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Islamic Voice Logo
MONTHLY    *    Vol 13-03 No:147    *   MARCH 1999/ ZIL-HIJJAH 1419H
email: editor@islamicvoice.com

FEATURES


People's Response to the Fascist Challenge
The Confusion Called Conversion
Sighting of Moon
Leaf from Life : Qurbani in Letter and Spirit


People's Response to the Fascist Challenge

By Hasan Mansur

Events in Gujarat, Orissa and elsewhere are casting their shadow foreboding things to come. The sardonic actions of the RSS-run state in Gujarat are rather chilling, reminiscent of the horrendous events in Germany during the Thirties when the Nazis were steadily gaining ground, all set to grab power. The census ordered in respect of Christians and Muslims passing it as a routine exercise undertaken by the intelligence agencies and the pretension that the Government is not aware of it, speak of a sinister conspiracy to unleash genocidal killings there.

Questions addressed to these communities by the Intelligence are, what ‘trickeries’ they are adopting in conversions, number of Christians involved in ‘criminal actions’ and having a ‘criminal attitude’; it also wants to know the number of their children going to school, foreign funds received, gun licenses held if any etc. These sinister actions are to mark these communities and to target them.

The Chairman of the National Minorities Commission, Dr. Tahir Mahmood has been singled out by the VHP for alleging that the figures given by the centre on the funds received by Christian institutions from abroad, are not correct and on the other hand, Hindu organisations were getting more funds from abroad. He was attacked by the BJP spokesman too who accused him of partisanship. The outcry against the commission by these communal outfits and their demand that the Human Rights Commission could take care of the issues of all minorities is a strategy to do away with the rights of minorities enshrined in the constitution.

As for the campaign against conversions spearheaded by the Sangh Parivar, its affiliates are engaged in the same task of reconversion but euphemistically called ‘home-coming’. This charade was exposed by the New Indian Express date-lined 14/2/99 that the RSS had plans to reconvert 2,000 but 176 turned up, alas, most of them were not Christians. Granted there were a few of them, the Government has failed to check whether these ‘reconversions’ had been through use of force, fraudulent means which amount to violation of public order and morality and Article 25 of the Indian Constitution frowns on this, stating freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion is (1) subject to public order, morality and health. It needs to be pointed out that Sonia Gandhi’s Madhya Pradesh Government where these reconversions are taking place is providing full protection to this unholy exercise!

The country is slowly wakening to the dire threats of the juggernaut of fascism rolling across this country and even political parties that played footsie with the saffron bands have been loudest in denouncing communalism as the worst threat to democratic governance. The entire left of all shades is united in recognising the Sangh Parivar as its enemy number one. Dalits however badly divided among themselves, are one in denouncing the Manuvada theology of the RSS. There are several democratic action groups right across the land who are gearing themselves to avert the worst threat this country has been facing.

The campaign against the Sangh Parivar must not be isolated from issues like price rise, unemployment, denial of shelter, displacement of people, health and the saffron bands must be shown as unconcerned with these issues which constitute the question of life and death for millions of the poor in India. Besides it needs to be conclusively proved that Manuvada has been singularly lacking in conscience as pointed out by Ambedkar. To illustrate this new strategy, a forum of Dalits, left, social action and human rights groups has been formed in Bangalore with the hope of extending it to the rest of the state. Bangalore alone has more than 700 slums, one fourth of its population living there; every slum is a mini-India with people of all faiths, languages and cultures living there. The forum is fighting for their basic demand for land, roof over the head, basic amenities like drinking water, power, toilets and drainage. United on this score, these people would take to the democratic ethos with greater ease and understanding than the so-called literate middle class and secularism would be a natural way of life with them. This would be the most effective means of bringing people together to combat communalism.

