Muslims Celebrate how God Ransomed Abraham’s Son with a Sacrifice
Many Christians are unaware that Muslims have an annual celebration that commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son and God’s merciful provision of a substitute ram in his place. The celebration is called Eid-al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice). The celebration takes place at the end of the Hajj or pilgrimage. Everyone who is financially able purchases an animal to sacrifice. The animal must be killed in accordance with Islamic law in order to be considered Halal or permissible. This entails a short prayer of blessing while slitting the animal’s throat, giving careful attention to drain all the blood. The meat is then shared with family, friends and the poor. The celebration happens all over the Muslim world but it is certainly not limited to Muslim countries. Here in the United States I have seen goats and even a cow sacrificed to celebrate Eid. It is always a treat to see the interaction of my Muslim friends with rural South Carolina farmers negotiating the purchase price of an animal.
Several years ago, I memorized the story of Abraham and Isaac so that I could go to the Mosque and share it with my Muslim friends during this celebration. As I entered the mosque my friends greeted me with excitement, “Eid Mubarik” or “happy Eid!” The atmosphere reminded me of Christmas celebrations. The food was abundant. Everyone had on new clothes. The mood was genuinely joyous. I sat down with a small group of guys I knew fairly well from previous mosque visits. I told them how I had memorized the story concerning Abraham and his son and asked if they would like to hear the story. Everyone wholeheartedly agreed and so I began: “God told Abraham to go to a mountain and sacrifice his son…” but before I could continue, a young man interrupted, saying, “I have heard this story, it’s about Abraham and his son Ishmael.” Someone else in the group replied, “no, the story is not about Ishmael, it’s about Isaac.” Within seconds people began taking sides. My friends looked to me and said, “Well, which is it?”
Miracles and the supernatural are part of the cosmologies of both Christianity and Islam. The greatest miracle in Islam is the Qur’an. In Christianity the greatest miracle is the resurrection of the incarnate, living word, the Lord Jesus Christ. At some points the religions which claim to be revealed degenerate into folk religion. The serpent of brass, made by Moses at God’s command in the wilderness (Numbers 21:4-9), later became an object of worship which had to be destroyed during King Hezekiah’s reformation (2 Kings 18:4). Jeremiah was ordered to condemn the mechanical reliance of the people on the presence of the Temple of God in Jerusalem. They regarded the Temple as a kind of automatic insurance policy guaranteeing their protection and that of the city (Jeremiah 7:4). In Judaism, Christianity and Islam practices sometimes show deviations from the ideal as set out in their respective scriptures. There are magical uses of the names of God. Bibliolatry or the worship of the book and bibliomancy or the magical use of the book replaces the proper reading of the inspired books. Charms and excessive veneration of saints replace reliance on God.
Perhaps my loneliness was intensified that first year because I felt as though I was being treated like a trophy. I was a token Muslim who’d become Christian and all that went along with an externally imposed status. There were labels, such as MBB (Muslim background believer), as if my identity was still wrapped up in Islam, and felt like there was no exit–not from Muslims–but by Christians. I didn’t want to be…
The Qur’an presents itself as the Bible’s sequel and always refers to the biblical Torah (al-tawrat), Psalms (al-zabur) and New Testament (al-injil) with honor and respect. It says it confirms, clarifies and guards them from misinterpretation. The Qur’an asserts that it was revealed by the God of the Bible, which it claims predicted Muhammad’s coming. The Qur’an also suggests that the Bible was revealed in the same manner and form as it was. All these things imply a trustworthy Bible.