Sunday 10 February 2019

Why do Muslims Sacrifice Animals on Eid al Adha

Eid al Adha is one of two annual festivals of Muslims that are celebrated with religious zeal and fervour throughout the world. Eid al Adha falls after the culmination of yet another revered pillar of Islam: The Hajj. “Adha” means “sacrifice” in Arabic, thus on this day, the Muslims sacrifice animals like goat, sheep, ram, cow or camels to commemorate the sacrifice attributed to Prophet Ibraheem (Abraham, may peace be upon him). In fact, the Muslims celebrate Prophet Abraham’s piety, and his willingness to obey Allah’s commandment, even if it meant sacrificing his son.

However, for most non-Muslims, it is something strange to slaughter an animal openly and in rather a barbaric way. Although, the meat market around the world kills animals in machines "alive", yet slaughtering of animals as a ritual by Muslims seems to them rather harsh. They even question why the animals should be sacrificed in the first place.  Emmanuel Kant, the 18th-century German philosopher, criticized Abraham’s blind submission not as an example to emulate but as a failure to avoid. Abraham should have been certain about his own moral sense, Kant argued, and suspicious about an ostensibly divine voice commanding him to do something as cruel as sacrificing his son. Kant wasn’t advocating defying God, necessarily, but he was empowering human reason.

While many non-Muslims support Emmanuel's viewpoint, some stereotyped Muslims living in non-Muslim countries too often their reservation to the very concept and manner of the slaughter and sacrifice of the animals. Why such queries are raised because we are drifting from teachings of our faith and concentrating more on reasoning in view of modern thinking that is devoid of submission to the Divine commandments. To understand the why of animal sacrifice, we must understand the philosophy and wisdom behind it. 

The philosophy of sacrifice displays total submission to Allah's commandment vis-a-vis any human considerations. When it came to accepting Divine will, Prophet Ibraheem demonstrated this spirit of submission and sacrifice to the best of his understanding. He chose to submit unconditionally to Allah and did not let human emotions come his way to deter him from carrying out the will of Allah.

Although, the act of Prophet Abraham took place much earlier than all divine faiths, that is Jewish and Christianity, its continuation as a ritual in Islam attaches immense importance as a display of total submission to the will of Allah. While querying religious rituals, one must keep the context in mind. Not only did the pagan Arabs sacrifice to a variety of gods in hopes of attaining protection or some favor or material gain, but so, too, did the Jews of that day seek to appease the One True God by blood sacrifice and burnt offerings. Even the Christian community felt Jesus to be the last sacrifice, the final lamb, so to speak, in an otherwise valid tradition of animal sacrifice (where one’s sins are absolved by the blood of another).

It may be added that Islam in fact breaks away from this longstanding tradition of appeasing an “angry God” and instead demands personal sacrifice and submission as the only way to die before death and reach “Fana” or “extinction in Allah.” The notion of “vicarious atonement of sin” (absolving one’s sins through the blood of another) is nowhere to be found in the Qur’an. Neither is the idea of gaining favor by offering the life of another to God. In Islam, all that is demanded as a sacrifice is one’s personal willingness to submit one’s ego and individual will to Allah.

In fact, Allah never "asked" Prophet Abraham to sacrifice his son. Rather, the Prophet saw a dream as has been narrated in the Holy Qur'an [Surah As Saffat 37:102-107]:
102) Then when (the son) Reached (the age of) (Serious) work with him He said: “Oh my son! I see in vision That I offer thee in sacrifice: Now see what is Thy view!” (The son) said: “Oh my father! Do As thou art commanded: Thou wilt find me, If Allah so wills one Practicing patience and constancy!” 103) So when they had both Submitted their wills (to Allah), And he had laid him Prostrate on his forehead (For sacrifice), 104) We called out to him, “Oh Abraham!” 1054) “Thou hast already fulfilled the vision!” thus indeed Do We reward Those who do right. 106) For this was obviously A trial, 107) And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice.
Based on the dream, the Prophet understood that he had been demanded to make a supreme sacrifice, which for him seemed to be something that should be dearest to him of all. So, he asked his son to be that sacrifice, which his son obediently acknowledged without any hesitation. This is the total essence: Total Submission and Obedience. And it must be remembered that Allah does not need meat or blood of animals as has been mentioned in Surah Hajj [22:37]:
It is not their meat nor their blood, that reaches Allah: it is your piety That reaches Him: He Has thus made them subject to you, that ye may glorify Allah for His guidance to you: * And proclaim the Good News To all who do right
No one should suppose that meat or blood is acceptable to the One True God. It was a pagan fancy that Allah could be appeased by blood sacrifice. But Allah does accept the offering of our hearts, and as a symbol of such offer.

Replying the to this oft asked query by non-Muslims, please listen to the answer by Professor Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, a Pakistani Muslim theologian, Quran scholar, Islamic modernist, exegete and educationist, on the subject. The video is in Urdu, but has English subtitles for those who cannot understand Urdu: 
May Allāh (سبحانه و تعالى‎) help us understand Qur'ān and follow the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, which is embodiment of commandments of Allah contained in the Qur'ān. May Allah help us to be like the ones He loves and let our lives be lived helping others and not making others' lives miserable or unlivable. May all our wrong doings, whether intentional or unintentional, be forgiven before the angel of death knocks on our door. 
وَمَا عَلَيۡنَاۤ اِلَّا الۡبَلٰغُ الۡمُبِيۡنُ‏ 
(36:17) and our duty is no more than to clearly convey the Message.”
That is Our duty is only to convey to you the message that Allah has entrusted us with. Then it is for you to accept it or reject it. We have not been made responsible for making you accept it forcibly, and if you do not accept it, we shall not be seized in consequence of your disbelief, you will yourselves be answerable for your actions on Day of Resurrection.

Reading the Qur'ān should be a daily obligation of a Muslim - Reading it with translation will make it meaningful. But reading its Exegesis / Tafsir will make you understand it fully. It will also help the Muslims to have grasp over social issues and their answers discussed in the Qur'an and other matter related to inter faith so that they are able to discuss issues with non-Muslims with authority based on refences from Qur'an.

May Allah forgive me if my posts ever imply a piety far greater than I possess. I am most in need of guidance.

Note: When we mention God in our posts, we mean One True God, we call Allah in Islam, with no associates. Allah is the Sole Creator of all things, and that Allah is all-powerful and all-knowing. Allah has no offspring, no race, no gender, no body, and is unaffected by the characteristics of human life.

Photo | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 |
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