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The Absurdity of Abraham: The troubling morals of Eid al Adha

On a late October morning in 1994, the nation woke to the stirring pleas of a young woman who had just experienced every mother’s worst nightmare. Through her emotional and all too convincing sobs and sniffles, Susan Smith riveted the world with her heartbreaking story of the burly black man who had hijacked her car with her two young sons still inside. Motivated by a shared sense of humanity, volunteers from across the region joined the nationwide manhunt to find the abductor and bring the boys back home to safety.

The public was soon disgusted, outraged, and bewildered, however, when it emerged that the entire story had been a lie. Mrs. Smith had actually drowned her two young boys herself in a nearby lake. Infatuated by her love for a wealthy local man with whom she had been having an affair, Smith murdered her own children when her lover objected to being a part of a “ready made family.”

The depravity of her act was beyond comprehension and Susan Smith is now rightfully serving a life sentence in a South Carolina prison.

There tends to be a general consensus amongst the reasonable these days that anyone who would kill children to demonstrate love must be either evil or mad. Anyone who would actively demand such a demonstration from a parent would be deemed equally as vile and deranged, if not more so. That this reprehensible crime could somehow be construed as a praiseworthy and sensible sacrifice to love would be deemed a ridiculous assertion by all accounts.

It seems this sensibility is completely thrown out, however, when the demanding party is God. This October, billions of Muslims around the world are gathering to celebrate Eid al Adha, the festival that commemorates Abraham’s alleged willingness to sacrifice his own son in order to prove his love and devotion to Allah.

Disregarding for a moment the fact that the story itself is riddled with plenty of historical problems, curious contradictions with earlier tales, and a whole host of ethical issues the least of which not being the trauma our poor young Ishmael (or was it Isaac?) must have endured during the ordeal, I want to focus on the lesson that Muslims are meant to learn from this tale of attempted filicide. For as lambs are sent to the slaughter and the Muslim father leans over today to explain to his son the rationale behind Abraham turning over his own son for sacrifice, the message is clear: Your life is worthless when compared to the will of Allah.

It is a message that often gets absorbed into the very core of a Muslim’s existence. It reverberates itself through every aspect of Islamic life: Your opinions, your hopes, your dreams, and your desires really do not matter. All that matters is the will of Allah.

“It is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter, that they should [thereafter] have any choice about their affair. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has certainly strayed into clear error.” Surah 33:36

Further, your friends, your family, your offspring, and your loved ones are worthless if they oppose the will of Allah.

“You will not find a people who believe in Allah and the Last Day loving those who oppose Allah and His Messenger, even if they were their fathers or their sons or their brothers or their close kindred.” Surah 58:22

Through these constant reminders, Islam creates a frightening and mind-monopolizing environment in which believers are encouraged to be willing to sacrifice not only their own lives, but also the lives of others should the will of Allah demand.

As ex-Muslims, we often are forced to face the brunt of this reality. At its most extreme, this manifests itself in the real and present threat of physical harm that traditional Islamic sources prescribe upon those of us who have left the faith.

More often, however, there is the less-discussed but nonetheless troubling mental and emotional threat that many of us know all too well. And while I love a good holiday bash as much as the next heathen, lurking just under the surface of the trays of roasted lamb and sweet desserts are implications of this Eid that trouble me.

When parents disown children and friends abandon friends, I am reminded of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his own son for the will of Allah.

When that Muslim mother feels conflicted between expressing her natural love for her apostate daughter and staying true to her Islamic faith, I am reminded of those stones that Ishmael’s mother allegedly threw at the devil when he suggested that perhaps her son did not deserve to die.

And as I think back to those days when I used to sit among friends and loved ones—relationships which have since gone sour—I can’t help but wish the story would have gone differently. I can’t help but wish that Abraham would have stood up for his own son and told Allah no.

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  • The Abraham and son story is one of the few that the Christian bible shares with the Koran (I know that there are many that are partly shared but often the versions are so different that there is no easy reconciliation). As an ex-Catholic who left at age 17, what I mostly remember is the child’s version of the story. The message was the God was never going to allow the child to be sacrificed. I assume the version I learned was sugar-coated for children.

    • asbie

      Last sentence really hits home.

      There really is a strong antisocial element that is encouraged in Islam, probably due to Mohammad’s early troubles in gaining followers. I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s picked up on this.

  • PhilLC

    the Biblical and Koranic versions are different; here is a Biblical perspective which I agree with: http://christianity.about.com/od/Old-Testament/a/JZ-Sacrifice-Of-Isaac.htm

    Overall much more meaningful as it also points at Jesus and teaches about faith and trust in the God of the Bible.

    • Guest

      I’d heard of Isaac, but not of Jephthah’s daughter until later. Were you taught that one?

  • Abdurrahman

    “I am reminded of those stones that Ishmael’s mother allegedly threw at the devil when he suggested that perhaps her son did not deserve to die.”

