Celebrating piety with Bakrid
Legend has it that Ibrahim, revered in Islam, Christianity and Judaism (as Abraham) unhesitatingly agreed to sacrifice the most precious thing of his life-his son Ismail at the behest of Allah in his dream. He took his son to Mina near Mecca and blindfolded himself to carry out His instructions. Pleased with his devotion and obedience, God replaced his son with a lamb, hence the tradition of sacrificing goats during the festival.
A great amount of time has elapsed after this incident but tradition remains to this day even in modern nuclear Muslim families. What has been inculcated is the practice of distributing the offerings to the poor. In Bangalore, Muslims follow every single custom without fail. Syeda Faria Ghouse’s family still brings the animal days before the festival and takes care of it as their own till Bakrid. On the day of the festival, the morning prayers are offered (namaz) and the animal is sacrificed to Allah. The meat is divided into three portions and distributed to the poor, neighbours and for themselves.
“It is painful to see the animal go but small sacrifices lead to bigger gains,” says Faria. “What needs to be remembered is that it is not the flesh or blood or skin but the piety that reaches God.” She also goes on to explain why only cattle, goat or sheep are sacrificed. “It has been proven scientifically that these animals replicate very fast and there is no chance of them becoming extinct. That is why they are chosen. All the rituals in Islam have some rationale behind them,” she adds.
It is also interesting that ‘halal’ meat is preferred during the occasion. The reason behind this is that the process of draining out all blood leaves no scope of diseases transmitted mostly through the blood.
Bakrid is observed on the tenth day of the month Dhu'l Hijja according to the Islamic calendar. According to the Quranic text, the sacrifice of Abraham marked the end of the human sacrifices for the Semitic race and that surrendering one's will and purpose completely and unconditionally is the only sacrifice that Allah requires.
Faria says she is happy that the tradition has remained despite modernisation of Muslims. The only regret she has is that people do not know the rationale behind the festival. “They need to learn it and clear the misconceptions the non-Muslims have about Islam,” she adds.
Not too far away from this house lives the Khatri family. While Faria’s family is ruled by traditions, Zainab Khatri’s family chooses to follow the customs in their own different way. “Ideally we are supposed to slaughter the animal here. But we have not done that in generations. Instead, we distribute money to the poor and bring meat from outside and distribute the preparations,” says Zainab.
While there are many such contrasting Muslims in the city, it would not be wrong to conclude that Bakrid still continues to be celebrated for its positive aspects.