Islamic feasts reflect Old Testament events and practices. Pray that the Holy Spirit will help Muslim people to connect the dots and see Christ in their ritual.
I write from the Pakistani city of Lahore on the eve of a major Muslim feast – “Eid ul-Adha”. I travelled the city at sunset as livestock of all breeds, shapes and sizes were being sold by the roadside; festive garlands round their necks.
Tomorrow they will be slaughtered hallal fashion by slitting their throat as the name of God and Islamic prayer is said over them while the life drains away with the blood. Although gruesome to the 20th century westerner, the practice is identical to the ancient kosher practice at the Jewish Temple. Lahore, like Jerusalem, will run with blood and entrails; the heat makes the smell pungent.
After death the meat is divided – a third is eaten by the household (a lamb for a house principle); a third is sent as a present to the Muslim community and a third is given away to the poor (a good practice it is not wrong to recognise).
I am in Pakistan to support and encourage Pakistani “followers of Jesus”; mostly from culturally Christian backgrounds – though not all. I was asked to bring insights about how to share the good news about Jesus with majority community.
This task is made easier due to the fact that – in several respects – the Islamic tradition can best be described as an Arabised reflection of Old Testament Judaism. Eid ul-Adha is fairly typical of this as it commemorates Genesis chapter 22 where Abraham takes his son up Mount Moriah, supposedly to help with a sacrifice.
Abraham carries fire in a lamp while his son carries the wood for the burnt offering of a lamb. When nearing the place of sacrifice (traditionally the site of the Dome of the Rock in modern day Jerusalem), the son asks Abraham: “Where is the lamb?” Abraham replies: “God himself will provide the lamb”.
When they reach the right spot Abraham makes the pire then ties up his son, places him on the wood and
raises the ceremonial knife to kill him; an angel calls out to stop Abraham and shows him a ram caught in a thicket, which he sacrifices instead.
The Genesis account clearly says the son is Isaac (an ancestor of the Jews); the Qur’an doesn’t give a name but, in its insecurity, Islamic tradition steps in and insists it was Ishmael (an ancestor of the Arabs).
Here’s the gospel opening: The point is not the son but the ram which gave its life to save the son. Years later and on the same mountain, Jesus Christ also carried wood (a cross) to Calvary. He became ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (Jn.1:29). The message ofEid ul-Adha is that no more animals need die because someone supremely worthy has died for us all.