Friday, December 14, 2007

Hajj, Chrissie and Cricket

This year is bloody special. Well not only have we a new prime minister as a Christmas present, we have an unusual time when two thirds of the world will be celebrating their festive seasons together. On one side of the globe over 1.5 billion people will be sacrificing a lamb or cow to feed the poor and on the other side another two billion people will remembering Jesus and his miraculous birth.

This year Eid Ul Adha and Christmas fall in the same month, only a day apart. Eid Ul Adha or the Festival of Sacrifice is celebrated by Muslims and is about the story of Abraham who incidentally is the patriarch for both Muslims and Christians. Abraham was tested by God to prove his faith. He was asked to sacrifice his eldest son Ishmael. Abraham who had a very unique relationship with God led his son away to be slaughtered and was tempted by Satan to change his mind, as he walked towards the altar, he saw Satan again and again in the form of a man. Abraham picked seven stones and threw them at Satan in an attempt to ward him off. He repeated this three times until Satan gave up. At the altar Abraham prayed one last time to God before he began his distressing deed. At that moment the knife did not cut the flesh and God sent in Ishmael’s place a sheep once Abraham’s faith was proven.

But there is another significant event that starts around the same time as Christmas and Eid and that is the Boxing Day test. For millions of people this is of great importance and for millions it is their religion.

For Muslims Abraham is regarded as the progenitor of Islam for he was the first to smash the idols of the Babylonians. For Cricket Fans its about their idols of Tendulkar, Ponting and Gilchrist (not Christ). And the Boxing Day test is more holier than holy water. As Muslims come together at the House of God in Mecca to remember God in the biggest event of the Muslim calendar. Fans line up at the MCG to witness a ton by Ricky and Sachin and Lee bag a five for. This year’s hopeful is Kumble who may save the season for the Indians. But off the back of a two nil snubbing of Sri Lanka the Aussies are looking invincible.

In just a few days from now close to two million Muslim pilgrims will be finishing the great Hajj or pilgrimage in Mecca. The Hajj is a compulsory tenet of Islam which signifies one’s highest attainment of faith in this life and is a testament of one’s commitment to God. During the pilgrimage Muslims, dressed in only a white shroud, complete certain rites which includes a parody of the stone throwing of Abraham to ward off Satan.
The Aussies will be doing something similar, dressed in white but throwing down stumps and the Indians will be making a special prayer to ward off that Great Satan Warnie so he does not make a come back.

Also the Muslim pilgrims circumambulate the kaaba (the cubed-shaped building) seven times and we all hope that the Aussies will be doing the lap of honour around the MCG after a close game with India. However, at the end of the Hajj Muslims sacrifice a sheep which is cut and distributed to the poor. This is a hard call to match but rest assured there will be millions of Aussies doing a well-grilled chop and a snag on the barbie as they watch the cricket on their television sets and come Thursday they will be returning their unwanted Chrissie gifts. That’s a great sacrifice. The smell of barbecued fat will drench the air as the boys go up for an LB decision by umpire Mal Brough, who has now turned to a new career option.

The Hajj is one of the world’s greatest religious events next to the Kumba Mela in India and the first test. Islam and sport two of the world’s great faiths. Happy Xmas everyone. Happy Eid and howzat!

Kuranda Seyit is the Executive Director of FAIR, the Forum on Australia’s Islamic Relations and an ex-opening bowler.

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