Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Story around sheep slaughtering at Id-al-Adha

The Story of Id-al-Adha

Ayesha, a nine-year-old intelligent animal-loving girl, came running into the kitchen, where women of Bo-Kaap were preparing eats for the men sitting in the living room. They have just been witnessing the slaughtering of the sheep at the annual Islamic celebration of Id-al-Adha which Cape Muslims have come to call Labarang Haddj because it coincides with the Haddj when many go on pilgrimage to Mecca.
The girl is completely disturbed, heading straight for Fatima, her mother:
“Mom, why do we slaughter the innocent sheep so brutally every year?”

The understanding mom bends down lovingly to explain the content of the celebration.
“My dear, before I answer your question, you must remember that we do not only slaughter sheep at Id-al-Adha. I am sure that you know that we also slaughter perfect sheep at the name giving ceremony. We also had a sheep specially picked out for you when you were a baby.”

Allowing for the meaning of the words to sink in the wise mother paused for a moment when she noticed the doubting gaze of her bright daughter. Quite proud of her sprout, Fatima also tries to impress the other ladies in the kitchen with her own knowledge of their deen, their religion:

“Do you remember the washing movement that we performed when we slaughtered every sheep? With that movement we show that the sheep cleanses you. So this is what happened when that animal was killed when you were a baby. Thus one can say that we actually had a choice, it was either you or the sheep.”

Not very excited about the answer, Ayesha prodded further:

“But Mom, why do we always take perfect sheep? Why don’t we take sickly animals or those ones who would have died anyway?”

Wondering how she could explain the difficult concept of spiritual cleansing to a child, Fatima continued: “Do you remember how I told you of the thin chord that can take us to jannat, to paradise? There is this big gap between us and paradise. Any mistake can make us fall down into the pit of hell. Only the blood of a perfect sheep can purify one for entrance to paradise.”

Not quite happy with her own answer, Fatima tries to change the subject: “By the way, do you know what we celebrate today?”

Ayesha was quick to respond:
“Of course, we remember how the prophet Ebrahim was so obedience to Allah that he was prepared to sacrifice his son. But in the end it was not necessary because Allah intervened.”
Her thoughts raced to the story of Abraham she had heard at St Paul’s primary school.
“But mom, in the story the teacher told us Allah was going to provide a lamb. But in the end then was no lamb, there was a ram in the bush.”

Quite embarrassed, because all the other ladies in the kitchen were listening to their dialogue, Fatima was puzzled. “Can anyone of you help me out on this one?” But no one could.

“Well, I think you must ask your teacher if she can explain that.”

At the very first opportunity, Ayesha goes to her teacher, who is a committed Christian, with the poser. The latter is only too happy to respond to the enquiring mind of Ayesha:
‘That question about the Lamb that God would provide is a very good question. Do you remember the story of the plagues in Egypt? Do you remember what was the last plague?”

After a few moments of deep thought, Ayesha enquired hesitantly: “Wasn’t it when all the first- born in Egypt died?”
“Well, you are almost there, but not exactly because not everybody died.”

The alert Ayesha interrupted immediately: “Yes, they had to smear blood on the door-posts. At every house where there was blood on the door-posts, the angel of death passed over. At those houses the first-born of the God's people was spared.

Her teacher asked promptly:
“ And where did they get the blood from?”

Oh yes, this Ayesha knew only too well: “The people had to slaughter lambs when they left Egypt.”

The girl discovered a link to Id-al-Adha. The penny now dropped with her:
“Oh, now I understand. So the ram which Allah provided for our prophet Ebrahim, pointed to the sheep that were to be slaughtered.”

But Ms Adams deemed it necessary to add:
But that is only the half of the story. “Two other prophets had some interesting things to say about the slaughtering of sheep. The prophet Isaiah, who lived a few hundred years before Jesus was born, prophesied that someone would in future be willing like a sheep, ready to be slaughtered, someone would not open his mouth in defense.”

Immediately Ayesha had to think of their Korban, the slaughtering of the sheep at their festive celebration, where the innocent sheep would not bleat at all as their throats were cut. She interrupted her teacher promptly,

“At the slaughtering of the sheep the animals almost seem to go voluntarily.
Remembering what her mother had told her, she added:” my mom said that only perfect sheep may be used because their shedded blood can cleanse us.”

“Exactly! In fact, the other prophet I was about to tell you was John, the Baptist. I think you call him Yah(i)yah in your religion. Twice John pointed to Jesus, saying: ‘there is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.’ You see, previously John had heard how a voice from heaven had said about Jesus: 'This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.'
Do you have an idea how this taking away of sin happens?”

Half questioning, Ayesha replied: “When Jesus died on the cross?” , as she tried to remember what the teacher had taughton another occasion.

Yes indeed, Jesus obediently emptied the terrible cup containing all the sins of the world in the Garden Gethsemane just before his crucifixion. This would ultimately take him away from the sweet connection he experienced with God his Father, dying on the Cross for your sins and mine.

“My mom also said similar: Wow! so, the sheep that was slaughtered when I was a baby actually points to Nabi Isa washing away my sins? 'I must think about that.”

Happily Ayesha went home that afternoon to relay the explanation to her mother.


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