    It was Ishmael’s father (Abraham), not the mother (Hajir).

    • Yes, there are several variant narrations about who did the throwing on the three occasions. Several state that it was Ibrahim all three times, others say that it was Ibrahim once, Hajar once, and Ishmael once. I can’t recall which one is considered “stronger” by Muslims, but as neither are likely to have happened, and as both stories are in circulation, I used the version with Ishmael’s mother for impact.

  • Syed Iftekharuddin

    E-vil West gave birth to ISIS……………..

    E-vil white race is responsible for Orlando. Nice and Iraq …………….

    E-vil Christians and e-vil Jews LIED about Saddam Hussain’s WMD and invaded Iraq to slaughter Iraqis ………….

    (sectarian killing and the BIRTH of ISIS) Iraqi Shia Muslims and Sunni Muslims were living peacefully for 1400 years until NOW……….

    So why are they killing each other NOW like they NEVER live in peace before?……..

    American and European E-vil Christians and E-vil Jews divided Shia
    Muslims and Sunni Muslims for their OWN advantage in war with Saddam
    Hussian……….

    (American and European Christians and Jews) UNITED with Iraqi’s Shia
    Muslims AND Iraqi’s Christians AND Iraqi’s Yezidis AND Iraqi Kurds and
    THEY ALL started KILLING and RAPING Iraqi’s Sunni Muslims and ALL ARABS
    dictators watched SILENTLY….. the SILENCE of Arab’s dictators gave
    BIRTH to ISIS

    • Abdullah Abbas

      Salam Alaikum my fellow brother.

      many atheist and
      murtad do this, and people who hate islam. you will see them on many
      websites, telling lie about islam and cursing muhammad and allah. this
      is THE TRUTH ABOUT THEM.

      fellow brothers and sisters, this is
      THE TRUTH ABOUT MURTAD AND LIAR OR SPREADER OF BAD THINGS ABOUT ISLAM.
      SPREAD THE WORD AND SHARE. an investigative Muslim brother decided
      to find out why so many people were claiming to leave Islam. he started
      by denouncing Islam on the Internet and eventually gained the trust of
      other so-called “ex-muslims” which means people who were muslim before
      but they are not muslim anymore (murtad). he kept in contact with them
      for 2 years, and one day received an offer from one from the group of
      these “exmuslims” to earn “easy money”. our brother was asked to provide
      his address, but he was wary. he however managed to provide an address
      where he rented the mailbox for that year. the “exmuslim” who told him
      about this offer told him nothing more but to wait. after four months of
      receiving nothing he was surprised to see that some mail had come
      addressed to our brother. he took it back home and was shocked at what
      he stumbled upon. there is a DANGEROUS GROUP out there focused on
      DISTURBING OUR UMMAH and ALL MUSLIMS. be careful, spread the word and do
      not associate with anyone who calls themselves an exmuslim or “former
      muslim” or muslim who is “atheist” (does not believe in Allah).

      may Allah guide us, strengthen our iman and protect the ummah. AMEEN.

      SHARE AND LET MUSLIM BROTHERS AND SISTERS KNOW ABOUT THIS, BE CAREFUL

      THIS IS THE LETTER HE RECEIVED FROM THEM:

      http://i.imgur.com/XuQD8G8.jpg

    • Arturis Dentalis

      Where did ISIS get the idea to murder apostates, take sex slaves (ie. rape them), chop the hands off of thieves, charge the jizya tax etc?
      Did they get these ideas from ‘the West’?

      No.

      They got these ideas from the Qur’an and hadiths.
      Muhammad and his sock-puppet Allah would be proud of ISIS.

      ‘Allah’s Messenger said, “The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims.”‘

      https://sunnah.com/bukhari/87/17

      ‘And [also prohibited to you are all] married women except those your right hands possess. [This is] the decree of Allah upon you. And lawful to you are [all others] beyond these, [provided] that you seek them [in marriage] with [gifts from] your property, desiring chastity, not unlawful sexual intercourse. So for whatever you enjoy [of marriage] from them, give them their due compensation as an obligation. And there is no blame upon you for what you mutually agree to beyond the obligation. Indeed, Allah is ever Knowing and Wise.’

      https://quran.com/4/24

      • Syed Iftekharuddin

        America and Israel did 911 to destroy Saddam Hussein’s Iraq FOR Israel BUT Muslims and Islam benefited GREATLY from the 911…. * The losers of 911 are America and Christianity…….. * Since 911 Islam is growing in the west and Christianity is DYING……….* Without 911 America = Israel could NOT had bombed Iraq to STONE-AGE ………* 911 wake-up Muslims from dark dark dark-deep sleep……. * NOW Muslims wake-up and will PROSPER ……… * Muslim’s future looks very very goods……. * Without 911 Muslims still be sleeping in darkness and without realizing become self destructive …… * 911 suppose to destroy Islam but Islam become the MOST discuss religion on the EARTH …….. * Even anti Muslims and anti Islam propaganda is GOOD for the Muslims and Islam……* 911 brought lots of POSITIVE changed among the Muslims……* I THANKS Zionists for waking-up the Muslim

        • Arturis Dentalis

          Nothing you said negates my point.
          ISIS got their ideas from the Qur’an and hadiths.
          Muhammad and his sock-puppet Allah would be proud of ISIS.

