We often forget the purpose of things -- simple and basic things. And yet, we carry out certain actions anyway because we are supposed to.
By “we” I mean our parents’ generation and ours, which have, in fact, blindly submitted to the “norms” and practices of society. We fail to see the broader picture, and more depressingly, we fail to understand the purpose of our actions.
Take, for instance, education. Since the emergence of coaching centres some 15 years ago in Dhaka, school-children and their parents have long forgotten the purpose of going to schools. Is it the place only to collect assignments to get done in the coaching centres, I wonder?
Or weddings. The practice of “going all-out” has even made middle-class families submit to excess. Now every wedding affair seems too extravagant and too staged with too many dress codes and too many events. But what about family traditions, the actual warmth and joy of two families coming together and celebrating life in unison?
Or Ramadan. Since every restaurant, cafe, and eatery sells “iftar” gluttony at irresistible prices, we no longer like to break fast at home. Moreover, the basic purpose of fasting (one of the basics being to instill discipline in self) has been crumbled, greased, and forgotten with every bite of that extra bucket of chicken that we order during iftar.
Stuck between utter disgust and blind submission to ‘how it gets done’ every Eid, there is a desperate need for change
Point is, we seem to be doing things in a loop. We sometimes nag about the shortcomings of unreasonable demands that society makes of us, but, in the end, we still do them. Mostly because we feel like we are bound to do things to feel accepted and be part of the collective Bengalis/Bangladeshis, whichever or both.
When it is this time of the year, when we sacrifice cattle in the name of Allah and celebrate Eid-ul-Azha, I wonder, do we know the purpose of the sacrifice?
Undoubtedly, there are far better-informed individuals than me out there, sophisticated experts who can cite the Holy Qur’an and/or the Hadith to explain the purpose of the sacrifice on this auspicious religious occasion -- but my question is a layman’s question.
It is for the general people who have limited knowledge about this annual religious practice.
It may be easy and convenient to not know why we do what we do and still do it anyway, but when the sight of slaughter disgusts you, when you’re choking on empathy, holding back tears, and especially when not knowing angers you, you must ask. If answers from your family or friends do not help much, you can always look it up.
When in doubt, ask your parents or elders about the purpose of qurbani. I have had questions about qurbani a long time ago. My parents, who have always been liberal and firm believers, never did doubt their faith despite the questions I asked them. They thought about the question, sometimes longer than usual, and patiently answered.
So I would leave it you to ask and explore, regardless of your age. If you still feel repulsed and angry because of the practices, kindly do take into account few things.
How it happens vs how it should
One of the basic principles of qurbani is that the meat is to be distributed into three parts. And one household/family is obligated to allocate one of the three parts to the poor. This is simple charity.
Imagine, if every household religiously followed the basic principle of qurbani and more importantly, if the poor did not sell the meat to hotels in the city and instead sought ways to preserve the meat for themselves, it would in effect mean that the poor would have a few months’ meat supply.
One of the other evolved things about qurbani is to what extent the sacrificial animal is manhandled. Much has been said and discussed about how qurbani has become merely a display of wealth and bragging rights, but not enough can be said about the treatment of the animal before qurbani and the way the animals are slaughtered.
Aside from animal rights activists and groups who stand entirely against the practice, not much has been said about the cruelty of assigning “koshai
” jobs to untrained individuals on Eid by the Muslim community.
Stuck between utter disgust and blind submission to “how it gets done” every Eid, there is a desperate need for change. Change in how we perceive qurbani, what we understand about qurbani, and most importantly, how we treat the animals and how we let others treat the animals.
The current practice of performing qurbani is a far cry from the true purpose of sacrificing an animal. And it is high time that we asked ourselves and others about this purpose.
So, tomorrow, when you stand witness to (or take part in the qurbani) how the slaughterer sharpens the knives and prepares to perform qurbani, pay heed to the sacrificial animal and try to ensure minimal pain -- that could be the start of the change we should aspire to make and see.
Nusmila Lohani is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune.