Today is Eid al-Adha, better known as Eid-el-Kabir, an annual Islamic festival that calls for sacrifice and sharing. As Muslims all over the world therefore celebrate, the season offers yet another opportunity to adherents of the faith and indeed all Nigerians to live the true meaning and essence of this occasion: sacrifice, obedience and love. What makes the festival particularly significant is that it is rooted in the scriptural accounts of both Islam and Christianity about how Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), in obedience to God, offered his son as sacrifice before divine intervention. But this is an unusual time.
Religious festivals like Eid al-Adha usually come with social gatherings–huge receptions where food is shared, hugs between family members and friends and general group prayers. But the current global coronavirus pandemic has forced many to rethink the way they celebrate the festival this year with certain restrictions. Obeying those regulations is important for all Muslims in Nigeria even when they should not in any way limit the spirit of the season. In several countries, Muslims are adopting novel methods to reach out and share with the needy while still maintaining social distancing and other Covid-19 protocols.
In Saudi Arabia, the authorities have announced that Eid prayers will take place inside mosques and not outside while the Ministry of Islamic Affairs recommended adhering to the usual precautionary measures such as keeping two metres (six feet) of social distancing and bringing one’s own prayer rug. All these are important if we must limit the spread of a lethal virus that has infected more than 16 million people across the world and has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands.
Meanwhile, there is perhaps no period in history that offers a better opportunity to share than now. The lockdown and restrictions of the past few months have impacted negatively on the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. By paying attention to their plight, especially at a time like this, we invariably place the welfare of our neighbours as important as ours. Besides, 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, even for this season, there should be more to sharing than some portions of ram meat. There 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.
This year’s celebration, like in the past few years, is coming at a particularly difficult and trying time for our nation. The authorities may quote fancy statistics about the economy but they do not reflect in the living standards of the people. But by far the most worrying is the brutal killings that now define several theatres across the country, most especially Kaduna State. Critical stakeholders must come together to end the spiral of hate that is responsible for the violence and makes reconciliation and peaceful co-existence difficult.
Therefore, as we celebrate this special festival, we must reflect on and imbibe the essence of sacrifice and tolerance for the promotion of harmonious relationship in our country. We also need to take this opportunity to reach out to those with whom we may have lost contact.
To our numerous Muslim readers, Eid Mubarak!