A Brief History of Sacrifice In Islam, By Murtadha Gusau

…sacrifice is an act of submission to Allah. It is to submit to the will of the Almighty. Sometimes Allah asks us to sacrifice something very important to us in order to learn that there is something greater beyond it. But sadly sometimes we fail to translate the essence of its sacrificial values in our life!

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious and the Bestower of Mercy

Alhamdulillah. Indeed, all praise is due to Allah. We praise Him and seek His help and forgiveness. We seek refuge with Allah from the evil within ourselves and from our wrongdoings. He whom Allah guides, no one can misguide; and he whom He misguides, no one can guide.

I bear witness that there is no (true) god except Allah – alone without a partner, and I bear witness that Muhammad (Pbuh) is His ‘abd (Servant) and Messenger.

“O you who believe! Revere Allah the right reverence, and do not die except as Muslims.” (Surah Ali Imran, 3:102)

“O people! Revere your Lord who has created you from a single soul, created from it its mate, and dispersed from both of them many men and women. Revere Allah through whom you demand things from one another; and (cherish the ties of) the wombs, indeed, Allah is ever watchful over you.” (Surah Al-Nisa’, 4:1)

“O you who believe! Revere Allah and say fair words. He will then rectify your deeds and forgive your sins. He who obeys Allah and His Messenger have certainly achieved a great victory.” (Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:70-71)

Indeed, the best speech is Allah’s (SWT) Book and the best guidance is Muhammad’s (Pbuh) guidance. The worst affairs (of religion) are those innovated (by people), for every such innovation is an act of misguidance leading to the fire.

Servants of Allah! Know that, the historical background of Eid-ul-Adha is that the Prophet Ibrahim (may Allah be pleased with him) had a dream in which he was sacrificing his young son, Isma’il (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Prophet Ibrahim, a great and sincere believer in Allah, took his dream literally and wanted to sacrifice his son. But, according to the tradition, Allah the Almighty sent his angels and asked him to sacrifice an animal instead of his son.

Allah the Almighty said:

“So, We gave him the glad tidings of a forbearing boy. And, when he (his son) was old enough to walk with him, he said: “O my son! I have seen in a dream that I am slaughtering you. So look what you think!” He said: “O my father! Do that which you are commanded, if Allah wills, you shall find me of the patient.” Then, when they had both submitted themselves, and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead; We called out to him: “O Ibrahim!” “You have fulfilled the dream!” Verily, thus do We reward the doers of good. Verily, that indeed was a manifest trial. And We ransomed him (the son) with a great sacrifice.” [Surah As-Saffaat, 37:101–107]

Brothers and sisters! Islam organises the spiritual and moral life of man as well as the practical side in order to live a normal balanced life. Every act of worship in Islam has a meaning, a purpose and a significance, and of great spiritual, moral, and physical benefits.

This is Prophet Ibrahim’s test of the Sacrifice of his beloved son Prophet Isma’il, and how Allah blessed Him as explained by Imam Ibn Kathir in his Tafsir of the above Qur’anic verse:

