Eid-ul-Azha is that time of the year when Muslims all over the world sacrifice animals such as goats, cows, sheep and camels in commemoration of Allah’s command to Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his first-born son, Ishmael to Him. It is also a time when Muslims accumulate in Mecca to perform and fulfill the fifth pillar of Islam – the Hajj. In Sociology, Eid-ul-Azha could be defined from three perspectives, namely: the functionalist, conflict and symbolic interactionist perspectives.
Emile Durkheim’s functionalist perspective views society as a complex system whose parts work together to yield stability and solidarity. The institutions of a society play significant roles in contributing to its continuation. A moral consensus – where people share same values - is important in maintaining stability and order in a society. According to the functionalist perspective, Eid-ul-Azha performs several functions in contributing to order and harmony.
Firstly, it is a time when people tend to spend money extravagantly on new clothes, shoes, accessories and animals. Eid shopping, therefore, contributes significantly to the country’s GDP and that national income could be used to purchase resources for construction of infrastructures, improve standards of living in less developed areas, pay off debts to other countries or invest in other projects that would contribute to progress and development.
Secondly, it is that time of the year when people benevolently share meat with relatives, neighbours and friends. This act of sharing is crucial to bring about love, humanity and peace in a society. It is a festival when people rejoice, celebrate and resort to getting together with other family members for interaction and food. Food, particularly during this time, becomes an important social ritual for jovial interaction and communication purposes. It brings people together in unison and, hence, promotes love and peace. This is an occasion which leads to the betterment of a community.
Thirdly, Eid-ul-Azha accompanies three days’ holiday. It is an opportunity for people to take a break from monotonous, everyday exhaustive work and reduce stress and tension. Aristotle rightly said that Man is a social animal. It is therefore in human nature to socialize with other people. Exchanging happiness during this festival integrates individuals in a community and through reduction of work-related stress, increases productivity which is crucial to the progress of a society. Human beings, at certain durations of their lifetimes, need leisure and entertainment in order to be productive members of the society and Eid-ul-Azha is that festival which prevents people from being overwhelmed with academic, job, family and other pressures.
Lastly, Eid-ul-Azha is an Islamic religious festival that consists of sacrificing animals entirely in devotion to God. It is God’s will that we purchase our intended animal of sacrifice a few days before Eid so that we could look after its needs and love it. It is then we sacrifice what we love and share the meat with the poor, relatives, friends and neighbours. Celebration of Eid-ul-Azha enables Muslims across the globe to preserve the Islamic traditions and customs. It is what God wants us to do above everything else we want. Hence, obedience to God in this regard would earn us rewards, happiness and success in life. Karma’s concept, “As you sow, so shall you reap”, is applicable to sacrifice and sharing because in return of whatever we give, we get greater rewards and this is important in maintaining harmony in every community. We lead a better life by focusing on what really matters in life, not our irrational desires.
Eid-ul-Azha should be celebrated in its full spirit to cherish the abundant gifts of God. History has provided us with numerous examples of people who devoted their lives to the love of humanity. These significant contributors include Mother Teresa, a Catholic devout and firm believer of God who benevolently spread peace, improved living conditions of the abject, neglected poor and offered charity. Leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Quaid-e-Azam and Martin Luther King also played important roles in promoting love and peace and revolutionizing their nations. Religion teaches us to love other people. Coming together on this occasion would establish peace and humanity in a society and contribute to its development and continuity.