Today is Eid al-Adha. I assume this Muslim holiday goes largely unnoticed in the United States — just as it did for all of my life there. But one can’t help but learn a little about the holiday while living in Tanzania. All government offices (and most businesses) are closed today, so I’ve found myself unable to accomplish much of anything on my “to do” list. Why not learn about an important holiday in Islam? And why not share it with you guys on my blog? So here is your primer on Eid — complete with one pretty controversial retelling of scripture (this time not written by me):
Eid is the Muslim celebration of Abraham’s willingness to obey God by sacrificing his only son. Yes, I said only son. Were you guys hoping I’d count that conceived-through-a-lack-of-faith-and-trust young boy named Ishmael?
I did count him. I counted only him.
Because, in the Muslim story, Isaac was not yet born when Abraham started having prophetic dreams — dreams he interpreted as commands to sacrifice his only son, Ishmael. So, a bit confused, “Father Abraham” (who at this point did not yet have many sons) presented this dilemma to his only boy. And, being the good youngster he was, Hagar’s son was anxious to share in his father’s obedience to Allah; Ishmael was completely game for being slaughtered. Of course (just as in the Genesis version) God did not allow the culmination of this death and sacrifice, instead requesting that a ram be offered. Isaac was born a short time later as a reward for old Abe’s obedience. So, with only a few minor tweaks, Muslims have the same children’s Bible story* we Jews and Christians have come to know and love. Three religious groups, two stories. Hey, if we put it to a vote we’d win. If only our Muslim neighbors were pro-democracy….
It has often been attributed to Winston Churchill as having said, “History is written by the victors.”
And Kwame Nkrumah, the first president (and prime minister) of Ghana, once said, “The history of a nation is, unfortunately, too easily written as the history of its dominant class.”
And I say, “I have no knowledge of who writes history. I can only be certain they’re not writing it in a Tanzanian government office on Eid al-Adha.”
*While I do support teaching children the whole of the Bible (over time), I don’t think of this tale –either version — as an especially good “children’s story.” I’d rather not get into this with Baylor’s until she’s old enough to not worry if her God-fearing father is making plans to walk her up Geita hill for anything other than a nature hike. [For more on this, see post: telling bible stories to children — the violence and sex edition.]