Once again it is the time of Eidul Adha or Hari Raya Haji as many in Malaysia would call it. For Muslims the world over, this celebration revolves around two things of major significance in the Islamic faith. The first is the performance of the fifth pillar of Islam which is the pilgrimage to Makkah. The second is the ritual sacrifice or Qurban, which is symbolic of the Quranic story of the prophet Ibrahim who sacrificed his son Ismail on the command of the Almighty.
Both elements of the Eidul Adha hold particular significance for Muslims in Malaysia. For those on their pilgrimage, or having relatives who are performing the Hajj, the Eid will be full of prayers and hopefulness that their supplications and all their ‘ibadah’ will be accepted by Allah. For those performing the Qurban, the sacrifice is hoped to aid towards their spiritual cleansing, especially by giving meat from the sacrifice to the poor and needy.
Eidul Adha is therefore all about sacrifice and giving. The Hajj is about sacrificing all manner of worldly comfort and luxury in the name of Allah, being one with other Muslims from all over the world, surrendering only to the one God whereas the Qurban is a material sacrifice and an act of giving to the less fortunate. And so this festive season should be a time not only of celebration but also of giving.
This suddenly took on a stark and urgent significance on Saturday, when we awoke to the tragedy that unfolded in Bukit Antarabangsa in the early hours of December 6th. It is heartbreaking to note that just as we are about to celebrate Eidul Adha, our fellow Malaysians experienced an incomprehensible calamity. It is at such times that we need to emphasize sacrifice and giving. It is during such difficulties that we need to put our personal comforts aside and think about helping others in whatever way we can.
My wife and I arrived at the scene some time at mid morning and we were deeply saddened by the devastation that we saw. I would like to take this opportunity to express our condolences to all the victims of this terrible tragedy. As I looked around the devastation in Bukit Antarabangsa that morning, the only thing that lifted the spirit amidst such scenes of chaos and confusion, was the sight of our rescue personnel as well as ordinary Malaysians working in unison to assist the victims of the tragedy. It was moving to learn that many Malaysians of all races came together to offer assistance. Immediately in the wake of the landslide, there were already members of the public organizing fresh water supplies, arranging for adequate food and other necessities not just for those displaced by the disaster, but also for the rescue workers working tirelessly under harrowing circumstances.
To my mind this is the true spirit of Malaysia. And indeed as a Muslim I see it as the true spirit of Eidul Adha. How remarkable it was that so many Malaysians forsook their holidays and sacrificed their long weekend to spend their time helping those affected by the tragedy. How wonderful it is to know that the spirit of brotherhood and camaraderie amongst us remain strong and steadfast. How comforting it is to know that we can all come together, putting aside our differences, when the moment comes when we need to help our fellow countrymen. May God bless us all, and may He keep our country under His divine protection.
To all Malaysians of the Muslim faith, I wish you Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Adha. To all Muslims performing the Hajj, I pray that they will be granted “Hajj Mabrur” and that they will return safely to their family and loved ones.