The strength of a movement is in promoting secular actions and what could be more secular than the understanding that the right to life with dignity is inherent, man or woman and this comprises literacy, employment, shelter, health etc., that could bring people of all faiths, languages and cultures together in a campaign for a place in the sun? Merely harping on the humanism of all faiths, specially the myth of the tolerance of the faith of Manuvada, could be counter productive; what needs to be stressed is that the theology of prejudice, lying and vendetta in which the Sangh Parivar surpasses all, is murderous and so what the people need is an ideology that acknowledges that humanism underlies culture that recognises the essential sacredness of all human beings and build on that basis a society that is truly egalitarian, just, creative and life affirming.

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The Confusion Called Conversion

By Yoginder Sikand

Recently we have witnessed a deluge of writing in the Indian press on religious conversions, and, predictably enough, the BJP has even called for a ‘national debate’ on the issue. That the Hindutva brigade, for want of any constructive agenda, is raking this up as yet another trump card to further its own political purposes is clearly obvious. The passions that have been raised on the matter, culminating in the burning down of churches and the gruesome killing of a Christian social activist and his two young children in Orissa, show the lengths to which Hindutva fanatics can go in their blood-thirsty crusade against all who differ from them.

Contrary to what Hindutva leaders assert, and what some newspapers, uncritically relying on their statements, have claimed, there have been no instances of forcible conversions to Christianity among the tribals and Dalits. True, many conversions have been made by offering would-be converts promises of material reward, but to brand these cases of ‘rice-bowl Christians as ‘forced conversions’ is grossly misleading. Admittedly, the methods of some Christian missionaries are nothing short of bribery, but this sort of conversion has been condemned by many Christians themselves as not only unethical but also as completely un-Christian. It must also be remembered that offering what in effect are bribes for conversions is a method not limited to certain Christian missionary groups. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad and allied outfits are believed to be using similar tactics in their drive to convert several Muslim groups in Rajasthan, most notably the Cheeta Merats and Kathats in the Ajmer-Beawar area, to Hinduism.

The present debate on the issue of conversions has almost wholly focused on conversions to Christianity, and conversions to Hinduism, sponsored by organisations such as the Arya Samaj and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, have been totally ignored. Christianity and Islam have been sought to be portrayed as ‘predator’ religions that ‘prey on the flocks’ of other communities to build up their own numerical strength. This completely one-sided portrayal totally ignores the historical role of Hinduism as a missionary religion. If Brahminism has not been as eager to spread its teachings to people of other communities the reason lies not in any supposed unique essence of Brahminical tolerance, but in the fact that, historically, the Brahmins have kept the knowledge of the Vedas as a caste monopoly so that they could exercise an unchallenged control over the rest of the Hindu society. So carefully did they guard this monopoly that was the source of their power that they refused to allow non-Brahmin Hindus, leave alone non-Hindus, access to the Vedas. The Manusmriti, the Bible of Brahminism, goes to such lengths to protect this Brahmin that it lays down that if a Shudra should merely hear the words of the Vedas, his ears should be filled with molten lead and glass as a punishment.

Since Hinduism has no fixed or central beliefs or texts, the only qualification of being a Hindu being a member of a certain caste within the caste or varna order headed by the Brahmins, traditionally Hinduism, or more properly Brahminism, spread by the gradual absorption of non-Hindu groups into the caste system. This is how, for instance, Brahminism was able to absorb millions of Dalits, tribal and backward castes, who, being outcastes or outside the caste system, were non-Hindus, into the Hindu fold. This process of conversion through gradual Hinduisation is still in operation in many tribal areas in the country and among several Dalit groups. It is probable that the annual conversions of tribal and other such groups to Hinduism far exceeds the conversions to Christianity or any other religion. Will those who, in their fierce opposition to the activities of the Christian missionaries, are today calling for a ban on all conversions also agree to ban tribal and Dalit conversions to Hinduism? The Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Arya Samaj are active in converting not just Hindu converts to other religions back to Hinduism but also born Christians, Muslims and others. Would those opposed to the Christians on grounds of conversions also agree to outlaw conversions by these Hindu groups?

