The following post is a repost of last year’s post on the holiest day in Islam, the Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, which is celebrated at the conclusion of the Hajj, Islam’s annual pilgrimage to Mecca. All the points are the same, the only change is the dates. This year’s three-day celebration begins on Monday, 9/12/16.
As I write these words, Muslims have just completed the Hajj, their annual pilgrimage to Mecca. The Hajj occurs during the twelfth and final month of the Muslim lunar calendar, the month, Dhu al-Hijjah. Over 2 million pilgrims from all over the world (down from last year’s 3.1 mill due to the threat of the MERS virus ) congregate at Mecca to worship at the Kaaba, Islam’s black-cubed structure located in the center of the Grand Mosque, Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The annual gathering this year was on the 13th– 18th days of Dhu al-Hijjah (October, this year). The pilgrims encircled the Kaaba seven times, counter-clockwise (called “circumambulation”), in imitation of angels encircling the heavenly throne of Allah. On the seventh time, the pilgrims caress or kiss the Black Stone, a meteor-like object, located in the eastern corner of the Kaaba (Muslims believe the ancient stone was brought to Abraham by the Angel Gabriel while constructing the Kaaba with Ishmael).1 Upon contact with the Black Stone, pilgrims believe it somehow absorbs their sins. According to tradition, the stone was originally white but turned black after absorbing the sins of the many pilgrims who have touched it.2 The ritual is completed with a salute to the stone demonstrating renewal of covenant with Allah.
This year’s Hajj included the words of the noteworthy Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, who is credited with recently issuing a fatwa calling for the elimination of all churches in Saudi Arabia, affirming an earlier statement he is reported to have made in 2012. Of course both statements are based on the role of the supreme model of all Muslims, the messenger of Allah, Muhammad. The Grand Mufti’s statement at this year’s Hajj is quite different than his earlier statements about the destruction of all churches in the Arabian Peninsula so much so that you wonder if he had a recent “vision” from Allah calling for a change in his rhetoric. Here is a quote from this year’s Hajj sermon:
The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia has condemned terrorism and preached peace among Muslims ahead of the “most important day” of Hajj. Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, who has been the religious leader of Saudi Arabia for almost 15 years, told the millions of pilgrims gathered in Mecca for the annual pilgrimage that Islam does not allow terrorism and that Muslims should practice peace and love.3
Practice peace and love! Now, that is a revelation. I wonder how long it will take the world’s Islamists to buy into that fatwa?
The Hajj is followed by the “Eid al-Adha” (Feast of Sacrifice) on the 14th– 15th of the lunar month, commemorating the obedience of Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son, Ishmael, on the altar of sacrifice.4 As the story goes for Muslims, Abraham, with knife in hand, and son, Ishmael, willingly bound to the sacrificial altar, moved to slit the throat of his son, only to be spared by the cry of Allah, “Abraham, Abraham…,” at the very last second. Lo, Abraham’s (and Ishmael’s) faith has survived the test, and Allah graciously provided the substitutionary ram, somehow miraculously caught in the thicket behind Abraham. During Eid al-Adha, pilgrims at Mina (near Mecca) and around the entire Muslim world commemorate Allah’s provision of the lamb through the sacrifice of unblemished animals on the last of the three days of the Feast.5
The Reliance of the Traveller, Islam’s sacred manual of Islamic law, provides Muslims the precise model they should emulate in the annual memorial of Abraham’s act of obedience. Surprisingly, for those pilgrims participating in the Hajj, the sacrifice of an animal is preceded by a rather strange event — the throwing of seven pebbles at a stone pillar:
The . . . optimal way to stone . . . [the pillar] is to stand in the middle of the valley after the sun is up so that ‘Arafa lies to the right, Mecca to the left, and the stoning-site before one, and to throw the pebbles, one by one . . . with the right hand, saying “Allahu Akbar,” with each pebble, lifting the arms high enough when throwing (O: if male, though not if female) that the underarm shows, and to actually throw the pebbles . . . not merely flick them off the thumb with the forefinger. . . When finished stoning . . . one slaughters a voluntary sacrifice animal . . .6
Why do Muslims throw seven stones at a stone pillar, one by one, declaring “Allahu Akbar” with each throw?
