About two and a half weeks ago I started teaching at a little school run by
the NGO Godh in a gypsy camp 25kms away on Lahore’s outskirts. I felt this would
be the best way to get a real perspective on education in Pakistan, as well as a
chance to talk to the people who mattered.
Whilst teaching at Naya din
school, time flew by. Every odd morning I spent riding out along the sandy banks
of the Ravi river and in the afternoons taught at Godh’s school. So I was
surprised when Eid-ul-Adha happened.
Eid Mubarak! There are two Eid (holidays) every year in the Muslim calender.
Eid-ul-Fairt is celebrated after the fasting month of Ramszan when x million
muslims are free to eat properly again after a month of only eating at night.
Eid-ul-adha is held around the time of the annual Haj to Mecca. It’s a time for
families and rejoicing as cows, goats, sheep and even camels are sacrificed to
please God. Now before anyone jumps the gun, here’s why. The story goes that
Prophet Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son for Allah to show his devotion.
With tears in his eyes he closed them and on opening them, he found a lamb in
the place where his son had first knelt. Such an act is regarded as barbaric in
the West, but just for a moment think outside yourself and appreciate the
thoughts of a peace loving people to whom this is tradition and belief. It
signifies more than slaughtering.
In fact to put this in perspective the only blood
thirstiness was from the two other foreigners who accompanied me that day
demanding from every Muslim they met, “where can we see the camel slaughter.”
This grissly scene is not regarded as such by the locals as it is the highest
form of offering one can make to Allah. Yet these two demanded until they saw it
and then took delight in propagating the bloodiness and grissliness of the scene
and didn’t seem to get the point at all. This can not help the perception of the
We arrived at the Badshahi mosque at 7am on the first day of Eid. there was
nobody around and it was really cold. After warming our hands around a cup of
chai, we followed the thousands of people streaming into Pakistan’s largest
The Badshahi mosque was built in 1674 by the last
great Mogul emperor Aurungzeb. It’s reputed to hold 100,000 people and I have to
admit it is possible. The place is huge with a yawning entrance gate that echoes
as you pass under. the mosque has a large open area surrounded on each side by a
4m high wall with 30m minerets on each corner. the imposing Prayer hall is
devoid of fittings save for a lecturn for the preacher to give sermon. By the
time we took our place, approximately 5000 people where standing and the
speakers crackled as prayers began. TV crews scurried hither and dither around
the outside of the crowd as the sermon began. I have to admire the oneness of
Islam which seems greater than most of the Christians I know. It was also a
humbling experience being in the monumental presence of the Badshahi’s mosque
along with so many people united together.
We travelled the narrow streets of the old city afterwards and it wasn’t long
before we were invited into the open courtyard of a rich merchant’s house where
they were sacrificing sheep. The wealthy owners had a camel tethered nearby
which could clearly sense it’s impending fate. The price of sheep and goats has
sky rocketed this year due to a high demand for too few goats. On average a goat
costs 7-15,000 rupees whereas a horse may be around 25,000. Apparently, several
charities have taken to sacrificing animals on behalf of the poor people.
In our house special butchers were dealing with the goats/sheep in
traditional halal manner. Such butchers are in high demand over Eid and it’ll
take three dyas for them to reach every house. After each animal was skinned and
cut, the meat was separated into three separate portions (usually in plastic
bags). One portion of the animal is kept for yourself, the second for your
family and the last for the poor who drifted by form time to time to collect
their portion. The sacrificing is a bit of a messy business as bladders,
stomachs and intestines were dumped on the street for a later charity collection
service. The gutters literally ran red with the blood of so much livestock and I
was simply glad it had decided to rain today!