In societies, such as India, that have not undergone secular transformation, religious conversion movements are essentially a form of social protest against oppression that is legitimised by the dominant religion. That is why, almost all those who joined the Buddhist and Jain religion and later, Islamic, Sikh and Christian fold, were drawn from among the oppressed castes. For them, joining a new religion was, above all, a dramatic demonstration of revolt and protest against Brahminical tyranny. Social protest against Brahminism and the caste system that it sanctifies lies behind Ambedkar’s conversion to Buddhism in 1956 along with three hundred thousand of his followers as well as the continuing conversion to Christianity among Dalits and tribals. To put a ban on conversions would, therefore, be tantamount to silencing the voices of protest among the oppressed against the most inhuman social order that mankind has ever devised-the caste system. Radical Dalits would certainly find, and rightly so, any legislation aimed at banning conversions a devious ploy to keep them enslaved within the caste system, forever at the mercy of the ‘upper’ castes.

In this context, it is instructive to reflect on the seemingly unending spate of attacks on Christian activists in various parts of the country. Mostly, these attacks were masterminded by local ‘upper’ caste feudal elements who see the work of the Christians as threatening their own entrenched positions in the local power structure. Whether or not the activities of these Christian missionaries who are helping the poor is resulting in conversions to Christianity, the point is that their work among the poor is increasingly felt to be an attack on ‘upper’ caste hegemony. Hence, the recent spate of attacks need to be viewed in a broader perspective, as not just flagrant violations of religious freedom, which is serious enough, but as an assault on the struggles of the poor and the marginalised fighting for a more just and humane society free from the shackles of the caste system that Brahminism has bound them up in for millennia.

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Sighting of Moon

By Moulana Mohammed Shihabuddin Nadvi

Reliability of Astronomical Calculations in the Light of Holy Qur’an and Hadith Id al-Fitr, the great festival of Muslims, marks the happy culmination of the hardships of fasting for the full month of Ramadan. It is a divine reward and a day of rejoicing. However, the controversial decisions about sighting the moon taken by the provincial moon committees in countries like India more often spoil the celebrations and gaiety of the occasion. Celebrating the festival on two or even three different days in different parts of our country leaves us and others confused and wondering! It even affects the unity of Ummah.

India is a single lunar unit. That is, sighting of the moon at one place in it will be adequate proof for celebrating the Id else where. Such a consensus has already been arrived at concertedly at a meeting of Majlis-e-Tahqeeqat-e-Shariah held in 1967 at Nadwatul Ulama, Lucknow. The ten top scholars of Islamic theology who had gathered at the session had declared India, Nepal and Pakistan as one lunar unit since these countries can be categorised under “close by states”. If this decision were followed, the whole of the continent will be celebrating the Id on a single day and that will be a unique expression of Islamic unity. Hence all scholars of India should sit together again to implement this decision so that no controversy arises in future.

Further, in recent times, communication has been revolutionised to the extent that news reaches from one end to the other in seconds, and men travel from continent to continent in few hours. Establishing inter-country contacts is far easier and assured. Modern techniques are also being developed in sighting the moon. Hence the need for establishing the inter-state and inter-continent contacts becomes imminent.

Two Suggestions

Two suggestions are being offered in connection with the elimination of differences that frequently surface and for ensuring the celebration of Id on a single day all over the country.

Firstly, a central committee for sighting moon should be formed under whose aegis the state moon committees should operate. They should intimate the sighting of the moon in their respective states to the central committee which, in turn, should ultimately decide in the matter and declare the final decision which should be binding on all. This will ensure the celebration of Id on the same day throughout the country.

Secondly, assistance of astronomers be taken in sighting moon. Shariah approves such a measure. The holy Qur’an and Hadith do testify to this effect which would be evident from the following discussion.

Variance in the Traditions

The holy Traditions (Ahadith) contain three types of commandments with regard to the sighting of the moon. Prima facie, they appear to convey contrary messages. This has virtually held up any consensus among scholars and jurists alike and thus the Ummah has been deprived of any agreement in the matter right from the earlier periods of Islam. Out of these three commandments one does approve reliance upon astronomical calculations in the matter. Many scholars of yore have individually ruled in its favour. But other reasons and apprehensions played an important role in the Ummah evading a consensus.

