Tuesday 28 July 2020

Selected Verses from Quran: The Essence of Ritual of (Animal) Sacrifice

The Eid ul Adha is just a few days away on the 10th of Dhul Hajjah 1441 AH / 1st August 2020. The hallmark of Eid ul Adha is the sacrificing of animals to commemorate the tradition of great sacrifice of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham, peace be upon him). Adha in Arabic means to sacrifice, thus on this day, Muslims attending the Hajj at Makkah, Saudi Arabia in particular, and Muslims around the world in general sacrifice animals as directed by Allah in the 34th verse of Surah 22. Al Hajj: 

وَلِكُلِّ اُمَّةٍ جَعَلۡنَا مَنۡسَكًا لِّيَذۡكُرُوا اسۡمَ اللّٰهِ عَلٰى مَا رَزَقَهُمۡ مِّنۡۢ بَهِيۡمَةِ الۡاَنۡعَامِ ؕ فَاِلٰهُكُمۡ اِلٰـهٌ وَّاحِدٌ فَلَهٗۤ اَسۡلِمُوۡا​ ؕ وَبَشِّرِ الۡمُخۡبِتِيۡنَ ۙ‏ 

"And [thus it is:] unto every community [that has ever believed in Us] have We appointed [sacrifice as] an act of worship, so that they might extol the name of God over whatever heads of cattle He may have provided for them [to this end]. And [always bear in mind:] your God is the One and Only God: hence, surrender yourselves unto Him. And give thou the glad tiding [of God's acceptance] unto all who are humble"

This verse implies two things.
(1) Sacrifice has been an essential part of the worship of One Allah in all the revealed religions. In order to inculcate Tauhid, Allah prohibited sacrifice for anyone other than Himself. This was in keeping with the other prohibitions which were made for others than Allah. For instance, prostration before anyone other than Allah, making vows for others than Allah, visiting holy places other than those prescribed by Allah, fasting in the name of others than of Allah, etc., were all prohibited.
(2) The other thing which has been common in all the revealed religions was the object of the sacrifice in the name of Allah though its details have been different in different religions, times and countries.
The Arabic word mukhbitin has no equivalent in English. It includes those who; (1) Give up pride, arrogance and adopt humility before Allah, (2) Surrender themselves to His service and slavery, and (3) Accept His decrees sincerely.

This verse explains the true end of sacrifice, not propitiation of higher powers, for Allah is One, and He does not delight in flesh or blood (xxii. 37, see under), but a symbol of thanksgiving to Allah by sharing meat with fellow-men. The solemn pronouncement of Allah's name over the sacrifice is an essential part of the rite.

The understanding of this verse is not complete unless we go ahead and read the 37th verse:

لَنۡ يَّنَالَ اللّٰهَ لُحُـوۡمُهَا وَلَا دِمَآؤُهَا وَلٰـكِنۡ يَّنَالُهُ التَّقۡوٰى مِنۡكُمۡ​ؕ كَذٰلِكَ سَخَّرَهَا لَـكُمۡ لِتُكَبِّرُوا اللّٰهَ عَلٰى مَا هَدٰٮكُمۡ​ؕ وَبَشِّرِ الۡمُحۡسِنِيۡنَ‏ 

"Neither their flesh reaches Allah nor their blood; it is your piety that reaches Him. He has subjected these animals (to you) that you may magnify Allah for the guidance He has bestowed upon you. Give glad tidings, (O Prophet), to those who do good."

This prescribes a very important condition for the sacrifice made in the worship of Allah. A sacrifice is acceptable to Allah only if it is accompanied by piety and sincerity. Though sacrifice is a symbol of Allah, yet it has been made plain that it is accepted only if it is accompanied by piety, saying: “Neither their meat that reaches Allah nor their blood, but what reaches Him is the piety from you”. This was also meant to condemn the ritual of the days of ignorance, when the Arabs took the flesh to the Kabah and smeared its walls with the blood of the sacrificed animal.

