Each time a festival comes around, be it Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Chinese New Year, Diwali, Christmas or Kaamatan, Malaysians are reminded of the need to forge unity among the multi-racial and multi-religious of this country.
However, the message seems silent when it comes to Aidiladha. If unity is mentioned in the sermons or wishes, it is only emphasised among Muslims.
Aidiladha, like any other occasion, should be celebrated with much gratitude and be fully utilised to strengthen the bonds of friendship and unity among Malaysians. It should be an inclusive celebration integrating various shared values.
Aidiladha is a festivity that marks the fulfilment of the fifth and final pillar of Islam, the Haj (or ‘Haji’ as Malaysians normally say).
Apart from those who embark on the pilgrimage, it is encouraged for other Muslims as well to perform the Qurban, a religious rite that originates from the command of Allah for Prophet Ibrahim to slaughter his son Prophet Ismail (peace be upon them both), symbolising the need to be prepared to sacrifice whatever is dear to oneself for the sake of Allah. Eventually, by His Mercy, Allah asked for an animal to be slaughtered instead.
Based on the Department of Veterinary Services this year, Muslims in Malaysia were estimated to have sacrificed 38,265 cows and water buffaloes, almost 1,000 of which had to be imported to meet the demand. Apart from cows and buffaloes, there were those who chose camels and goats.
The sacrificed animal then has to be distributed, with a third going to the one who makes the sacrifice, a third to his family and friends and the last third to the needy.
Inclusive Islamic Views
Today, when many of us – especially in more urban areas – live together in multi-religious and multi-racial communities, the act of Qurban must be encouraged to involve all of society, both in execution and distribution.
There are many views by shariah (Islamic jurisprudence) scholars that can be followed as regards the minutiae of the ritual, but views that encourage inclusiveness and are relevant to a multi-racial and multi-religious society should be referred to.
JAKIM, in its guidelines for Qurban, inserted a provision for non-Muslims to participate in giving out the meat of sacrificial animals during Aidiladha. The guidelines, however, did not mention the permissibility of giving the meat to non-Muslims.
But Datuk Dr. Zulkifli bin Mohamad Al-Bakri, the former Minister of Religious Affairs, previously issued a statement that allowed this practise. This is an important ruling that should be highlighted and observed if we want to make Aidiladha a festival for all Malaysians.
Shared Value of Social Impact
Furthermore, the social impact element of Qurban should not be overlooked. Social impact is a universal concept and valued by all races and religions.
If we look at the abovementioned statistic from the Department of Veterinary Services and correlate this with the usual practise of distributing a third of sacrificial animals to the needy, we can estimate that 892,850 kilograms of meat were given to this segment.
Imagine the annual impact of Qurban on the less fortunate, especially during these hard times with myriad crises.
Some innovative distribution methods that can be explored include meat banks, where the portion of meat to be provided to the needy is packed, preserved and stored for a year’s consumption.
There are countries such as Saudi Arabia and also private companies who offer Qurban services on digital platforms, with hygiene assurance and tracking processes leveraging blockchain technology. All this can be explored to ensure efficient and transparent distribution, which will maximise social impact.
Besides that, the third of the meat which is to be given to friends and families may be done so by cooking the meat and inviting them for open houses.
If not, simply giving rare meat to neighbors, colleagues and extended families can become an act that forges relationships and further strengthens bonds.
Tolerance and Accommodation
Lastly, Aidiladha is an opportunity to observe the values of tolerance and understanding. Let us refer to the history of the Wali Songo in the 16th century, a group of nine ustaz or preachers of Islam in Java Island, Indonesia.
One of the Wali Songo named Sunan Kudus ordered his followers to not sacrifice cows, as cows are a sacred symbol of life for the Hindus who made up the majority in Java Island at the time.
They opted for water buffaloes during Aidiladha instead and until today, the people of Kudus can be seen to preferentially sacrifice this livestock.
This story is an interesting testament to the fact that Islam is a religion of tolerance and accommodation.
In today’s landscape where even those who merely question some Islamic practices may be deemed as enemies of the religion, stories like that of Sunan Kudus should be re-told.
The hope now is that Malaysians can appreciate Aidiladha along with other festivals as an inclusive occasion that serves to bind together and integrate the various races and religions in this country while ensuring no one loses hold of the individual faiths or beliefs that they profess.
Festivals being celebrated collectively by all Malaysians is the reason why the nation stands as a shining example of bringing various races and religions together to embrace shared values and beliefs that reflect the maturity of our people.
Malaysians should redirect its focus on creating more moments of unity and less moments of disunity so that we can prosper together as one family.
Head of IKRAM Muda Selangor
IKRAM Muda Selangor advocates the understanding of Islam among Muslim youth as a religion of ‘rahmah’: inclusive, tolerant and accommodative.