However if holy Qur’an and Traditions are consulted exertedly and the holy texts are elucidated anew in the light of the latest knowledge, it becomes obvious that astronomical consultation can be taken as an authentic tool in sighting the moon. Express instructions are available in the holy Book, while Traditions present only their elaborated versions. Hence, it is exertion in the holy texts rather than following mere traditional injunctions of the earlier jurists which is the need of the hour.

A Marvellous Aspect of the Traditions

The variance observed in the commandments referring to the sighting of moon is only apparent. There is no contradiction as such. A deeper study reveals the undercurrent of wisdom and coherence among them as also the marvellous nature of the Traditions. Certainly they have been drawn with an eye on the possible future needs and events. The scholars are thus obliged to directly seek guidance from the holy Qur’an and Hadith whenever any necessity arises. The principles of Fiqh make it clear that in case of fresh issues, solution should be sought basically in the holy Book. In case of inadequacy, the traditions should be consulted. The next source is the consensus of the Ummah and finally reasoning and exertion have to be resorted to.

Qur’an and Hadith are the Basis

Whenever fresh issues and contentions arise, the first source to be approached constitutes a reference to the holy Qur’an and the Traditions.

O ye who believe! Obey God and obey the Apostle, and those charged with authority among you. If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to God and His Apostle, if you do believe in God and the Last Day: That is best and most suitable for final determination. (Qur’an, 4:59)

Obviously the holy Qur’an and Traditions encompass the issues that may arise in future. In contrast, the scholars and the jurists can solve only the problems at hand and cannot visualise future problems. Hence whenever new and contentious issues arise, the first source to be consulted is the holy Book and the Traditions.

The holy Book provides broad guidelines which have been elaborately explained in the Traditions. Hence a first reference is made herein to them. For the sake of convenience here Ahadith will be elaborately dealt with first followed by elucidation of the Qur’anic injunctions and establishment of correlation and correspondence between both these divine resources.

Moon Sighting and the Traditions

Of the commandments regarding sighting of the moon, a categorical and consensual one reads: “Muslims should begin fasting after sighting the new moon and end them sighting the new moon.” (Sahih Bukhari & Sahih Muslim)

This has been the guideline for Muslims all through.

No controversy has arisen in the past about starting fasting and celebrating the feast after sighting the respective new moons. This is a general guideline. However two other equally clear commandments are available. Although at the outset they appear contradictory, on proper correlation and correspondence, they testify to the inherent wisdom of the Prophet’s quote and simultaneously solve all intricacies arising in modern times. Hence they are being dealt in detail herein.

Reasoning and Conjecture

The first of these commandments is present in the most authentic collections of the Traditions like Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Muatta Imam Malik etc. on the authority of Ibne Omar where the holy Prophet (Pbuh) addressed collectively the Ummah and instructed:

Do not start fasting unless you sight the new moon and do not cease fasting unless you sight the new moon. And if anything (clouds etc.) overcasts, then use discretion and reasoning.

Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim have quoted this Tradition on the basis of a large number of authorities. It is also quoted in Nasai, Ibne Maajah, Musnad Ahmed, Darami and Sahih Ibne Khuzaima. The most significant phrase here is “use your discretion or reasoning if something overcasts you”.

In the original Arabic text the word “Uqduru” has been used. It is derived from “Qadr” and “Taqdeer” which means (1) to estimate; (2) a thing being similar to another; (3) to bestow power or authority; (4) to contemplate about the correctness or validity of something; (5) to arrive at the conclusion through signs and indications; (6) destiny and fate as assigned by God. (Lisanul Arab, V. 5, Pp. 74-76.)

