2021 July 11 – JJ – female age 33 – Eid Al Adha
As a revert to Islam, it seems strange to me that every year millions of animals are sacrificed for the holiday Eid Al Adha. In Pakistan alone, 10 million animals are slaughtered on Eid days according to the International Business Times (1-25-16). Eid Al Adha was one of the topics covered at today’s class, along with Abraham and his sons, Zam Zam water, marriage/relationships, the 5 pillars of Islam, the 6 beliefs of Islam, the purpose of praising God in our prayers, the purpose of submission to God, and the story of the prophet giving his daughter Surah Al Ikhlas to recite.
After taking a Sunday off for the 4th of July, class resumed on July 11th. I was late to class by fifteen minutes because I was having some stomach issues in the morning. When I arrived, I had the opportunity to pray and meditate in the women’s prayer area of the mosque. I found that it was very peaceful praying and meditating in the mosque (with the exception of a brief conversation that I could hear from the men’s area of the mosque). But someone once told me that it is important to learn how to pray and meditate even with distractions around. One’s life is never going to have perfectly peaceful conditions—unless one has a sensory deprivation chamber. Since most of us don’t have one of those lying around, we need to learn how to reach peace of mind despite living in an environment where there could be hostile people, loud music, and even car horns blaring outside. You can’t change your environment, but you can change what is inside yourself.
Once prayer and meditation were done, I worked on memorizing two surahs in Arabic. I slacked in the last two weeks by not learning anything new. My teacher was disappointed by this. I could certainly give my excuses and reasons in this essay, but I will not because accountability is one of the values emphasized in both the class and Islam. Our teacher has taught us the acronym CCA (Common Sense, Context, Accountability) and QHA (Quran, followed by Hadith, followed by Accountability). And at the end of the day, I wasn’t being accountable.
In the class, I worked on memorizing Al Asr and Al Falaq in Arabic. I do have these memorized already in English. Our teacher wants us to know the meaning of our prayers in our native language first before learning the Arabic (if Arabic is not already our native language), which I think is a good idea. Our teacher also prefers it if we learn how to say the verses before chanting them in the tajwid (recitation) style. I must admit that it makes it easier for me to memorize the verses when they have a musical or poetic quality, rather than when I’m just speaking them (or rapping them as some of the students like to jokingly say). However, my teacher has also memorized the entire Quran, so obviously, he knows more on this matter than I do.
Once we were done with the memorization part of the class, we began our discussion. At the beginning of our discussion, our teacher talked about the holiday Eid Al Adha. Eid Al Adha honors the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ismail as an act of obedience to God. As a convert to Islam from Christianity, this story greatly surprised me, because the entire time I’ve been a Muslim (about one year now), I was going around thinking that Abraham almost sacrificed his son Isaac because this is the version of the story in the Bible. I did not know that the Muslim account was different until I learned about it in the class. Apparently, there is some dispute in the faiths about which particular son was almost sacrificed. Our teacher told us that Ibrahim received a dream commanding him to do this, but then God stopped him before he could kill his son.
We also discussed how Ismail was the son of an Egyptian woman named Hagar. Our teacher told us the story of how when Ibrahim was traveling, some king had an interest in his wife Sarah and that Ibrahim had to tell the king that Sarah was his sister. In those days, if a king developed interest in a married woman, he’d have her husband put to death and then take her for himself. However, when the king tried to touch Sarah, his arm froze. He sensed something was wrong, so he allowed Sarah and Ibrahim to go on their way.
Our teacher also briefly discussed the story of Zam Zam water, which was generated in Mecca by Allah when Ismail was left thirsty and alone in the desert with his mother Hagar. (Side note: I have had an opportunity to drink Zam Zam water myself. It tasted like regular water. Though our teacher told us that part of the power of Zam Zam water is believing in it when one drinks it.)
Once the discussion of Eid Al Adha was finished, we discussed marriage. Several of the students in the class said that in the cultures they came from (mostly Muslim cultures), it was normal in their parents’ generation to have arranged marriages. In those marriages, the people didn’t always get to meet their spouses. Or if they did, it was only for a few times. One person in the class mentioned that his parents picked out his wife, but now as an older man he sees the value in their decision because there are many great qualities that she possesses that he may not have appreciated as a younger man. (Side note of reflection: As a single woman in my 30s, I am now looking for much different qualities in a partner than I did in my teens and early 20s when I entered into relationships that did not work out so well. Therefore, I do wonder if there is some wisdom in having older people assist younger people in the process).
After the discussion on relationships, our teacher quizzed us on the five pillars of Islam. These pillars are the following: Profession of faith that there is no God but God and that Muhammad is his messenger (Shahada), Prayer (Salat), Charity (Alms), Fasting (Sawm), Pilgrimage (Hajj).
Then we were quizzed on the six beliefs of Islam. This is something I was less familiar with than the pillars. The six beliefs of Islam are: Belief in God, Belief in angels, Belief in the holy books, Belief in the prophets, Belief in the day of judgment, and the last thing that was said was accountability. Though when I looked this up online, I saw websites saying that the sixth belief is Predestination or God’s decree. Perhaps accountability relates to how God will make his judgment in response to our actions. I am not sure. This is just my own personal thought.
Our teacher then asked us why we praise God in our prayers if God does not need anything from human beings. Several theories were thrown around: this was a good way to humble ourselves, this was a way to remember God, this was a way to connect to God, praising God was for our own benefit because it keeps us spiritual.
The final thing discussed was a story in the Hadith about how the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) gave his daughter the gift of Surah Ikhlas. He told her that reciting it three times is as if she read the entire Quran itself.