Muslims all over the world celebrated Eid Al Adha yesterday. Mosques overflowed as the faithful turned out in large numbers and greeted one another and sent messages of peace and happiness to friends and relatives. Eid Al Adha has a powerful, emotional message: it underlines the importance of sacrifice, steadfastness in faith, and patience. It proclaims the significance of unswerving faith in God and the need for feelings of brotherhood and love.
Yesterday, 2.5 million pilgrims who assembled in Makkah for Haj began to wind up their rituals, and stoned pillars representing Satan in the holy city of Mina. Chanting “Allahu Akbar (God is Greatest),” worshippers from 189 countries moved in huge waves around Jamrat al-Aqaba in a rite that will continue at least until today.
But unfortunately, Muslims all over the world were not able to celebrate Eid with the same fervour and peace of mind. In several Muslim countries where instability is ruling, where people are on the streets killing each other, for whatever reasons, Eid didn’t give the joy it should. In Syria, a temporary, fragile ceasefire declared by the government forces collapsed hours after it was declared, with deadly car bombings and artillery fire shattering a semblance of peace. Eid brought little relief or joy for Syrians, and markets, normally packed with shoppers, were empty; restaurants and parks were deserted, and many parents kept their children off the streets.
Muslims worldwide are united by faith, but divided by a hundred other things. It will be naïve to think that faith can overcome hundreds of other deep-rooted differences. As American columnist Thomas L Friedman put it poignantly: “Muslims are killing Muslims across the Middle East and Central Asia today: Sunnis versus Shiites, Pashtuns versus Pashtuns and Kurds versus Turks.”
What is disappointing is that there is no respite to these killings even on a day like Eid Al Adha. A suicide bomber killed more than 40 people, including five children, at a mosque in northern Afghanistan after Eid Al Adha prayers yesterday, which was the worst death toll in a single attack in the country since 80 died on December 6 last year.
What the Muslim world requires today is stability, peace, pluralism and tolerance, which can be achieved if the message of Eid Al Adha is followed in its true spirit. But there is a difference between faith and practice. Eid sermons delivered all over the world focus on these great ideals, but many of the faithful fail to get the message, and allow themselves to be carried away by their sectarian, tribal, nationalistic and other affiliations. Islamic scholars need to examine these hard facts and find ways to foster unity and love among all believers.