Eid al-Adha

October 5-6 (+/- 1), 2014

The Muslim prophet Ibrahim (Abraham in Judeo-Christian tradition) is one of the most remarkable figures in religious history. He is the father of three great religions, the first to believe in one God, and his tales are recounted by all three faiths.

Eid al-Adha, the holiest feast of the Muslim calendar, marks the end of the annual pilgrimage (Hajj.) Eid Al-Adha begins on the tenth day of Dhu’l-Hijja and lasts four days.

It commemorates an event roughly three thousand years ago, when the prophet Ibrahim took his son Ishmael/Ismail to be sacrificed at the command of the Lord. But before Ibrahim could go through with the act God gave Ibrahim a ram to be sacrificed in the place of his son.

There are two major distinctions between the this and the Judeo-Christian version as written in Genesis.

First, in Genesis the son to be sacrificed is not Ishmael, but Isaac.

And second, in the Qur’an Ishmael is aware of his father’s intentions and agrees to be sacrificed. Thus, Eid al-Adha remembers not only Ibrahim’s sacrifice, but Ishmael’s as well.

Arguably the figure of Ibrahim is more prominent in the Islamic faith than in either Judaism or Christianity. Even though he lived twenty-five hundred years before the Prophet Muhammad, Ibrahim is said to have lived a life consistent with Muhammad’s teachings. In addition to nearly sacrificing Ishmael, Ibrahim also broke ties with his own father Azar, an idolator who refused to follow the teachings of the one true God.

Traditionally Eid al-Adha was been celebrated through the sacrifice of an animal such as a sheep, goat, camel or cow. (In recent years the practice has become more controversial. Animal sacrifice is not one of the five pillars of Islam and Muhammad himself did not eat much meat.) The meat of the animal was split into three parts. One part for themselves and family, one part for friends and neighbors, and one part for the poor.

Eid al-Adha also recalls the journey of Hajar, mother of Ishmael, and her search for water:

…Prophet Ibrahim brought Lady Hajar and their baby son Ismail, by the command of God, to the deserted uncultivable valley of Makkah where the sacred house, Ka’bah, is now located. Prophet Ibrahim left Lady Hajar and their son alone by the order of God, and Lady Hajar said, “never ever will God neglect us.” Eventually, she ran out of provisions. Shortly thereafter, she ran up and down two hills, Safa and Marwa, seven times looking for water. Finally, a spring of water gushed at her baby’s feet. God had not neglected them. That same water is still gushing (Zamzam Well).

The Big Feast Eid al-Adha – Ahmed Shoker

 animal market - kashgar

Pakistan Day

March 23

You know you’re in trouble when your last best hope for justice are lawyers.

But thousands of lawyers and judges in Pakistan put their careers, their reputations, and possibly their lives on the line in the nearly two-year struggle to pressure the government to reinstate a judge.

That judge was Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, whom then-President Pervez Musharraf removed from office in 2007.

As the head of the Pakistan Army, Musharraf came to power in 1999 after a coup against the sitting Prime Minister. He became President of the country in 2001, and held a referendum the following year in which he was officially elected to a five-year term.

Despite his military dictatorship, Musharraf received U.S. support for his commitment against terrorism after the 9/11 attacks. In 2007, as Musharraf’s term came to an end, he declared martial law and suspended dozens of prominent judges whom he feared would oppose the Constitutionality of his running for re-election, as both President and Army Chief.

Among the judges sacked and placed under house arrest was Chaudhry, the nation’s most powerful judge.

Thousands of lawyers across the country have boycotted court proceedings, staged hunger strikes and organized protests.

International Herald Tribune, March 15, 2007

Former Prime Minister Benezir Bhutto returned to Pakistan in October 2007, after a self-imposed exile, to run against Musharraf, partly on the platform of reinstating the Chief Justice to his post. She was assassinated while campaigning in Rawalpindi in December of 2007.

Musharraf was re-elected, according to the election commission he helped put in power. However, unrelenting protests from judges and lawyers regarding the legality of Musharraf’s actions contributed to his forced resignation in August 2008.

Benezir Bhutto’s widow, Asif Ali Zardari, was elected President the following month. Even so, lawyers and judges had to fight for another six months to pressure the new government to reinstate Chaudhry.

Chaundry was officially reinstated as Chief Justice in a ceremony on March 22, 2009, the day before Pakistan’s national holiday, Pakistan Day.

Pakistan Day celebrates the anniversary of the 1940 Lahore Resolution, in which the Muslim League declared the necessity for a Muslim state in what was then British India. After eight-years of struggle and determination, the resolution became reality on August 14, 1948 when the state of Pakistan was established. (August 14 is Pakistan’s Independence Day.)

Pakistan Day also celebrates March 23, 1956, the day Pakistan became the first modern Islamic Republic.

All India Muslim League Working Committee, Lahore, March 1940
All India Muslim League Working Committee, Lahore, March 1940

In 2009, in honor of Pakistan Day, President Zardari proclaimed:

“When our founding fathers resolved to carve out an independent state, they had in mind a state where constitutionalism and rule of law would reign supreme. For a long time and at intervals the rule of law and constitutionalism has been trampled by dictators, sometimes under the doctrine of necessity and sometimes under the theory of successful revolution. This cycle must come to an end. It will…

“…On this day, let us all resolve that we shall endeavour to uphold the constitution, rule of law and work for the emancipation of the people. I hope that towards this end all institutions of the state will work in harmony.”