Pilgrims reenact Abraham’s rejection of Satan’s temptation [of Abraham] to disobey the divine order by hurling seven pebbles at a tall stone pillar . . . [the stone] representing the devil. The massive crush of humanity and flying stones about the pillar create the most frenzied and cathartic moments of the hajj, as well as some of the most perilous. Because of frequent stampedes and hundreds of deaths during the stoning ritual, Saudi officials have built multitiered pedestrian bridges around the pillars and posted special police to help manage the crowds. After the stonings, each pilgrim offers an animal sacrifice (qurbān) commemorating the sheep that God ultimately accepted … in place of [Abraham’s] son. Muslims all over the world participate vicariously in this phase of the hajj by simultaneously making their own sacrifices at home on ʿĪd al-Adhā [“Eid al-Adha”], Islam’s most important holiday.7
Abraham must have been quite a stone-thrower! satan (lower case “s” is intentional) was vanquished by Abraham’s stones, and his son, Ishmael, was placed on the altar. Both the hadith and the Bible agree on God’s command to Abraham not to slay the boy. They also agree on the next occurrence—God’s provision of an unblemished lamb to take the place of Abraham’s son. Eid al-Adha commemorates the lamb every year in its celebrations:
Islamic law outlines the procedures that Muslims must follow during the feast [Eid al-Adha]. The animal to be sacrificed—a sheep, camel, goat, or cow—must be unblemished. Only an adult man, who can afford to pay for such an animal, can perform the ritual. The person slaughtering the animal must ensure that it is facing Mecca and then quickly cut its throat. Islamic law suggests that he should keep only one-third of the meat for his own family and share the rest with the poor and other families.8
When one compares the Bible’s version of what happened with that of Islamic teaching, there are similarities but one significant difference. It is not Ishmael, but Isaac, who is offered on the altar of sacrifice (Genesis 22:2). Abraham’s obedience is astounding not because he was able to ward off the devil by throwing seven pebbles at him (I wish the Muslim version were correct here; my that would be easy). Rather, having experienced a faith-relationship with God, Abraham was able to obey God in ways few are able. In the process, the lamb provided by God was made possible by the faith of one man, Abraham, who trusted God even to the point of the death of his promised son (Genesis 22:12-13). Through Abraham’s faith, a picture is provided of what God, Himself, will one day do to provide the unblemished substitutionary lamb; and this Lamb will be His only Son just as Isaac was Abraham’s only promised son. (John 1:29, 36).
God provided another lamb, on another hill, on another altar, on another day. The hill was Calvary. The altar was the cross. The day was the day of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ by the Jewish leaders through the hands of Pontius Pilate. The unblemished substitute lamb? That was Jesus, God born in human flesh, and without sin on the day of His being “lifted up” to bear the sins of the world (Isaiah 53:5-6; John 3:14-15). Jesus was “caught in the thicket,” willingly, by the sin of man. He became the substitute for humanity in the same way that the lamb caught in the thicket took Isaac’s place thousands of years before. But just like Abraham was required to respond in faith, so must we. Otherwise, our sins will keep us in the “thicket” of the judgment of God.
The last month of the Christian calendar, December, will be soon upon us. December is a time of great celebration for Christians just as Eid al-Adha is a time of celebration for Muslims but for a very different reason: the birth of the incarnate God, Jesus Christ, the one and only Son, is commemorated on December 25th of the month. Unlike Muslims who embrace a life-less black stone, and sacrifice year-after-year another substitute lamb (during Eid al-Adha), Christians embrace a Savior who indwells them as the Spirit of the living God. This living savior was sacrificed once for all time and now sits at the right hand of God:
Hebrews 10:12-14 (NASB) 12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, 13 waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET. 14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.
Praise God that my faith in Jesus does not need anything other than Jesus to reconcile me to God (2 Corinthians 5:21). I do not have to encircle a black cube structure, seven times, along with a million or so other people, all of whom must somehow kiss (or touch) the same lifeless black stone hoping that somehow my sins will be transferred. I do not have to throw pebbles at a tall pillar and convince myself that satan can be driven away by my doing so; and, best of all, when I celebrate Christmas this year, I will not have to slay a lamb taken from some farmer’s stockyard. My lamb has already been slain; my sacrifice already made. He is Jesus, Son of God, and savior of the world. He is the “lamb standing as if slain” who has ascended to the Father where He reigns at His right hand (Revelation 5:6-10) and where I will one day rejoice beside Him (Revelation 7:13-15).
Eid al-Adha — Islam’s annual search for a lamb will continue yet another year — until Islam finds its search completed in the lamb of God, Jesus Christ, the only Begotten. I’m not sure that is happening anytime soon – unless, of course, the Lord returns before the next Hajj season.Jesus come quickly.
Blessings. (If you would like a free copy of my book, Islam the Cloak of Antichrist, let me know by email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Also see www.whenthepiecesfit.org, the website for my book, published in 2011.)
- “Kaaba.” In The Islamic World: Past and Present., edited by John L. Esposito. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t243/e179. [↩]
- Ibid. [↩]
- http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/articles/513734/20131014/hajj-2013-saudi-arabia-grand-mufti-terrorism.htm [↩]
- “Eid al-Adha.” In The Islamic World: Past and Present., edited by John L. Esposito. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t243/e99 [↩]
- Ibid. [↩]
- Ahmed ibn Naqib al-Misri, Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, Amana Publications, 1999, j14.2 [↩]
- Bianchi, Robert. “Hajj.” In “The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World.” Oxford Islamic Studies Online, http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t236/e0289. [↩]
- “Eid al-Adha.” In The Islamic World: Past and Present. , edited by John L. Esposito. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t243/e99 [↩]