Today is Eid-Al-Adha or around here, simply Arafa. It is a Muslim holiday, where they recognize Abraham’s (Ibrahim in Arabic) willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael (basically, the same story we have about Abraham and Isaac, but their version is that it was Ishmael that was taken to be sacrificed). In honor of that, they all get together and slaughter a goat or an ox and then spend the day feasting. I read that they are supposed to give 1/3 of the meat to immediate family and relatives, 1/3 to friends, and 1/3 to the poor…I have no idea if they actually do that here. In the traditional sense, this is a very large religious holiday for Muslims. But, I have found that out here it seems to be mainly a cultural holiday and a good excuse to eat meat. Much like many in America celebrate Easter and Christmas without acknowledging its true meaning, many here do not seem to pay much attention to the religious aspect of the holiday. Last year, when I truly didn’t know what this holiday was about, I had a hard time finding anyone who could tell me the meaning.
[I would really like to accurately explain all about this holiday to you and what it means, but as I studied it a little bit, I quickly realized it means a lot of different things in a lot of different languages in a lot of different places. I can only tell you what I have observed and learned from my time here and realize that this is not an exact replica of all Muslims everywhere.]
In some places, another name for the holiday is Korbani-Eid. Korban in Arabic is a noun for sacrifice, but is also a verb meaning “to draw near.” The Sparrow language that I am learning is a semitic language, just like Arabic and Hebrew are semitic languages. It has been cool to see the similarities between words I have learned in this language and verbs used in the Bible and in the Koran. Many of the verbs used in the Sparrow language, Hebrew, and Arabic have the same root words. This is the case for the word “korban,” which is the same in Arabic as in the Sparrow language and as a verb it means “to be near.”
All of that to say that as I was attempting to memorize a scripture this morning, I was caught a little off guard by what I was unintentionally studying. Ephesians 2:13 – “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” As people all around me are sacrificing goats and oxen in an effort to draw near to God (in some places, they believe that the sacrificing of the goat actually atones for their sins from the past year), I was reminded that it was by the sacrifice of Christ, by his blood, that I have been brought near to God. I don’t have to complete any religious ritual to be made right with God. It has already been done, by grace and through faith, not by anything that I have done. Christ is my Korbani. Christ is my sacrifice. Christ’s death allows me to draw near to God.