Mostly 29 Days for Ramadan

In some narrations, the above Tradition commences with “the month comprises of 29 days”. It’s elucidation could be found in another Tradition narrated from Ibne Masood:

We have (in different years) fasted mostly for 29 days rather than 30 days along with the holy Prophet (Pbuh). (Abu Dawood, Tirmizi, Musnad Ahmed, Ibne Khuzaima)

This and other similar Traditions indicate that the month of Ramazan mostly consists of 29 days and rarely 30 days. Hence it becomes obligatory on the Ummah that after completing fasting for 29 days, it should inquire about sighting of moon and thus ensure availing the blessings and rewards of Allah on the proper day, not miss the occasion and undesirably fast for an additional day which would go against the Shariah. Simultaneously this would also create much disagreement and chaos in all other matters of life. Sighting of Moon is the only source of the correctness of lunar calendars. This factor attains high significance particularly in countries which follow the lunar calendar instead of the solar one. This concludes our discussion on the first special commandment.

Completion of 30 Days

In the second category of commandments quoted on the authority of Abu Hurairah, Ibne Omar and Ibne Abbas, it is stated that the holy Prophet advised thus:

Fast after sighting the new moon and stop fasting seeing the new moon. However if anything (clouds etc.) overcasts, then complete 30 days. (Sahih Bukhari, Nasai, Tirmizi, Darami and others)

This category of commandments carries wide variations in the narrations. Some of the narrators reporting from Hazrath Abu Hurairah are of the opinion that this tradition refers to the month of Sha’aban and not Ramazan. And the other learned exponents of the holy Traditions (Muhaddiseen) have interpreted them variedly. Even the Tradition quoted from Hazrath Ayesha supports the above contention:

“The holy Prophet (Pbuh) would be very particular about the month of Sha’aban than any other month. He would start fasting Ramazan only after sighting the moon. If the sky were overcast with clouds, he would complete 30 days of Sha’aban and then start fasting.” (Abu Dawood, Musnad Ahmed, Sahih Ibne Khuzaima, Daar Qutni)

Using Discretion is Non-Controversial

Besides theses, certain other traditions too categorically stress for the completion of 30 days for both Sha’aban and Ramazan in case the sky is clouded. Although these are secondary Traditions in term of authority, they have to be taken as commandments of the holy Prophet. Thus, both the prophetic injunctions attain the following proposition and order:

1. It is essential for the Ummah to commence and cease fasting only after sighting the moon.

2. On the 29th day if the sky is clear, the sighting of moon is mandatory.

3. However, if the sky is overcast on the 29th day, two situations arise:

  • (a)    to reason out rationally and arrive at a decision.
  • (b)    to complete 30 days of fasting.

    The first of these alternatives is non-controversial and based on authoritative narrations. In case of the second one, the situation is somewhat contentious.

    Jurists are Divided

    What does ‘using discretion if the sky is overcast’ mean? Three distinct interpretations of the scholars and jurists are available.

    According to Imam Ahmed Bin Hambal, in case the sky is overcast on the 29th day of Sha’aban, fasting has to be taken up on the next day. This was the practice of Ibne Omar. Equating ‘Faqduru lahu’ to ‘Dhayyiqoohu’ he has said that the month of Sha’aban be restricted to 29 days. This is in consonance with the meaning of ‘Qadr’ in verse 7 of chapter “Talaq” of the holy Book where the meaning of the word ‘Qadr’ has been taken to mean ‘restriction’. (Vide Al-Mughni, V. 3, P. 90.)

    Second is the school of the majority of scholars and jurists. They opine that ‘Faqduru lahu’ means “to look at the beginning of the month and complete 30 days”. This is in consonance with the other Traditions which state that fasting should be completed for 30 days in case the sky is overcast with clouds. These two versions have a common object. They are complimentary to one another. (Fathul Bari, V. 4, P. 121.)

    The third of these interpretations takes that ‘Faqduru lahu’ stands for ‘Faqduru bahisabil manazil’. It implies that if the 29th day were overcast, then the new moon should be discerned taking into consideration the movement of the moon and the lunar time-table. (Ibid.)

    Believers in Astronomical Calculations

    The following scholars and jurists favour the third posture suggested above.

