Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sacrifice

Heading out to dinner in my Eid finest.
The blue mosque in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan. People will perform Eid prayers en-mass here today.
A potential sacrifice? Most likely.

A low damp heaving sound pulled me out of my afternoon slumber. The bronze light of dusk was fading, but when I opened my eyes I could see my breath intermingling with the thousands of dust particles clinging to the air. I followed the sound to my kitchen. With each wheeze, the noise became slower, less intense. Trying to get closer to outside without being seen, I climbed onto my cold marble counter top and pressed my ear to the fan vent above my stove which opened into the courtyard. Heaving and wheezing turned to a soft, drawn-out whimper. Then there was silence. In my building, on the dying breath of a cow, the Eid-al-Qurban celebration had commenced.

About 4,000 years ago today, Abraham and his son Ishmael walked towards a stone platform atop a hill and prepared for the ultimate sacrifice. Having had re-occurring dreams of sacrificing his son for God, Abraham believed that this was a message and the action must be carried out to show his obedience and submission to the higher power.


Asking the consent of his son (who was a teenager at the time), Abraham hoped that his boy would have the maturity to also submit to the will of God. When the question was posed, Ishmael did not hesitate; he immediately accepted his fate and said he would lay patiently under his father's knife.

When the two men arrived at the place of sacrifice, and were preparing for the ceremony, God intervened. Instead of taking Abraham's son, a ram would be sacrificed. Because Abraham and Ishmael were willing to submit to God's will, they were spared.

In Kabul today, and in all other Muslim countries, it is officially Eid-al-Qurban (Eid-al-Adha in Arabic-speaking countries), the celebration of sacrifice. Like the family in the courtyard behind my house, after the Eid prayer, many more families will slaughter lambs, sheep, cows, and some camels in order to honor the memory of Abraham and Ishmael.

The practice of slaughtering animals is only one way that Muslims celebrate sacrifice on this special day. Mullahs will give sermons about being kind and accepting of all humans; they will talk about the importance of spreading wealth among the poor and sharing food with the hungry (if families slaughter a sheep or lamb it is divided into three parts; 1/3 for the slaughterer, 1/3 for their family and friends, and 1/3 for the poor. In the case of a cow, the meat is distributed to seven families). People will also exchange sweets and buy gifts, particularly new clothes, to show their appreciation for those close to them. They will gather with their loved ones and remember how and why they sacrifice in life; they will tell each other, "Eid mubarek," (Happy Eid)!

Although we do not have a particular holiday in the United States to celebrate sacrifice (although lent is pretty close), each one of us makes sacrifices everyday. We give up things or go without comforts with the intention of gaining something for that sacrifice in the end. In American culture, we have come to know sacrifice as a bloodless example of self-discipline. In sacrificing some things, we become better people. And in becoming better people, we hope that we can make society a better place in which to exist. Whether you make a small sacrifice, like giving up candy to spare your teeth and save your health, or you make a large sacrifice like leaving your family and friends to serve in the Military in a volatile country, all of the sacrifices we make are important and interrelated.

So, later this week, as I tip-toe through the blood and carcasses of the sacrificed animals of Kabul, I will remember all of my friends and family who make sacrifices everyday. You all make the world a better place. Thank you!

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4 Comments:

At 5:45 PM , Blogger Danya said...

Hey Jaala,

What a wonderful experience.Your description of the lovely people and the food and culture take me back to my twenties. In New Mexico, I knew a family from Afghanistan (the Shalizis) fairly well. When they were young, they went to the American International School (their father was once a UN ambassador). Their mother (an amazingly gracious and intelligent woman) wrote a book about traveling the Silk Road to China. They used to make the most incredible lamb and aushak. Ahhh... the nostalgia! I'm so proud of you making a difference and taking on new challenges. Peace, Danya

 
At 6:57 PM , Blogger Luana Joslin-Lester said...

jaala Eid Mubarak. My pt taught me to say Ceed Mubarak. Again your discription of the sacrifice is so sad,tender and yet very beautiful. It ought of you wahil I was away. You have made a very big sacifice to help the people of Kabul. I am proud of you again. Your history and bible statements are precise. Thank you for this latest chapter in your life in Afghanistan. THe Muslims here slaughter goats and lambs. Have a safe trip back to Kabul. Love, Mom

 
At 11:50 PM , Blogger Jaala Thibault said...

Danya! I love aushak! That is so cool that you know what it is! I hope things are going well at SBCC.

Mom, you have cool patients. Miss you!

 
At 9:49 AM , Blogger Sonia Clouds said...

Nice efforts you have shown here good work.

Thanks
Qurbani

 

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