eid al-adha (or a tale of two sons) (or two tales of one son) (or why i can’t get anything done today)

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.]



Filed under holidays, living in africa

11 responses to “eid al-adha (or a tale of two sons) (or two tales of one son) (or why i can’t get anything done today)

  1. A good bit of the Bible really isn’t kid friendly. Why was it okay for David to KILL Goliath? If King Neb was really king and liked Daniel, why did he HAVE to throw him in with the lions? What does “went in unto her” or “lay with him” mean? Why was it wrong for David to “have” a baby?

    I think a lot of what Jesus was getting at when he talked about coming as a little child was that we don’t need to know all those details in order to find God.

    • i think it’s odd that we’ve taken so many bible stories which are shocking, violent, or risque — and made them out to be children’s stories. i mean we wouldn’t let our kids watch these things on tv, except that it’s the bible?

  2. And my market wasn’t open today either, thanks to Abraham’s only son, Ismael….

    Thats the thing living in Israel… we have things closed on Muslim holidays and then again on Jewish holidays. You just have to know who owns what and shop accordingly. LOL

    • it’s strange because here the whole country seems to shut down for all the holidays. i just wish i did a better job of knowing ahead of time when these holidays are coming. because i’m in mwanza (2 1/2ish hours from home) to get this government office stuff done. and now we’re having to stay another night…

      but, too, the muslim holidays are a little frustrating because a lot of times they don’t know what day they’re going to fall on until the week of. i know they use a lunar calendar and that’s their reasoning. but still, i don’t get it; i mean we do know when all the stages of the moon are going to be pretty far ahead of time…?

  3. hmm..

    There is an aspect of the Abraham/Isaac ‘story’ that is perfectly applicable to all ages.

    Abraham, in the midst of what many of us would deem a great trial, never deviated from the course that God had set. He never chose to look for ‘a way out’. Because of his faithfulness, he was able to experience God’s provident nature at work in his life.

    How many of us are ready to ‘help’ God ‘help’ us in order to avoid painful or tough situations? Elimilech robbed himself of the ability to see God’s providence when he decided to take his family to the forbidden Moab because they had food and Bethlehem didn’t.

    I wrote about it at: http://30secondrule.wordpress.com/2010/01/19/elimilech-generation/

    Abraham was willing to sacrifice his family for God and was rewarded for his obedience. Elimilech was willing to sacrifice his god for his family and in turn lost it all because he wasn’t willing to wait upon the Lord.

    • abraham didn’t lose it all as a result (like elimilech), but he sure was willing on several occasions to “help” God help him. i agree that most of us have a tendency to want to do God’s job for him — rather than follow in an obedient trust.

  4. This story always bothered me when I was little. I tried to think of some more pleasant way to be sacrificed, but could never come up with anything. Thankfully, neither one of my parents were instructed to do anything of that sort…although I’m sure there was a time or two they may have considered it. 😉

  5. Will you teach your kids about the cross?

  6. Pingback: telling bible stories to children — the violence and sex edition « aliens and strangers

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