Screaming of the Lambs

I’m reminded today of being awoken early some years ago in a pleasant suburb of Karachi by the sound of pain. Screaming, as if by tortured children, penetrated my consciousness. Looking out of my window into neighbouring courtyards, lambs were suspended, heads down and bleating pitifully, awaiting the merciful flash of the knife, honed according to the Prophet’s instructions and concealed from the victim before the single strike. No such awakenings this morning – here the business is transacted in the privacy of the slaughterhouse. 

At the risk of doing irremediable violence to the greatest of all modern Arab poets, I came across this today, the first day of Eid ul Adha, or Greater Eid, the Festival of Sacrifice.

I was in the beginning, and in the beginning was Poverty.
I died that bread may be eaten in my name; that they plant me in season.
How many lives will I live! For in every furrow of earth
I have become a future, I have become a seed.
I have become a race of men, in every human heart
A drop of my blood, or a little drop.

After they nailed me and I cast my eyes towards the city
I hardly recognised the plain, the wall, the cemetery;
As far as the eye could see, it was something
Like a forest in bloom. Wherever the vision could reach,
there was a cross, a grieving mother
The Lord be sanctified! This is the city about to give birth.

Badr Shakir al-Sayyab of Iraq, Christ after the Crucifixion


One-third of the sacrificial food today is given to the poor. Outside the mosques, the poor are fed, in accordance with the law. By contrast, the traditional nativity play was cancelled at a primary school in Nottingham and rescheduled for the New Year after parents were told it would interfere with the Eid festival, when it seemed many of the participants would be unavailable for rehearsals.
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