It’s not always easy fulfilling religious rites. Slaughtering animals may be an inescapable obligation but it is never pleasant. The uneasiness begins from that first day a child forces his or her parents to let them take a peek at the bloody ritual and continues into adulthood. Often, people placate themselves by saying it is a holy sacrifice that will bring plentiful rewards in the future.
Islam is not the only religion that views sacrifice through a lens of reverence. Hindus routinely offer gifts of fruit and water to their gods, and make verbal supplications. People also make offerings to the Buddha, in the form of burnt incense, candles, and flowers. In ancient Greece and Japan, human sacrifices were common; however, these were substituted in modern times for sacrificial rites involving food and household items.
In less developed regions of the world, brutal sacrificial rituals continue. This year in January, a so-called religious cult in a small Panama village ‘sacrificed’ six children and a pregnant woman. In Uganda, human rights activists claim children are routinely killed in the name of religion and spirituality.
Essentially a religion of peace, Islam does not condone such brutal and senseless killing of human beings. But it does require some form of sacrifice and bloodletting, and that is what Eid al-Adha embodies. The sanctity of the ritual, however, does not discount the fact that it can be painful for many. Given the choice, adults who as children insisted on watching their animals being slaughtered out of morbid curiosity would now forgo it.
The concept itself is easy to digest, and easier still to justify. But being there when it happens can be emotionally scarring. It is one of many things about faith that have to be swallowed quickly like a bitter pill. The sacrificing of animals in Islam has been a contested topic for ages. As the world fast tracks itself towards all things modern, scientific, and rational, the concept of ancient religious rituals begins to seem murky and archaic – even outright objectionable for some.