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Apology for a sacrifice 

24 November 2010 11:56:09

Apology for a sacrifice
By Hassan Shehzad

The sight of blood and gore is not only disliked but also dreaded matter-of-factly. Nevertheless, it is a common sight in this country. Baffling is the fact that religion is found behind much of the most shedding of blood, which has a cycle: a mullah declares all other than his likeminded people must be eliminated. Beards are out for this ‘cause’. Neither there is a shortage of mullahs, nor of must-to-be-killed folks. On Eidul Azha, streets run with blood of animals that are sacrificed to save humanity philosophically but this sacrifice ends up in extending the cycle of human killings religiously.

I listened to Eid sermon of a cleric from the terrace of my house. The bottom line was that we Muslims, which according to the cleric a dominant majority of us is not, should prepare ourselves for ‘self-sacrifice’ because the real sacrifice is ‘us’, not the lamb. ‘Every Muslim keep ready for sacrificing himself (no herself here), his children and his wife for Allah. Wake up, now is the time for this sacrifice. Your Deen is calling you.’

True, he did not invite the ‘faithful’ directly for suicide attacks or armed fighting but he did so in so many words. It swept me off my feet and back into Biblical era when Abraham or Ibrahim and Isaac or Ishmael or Ismael put an end to ancient practice of sacrifice of humans philosophically. ‘Although Abraham’s faith had been tested … God decided to test it once again. “Take your son, Isaac, to a hill I shall show you,” he said, “and there offer him as a sacrifice.”’ – Genesis 18, The Old Testament. Father and son carried with them wood, fire and knife needed for the sacrifice. ‘Abraham stretched out his hand for the knife with which to slay his son. He raised it high. He tensed himself for the downward stroke when suddenly a voice called his name from the sky.’ God then told him he got through the test and a ram caught in a thicket by its hones was offered as sacrifice as God said, ‘“Don’t harm the lad.’”

Theme of this episode is almost the same in Quran. It was Ismael, not Isaac, both father and son knew what they were going to do and the Father of Multitude blindfolded himself to sacrifice his son. When he opened his eyes, he found that he had sacrificed a ram and found his son unharmed. In Quran, God also says he doesn’t need the flesh and blood of animals, but Taqwa of the faithful. In addition to having faith in God, this episode has a lesson for humans to learn that God doesn’t want sacrifice of humans, rather he wants them to be unharmed.

Humans would or would not have been living on peacefully without these rituals of sacrifice but they opted for living with them for whatever reasons and in whatever ways. Things are getting complex day by day, so is sacrifice. Its methods are getting wild and its outcome far from desirable. In my Gali, (thanks to the CDA some streets are called streets and some Gali for the astonishment of foreigners and Anglophobic desis), at least 50 animals were slaughtered and in the ground opposite the nearby mosque knife-carrying bearded butchers killed cows and bulls. Blood was caked on the tar and in afternoon rain it thinned out. The staunch of offal stung nostrils and pervaded the air. It was the scene of only one of countless Galis in posh cities and towns. There is no estimate as to how many animals have been killed.

Does religion has a solution to make up for this livestock shortage made by this excessive killing of animals? was the question I asked of a Ph D scholar working for a leading agricultural research body and a chartered accountant working with one of the top five audit firms. One said it doesn’t make any difference as nature takes care of reproduction of halal animals and the other said it is no wastage as the poor will have meat too and butcher shops will have less business for almost a month. Let them be, I remember a federal minister, when asked of the steps government was taking to make up for loss of livestock after floods, telling the National Assembly: ‘God keeps Barakat in Halal animals.’ It means God himself will do something to make up for this loss. So don’t bother about food management or a semblance of it.

The fact remains that God may not need flesh and blood of these animals but mullahs do. Still they are not content with it and need the hides too, for which purpose they arrange ‘collective sacrifices’ and go door to door, convincing people to give them their hides. This hide collection may prove a lease of life for them. Until the next Eid, they will go on collecting human sacrifices.

The resultant bloody look that Galis of Pakistan wear before, on and affter Eid are not but an appology for a sacrifice. It is only once a year that animal blood colours our streets.
(Published in Daily Times on Saturday, November 20, 2010)