Significance of sacrifice

September 13, 2016 01:29 am | Updated September 22, 2016 06:56 pm IST

Eid al-Azha, the Festival of Sacrifice, is celebrated on the 10th of Dhul Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic calendar. It honours the prophets Ibrahim and his son Ismail for their reverential and unquestioned willingness to fulfil a divine vision in which prophet Ibrahim saw himself sacrificing his son. The Koran describes this vision as a clear trial ( al balaa’ul mubeen ) and mentions how God stopped the sacrifice in time and immortalised it by ransoming it with another “great sacrifice” ( zibhin azeem ). Some commentators interpret zibhin azeem as signifying the permanent ban Islam imposed on ritualistic human sacrifice, which was the common way of propitiating deities during Abrahamic times. To symbolise the importance of zibhin azeem , the practice of sacrificing cattle was established. However, the Koran warns Muslims that animal sacrifice is not a propitiatory ritual. What matters is the humanitarian intent. Real sacrifice lies in selflessly committing ourselves to the service of humanity. Hence, the Koran describes the sacrificial animal as hady , or a gift, to be given to the needy.

During the Prophet’s time, the best gift anyone could give to the malnourished poor was meat. But today, keeping the timelessness of Koranic concepts in mind, it could be asked whether the best form of hady would not be to give quality education to poor students. Funds for this could be generated by slaughtering animals, as per Prophetic norms. Authentic reports reveal that the Prophet sacrificed just one goat for himself and his family, and allowed larger bovines to be shared by seven people. The money saved could well be used for the educational uplift of the community.

— A. Faizur Rahman

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