A Reflection on Sacrifice

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To characterize this as a book review would be unbecoming of the nature of the content. Rather, Shaykh Tameem Ahmadi’s commentary on 67 select ahadith in Sacrifice: The Legacy of Our Beloved Prophet ﷺ necessitates reflection, especially so in this month of Rabi’ al-Awwal, the month in which Allah ﷻ sent the Prophet ﷺ as a favor for mankind:

Indeed, Allah has done the believers a [great] favour by raising a messenger from among them—reciting to them His revelations, purifying them, and teaching them the Book and wisdom. For indeed they had previously been clearly astray. [Qur’an 3:164]

Matters of the external are easier to delineate. In Ramadan for example, Muslims sacrifice the most primal of desires from dawn to dusk: food, drink, and sexual intercourse. They are the easiest aspects of the fast. Fasting, in its temporary deprivation of physical pleasure, positions the believer in a state to better recognize the blessings of Allah ﷻ, exhibit shukr (gratitude), and practice controlling desires in an act of sabr (patience). 

Matters of the internal are more difficult to hone: to abstain from everything displeasing to Allah ﷻ and to sincerely pursue what is pleasing to Him in order to develop taqwa (God-consciousness). Ibn Ashir defined taqwa as both abstaining from what Allah ﷻ forbids and doing what He ﷻ commands not just inwardly, but also outwardly.

Unfortunately, the increased luxuries and blessings that characterizes modern life often accompanies increasing distance from shukr and sabr. Where greed, corruption, and materialism run rampant, an exercise in restraint and sacrifice is ardently welcomed. But where do you look to find such lessons? The Qur’an answers: 

And each [story] We relate to you from the news of the messengers is that by which We make firm your heart. And there has come to you, in this, the truth and an instruction and a reminder for the believers. (Qur’an 11:120)

Shaykh Tameem concludes his introduction with this verse, noting that if stories of the Messengers are to strengthen believers, then “the story of the Master and Leader of all messengers is the greatest of stories.”1 If we wish to be inspired, there is no life more noble nor worthy of emulating than that of the Best of Creation. The first hadith he references epitomizes the Prophet’s ﷺ model in letting go of material comfort for something better:

Abu Umama Al-Bahili (ra) narrates: The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, ‘My Lord offered to turn the valley of Makkah into gold for me, to which I replied, ‘No, my Lord. Rather, I wish to eat my fill one day and stay hungry one day; so that when I am hungry, I will implore You and remember You, and when I am full, I will praise You and be grateful to You.’ (Tirmidhi and Ahmad)2

In days of difficulty, the Muslim is acutely aware of Allah’s decree and worships with sabr. In days of ease and satiation, they are in awe of Allah’s blessings, and worships with shukr. The Hanafi jurist Mulla Ali al-Qari wrote that the “abstinence and poverty of the Prophet ﷺ was voluntary; it was not brought upon him through compulsion and it continued till the day of his demise.”3 Enjoying the luxuries and blessings of this world to a certain extent is allowed, and is not blameworthy. But he purposefully lived with modest means despite the opportunity to live like the other Kings and leaders of his day, one of many examples of the Prophet’s ﷺ sublime character.

On numerous occasions throughout the book, Shaykh Tameem states that although the prophets are the best of humanity, this lofty status does not grant them immunity to the somber reality of pain. The Prophet ﷺ experienced domestic strife, injury in battle, and illness and much more. However, what distinguished him was istiqamah, a steadfastness in what has been commanded by Allah ﷻ, and trust in His decree, without blame, or hesitation, or an expectation of something in return. He only expressed anger in a manner that behooved him — never for his own sake, but rather for the sake of Allah. He mourned loss with dignity. In uttering this famous statement upon the demise of his son, Ibrahim (ra), the Prophet ﷺ offers us stark clarity, “The eye sheds tears and the heart grieves. But we shall not utter anything except that which pleases our Lord.”4

Amidst the devastation of personal loss, the Prophet ﷺ carried out his mission to dispel falsehood and submit to one God despite rejection, slander, and violence. In the face of immediate backlash from his own relatives at the start of the public da’wah, and ridicule and violence, he did not waver once. The level of resilience towards Abu Jahl and Umayya ibn Khalaf’s violent antics while he prayed at the Ka’ba, the sabr during the Battle of Uhud when bloodied and teeth-broken, and the courage in leading armies against tyranny — his efforts never once curbed.

The children of Adam were promised to be tried and tested. There is not a single human being who will live and die having escaped accountability for their reaction in times of tribulation. So why is taqwa such a sublime goal that it requires lifelong effort? Why go to such lengths for Allah ﷻ?

In one of the concluding chapters, Shaykh Tameem reminds the reader of the strain people endure for the sake of worldly, temporary gain and ties it to the world today. Humans live blind to the looming reality of an infinity after this world, and sacrifice hours of time and energy for the next job promotion, career opportunity, and the like. Yet, if one can exert tremendous strength to accomplish the ephemeral, important as they are, then surely more so for the permanence of Allah ﷻ.

…we should not reflect on the trials and difficulties of the Prophet ﷺ and his Companions simply to develop an unhealthy sense of guilt. Rather, remembering their sacrifices strengthens us by reminding us that we belong to a people and a community of believers who lived and thrived in trials and tribulations. Hence, we realize that faith and din grow and are established through hardship, whereas they are weakened and slip away in the face of luxury and comfort.3

The sacrifices we make can often feel minuscule in comparison to the struggles of the best of this Ummah, but the fruits of patience and conscious abstinence from the displeasing are incommensurate. Tribulations are not an aesthetic to admire from afar whilst we continue as “eating machines whose greatest concern in life is tantalising our senses.” They are meant to be lived. As Shaykh Tameem mentions throughout, the beauty of the reward of closeness to Allah Almighty is unquantifiable, so we ask Allah ﷻ for istiqamah in sacrificing for His sake, and furthering our love for the Prophet ﷺ in doing so.

Photo by Şükran Kahriman on Unsplash

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  1. Ahmadi, Tameem. Sacrifice: The Legacy of Our Beloved Prophet ﷺ. Nur Publications, 2019. pg. 9-10[]
  2. Ibid. pg 158[]
  3. Ibid. pg. 84[][]
  4. Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 1241[]

One thought on “A Reflection on Sacrifice

  1. A beautiful reminder and a powerful inspiration. In a world of loudly conflicting ideologies, the sunnah of the Prophet (SAW) is a shining ray of light against the darkness. Jazakallahu khairan for this article.

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