The Things We Sacrifice

October 26, 2015

Minkailu Jalloh, US Progam Specialist, Islamic Relief USA

Courtesy: Islamic Relief USA

Courtesy: Islamic Relief USA

After watching the seventh or eighth cow get slaughtered that day, I made what would ultimately be a short lived resolution that I was going to eat less meat from then on. The slaughterhouse didn’t really bother me at first. I had been in these places before. The human being has a complex relationship with death, and what was initially a somewhat morbid curiosity morphed into a thorough sense of revulsion. But not for the reasons one would assume. Watching the sacrifice of those animals, I thought back on all the cheeseburgers I had eaten, all the steaks I salivated over after catching just a hint of that warm, smoky aroma of the grill. Our society has become so far removed from the means of production of our food that we often forget that something must give in order for us to take. We forget that we are blessed to be able to buy that meat, and even feel entitled to it. We forget that the package contains something that was alive. We don’t think about the impact it has had, or the true cost. Life, I realized, is full of sacrifices.

It was a fitting reminder, and perhaps subconsciously a result of the significance of the day. It was Eid Al-Adha, the yearly celebration that commemorates the sacrifice of the Prophet Abraham, who was asked by God to take the life of his beloved son. As is well known, ultimately that did not happen, and God replaced Abraham’s son with an animal for him to sacrifice instead. Every year, to honor and remember this act of devotion, Muslims sacrifice animals all over the world, and give a portion of the meat to those in need. This is known as Qurbani, or Udhiya in another language. Every year, Islamic Relief USA arranges animal sacrifices all over the globe on behalf of it’s donors, and then distributes that meat to those in need. In the US, we would be giving out over 70,000 pounds of meat this year in over 25 cities across the country. I attended many of these events, and felt genuine shame for certain aspects of my lifestyle. There are many people, even in this country, for whom meat is a rare luxury, for whom mere subsistence is the daily reality. Meanwhile, so many of us demand the availability of meat at a level that ruins the environment, an unfortunate downside of our appetites. Those who cannot access the benefit of massive meat production will still share in the detriment it causes to our planet.

Courtesy: Islamic Relief USA

Courtesy: Islamic Relief USA

Sacrifice. Something has to give, something has to take. Is this the reality of our lives, or just the version of reality we have chosen? Abraham loved his son, yet he was still prepared to give him over to God without hesitation. And what was the result of this? He is the man we now know as the Father of the three religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. He was the friend of God. Perhaps more sacrifice is necessary on all of our parts. What are the benefits of a life focused on the giving, instead of the taking? What if we sacrificed overconsumption and the temporary satisfactions it brings, what if we sacrificed our wealth, and our food for the benefit of others, what if we sacrificed our need to exploit all the resources of this planet for our benefit? I believe life would look very different. Because now, if we are being honest with ourselves, we must realize that the health of our planet, the well-being of our fellow human beings, and the basic connection and balance between all the things living on this Earth, these are the things we have sacrificed.