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Obedience and Enlightenment

August 21, 2018 in Economics

By Mustafa Akyol

Mustafa Akyol

This week, the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims celebrate Eid
al-Adha, a four-day feast that usually includes communal prayer,
presents for children and visits to family members and cemeteries.
But the key ritual will be what gives the holiday its name:
“Adha” means “sacrifice” in Arabic. Most
families who can afford to do so will slaughter an animal —
perhaps a sheep, goat, cow or camel. The animal will be
blindfolded, gently put down and then slaughtered while the name of
God is praised. The meat is consumed by the family and also
distributed to neighbors and to the needy.

For some non-Muslims, it may seem puzzling that Muslims engage
in such a bloody ritual. But Jews and Christians should be able to
relate to the holiday’s origin: the biblical story of the
sacrifice of Isaac.

This story is in both the Book of Genesis and, with some
interesting variations, the Quran. In the story, Abraham receives a
shocking injunction from God: He must offer his beloved son as a
sacrifice. As a devoted servant of God, he agrees to obey and takes
the child to Mount Moriah to slaughter him. At the last moment,
God, satisfied with Abraham’s devotion, saves the boy by
sending a ram as a substitute sacrifice.

Muslims around the world
are celebrating Eid al-Adha. What are the holiday’s most important

There are minor differences between how the story is told in
Islam and how it’s told in Judaism and Christianity —
such as the name of the child, which the Quran doesn’t
mention and Muslims gradually accepted as Ishmael. But the moral
lesson is the same: Abraham’s piety should be celebrated. He
was willing to obey God’s order, even if it meant killing his

In the Christian tradition, though, this view encountered a bold
challenge during the Enlightenment. Immanuel Kant, the 18th-century
German philosopher, criticized Abraham’s blind submission not as an
example to emulate but as a failure to avoid. Abraham should have
been certain about his own moral sense, Kant argued, and suspicious
about an ostensibly divine voice commanding him to do something as
cruel as sacrificing his son. Kant wasn’t advocating defying God,
necessarily, but he was empowering human reason.

The Muslim world at large has not had its own Enlightenment, but
that doesn’t mean Muslims never developed similar ideas. Medieval
Islam had its own rationalists who also took an unorthodox position
on the sacrifice story for the same reason Kant did: They could not
accept that God would have ordered something so cruel.

These were the Mu‘tazilites, members of a theological
school that flourished in Iraq around the 9th century, which …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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