“Allah said: “So We gave him the glad tidings of a forbearing boy.” – This child was Isma’il, peace be upon him, for he was the first child of whom glad tidings were given to Ibrahim, peace be upon him, and he was older than Ishaq. The Muslims and the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) agree, and indeed it is stated in their Book, that Isma’il, peace be upon him, was born when Ibrahim, peace be upon him, was eighty-six years old, and Ishaq was born when Ibrahim was ninety-nine years old. According to their Book, Allah commanded Ibrahim to sacrifice his only son, and in another text it says his firstborn son. But here they falsely inserted the name of Ishaq. This is not right because it goes against what their own Scripture says. They inserted the name of Ishaq because he is their ancestor, while Isma’il is the ancestor of the Arabs. They were jealous of them, so they added this idea and changed the meaning of the phrase “only son” to mean ‘the only son who is with you,’ because Isma’il had been taken with his mother to Makkah. But this is a case of falsification and distortion, because the words “only son” cannot be said except in the case of one who has no other son. Furthermore, the firstborn son has a special status that is not shared by subsequent children, so the command to sacrifice him is a more exquisite test. “And, when he (his son) was old enough to walk with him,” – means, when he grew up and started to go with his father and walk with him, for Ibrahim used to go every so often to check on his son and his mother in the land of Faran (i.e., Makkah), to see how they were doing. It was said that he used to ride on Al-Buraq, traveling there swiftly, and Allah knows best, means, when he became a young man and was able to work as his father did. “And, when he (his son) was old enough to walk with him, he said: “O my son! I have seen in a dream that I am slaughtering you. So look what you think!” – The dreams of the Prophets are revelation, He told his son that in order to make it easier for him, and also to test his patience and resolve, at a young age, in obeying Allah and obeying his father. “He said: “O my father! Do that which you are commanded…” – meaning, ‘obey the command of Allah and sacrifice me.’ “if Allah wills, you shall find me of the patient.” – meaning, ‘I will be patient and will seek the reward for that with Allah.’ He, may peace and blessings be upon him, believed in what had been promised. Allah said: “And mention in the Book of Isma’il. Verily, he was true to what he promised, and he was a Messenger, (and) a Prophet. And he used to enjoin on his family the Salah and the Zakah, and his Lord was pleased with him.” (Quran, 19:54-55) “Then, when they had both submitted themselves, and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead;” – means, when both of them had pronounced the Shahadah and remembered Allah — Ibrahim because he was about to offer a sacrifice and Isma’il because he was about to die. Or it was said that “submitted themselves” means that they submitted and followed the command of Allah; Ibrahim obeyed the command of Allah and Isma’il obeyed Allah and his father. The meaning of the phrase “and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead” is: he placed him facedown so that he could slaughter him from behind, and not have to see his face at the time of slaughter, so that it would be easier for him. means, He turned him upside down on his face. Imam Ahmad recorded that Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “When the rituals were enjoined upon Ibrahim, peace be upon him, the Shaitan appeared to him at the Mas’a and raced with him, but Ibrahim got there first. Then Jibril, upon him be peace, took him to Jamrat Al-Aqabah and the Shaitan appeared to him, so he stoned him with seven pebbles until he disappeared. Then he appeared him at Al-Jamrah Al-Wusta and he stoned him with seven pebbles. Then he laid him prostrate on his face. Isma’il, peace be upon him, was wearing a white shirt, and he said, ‘O my father, I do not have any garment in which I can be shrouded apart from this; take it off me so that you can shroud me in it.’ He started to take it off, then he was called from behind: “O Ibrahim! You have fulfilled the dream!” – means, ‘the purpose of your dream has been fulfilled by your laying down your son to sacrifice him. Ibrahim turned, and saw a fine, horned, white ram. Imam As-Suddi and others said that he passed the knife over Isma’il’s neck, but it did not cut him at all, because a sheet of copper was placed between them. Ibrahim was called at that point, and it was said: “You have fulfilled the dream!” Allah says; “Verily, thus do We reward the doers of good.” – means, ‘this is how We deal with those who obey Us in things that are difficult for them; We make for them a way out.’ As Allah says: “And whosoever has Taqwa of Allah, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty). And He will provide him from (sources) he never could imagine. And whosoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him. Verily, Allah will accomplish his purpose. Indeed Allah has set a measure for all things.” (Quran, 65:2-3) On the basis of this verse and this story, some of the scholars of Usul have stated that it is valid for a ruling to be abrogated before anyone is able to act upon it — unlike some of the Mu’tazilah. The evidence for this is obvious, because Allah commanded Ibrahim, peace be upon him, to sacrifice his son, then He abrogated that and pointed out the ransom. The purpose of His command had been primarily to reward His close Friend for his patience and resolve in sacrificing his son. Allah says: “Verily, that indeed was a manifest trial.” – meaning, it was clearly a test when he was commanded to sacrifice his son, so, he hastened to do it, in submission to the command of Allah and in obedience to Him. Allah said: “And of Ibrahim who fulfilled all that.” (53:37), and “And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice.” – It was reported that Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “A ram which had grazed in Paradise for forty years.” Imam Ahmad recorded that Safiyyah bint Shaibah said, “A woman from Bani Sulaim, who was the midwife of most of the people in our household, told me that the Messenger of Allah sent for Uthman bin Talhah, may Allah be pleased with him.” On one occasion she said, “I asked Uthman, ‘Why did the Prophet call you’ He said, ‘The Messenger of Allah said to me, “I saw the horns of the ram when I entered the House (i.e., the Ka’abah), and I forgot to tell you to cover them up; cover them up, for there should not be anything in the House which could distract the worshipper.”Sufyan said, “The horns of the ram remained hanging in the House until it was burned, and they were burned too.” This offers independent evidence that the one who was to be sacrificed was Isma’il, peace be upon him. The Quraish had inherited the horns of the ram that Ibrahim sacrificed, and they had been passed down from generation to generation, until the Messenger of Allah was sent. And Allah knows best.” (See the Tafsir of Ibn Kathir)

Brothers and sisters! “Indeed there has been an excellent example for you in Ibrahim (Abraham) and those with him, when they said to their people: “Verily, we are free from you and whatever you worship besides Allah, we have rejected you, and there has started between us and you, hostility and hatred forever, until you believe in Allah Alone,” except the saying of Ibrahim (Abraham) to his father: “Verily, I will ask for forgiveness (from Allah) for you, but I have no power to do anything for you before Allah.” Our Lord! In You (Alone) we put our trust, and to You (Alone) we turn in repentance, and to You (Alone) is (our) final Return.” (Surah al-Mumtahinah, 60:4)

My people! During the celebration of Eid-ul-Adha, Muslims honour and remember Ibrahim’s (may Allah be pleased with him) test and trials, by themselves slaughtering an animal such as a sheep, camel, cow or goat.

