The Islamic calendar starts with the month of Muharram ul Haraam and ends with the month of Dhu al-Hijjah. When we look at these two months, both are marked with the acts of sacrifice. On the 10th of Muharram the grandson of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) Imam Hussain (RA) along with his 72 companions sacrificed their lives for the sake of Islam, for keeping the immaculacy, purity and true spirit of the religion of Almighty upright.
During the last month of Dhu al-Hajj, it was Hazrat Ibrahim (AS) who willed to sacrifice his beloved son, Ismail (AS), when he was asked to sacrifice his most precious thing for Allah’s pleasure. The story is narrated in 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 his submission towards Allah and put a ram in place of Ismail. On a compendious look at these two events we can aptly say that we should always inculcate that the sole purpose of our life is complete submission before Allah. We should always sacrifice our will before the judgements of Almighty without any arguments with ourselves or anybody else. The Arabic term Islam itself literally means ‘surrender’, which illuminates the fundamental religious idea of Islam – that a true believer is always ready to surrender and sacrifice his will before Allah and the event of Eid ul Azha every year reminds us this fundamental religious idea of Islam. When Ibrahim (AS) was asked for sacrifice, he didn’t argue about it but he completely submitted his will with a pious and righteous heart before the judgement of Allah as was revealed to him in his dream.
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 as Qabil’s sacrifice was rejected as he was without righteousness and had not made his sacrifice with sincerity and Allah was aware of that. 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 our sacrifice. Rather the real essence of sacrifice lies in Taqwa- righteousness and piety- which has to be attained through the spirit of devotion and sacrifice. It is patently mentioned in Quran that:
“Their meat will not reach to Allah, nor will their blood, but what reaches .Him is piety from you” Quran (22:37).
The 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 of Almighty Allah and His Prophet (PBUH) is an essence for a true believer. When Ibrahim (AS) was confronted with the challenge of love and allegiance, he choose to submit unconditionally to Allah and suppressed his personal desire and his love for his family and his child. He was willing to obey Allah’s order even if it meant killing of his son. So in real essence it the piety of Hazrat Ibrahim (AS) which needs to be celebrated rather than celebrating the sacrifice of animals.
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Though the concept of sacrifice in Islam has been criticized by many non believers during the past particularly in the Christian world during the age of enlightenment like Immanuel Kant – A German philosopher of 18th century, 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 defying God, but he was empowering human reason. The argument of Kant clashes with the basic tenets of Islam where a true believer is asked for complete submission to Almighty Allah and sacrifice his human will before Almighty.
Whenever the human will of a true believer clashes with the judgements of Almighty Allah and basic principles of Islam, he has to happily sacrifice his own will and follow the principles of Islam. A true believer should always believe that being a human being Almighty Allah has bestowed him with limited knowledge while as the Allah himself has infinite knowledge. So apparently wrong seeming judgements of Allah are never wrong in true sense and He never lets to go the sacrifices of His true believers in vain rather rewards them for their sacrifices. This is the basic philosophy behind the sacrifice in Islam. In conclusion, Sacrifice in Islam teaches us to slaughter our innate desires of hatred, jealousy, pride, greed, animosity, love for the world and other likely things before the will of Almighty Allah.
The author is a columnist and teaches Geography at GDC, Kulgam. He can be reached at email@example.com