BBC – Benezir Bhutto killed in attack

Independence Day – P.A.K.iS.tan

August 14

We are convinced there can be no peace and progress in India if we, the Muslims are duped into a Hindu dominated federation in which we cannot be the masters of our own destiny and captains of our own souls.

Choudhary Rahmat Ali

Choudhary Rahmat Ali was not the leader of a nation, a war hero, a politician, or a prince’s son. But his contribution to the world over 60 years ago can be seen clearly on any map of the world.

He was born in Punjab in 1897 in what was then British India. He was a graduate student at Cambridge University in England during the 1930s, a turbulent decade in his homeland. Muslims in British India saw the winds of change approaching as Indian leaders of both religions pushed for independence from the British Empire. Muslims were concerned about being a minority in a Hindu nation.

In January 1933, Rahmat Ali wrote a booklet, “Now or Never,” in which he laid out the concerns of 30 million Muslims and non-Hindus in the region. He described India not as a country, but as a continent, too diverse to be simplified and categorized as a Hindu nation.

He proposed that the Muslim territories of Punjab, Afghan (Northwest Frontier Province), Kashmir, Sind and Baluchistan be accorded “national status, as distinct from the other inhabitants of India” and be granted “a separate Federal Constitution on religious, social, and historical grounds.”

His proposal was not a new one. But he did suggest a name for the separate nation. Taking the first initials of four provinces–Punjab, Afghan, Kashmir, and Sind–and the end of Baluchistan, he created the name “PAKiStan.” The name also had another meaning: in Urdu pak means “pure” and stan means land.

Rahmat Ali provided an all-encompassing name for a diverse, amorphous group of 30 million people previously known to the outside world as ‘Indians’; the name Pakistan resonated both with the Muslims of India and the non-Urdu speaking world. The name and the idea of a separate Pakistan stuck.

India-Pakistan partition (red = conflict areas)
India-Pakistan partition (red = conflict areas)

On August 14, 1947 the British Indian Empire was partitioned into two separate nations: the Union of India and the Dominion of Pakistan.

In terms of speed and sheer numbers, the mass migration that followed the partition has no equal in human history.

In a matter of months, over 7 million Muslims living in the newly-independent nation of India moved to the new nation of Pakistan, located in two separate parts, east and west of India. (East Pakistan is now Bangladesh). Meanwhile, another 7 million, Hindus and Sikhs, moved from those areas into the new nation of India. Violence between Muslims and Hindus escalated. There are no precise statistics, but it is believed about half a million people died during the migration, from bloody conflicts and from the dire living conditions that neither nation was prepared to combat.

Today is Independence Day in Pakistan, a time of celebration, but also of remembrance.

Pakistan itself became the subject of partition in 1971. The Bengali-dominated eastern-half of the country, known as East Pakistan, broke away to become what is now Bangladesh.

Even without Bangladesh, by population Pakistan is the 6th largest nation in the world.


April 13 or 14

In the month of Vaisaakh, how can the bride be patient?  — Guru Granth Sahib p133, Sikh holy book

Vaisakhi has long been celebrated as the New Year by the cultures of Punjab in northwest India and eastern Pakistan. But for Sikhs, Vaisakhi is one of the most important holidays of the year.

Celebrated every year on April 13 or 14, for Sikhs Vaisakhi (also Baisakhi) commemorates the founding of the Khalsa Pantha (Order of the Pure) by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699.

Guru Gobind Singh, as you may recall, is the last of the ten mortal gurus. He’s worshiped for, among other things, upon his death handing over the title Guru not to a person, but to the Sikh holy book itself, Guru Granth Sahib, a collection of divinely inspired writings by the first ten Gurus.

But he is also known for transforming Sikhs into a family of holy warriors, or soldier saints, known as the Khalsa Pantha.

On this day in 1699, at the Vaisakhi Festival in Anandpur Sahib, Gobind Singh called together some of his most devoted followers outside his tent. In front of a crowd of thousands, he asked who was willing to give their life to Sikh cause. A man volunteered. Gobind Singh took him into the tent and reappeared moments later alone, blood dripping from his sword.

To the crowd’s astonishment Gobind Singh asked again who was willing to give their life. Another man volunteered. Gobind Singh led the man to his tent and again came out alone with his bloody sword. This happened three more times.

Gobind Singh founds the Khalsa, Vaisakhi 1699
Gobind Singh founds the Khalsa, Vaisakhi 1699

After the fifth time Gobind Singh returned to his tent and brought out the five men unharmed, with turbans around their heads. He baptized them with a sacred nectar of immortality called amrit and declared them the Panh Piara, the Five Beloved Ones. These were the first five of the Khalsa, the elite group of holy warriors who would ensure the survival of the Sikh religion over the next three centuries.

Even today, though Sikhs are a minority in India, they still traditionally hold a disproportional number of military posts as commanders and officers.

Vaisakh is the first month in the Nanakshahi calendar. It coincides with April and May. The Vaisakhi festival is celebrated with processions and parades throughout Punjab as well as in Sikh communities throughout the world. The largest Vaisakhi parade outside India is in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“The month of Vaisaakh is beautiful and pleasant, when the Saint causes me to meet the Lord.” — Guru Granth Sahib p134