Friday, January 13, 2006

Kurban Bayramı

This week of January 9-13 here in Turkey is Kurban Bayramı (KOOR-bon BYE-rom-uh), the Sacrifice Festival celebrated by observant Muslims. It is an extra-qur'anic holiday in remembrance of when Ibrahim (Abraham) was commanded by Al'lah to sacrifice his then-only son Ishmael (not Isaac). Seeing the obedient faith of Ibrahim, Al'lah provided a substitute ram, allowing Ishmael to live and become the father of the Arabic peoples, from whom the prophet Muhammad later came.

According to popular Islam, there is a "narrow bridge" that all must cross is they wish to get to Paradise and receive Al'lah's mercy. From what I can gather from the Qur'an and from other Muslims, this mercy is based upon what Muslims do to prove themselves faithful (the "five pillars": Ramadan fasting, daily ritual prayer, almsgiving, confession of their monotheistic faith, and pilgrimage to Mecca) and what they do to please Al'lah. One thing many people believe is that a way across this narrow bridge includes animal sacrifice. The sacrificed animal will carry you on its back across the bridge, and so you will safely make it across.

For the holiday, Muslims will purchase either a "large-headed" animal (cows and camels) or a "small-headed" one (rams and goats). All I've seen here are rams, althought I've seen what I think are cow legs on the ground. Then, while holding the animal's head to the ground facing Mecca, its throat is slit, and its meat is cut up and given to families who've purchased it. At least one-third of the meat is to be given to the poor and needy, much like during the Ramadan fasting.

At Christmastime I was talking about candy canes with a friend of mine here. I told him how the thick red stripe represents Jesus' shed blood, and the stripes are the whipmarks, a constant reminder that Jesus came into this world not only to preach the kingdom of God, but also to be a kurban, a lamb slaughtered to bear our pains and bring us healing:

Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us to his own way;
But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him. (Isaiah 53.4-6)

"Blood? That's disgusting! How can you give candy canes to children?" The cross will always be a stumbling block. "Well, isn't the Sacrifice Festival awful bloody?" "Yes, but we don't let little children watch it, and it's not a human."

Isaac laboring up Mount Moriah, bearing the wood for the sacrificial pyre upon his back ... His father willing to bring down the knife on his only son ... An innocent Jewish rabbi laboring up Skull Hill, bearing his wooden cross ... His Father, no substitute ram in sight this time, putting to death his only Son ...

* * *

"Now [Caiaphas] did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad" (John 11.51-52).

How on Earth can Islam claim to be the final revelation of God for all peoples? Goats, camels, rams, and sheep don't live everywhere on the earth. How can the natives of Borneo or the Pacific Northwest obtain such animals to please Al'lah and cross the bridge? How can they make the hajj to Mecca? I don't care what they try to say, Islam is a religion which, in its purest expression, is geographically limited. God destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70 to prove that his kingdom would not be only for the Jews, but rather for all the nations of the world. The gospel knows no geographical or ethnic boundaries, for the risen Christ is Lord over the whole world, not a local moon-god like Al'lah (hence the crescent as the symbol of Islam). Praise God for his mercy upon the world.


farmer said...

Drew you have mentioned how some have difficulty in understanding how "God became flesh and dwelt among us". Best explaination I know is in the one Paul Harvey gives in the story of the birds caught in a blizzard. The man who had not attended Christmas Eve service as the whole Christ thing was foolishness. His family had gone on without him. As he sat alone reading he heard these birds banging on the window. He went out to help them, only to realize they where lost in the blizzard. He tried everything to lead them to the barn for safety and warmth, but the birds where afraid of him. He even spread food on path but the snow quickly covered the food. Finally he said to himself, "If only I could become like one of them, then I could lead them to the barn and safety". Just at that time the church bells rang, and it suddenly reminded him that yes, that is why God himself in Christ became like one of us. In this form we can trust him. He came and endured as much and more of what we do in this life. He became one of us.

This also relates to what Abram did. Had he just tied a live ram to the altar, it would not have the same meaning of giving his only son to die. So it is with us. God gave his only Son in our place. The sinless one a sacrafice for all sins.

Happy New Year with the many blessings of the Infant Savior. Farmer Ken

Ryan P.T. said...

Wow. Thanks so much, Drew, for reporting this, and tying it into the mercy of our God. Jesus, Jesus, that's all I can think...

halfmom said...

Thank you for posting the pictures. What captures my attention is the blood - wasted blood - a caricature of the original, which was, at best, a shadow of what was to come. How incredibly sad that they miss the whole point.