An estimated 200 people attended a service in Cartersville Tuesday morning to commemorate Eid al-Adha, one of two official holidays celebrated by nearly 2 billion Muslims across the globe each year.
Local community leader Nassim Baksh gave a sermon at the Masjid Quba Islamic Center of Cartersville to mark the occasion.
"Eid al-Adha is the remembrance of Prophet Abraham and the sacrifice and the trials and tribulations that he went through with his family, especially when God Almighty commanded him to sacrifice that only child that he had," Baksh said. "Then the God Almighty replaced the sacrifice of his son with a lamb, and in the Quran and the Bible, it says how this led to a generation of blessings to come ... in Islam, we hold that in very high esteem."
Translated from Arabic, Eid al-Adha means "Feast of the Sacrifice" or "Festival of the Sacrifice." The event begins on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah — the month Muslims pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia to visit their faith's most holy site, the Kaaba — and usually concludes at sunset three days later. Because the event is timed using the lunar-based Islamic calendar, the date of Eid al-Adha fluctuates from year to year.
Baksh described how the event is customarily celebrated.
"You get up in the morning, take a bath, clean yourself, and with your family, head towards the mosque, have a prayer and have a sermon," he said. "At the same time, we should inculcate in our lives what we should do to be close to God, using the story of Prophet Abraham to be better citizens, to be better community ambassadors."
During his sermon, Baksh compared the trials and tribulations of Abraham — in Arabic, Ibrahim — to the trials and tribulations people of all faiths face in modern society. He placed a special emphasis on the story of Abraham smashing the idols in his father's workshop.
"Are we worshipping the almighty dollar?" he asked. "We only look at what we accumulate in this material world. We are on the chase, but the chase for what?"
Instead, Baksh encouraged his fellow Muslims to lend a helping hand to those in need throughout the community.
"If there is nothing we do today, at least try to reach out to the poor people," he said. "Right in Cartersville, there are people who are hungry, that don't know where their next meal is coming from. If we are followers of Prophet Abraham ... then why are we not looking out for the less fortunate brothers and sisters, regardless if they are Muslims or non-Muslims?"
Practicing what he preaches, Baksh said the local mosque intends to get more involved with charitable efforts in Bartow.
"We are planning now to start to have an outreach program where we can reach out to the communities — be it with blankets, be it with backpacks, be it with school supplies, be it with your rent," he said. "We'll try to get you off the streets. Whatever we could do, we are here to help."
That includes plans to build a new center — one that would open its doors to people of all faiths and denominations.
"My vision, God willing, is to see if we can erect a building for a place of worship which is just like five times a day, but more so to see what we could do to help people of the non-Islamic faith so they could actually come and have discussions and see what we are all about rather than hearing on the media or hearing from a third party what Islam is all about," he said.
The story of Abraham's sacrifice, Baksh said, is one that transcends any one religion. Indeed, he said it's one that touches upon the essence of what it means to be a "righteous" person.
"The biggest takeaway from that story of Abraham is to know that we are here from God Almighty as a test and each and everyone has to return back to God Almighty," he said. "We will be questioned on what we have done in this world. Were we a good human being? The bottom line in all religions is to make sure you take care of the poor and take care of the needy."
No matter a person's faith, Baksh said the same ideals — taking care of one's parents, one's community and the poor — are considered virtuous.
"That makes you a good, God-fearing person, regardless of what religion you may be," he said. "My goal, especially, is to try to impart on our community that we share the same values."
Although Baksh said that many unfortunate misunderstandings continue to linger between local Muslims and local Christians, he believes neither should judge one another as unbelievers.
"We're worshipping the same God and we are all going back to the same maker, but we might be taking different roads," he said. "We should be able to talk with each other, understand each other, respect each other and work on common grounds."