The Daily Hustle: Eid-e Qurban, a time to reflect and be grateful

Ali Mohammad Sabawoon • Roxanna Shapour

Afghanistan Analysts Network

print sharing button

Today is Eid-e Qurban, also known as Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, which marks the most important religious holiday in Islam. On this day, Afghans, across the country will sacrifice cows or sheep in remembrance of the Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ismael in submission to God’s command and of the lamb which God provided as a substitute sacrifice. However in the current economy, the cost of honouring this important religious tradition is more than some cash-strapped Afghan families can bear. In this Daily Hustle, AAN’s Ali Mohammad Sabawoon spoke to one Afghan man who is unable to afford the ritual sacrifice for the third year running, but is, nevertheless, mindful of the Eid’s true meaning – reflecting on the life you have and thanking God for the bounties he has given you.

The Afghanistan Analysts Network wishes a joyful Eid-e Qurban to all its friends and readers and to all the people of Afghanistan.

A tradition dating back to Abraham

In the old days, I used to buy a sheep to sacrifice for Eid-e Qurban every year. Those days now seem like a lifetime ago, even though it’s only been three years since my fortunes changed.

I used to have a good government job with a good salary. Back then, my family and I shared the house we inherited from our father with my brothers and their families. I didn’t have rent to pay and my salary was enough to provide for my family. There was money for new clothes for all the Eids, new school bags and uniforms at the start of the school year, new clothes and chaplaqs (sandals) for the summer and winter coats.

Every year, a few days before Eid, my eldest son and I would go to the livestock market on the outskirts of the city to buy a sheep to sacrifice for Eid. It was our special outing. On the drive there, I would tell him the story of Ibrahim and how, in his dreams, he received a command from God to sacrifice his son Ismael to demonstrate his obedience. And how Iblis (the devil) tried to tempt him to disobey and how Ibrahim kept true to his faith and to God. And how, finally, God stopped Ibrahim in the end and sent him a lamb to sacrifice instead of his son. It’s important to me that my children know about our religion, where our traditions come from and what they mean. I knew that when we got home, my son, in turn, would tell the story of Ibrahim and the lamb to my other children as they gathered around the sheep we’d brought home.

On the day of Eid, we’d sacrifice the sheep and distribute the meat – some to the needy, some to our neighbours and some for the family to eat with guests who usually call to bring Eid tidings.

Life changes suddenly

after the fall of the Republic, everything changed. Many of us who had government jobs were afraid of what might happen to us now the Taleban had taken over the country. I stopped going to work and moved with my family to a neighbourhood where no one knew us. I rented a small house for my family, which cost 3,000 afghanis (USD 40) a month, and we started living off our savings. When the money ran out, I sold my share of the family home to my brothers for 170,000 afghanis (USD 2,300). It gave us enough funds to survive for a few more months. But money was tight and we had to be careful. No more new clothes or sandals for the summer. In fact, the only way we were able to manage is because my wife is so good with money. She knows how to economise and make the little money we have stretch to meet our basic needs. I was also looking for a job, but so was everybody else and finding work was more difficult than finding bird’s milk. [The full phrase is shir-e morgh wa jan-e adamizad, which translates as ‘bird’s milk and human life’, and signifies how precious or scarce something is).

A lifeline in the nick of time

I wasn’t having much luck finding work and we’d used up nearly all the money we had. Finally, one day, I answered a call from a number that wasn’t saved on my phone. I’d been receiving quite a few calls from that number but I never answered them because I was worried about who might be calling me. Finally, I decided to answer the phone and see what the caller wanted. It was my old boss. He said I should go back to the ministry, that my bast [grade] had been approved and that I was free to take up my old job again. It was like a miracle. God had heard my prayers and sent me a lifeline just in the nick of time.

So, a few days ago, I went back to the ministry. I was anxious and unsure about what I might find there. But when I arrived and saw so many of my colleagues were also back and working, all the anxiety I felt slipped away and was replaced by a feeling of homecoming. I called my boss and told him I’d arrived, and he instructed me to go to his office. He welcomed me with open arms and told me how happy he was that I was coming back to work. He introduced me to the new colleagues who had joined the department since the start of the Islamic Emirate and took me to Human Resources to sort out my paperwork.

The people at Human Resources said I could start working immediately, but they said that new government had reduced everyone’s salaries and mine would also be reduced by 30 per cent— from 10,000 afghanis (USD 133) to 7,000 (USD 93). Still, I was happy to have a job and a regular income.

Eid, a time to reflect and be grateful

There won’t be enough money for extras. After we pay the rent, there’s only 5,000 afghanis (USD 66) left over for our living expenses. It’s not enough for a family of five. But I know my wife can make it work so we can have a roof over our heads and food on the table. And at least I have a job. I’m better off than most.

So, there’s not going to be a sheep to sacrifice this year. We don’t have enough money for it. A couple of months ago, I had the idea of buying a young lamb to raise for Eid, but it seems everyone had the same idea. The price of lambs had soared to 13,000 afghanis (USD 173) each, almost as much as you’d pay for a full-grown sheep.

This will be the third year we haven’t been able to sacrifice a sheep and the fact that we haven’t been able to fulfil this important religious rite is heavy on my mind. I also worry about the example it sets for our children and also troubled that our traditions might be fading from our lives. My youngest is too young to remember the last time we sacrificed a sheep and celebrated Eid.

This year, there’s no money for the things we need to have on hand to receive guests, if anyone comes calling. No money for dry fruit or sweets and no money for new clothes or presents for the children.

Still, Eid is about more than sacrificing sheep, or buying new clothes or receiving guests. It’s about reflecting on the life you have and thanking God for the bounties he’s given you – the love of your family, good health and a job.

Edited by Roxanna Shapour

The Daily Hustle: Eid-e Qurban, a time to reflect and be grateful