          • Syed Iftekharuddin

            Will terrorism stop?

            As long evil white race ( evil Christians / evil Jews ) does not accept their evil deeds in the middle east causing terrorism, terrorism WILL NOT STOP

            Evil West gave birth to ISIS……………..

            Evil white race is responsible for Orlando. Nice and Iraq…………….

            Evil Christians and evil Jews LIED about Saddam Hussain’s WMD and invaded iraq to slaughter Iraqis………….

            (sectarian killing and the BIRTH of ISIS) Iraqi’s Shia Muslims and Sunni Muslims were living peacefully for 1400 years until NOW……….

            So why are they killing each other NOW like they NEVER live in peace before?……..

            American and European evil Christians and evil Jews divided Shia Muslims and Sunni Muslims for their OWN advantage in war with Saddam Hussian……….

            (American and European Evil Christians and Evil Jews) UNITED with Iraqi’s Shia Muslims AND Iraqi’s Christians AND Iraqi’s Yezidis AND Iraqi Kurds and THEY ALL started KILLING and RAPING Iraqi’s Sunni Muslims and ALL ARABS dictators watched SILENTLY….. the SILENCE of
            Arab’s dictators gave BIRTH to ISIS

          • Arturis Dentalis

            Once again,
            N-O-T-H-I-N-G you said negates my point.
            ISIS got their ideas from the Qur’an and hadiths.
            Muhammad and his sock-puppet Allah would be proud of ISIS.

          • Syed Iftekharuddin

            ISIS is NOT the threat to the WEST

            let me tell you what is threat to the west and what is not.

            * Sharia law is NOT threat to the west

            * Radical Muslims is NOT threat to the west

            * Muslim brotherhood is NOT threat to the west

            * ISIS is NOT threat to the west

            * Al qaeda is NOT threat to the west

            * Hamas is NOT threat to the west

            * Iran is NOT threat to the west

            * Jihad is NOT threat to the west

            * ALL the Muslim’s armies of the world is NOT the threat to the west

            * Islam is the REAL threat to the west

            * Islam is a POWERFUL religion and Christianity is a STUPID religion

            * So Islam will take over the Christianity and the west

            THIS IS NOT A TAQIYYA

            Allah said in the Quran that he will take over the world …. …. ”YOU like it or NOT”

          • Arturis Dentalis

            “ISIS is NOT the threat to the WEST..”

            Oh yeah, the numerous terrorist attacks are just a figment of people’s imagination >.>…

            Once again,
            N-O-T-H-I-N-G you said negates my point.
            ISIS got their ideas from the Qur’an and hadiths.
            Muhammad and his sock-puppet Allah would be proud of ISIS.

            You can keep ignoring this and trying to change the subject, but nothing will change this fact.

          • Syed Iftekharuddin

            what if all the muslims are isis?

          • Arturis Dentalis

            “what if all the muslims are isis?”}

            It’s impossible for 1.6 billion people to be as evil as Muhammad or the members of ISIS. Natural human empathy overrides the most immoral aspects of Islam for most Muslims, which is why most Muslims don’t support the murder of apostates.

            https://youtu.be/pSPvnFDDQHk?t=10m48s

            http://www.pewforum.org/2013/04/30/the-worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society-beliefs-about-sharia/

          • Syed Iftekharuddin

            regardless what you say about islam, islam is powerful religion and it will take over the world

            i mean your world

          • Arturis Dentalis

            I’ll take your lack of response to my comments as meaning you’re not able to argue them. This is understandable.

            “regardless what you say about islam, islam is powerful religion and it will take over the world

            i mean your world”

            Islam is a weak religion that relies on violence to keep people in line (the threat of eternal torture for people who don’t believe its lies, and the threat of death for apostates).

            Islam will never rule the world, there aren’t enough gullible people to believe its tall tales.

          • Syed Iftekharuddin

            watch this britist will be islamic

          • Arturis Dentalis

            Again, no it won’t. There aren’t enough gullible people to believe its tall tales. The British education system teaches people how to think critically, so they don’t fall for the nonsense of Islam like gullible adherents do.

          • Syed Iftekharuddin

            even if muslims take over bristist you still be saying no islam didnt take over bristist, these are false muslims

          • Arturis Dentalis

            What is a ‘bristist’? Is it a type of cake?

  • Phil Spomer

    You might be interested in reading a short book called “Fear and Trembling” by Soren Kirkegaard.