It is time to imbibe the virtues of obedience, sacrifice and humility

As Muslims all over the world celebrate the festival of Eid al-Adha, better known as Eid-el-Kabir, yet another opportunity has been offered to all the adherents of the faith and indeed all Nigerians to live the true meaning and essence of this occasion: sacrifice, obedience and love. The festival is particularly significant because it is rooted in the scriptural accounts of both Islam and Christianity about how Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), in obedience to God was to sacrifice his son before divine intervention.

In the accounts of both religions, the faith of Ibrahim (Abraham) was tested to the limit of endurance but he was not found wanting. In a difficult situation, the father submitted to God; the son, to his father in absolute trust that was ultimately rewarded. Eid-el-Kabir is therefore a season that calls for rededication not only to our Maker but also to the cause of mankind; to appreciate the gift of life and to imbibe the virtues of tolerance, understanding and good neighbourliness. More importantly, it is a period that calls for caring for the less privileged of our society.

This year’s celebration, like in the past few years, is coming at a particularly difficult time for our nation. The temperature is uncomfortably high, fouled by acrimonies and recriminations between and among different ethnic groups. Yet if we understand the fact that we are all creations of God, the propensity for hate on the basis of some artificial differences would reduce and we would relate more with one another with love and mutual respect.

What that suggests is that the occasion of Eid-el-Kabir celebration should go beyond the slaughtering of rams to sharing love and material possessions not only with relatives or acquaintances, but also with the displaced, the elderly, the orphans and others at the margin of the society. It is also important that Nigerians begin to embrace and support charitable causes and there is no better occasion than today’s to make such resolve.

Incidentally, perhaps no period in our history offers better opportunity to share and to make sacrifice. Today, many Nigerians suffer hunger, poverty and disease, ironically in a country often measured in superlatives. By paying attention to the plight of the poor, we invariably place the welfare of our neighbours as important as ours. By allowing others to partake of our wealth or material possessions, we honour the One who made the provision in the first place. This happens to be at the heart of all religions, but a virtue that is particularly at the heart of this festival.

However, much more importantly in this season is the need to share love between and among individuals, religions, ethnic groups and political leanings. Because there is too much hatred in our society, love across these artificial divides that our politicians have erected will foster harmony and promote peace and development in the country. It will also help the process of healing the deep wounds sparked off by politics and the manipulation of religion and ethnicity.

As we have had occasions to state in the past, what we are witnessing today in our country is a collapse of the traditional authority and the political consensus that have for decades held this nation together. But against the background that there are usually challenges in the process of integrating members of any society into a cohesive social whole, what confronts us is not peculiar.

Therefore, as we celebrate this special festival, we must reflect on and imbibe the essence of sacrifice and humility for the promotion of harmonious relationship in our country. We also need to take this opportunity to reach out to everyone in encouraging peace and unity.

To our numerous Muslim readers, Eid Mubarak!