Eid-ul-Azha is approaching, as all Muslims and members of other faiths are very well aware of in Pakistan and in most other countries around the world. It is also the end of Hajj for tens of thousands of Pakistanis and other men and women who are pilgrims in the holy sites in Saudi Arabia. In Pakistan, Eid will be celebrated for three days from September 13; in practice, that means that more or less the whole week is taken off, making it possible for people to travel home for the feast.

Although Eid-ul-Fitr, the feast at the end of the holy month of Ramadan, is often given more attention than Eid-ul-Azha, many consider the latter to be the holier of the two major religious feasts; in local languages, it is semantically called the ‘Big Eid’. It is interesting to know that Christmas is the more ‘publicised’ Christian feast, but Easter is considered holier – and then there is the third feast, fifty days after Easter (and ten days after Ascension Day), notably Pentecost or Whitsun, when the Christian Church is considered to have been founded and the disciples were given God’s spirit to continue preaching and teaching the way Jesus had taught them. The concept of ‘trinity’ dates back to this event.

The historical intertwining of Judaism, Christianity and Islam is interesting, underlining that they are indeed sister religions. The story and message of Eid-ul-Azha is recorded in all three religions.

In the Jewish holy book, which is the Bible’s Old Testament (and the New Testament is from the birth of Jesus), Ibrahim (Abraham) was asked by God to sacrifice what he loved the most, notably his own son. The story says that the strong believer was willing to do so. However, he did not do it; the submission to God’s will was equal to his acting. In a miracle, a ram was found sacrificed, not Ibrahim’s son Ismail. After that, to sacrifice an animal has become tradition.

In Pakistan, tens of thousands of cows, sheep, and goats are slaughtered, having a value of some billions of dollars, it is said. Muslims are advised to divide the meat into three portions; one for the family; one for relatives and neighbours; and one for the poor and needy. Nobody should be deprived of the opportunity of sharing food and celebrating during Eid-ul-Azha. It is also advised that everyone should prepare body, mind and soul for the feast; we should dress up in our best; men and women should attend mosques or another place of prayer; and we should share what we have with each other.

As it always is with religious feasts, Eid-ul-Azha is about faith, notably men’s and women’s relationship with God, and it is about our relationship with fellow human beings. It is about abiding by God’s will, doing good and right to others, including sharing or sacrificing from what we have in abundance. We all have something to give, literally or symbolically; it doesn’t have to be an animal, which only the wealthy can afford to buy and slaughter; and to many who are wealthy, it may not quite be a sacrifice either.

Furthermore, Islam teaches us that before considering slaughtering a sacrificial animal, we should consider other ways of sacrificing. If we ourselves or a friend has a debt, we should first pay the debt, and then, we could sacrifice an animal, if we can afford that too. It may be more important to make somebody free of a debt than to have a few meat meals. Equality is a key concept in Islam, and to help a poor person out of debt, is helping him or her to become freer and more equal with others.

Eid-ul-Azha is a reminder to all that the spirit of the feast should be with us every day, every month, every year; we should share and work for equality, fairness and justice every day and everywhere.

The Bible’s New Testament has a story about Jesus saying: “Give to Caesar (i.e. the emperor/the state) what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God’ (Mark 12:17, also in the other synoptic Gospels). People were amazed at him saying that because many had thought that Jesus would have rebelled against the secular power and authority in Judea with its capital Jerusalem, which at that time, was under the control of the Roman occupiers.

It is not right of us to try to avoid paying our taxes or, pay as little as we possibly can, because we may believe that the state doesn’t use the money wisely or honestly. Sometimes, there may be some truth to that – and nothing that we human beings do is perfect. Yet, not to pay tax to the state, and not to share with others, is selfish. True, most of us would probably like to use that excuse, but it is still not right. We should “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar”, and if we can, we should play our part in improving the secular system in the land where we live.

I am a Norwegian, coming from one of the best managed (little) lands in our time, but even there, we criticise the government for how tax money is spent, and reduced taxation is a popular campaign slogan at all elections. Yet, we all know that those who have more than others have a moral and secular duty to share with those who have less. It must be an organised and fair system; it cannot just be up to our individual good heart and the giving of voluntary contributions. In Norway, too, we still have work to do to make God’s law real, to make redistribution of wealth and resources fairer and more equal. We live in a time when inequality is actually growing, so we should hasten to do what is right.

In Europe, refugees and immigrants, members of all faiths and backgrounds, must be treated more fairly – although, at the same time, many European countries are also amongst the best in the world in these fields. But we can still do better and more. One thing we can do, and it doesn’t cost any money, is to show mercy, and welcome and respect newcomers. That is a message to people everywhere, irrespective of class, gender and other differences – because in God’s land, everyone is unique and equal, man and woman, rich and poor, Jew and Greek, and everyone else.

When I was preparing my column for today, I sought advice from several Muslim friends. One, a Sufi, did not like that I ranked the importance of religious feasts; he thought it had little meaning, if any. Yet, it gave me the opportunity to make a few points, including about Christianity. Yet, I also agree with my Sufi friend that rankings are usually a futile exercise.

Furthermore, my Sufi friend told me that Eid-ul-Azha is not only about sacrifice, symbolically or literally. It is also about closeness; closeness and compassion with fellow human beings of all classes and creeds; and closeness with God. Noor, he said, is the Arabic word for light, and God is light.

When we become closer to God, we are able to glimpse a bit more of the truth and what is right and important. Equality is indeed essential, he said, and that is necessary for peace in our everyday life and the world. Let that be the sum of my article: God is light; God is peace.

Dear reader, may I wish you Eid Mubarak for this year’s Eid-ul-Azha – and for every year hereafter.