Sacrifice is putting others before you, even if you have so much to lose and end up gaining nothing. It is when you have to give up something so dear to you for the sake of “a greater good”. We’ve read in books and seen in movies when the protagonist or hero would sacrifice – would die – to save humanity. And unfortunately with that in mind, we’re used to the idea that sacrifice comes with a price; it comes with the price of permanent loss and deprivation. Somehow, we’ve come to define sacrifice as something that doesn’t benefit you and might even break you, something that only builds others. But is this what it truly means?
So, what’s your first thought when the word ‘sacrifice’ comes to mind?
In this season of hajj, the first thing that should come to mind is one of the greatest stories of the sacrifice made by our Prophet Ibrahim Alaihis Salam. One of the legacies that he left to Muslims was Eid-ul-Adha which commemorates the event when he “sacrificed his son, Prophet Ismail (A.S)” for the sake of obeying God.
The story started when Prophet Ibrahim (A.S) dreamed about Allah instructing him to sacrifice his beloved son, Ismail (A.S). Naturally, as a loving father, it disturbed him and thought it was just a trick from the devil and chose to ignore it. However, the following night, the same dream occurred and he realised it was more than just a dream. This was truly the most difficult trial a father could have and a son could bear, but being so devoted to the love of God and submissive to Him, they obeyed and carried out the commandment.
“And when he (Ismail) was old enough to walk with him (Ibrahim (AS)), he said: ‘O my son! I have seen in a vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: Now see what is thy view!” He said: ‘O my father! Do that which you are Commanded, Insha’Allah (if Allah wills), you shall find me of as-Sabirin (the patient ones).’ Then, when they had both submitted themselves (to the Will of Allah), he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (or on the side of his forehead for slaughtering); and We called out to him: ‘O Ibrahim! You have fulfilled the vision!’ Verily, Thus, do We reward the Muhsinun (good-doers). Verily, that indeed was a manifest trial. And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice (a ram). And We left for him (a goodly remembrance) among generations (to come) in later times. ‘Salam (peace) be upon Ibrahim’. Thus indeed We reward the Muhsinin.” [Surah Al Saffat:102-105]
Allah the Most Merciful and All-Knowing spared Ismail (A.S)’s life and replaced his place with a sheep. They both had passed a tremendously difficult test from God and that their love for Allah was bigger that exceeded anything dear to them – to their hearts. Therefore, every year Muslims not only celebrate this holy event by the act of Qurbani (sacrificing animal) but also remember the great sacrifice that Prophet Ibrahim (A.s) had made as an obedience of Allah.
“It is not their meat nor their blood, that reaches Allah: it is your piety that reaches Him” [Surah Al Hajj:37]
This story inspires us to completely submit to the will of God. It is that we must believe and trust in Allah, no matter how difficult of a test and how unlikely it is to survive that trial for now. It also redefines the meaning of sacrifice. Sacrifice may break us now but it will build us eventually when we prioritise God before anything else. It is also to understand the ephemerality of everything that we have been blessed with in this life.
Sacrifice has various meanings to different people; it could be an act of letting go of a malignant part of yourself – a part that you also love so dearly – because it has shackled you from becoming a better human being. It’s not about acquiring superpowers; it’s simply reconnecting with a beautiful part of you that you haven’t completely explored and one that you’re not conscious about yet. But in the eyes of a believer, it means to completely submit and sacrifice a part in us and a part of our lives that doesn’t necessarily go hand in hand with Islam. Sometimes, we have to sacrifice when we’re crawling, walking or running on the path of piety towards Allah. It is when we truly let go of something in our heart other than the love of God that we would understand what it means to sacrifice.
And remember; after every sacrifice is a celebration. Even if you have to wait until the hereafter to gain that reward, then wait patiently – with beautiful patience. Because in the ‘sight’ of God, whatever you have to sacrifice in this world to purely seek the pleasure of God will never completely be lost.
Syaza is a freelance writer whose life revolves around coffee, cats and heartwarming stories.