“That you may glorify Allah” at the time of sacrifice verbally also in order to acknowledge that the animals really belong to Allah and to no one else. One of the sentences uttered at the time of sacrifice is Allahumma minka wa laka (O Allah, this animal is Thine and is presented to Thee).

It should be noted that the command of sacrifice is not for the pilgrims alone and that the performance of sacrifice is not confined to Makkah on the occasion of Hajj. It is a general command for all those Muslims who are well off. They have been enjoined to be grateful to Allah because He has subjected these animals for the good of all human beings. Therefore, they are required to sacrifice the animals during these days so that they may spiritually join those who go to Makkah to perform Hajj.

There are many authentic traditions to the effect that the Prophet (peace be upon him) made sacrifice on this occasion, while he was personally at Al-Madinah.
(1) The one who does not perform sacrifice even though he can, should not join us in the Eid Prayer. (Musnad Ahmad, Ibn Majah).
(2) According to a tradition reported by Ibn Umar, the Prophet (peace be upon him) dwelt at Al-Madinah for ten years and performed sacrifice every year. (Tirmizi).
(3) According to Anas, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
The one who sacrificed an animal before the Eid Prayer, should offer another sacrifice; but the one who sacrificed his animal after the Eid Prayer, did the right thing and followed the way of the Muslims. (Bukhari).
It this connection, it is note-worthy that no Eid Prayer is held on the tenth of Zil-Hajj in Makkah: therefore, the injunction was meant for all Muslims and not only for those performing Hajj at Makkah.

Thus, it is clear that the sacrifice on the occasion of Eid which is observed in the entire Muslim world is a Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and has been enjoined by him. The only dispute is whether it is obligatory in nature or only a Sunnah. Ibrahim Nakhai, Imams Abu Hanifah, Malik, Muhammad and, according to a tradition, Imam Abu Yusuf too, are of the opinion that it is obligatory in nature. On the other hand, Imams Shafai and Ahmad bin Hanbal regard it only as a Sunnah of the Muslims, and Sufyan Thauri has also agreed with them, saying that there will be no harm if a person does not offer a sacrifice.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
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, some visible institution is necessary. He has given us power over the brute creation, and permitted us to eat meat, but only if we pronounce His name at the solemn act of taking life, for without this solemn invocation, we are apt to forget the sacredness of fife. By the invocation we are reminded that wanton cruelty is not in our thoughts, but only the need of food. Now if we further deny the greater part of the food (some theologians fix the proportion at three-quarters or two-thirds) for the sake of our poorer brethren in solemn assembly in the precincts of the Haram (sacred territory), our symbolic act finds practical expression in benevolence, and that is the virtue sought to be taught. We should be grateful to Allah for His guidance in this matter, in which many Peoples have gone wrong, and we should proclaim the true doctrine so that virtue and charity may increase among men.

May Allah help us understand Qur'an and help us to act upon the commandments of Allah contained therein. Aameen.

For more Selected Verses, please refer to our reference page: Selected Verses from the Qur'an

Please refer to our page: Dhu al-Hijja (ذُو ٱلْحِجَّة): The month of Pilgrimage - The Hajj to know more about Dhu al-Hijja and Hajj. You may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Quran.
Photo | Reference: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |  Why do Muslims sacrifice Animals
Reading the Holy Quran 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.

An effort has been made to gather explanation / exegesis of the surahs of the Holy Qur'an from authentic sources and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. In that:

  • The plain translation has been taken from the Holy Quran officially published by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. [1]
  • The exegesis of the chapters of the Holy Quran is mainly based on the "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an" by one of the most enlightened scholars of the Muslim World Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi. [2]  

In order to augment and add more explanation as already provided by [2], additional input has been interjected from following sources: 

  • Towards Understanding the Quran
  • Tafsir Ibn Khatir
  • Muhammad Asad Translation
  • Javed Ahmad Ghamidi / Al Mawrid
  • Al-Quran, Yusuf Ali Translation
  • Verse by Verse Qur'an Study Circle

In addition the references of  other sources which have been explored have also been given above. Those desirous of detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to these sites.

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