Sunday, July 21, 2024

Comparing the Story of Eid Al-Adha in Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Traditions

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Indian Muslims gear up to celebrate Bakri Eid with joy and reverence. The rituals related to the Bakri Eid or Eid Al-Adha are based on the Quranic account of the story of Prophet Ibrahim. The story is part of Surah As-Saffat; Chapter 37, verses 99-113.

https://quran.com/en/as-saffat/99-113

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(Read specific story here)

The sacrifice of Prophet Ibrahim is a story that seems to be a retold version from other earlier Abrahamic religions. The story’s different versions is present in the three major monotheist religions: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. All three religious communities have distinct beliefs and practices; however, the story that signifies a test of faith through sacrifice is a remarkably common theme in all three religions.

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The Story of Eid Al-Adha:

Ismail in the Quran: Ibrahim's Elder Son and Prophet of God - Islam4u
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The Islamic world celebrates Eid Al-Adha as the Festival of Sacrifice. It is meant to commemorate the story of the Prophet Ibrahim and his son Ismail. According to the Quran, Ibrahim had a dream in which he was commanded by Allah to sacrifice his beloved son, Ismail. Ibrahim demonstrated unwavering faith and obedience and informed his son about the divine command. The father-son duo embarked on the journey to fulfill the sacrifice. However, just as Ibrahim was about to carry out the act, Allah intervened and provided a ram as a substitute, sparing Ismail’s life.

This event symbolizes the importance of submission to Allah’s will and the ultimate reward for faithfulness in Islam. This is also the reason why Muslims across the world still practice the sacrifice of livestock to remember Allah’s benevolence.

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The Story of Abraham and Isaac:

Abraham tries to sacrifice Isaac instead of a ram London c.1880
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In the Christian tradition, the story of Abraham and Isaac is remarkably similar to that of Islam. According to the Book of Genesis, Abraham’s faith was tested by God. He was commanded to sacrifice his son Isaac. Similar to Ibrahim of the Quran, Abraham demonstrated remarkable obedience and prepared to carry out the sacrifice.

However, just before Abraham could fulfill the act, an angel intervened and provided a ram caught in a thicket as a substitute.

This divine intervention highlighted Abraham’s unwavering faith and emphasized the sanctity of life in Christianity. However, the story is not celebrated in modern Christianity as any form other than a sermon or prayer.

The Story of Akedah:

The Maimonidean Akedah - TheTorah.com
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The lesson of sacrifice as a test of faith is also part of Jewish traditions. It also lists Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac as an act of faith. In Judaism this narrative is called Akedah. The value of unwavering devotion to God is the lesson behind this story. It is also supposed to highlight the belief in divine benevolence of God when Isaac’s spared. The Akedah serves as a powerful reminder of trust, commitment, and the belief in God’s providence in Judaism.

Points of Similarity Among the Three Narratives:

  1. Theme of Sacrifice: All three narratives revolve around the theme of sacrifice, where individuals willingly offer something valuable or significant as an act of devotion to their respective faiths.
  2. Faith and Obedience: Each story highlights the importance of faith and obedience to divine commandments. The central characters demonstrate unwavering, blind trust in their respective beliefs and submit to the will of a higher power.
  3. Divine Intervention: In all three narratives, there is an element of divine intervention or providence. The stories showcase moments where the intended sacrifice is either substituted or prevented by divine intervention, demonstrating the ultimate benevolence and mercy of God.
  4. Symbolism of Redemption and Salvation: The narratives carry symbolic meanings related to redemption and salvation. They emphasizes the need of utmost belief of true believers in God through sacrifice and faith. They showcase willingness to sacrifice a life as the path for spiritual growth, forgiveness, and eternal rewards.

Points of Differences:

  1. Central Figures: While the central figures in Christianity and Islam are similar. The Bakri Eid story of Ibrahim and his son Ishmael has the same narrative but different names.
  2. Religious Observances: Bakri Eid is celebrated by Muslims worldwide with specific prayers, sacrifice of animals, and communal feasting. Judaism and Christianity do not have a specific ritual associated with it.
  3. Theological Interpretations: Muslims perceive Bakri Eid as an act of blind obedience to the word of God. They use this festival to showcase selflessness and charity through donating the meat obtained by animal sacrifice. Judaism and Christianity use the story to emphasizing the themes complete faith in God. Additionally, they stress the narrative that as God tested Abraham’s devotion; He may be testing all human during the course of their lives.

Conclusion

The stories of Eid Al-Adha in Islam and the tales of Abraham and Isaac in Christianity and Judaism share common threads of faith, obedience, and sacrifice. All the three Abrahamic religions demand the followers to be completely obedient to the will of God. They all teach that God may test the faith of his believer through bloody sacrifice. Additionally, they propose that a true believer is someone who remembers these stories and submits to the will of the divine. Moreover, the importance of trust and faith in the one true ‘Higher Power’ is related to gaining divine rewards in the afterlife.

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