Abid Hussain Rather
The Islamic calendar starts with the month of Muharram and ends with the month of Dhu al-Hijjah. When we look at these two months, both are marked with acts of sacrifice. On the 10th of Muharram the grandson of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) Imam Hussain (RA) and his 72 companions sacrificed their lives for the sake of Islam. During Dhu al-Hajj, Hazrat Ibrahim (AS) agreed to sacrifice his beloved son, Ismail (AS). The story is narrated in the Quran as:
“When he was of an age to work with him, he [Ibrahim] said, ‘My son, I saw in a dream that I must sacrifice you. What do you think about this?’ He [Ismail] said, ‘Do as you are ordered, father. God willing, you will find me steadfast.’ Allah ransomed him with a mighty sacrifice. So pray to your Lord and sacrifice”. Quran (108:2)
Allah accepted Ibrahim’s sacrifice and put a ram in place of Ismail. We can therefore say that the sole purpose of our life is complete submission before Allah. We should always sacrifice our will before the will of the Almighty, without any doubts or disputes. The Arabic term Islam itself means ‘surrender’. A true believer is always ready to surrender his will before Allah and the event of Eid-ul-Azha reminds us of this fundamental duty.
When we trace the history of sacrifice in Islam we find that it were the two sons of Prophet Adam (AS), Habil and Qabil, who were first asked by Adam (AS) to make a sacrifice to resolve a different between them. Habil sacrificed his best, well-fed and healthy animal, as he was a shepherd, while as Qabil, who was a land tiller, unwillingly sacrificed some produce grown from his land. Allah accepted Habil’s sacrifice as he was pious and righteous while Qabil’s sacrifice was rejected as he was without righteousness and had not made his sacrifice with sincerity. Habil explained to his brother that Allah accepts sacrifice of only those people who have Taqwa. This story illustrates that sincerity and purity of intention are the most important part of the sacrifice. Almighty Allah is not a human being and He doesn’t need flesh, blood or meat of the animal. Rather, the essence of sacrifice lies in Taqwa – righteousness and piety – which has to be attained through the spirit of devotion and sacrifice. It is clearly mentioned in Quran:
“Their meat will not reach to Allah, nor will their blood, but what reaches Him is piety from you” Quran (22:37).
Sacrifice in Islam is a spiritual activity and a beautiful chance to draw us closer to Almighty Allah. Love lies at the roots of sacrifice and love for Allah and His Prophet (PBUH) is vital for a believer. It is the piety of Hazrat Ibrahim (AS) which needs to be celebrated rather than the sacrifice of animals.
Though the concept of sacrifice in Islam has been criticised by many non-believers, particularly in the Christian world during the age of enlightenment, for example by Immanuel Kant, who argued that Ibrahim (AS) should have been certain about his own moral sense and suspicious about an ostensibly divine voice commanding him to do something as cruel as sacrificing his son. Though Kant was not necessarily advocating defiance of God, he was empowering human reason. The argument of Kant clashes with the basic tenets of Islam where a believer is asked for complete submission. Whenever the will of a believer clashes with the will of the Almighty or with the basic principles of Islam, he has to sacrifice his own will and follow the greater principles. A believer should always believe that Allah has bestowed him with limited knowledge while only Allah has infinite knowledge. So, even the apparently wrong judgements of Allah are never wrong in the true sense. Sacrifice in Islam teaches us to slaughter our innate hatred, jealousy, pride, greed, animosity, and doubts before the will of Almighty Allah.
The writer teaches Geography at GDC, Kulgam. firstname.lastname@example.org