Sheep, cows and birds, oh my

For the love of an animal

26 September 2015

Eid al Adha marks a time where we celebrate.  My wife who is a Christian and myself being Muslim have always had great support for the importance in both religions and traditions especially as it relates to the growth and positive development of our girls.

One of those traditions at Eid is the sacrificing and feasting of the sheep.  It’s symbolic but an important tradition for us and it is something that has held amazing memories for me since I was small with my family.

I’ve always talked with Saffiya (our oldest) about what Eid represents and now that she is older, she understands more and more.  But, the sheep thing, well, she just hasn’t quite accepted that yet.  This she gets from her mother and not by anything directly said but by her mothers’ constant focus on respect and love for all living creatures (except for ants, cockroaches and spiders – “Come into our house, and you are fair game – but I’m sorry anyway” she says as she squashes the little 8 legged things – Saffiya has since taken on the same discussion with these creatures).

Now the explanation of sheep and the killing of the sheep – well, thats one area where we have disagreed on.  My wife has put her foot down on letting our girls see it actually ‘happen’ regardless of tradition – and only because she has memories of doing this with her father (not religiously related but part of farming and annual barbecues) and ‘bonding’ with the sheep before they were, quite mercifully ‘taken out’.  She knows Saffiya’s sensitivity and isn’t prepared to have to deal with some pricey therapy session later on in life because she can no longer look at a sheep without breaking into tears 🙂

Last year, Saffiya drove with me to my sisters house in Al Ain for Eid.  This was going to be the time where we would do this tradition (which she obviously refused to take part in – at 4!).  But, as we discussed this, she prepared me for what I knew was going to be the end of any possibility she might partake in this in the future.

“Baba, please don’t kill the sheep – it’s Haram.  Its not the right thing to do” she starts to cry.

I sat down with her after we had picked out a sheep and took it with us (trying to persist and persuade).  I knew that this wouldn’t happen and we definitely needed to have the alternative in place.

We ended up taking the sheep to a local butcher and left it there.

She was in tears.  I explained to her why we do it but she refused to have any of it.  “Baba, no, please. it’s haram.  He needs to be with other sheep.”

She pulls out her iPad and pulls up the show “Shaun the Sheep” which she loves.

“Baba, please send him there.  They have fun and laugh and play jokes with the farmer.  It will be better.”

“Ok, habibty, that’s what we will do. This sheep we will have sent off and we will get some meat from the store.”

“Or Baba, he can live with us too. It’s only 20 stairs up to my room and I can teach him how to climb the stairs”

I had no idea there was 20 stairs in our house – but apparently she did.  And, she had thought this out enough that her plan was for him to live with us and be safe.  And I also know that at some point, we will have to have the talk about where meat actually does come from (and it’s not from Carrefour).

On a side note, I did cave in and get some butchered meat from the shop separately and donated this sheep, as we are also traditionally prepared to do at Eid, for people less fortunate than us.  I absolutely caved in all because of my little girl.

I had great memories of this growing up but I also realised something then, as I was reminded as well this Eid al Adha from her that we would not be killing the sheep and it was not a ‘nice thing to do for the sheep’ (her words through my persistence).  This was her wish.  And I knew that she did not want to participate in something that didn’t fit with what she is as a person. And, perhaps later on that might change.  But for now, I also want to respect her individuality and if I can still do my part in Eid as part of my tradition, I will find other ways to work around what she feels is important at Eid so that we create something new together.

Raising girls is different and I’m learning as I go along.  And, although I will miss having that opportunity with her now, there are many things that we can do in Eid to support the community and traditions in this part of the world.   And none of that involves forcing something that a child cannot ‘un-see’ onto them.

It’s a bit disappointing for me.  But, I suppose it’s one of the ways she is showing her true colours.  And, as her mother dances around happily drawing pictures of frolicking sheep, playing Shaun the Sheep on the iPad for the little one and cooking hamburger meat in the shape of sheep, I’ve found that sometimes we have to bend a bit and find a compromise – especially with our kids.   Besides, my wife is thrilled – she has removed ‘therapy sessions’ from her budget list (yes, she has that kind of list as well!).

Eid Mubarak everyone!

One thought on “Sheep, cows and birds, oh my

  1. Louise

    I can imagine that it must be very hard to balance different traditions. Glad that you managed to keep with your traditions by donating the sheep though – good luck with the discussion of where meat comes from later on!

    Liked by 1 person

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