  • 1.   Mutarraf Bin Abdullah Tabai
  • 2.   Abu al-Tayyib Ibne Salma Shafai (d 308 AH)
  • 3.   Abul Abbas Ibne Suraij Shafai Baghdadi (d 306 AH)
  • 4.   Abdullah Bin Muslim Ibne Qutaiba Deenoori (d 276 AH)
  • 5.   Imam Abu Hamid Asfaraini Shafai (d 406 AH)
  • 6.   Qaffaal (A Shafai scholar)
  • 7.   Imam Subki Shafai (exegate, Muhaddith and jurist)
  • 8.   Abdul Wahhab Bin Wahbaan Dimishqi Hanafi (d 768 AH)

    (Vide Sharah Navavi, V. 7, P. 189; Fat’hul Baari, V. 4, P. 122; A’rizatul Ahwazi, V. 3, P. 207; Bazlul Majhood, V. 11, P. 109; Aujazul Masalik, V. 5, P. 16; Faizul Baari, V. 3, P. 152; Mo’jamul Muallifeen.)

    From this count, the applicability of astronomical calculations is not a recent innovation. In fact, the matter is being discussed from early times. Many moderate scholars and commentators of the Traditions subscribe to this contention. However, some of them like Allama Khattabi, commentator of Abu Dawood (d 388 AH), Imam Baghvi, author of Sharhus Sunnah (d 516 AH), Allama Ibne Salah (d 643 AH) and Allama Ibne Manzoor, author of Lisanul Arab etc. do not prefer it.

    This shows that the Shariah does approve resorting to astronomical calculations in moon-sighting.

    Unlike them, a few scholars do consider the third adoption as un-Islamic and have criticised it vehemently. Qazi Abu Bakr Ibnul Arabi Maliki, author of A'rizatul Ahwazi, the commentary of Tirmizi (d 544 AH) leads the main criticism. Other critics like Hafiz Ibne Hajar author Fat'hul Bari, Mulla Ali Qari, commentator Mishkath al-Masabeeh, Allama Shaukani, author of Nailul Autar, Moulana Khaleel Ahmed Saharanpuri, author of Bazlul Majhood, Moulana Mohammed Zakaria, author of Aujazul Masalik followed his line of criticism. All these critics were content with merely repeating the opinion of the former. This indicates that only one scholar belonging to the sixth century Hijri has criticised the procedure. There is none among his predecessors who had come out openly against this step irrespective of whatever school of Fiqh one belonged to. The latter group adopted Ibnul Arabi as the ideal and merely copied his version which is more a satire than serious criticism.

    One drastic objection hurled on advocates of astronomical calculations pertains to the fact that the great Prophet (Pbuh) had nothing to do with astronomy or astrology and neither had he instructed to refer to astronomers about sighting the moon. On the contrary, he had remarked: "We are illiterate people and do not know reading, writing or maintaining accounts." (Sahih Bukhari & Sahih Muslim) So when the Prophet himself has clearly negated the calculations, how can one resort to taking into account the movements of the sun and the moon. It merely proves the ignorance of these Traditions on the part of the advocates of astronomical calculations. (Ibnul Arabi, A'rizatul Ahwazi, V. 3 P. 208.)

    Real Cause for Opposition

    The above Tradition is clear in its purpose and meaning. As for as the opposition of the general scholars is concerned, they are skeptic about the science of astronomy. This is evident from what Hafiz Ibne Hajar (d 852 AH) has written quoting Ibne Bazeezah.

    "Astronomy is a false art because it is mere conjecture and there is nothing in it which is either certain or final." (Fat'hul Bari, V. 4, P. 127.)

