Sacrifice, the dictionary would tell you, is the act of slaughtering an animal as an offering to the Gods. The dictionary would also tell you that sacrifice means to give up something valuable for the sake of others.
Eid-ul-Adha, the festival of sacrifice, celebrated by Muslims, by slaughtering an animal, is thus much more than this act. It commemorates the willingness of a father, Prophet Abraham to obey the dictat of God; the willingness of a son, Ismail, to offer himself willingly in deference to his father’s wish and God’s command. And celebrates a kind and merciful God who acknowledges Man’s devotion and obedience by ensuring nothing happens to the son. The festival is a celebration of the test of faith. The animal ritual is not a propitiatory ritual; it is symbolic of a much larger message of willingness to give up something most valuable to you.
We would need to keep reminding ourselves of the wonderful message behind this act. Real sacrifice today would mean to contribute to society; to give your time and money over and above what is dictated by the faith.
This Eid marks the culmination of the rites of Hajj, one of the pillars of Islam, which involves a visit to Mecca and reenacting the events carried out by Prophet Abraham. It marks the end of the Islamic calendar.