of the fundamental tenets of Islam -- all the followers irrespective of their social standings are equal.
All festivals have over the centuries and decades undergone transformation in many ways but the greatest of all has taken place in terms of commerce and economy. With most societies making economic progress, family expenditure has risen phenomenally. Trading communities -- from small to large -- look forward to doing brisk business during such times. Eid-ul-Azha, the second largest festival of the Muslims, sees trade bonanza involving mostly cows and a few other animals but spices also enjoy high demand. Those who can afford also go for new apparels and jewellery. Notwithstanding the pandemic, people may still make purchase of some of these items but overall business will remain dull. What people will, however, miss most is the embrace after prayer in mosques and the extensive in-person socialisation that follows.