    These critical writings ensure that the actual text of these Traditions does testify the validity of astronomical calculation as well as the science of astronomy. The earlier scholars have, in general, discarded it as they regarded it as an exclusive science which is not common and secondly they regarded it as mere conjecture and not a definite science. Presently if astronomy is a definite science, it must not be discarded as taboo and allow dissidence and discard to grow every year in the Ummah. If such a situation prevails long, the literate and educated will lose confidence and faith in religious scholars. Hence before the situation worsens, preventive measures have to be adopted. Certain facts and insights from the Qur'anic verses and Traditions may eliminate several misunderstandings and doubts.   (To be Concluded)

    ( The author is the Chairman, Dar Al-Shariah & Gen. Secretary: Furqania Academy Trust No.82, 10th Main, Ist Cross, BTM Ist Stage, Bangalore-560 029, Fax: 80-6682101; E-mail: furqania@vsnl.com
    Translated by: Khalid Irfan)

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    Leaf from Life : Qurbani in Letter and Spirit

    By D.A. Sait

    So, after Idul-Fitr we are now on the threshold of Idul-Azha or Bakrid. Just like there are Muslims who believe in the promises made by Allah to those who fast and pray, read the Qur'an and pay Zakah during Ramadan there are also Muslims who believe in the spirit of the Qurbani given in the name of Allah to commemorate the sacrificial spirit of Prophet Ibrahim who offered his son Ismail in Qurbani. And this spirit ought to make every Muslim ready to sacrifice anything they possess, including their children, to please Allah. This Qurbani does not mean just the slaughter of a goat or sheep, cow or camel. Slaughtering an animal is just a token, a symbol, signifying the intention, 'Niyyat', to sacrifice anything we hold precious to please Allah. If this spirit of 'Qurbani' is absent in the heart of the Muslim who offers it then it has not served its purpose. All he does is to slaughter a sheep or cow and share the meat with others. Unfortunately there are many Muslim brethren who offer such a perfunctory Qurbani. It is easy to buy a sheep, slaughter it and distribute the meat, retaining a portion, one-third, for oneself and family. Suppose, instead of the sheep, you are asked to part with some prized possession of yours, say jewellery, to see a poor girl married off? Again, suppose you, a wealthy man or at least affluent, are asked to bear the cost of a major surgical operation to save the life of a poor, brother Muslim? Suppose a poor but deserving Muslim boy needs money to proceed for higher studies to make a career for himself? Again, suppose a piece of land belonging to you is sought to build a Mosque there on? These are real tests of the spirit of Qurbani. If you give willingly and with pleasure, not grudgingly, for such causes, there can be no doubt that you have imbibed the spirit of the Qurbani that made Prophet Ibrahim offer his son as sacrifice to please Allah. I do not say there are not Muslims who would baulk at such a situation confronting them. But many of us in a similar situation would back out. But a sheep does not cost more than two thousand rupees. So we opt for the symbol, the token, sans the spirit.

    Well, even this token without the spirit behind it is preferable to the attitude of many other Muslims who, inspite of being blessed with all the good things of life, do not offer Qurbani, just like the Muslims who never read the Qur'an, never pay Zakah, and never pray, never fast thereby missing the very spirit of the holy month of Ramadan, but show their faces at the Idgah or Mosque for the Idul-Fitr 'namaz' as they are anxious to be counted as Muslims. They are on a par with those who offer the sacrifice of sheep perfunctorily, not in the manner prescribed by Allah, only to please friends and relatives and with the desire to be counted as Muslims, but not to seek Allah's pleasure.

    Again, there are some of us who never offer Qurbani though they can afford it many times over, because they are too busy otherwise and have no time for such frivolities. Yet others have some fanciful objections to Qurbani which they consider a messy job involving blood-letting which could mess up the house and surroundings. There are also Muslims, or rather the so-called Muslims, who do not offer Qurbani because their neighbours are Hindus and they are afraid of being looked down upon. But this is just eye-wash. I have found it an axiom in life that neighbourly relations are never affected by religious considerations. Hindus and Muslims live like brothers in many a neighbourhood. My Hindu friends always greet me with 'Id Mubarak' on both Bakrid and Idul-Fitr. They look upon sacrificing of the animal or Qurbani only as a religious rite. It is only your own fancy which builds up imaginary obstacles to avoid a duty thrust upon you by Allah, for which you will have to answer to Him.

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