Today is the Day of Arafat, a day of repentance preceding Eid al-Adha. Eid al-Adha is a solemn festival to commemorate God’s intervention on the sacrifice of Isma’il (Ishmael) by his father Ibrahim (Abraham) resulting in the sacrifice of a goat instead of a son. The festival starts after Muslims on the hajj pilgrimage descend Mount Arafat and lasts for three days.
Prophet Abraham, misnamed by many as the Patriarch of Monotheism (in itself a contradiction), opposed patriarchy from the very beginning of his prophethood. After recognizing Divine Truth through his own reason contemplation and submission to faith, Prophet Abraham breaks ties with his father and an entire system of patriarchy when he confronts him regarding the idol worship that unified the patriarchal system by displacing God with patriarchal tradition.
he said to his father:
“O my father! why
worship that which heareth
and seeth not, and can
avail to thee nothing?
“O my father! to me
hath come knowledge which
hath not reached thee:
so follow me: I will guide
thee to a Way that is level.” (Qur’an 19:42—43)
As these verses demonstrate, not only did he reject the tradition of his father and his patriarchal community but he then called upon his father to follow him instead, inversely, in recognizing the Truth. Prophet Abraham addresses his entire community and bids them to leave their patriarchal tradition, void of knowledge and wisdom, behind. As a result, he is sentenced to be burned, but is saved by Divine Intervention. The fire into which he was thrown does not burn him.
But adherents of patriarchy will claim that this inversion, in which Prophet Abraham insists that his father follow him, suggests that it is not an indication of God’s rule displacing the rule of fathers, but of the rule of believing fathers displacing the rule of unbelieving fathers. Of course, this isn’t true. It was not Abraham (a believing man) whose rule was established, but the rule of God. And saying otherwise is blasphemy. Shirk. Nothing is like God, and definitely not fathers, whose rule throughout history have again and again dared to defy God’s commands.
So that there is no mistake, this is reinforced when Prophet Abraham is commanded to sacrifice his son, only with Ismael’s consent. Ismael’s consent is vital, for without it the sacrifice would not be moral, demonstrating both that faith is voluntary and that Abraham as a father does not have the power of life or death over his son unlike patriarchs of the past.
And one day
when the son reached an age
strong enough share in his father’s endeavors
Abraham said: “O my dear son!
I see in a vision
that I should offer thee in sacrifice:
what would be thy view!” (Qur’an 37:102)
Consent. Abraham rightfully does not assume that his son will consent, nor does he act as though his will trumps the consent of his son.
Ishmael does consents, clearly and expressively,
The son answered: “O my father!
do as thou art bidden!
Thou wilt find me, if God wills,
practicing patience and constancy!” (Qur’an 37:102)
And this was the symbolic sacrifice. Patriarchy. It is not the power of Abraham to dispose of his son however he wishes, even in the name of God, or it shall not be the name of God but an act of heinous immorality.
When it was evident that Prophet Abraham and Ishmael had made this sacrifice, that Prophet Abraham had checked the consent of his son, Abraham was promptly stopped from sacrificing Ishmael.
But as soon as they both
had surrendered themselves to what
they thought the will of God,
and Abraham laid him [his son] on his brow
in prostration for sacrifice
We called unto him
Thou hast already fulfilled the vision!” (Qur’an 37:103—104)
Abraham sacrificed a ram instead of his son having passed the trial. Today Muslims will do the same and distribute the meat to the poor in commemoration.
Related to the day: woodturtle has a wonderful post on Hagger, Abraham’s wife. And here’s Khadeeja’s vegetarian perspective.
11 thoughts on “Eid al-Adha: Commemorating a Dismantling of Patriarchy”
That absolutely fascinates me, as someone who’s primarily familiar with the Christian version of the Ishmael tale; in our version, Abraham just kind of tricks Ishmael into going up there and then God is like “ha! I do not actually want you to sacrifice your son, but this lamb instead!” I always felt that story made Abraham come off like a dick. I like the version where he gets consent much better. :)
Subhanallah. That’s all I have to say. How much better the world would be if we followed the true meaning of Islam, submission to ALLAH, rather than submission to men!
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I think that parents who are all “spare the rod and spoil the child” ought to read and pay attention to these verses. So many parents feel entitled to treat their children as their property, to do with as the parents wish. Even a lot of well-meaning parents coerce their children into paths that the parents are most comfortable with, regardless of what the child wants and needs, in a desire to make their children an image/idol of themselves. Y’no, the classic “how dare you go onto sociology when I wanted you to be a lawyer!”. Which extends to “how dare you be gay / lesbian / trans” or, to women, “how dare you pursue an independent career instead of being a good wife / mother”?
And of course this comes from a patriarchal notion that a human has no intrinsic worth and can be valued only for what they produce. The “choice” of career is often made by the father, with the mother often acquiescing (or coerced into acquiescing).
The story of Abraham and Ismael is presented in the Old Testament in a way that I find very hard to stomach. The idea in the Qur’an that Abraham sought Ismael’s freely given consent *first* and that they both chose to submit themselves fully to God (and *only* God!) warms my heart.
This a very, very fascinating interpretation of the whole sacrifice, Nahida! I like it. I’d never thought about it before, but you give me tons to think about for a while. Not sure if I agree with it at this point, but that just means an even more interesting discussion is to follow!
Eid mubarak, jaan!
Thank you, Serenity! I definitely don’t believe it’s the *only* valid interpretation. Eid Mubarak! <3 <3
Thank you for highlighting a different aspect of Abraham’s stand and of patrirarchy.I like the way you said it.What I find about hajj missing in the Quranic verses is about Hagar and her plight.It makes me wonder even now if she played any critical role in the rites of pilgrimage.If she is so important why isn’t she mentioned in the Quran along with other women that the Quran recognizes as examples of good women? The Quran simply points out that every prophet/messenger were given rites of pilgrimage to do.Just find it odd and that men are often given priority during hajj even if it’s Hagar,a women’s experience,that counts the most,as told by her story.what’s your view?
Only a hypothesis, but I always figured it was because the practice lived long before Hager’s plight; because the story is not specific to her, and because the hajj is God’s command, and not Hager’s sunnah, there is an allusion and no explanation in the Qur’an. Just like the Qur’an tells us to pray, but not how.
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