Allah has given us supremacy over those animals and permitted us to eat their meat, but only if we pronounce His name at the earnest act of taking their life. Muslims slaughter animals in the same way throughout the year. By saying the name of Allah at the time of slaughter, we are reminded that life is sacred. Life is to be valued with utmost act of piousness and holiness.

Brothers and sisters! The meat from the sacrifice of Eid-ul-Adha is mostly given away to others. One-third is eaten by immediate family and relatives, one-third is given away to friends, and one-third is donated to the poor. It is to divide among those who honestly deserve the share of it rather than consuming all among ourselves.

It is also very important to understand that the sacrifice itself, as practiced by Muslims, has nothing to do with apologising for our sins or using the blood to wash ourselves from sin. This is a misunderstanding by those of previous generations. Allah the Almighty said:

“It is not their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah; it is your devotion that reaches Him.” (Qur’an 22:37)

My respected people! After the five pillars of Islam, the Sunnah of Prophet Ibrahim (sacrifice) is the most important activity. This sacrifice is the legacy of Prophet Ibrahim who combines the Prophetic patronage from three religions i.e. Jewish, Islam and Christianity. The festival also symbolises the trial of faith and loyalty towards Allah. It enlightens our path with true spirit of righteousness and rectitude.

A sacrifice, usually taken to be the slaughtering of animals, is more than that. The physical act of sacrificing of the animals is just a ritual, is just a tradition and is just a sacred practice whereas the essence lies far beyond it and the spirit of it goes far beyond common human perception.

The act symbolises our will to give up some of our own bounties, in order to strengthen ties of friendship and help those who are in need. It is to train us on how to surrender ourselves to the will of Allah for the sake of serving humanity. We recognise that all blessings come from Allah, and we should open our heart and share with others.

Eid-ul-Adha is celebrated for a certain number of days but its impact is required to last the entire year. Eid-ul-Adha is like a symbolic rehearsal of high values and it is essential that these values be translated into practical life all the year round. We must be reminded all the moments of our living by how religiously we have gone through the act of sacrificing.

Perhaps, most of us think of the spiritual sacrifice as giving something up, but we have to look inside ourselves to see why we are sacrificing something in the first place.

In fact, sacrifice is an act of submission to Allah. It is to submit to the will of the Almighty. Sometimes Allah asks us to sacrifice something very important to us in order to learn that there is something greater beyond it. But sadly sometimes we fail to translate the essence of its sacrificial values in our life!

Furthermore, we need to practice the spiritual effect of sacrifice so that we learn to rely on Allah’s provisions rather than the things we have built for ourselves. It is a part of submitting to Him.

Eid is also a day on which Muslims remember the deceased, visit the sick, see relatives and friends, overlook grudges, help the needy and show kindness and generosity to all.

Overcoming the common grievances against each other that prevent our mutual co-existence is the ultimate spirit of sacrifice. It is also a day for rejoicing by getting involved in a good, clean and honest enjoyment.

My people! Sacrifices contribute to the success of our struggle. They strengthen our inner spiritual and moral resources and develop qualities of character which are essential to our struggle at every level of our existence.

Every act of sacrifice nourishes and increases our Iman, that is to say ‘Faith’, for it transforms a verbal confession and a mental conviction into a living reality. It confirms, and thus increases, our love for Allah, for every step we give up something for the sake of his love.
It reinforces our loyalty and faithfulness to Allah, for all other loyalties become secondary as they are sacrificed for the sake of this loyalty. In short, sacrifices bring us nearer to Allah and develop a sort of invisible communication with the Creator. It makes us feel stronger and firmer.

The process is mutually interactive: the stronger the faith, the greater the will and capacity to sacrifice, the greater the sacrifices, the more internalised and deeper the faith. That is indeed the secret of our good and balanced living.

Sacrifices are essential for the development of all moral qualities, but especially for the development of tolerance, strength, determination, firmness and purpose. These can be summed up in just one word patience (Sabr).

Every sacrifice reinforces the quality of patience, making it grow in quality and strength. Forbearance, in turn, sustains and increases the capacity to sacrifice.

All promises of help from Allah, all assurances of success in this world and rewards in the Hereafter, have been made conditional upon the attainment of sacrifice and patience.

Indeed, sacrifice is the essence of life and we should leave no stone unturned to sacrifice our money, our comfort, our knowledge, our energy and our time for the sake of Allah. We should make an effort to live truly to the expectations of the spirit of sacrifice that the festival of Eid-ul-Adha stands for.

Observing the Eid Festival and etiquettes of Eid-ul-Adha in summary:

1. Taking a bath on the occasion of the two Eid festivals is recommended. This can be done any time after midnight preceding the Eid day.

2. A Muslim should dress well and wear a pleasant perfume before leaving for the Eid prayers.

3. Before going to pray in the morning on the day of Eid-ul-fitr, eating some dates, or food, is recommended.

4. It is preferable not to eat anything on the day of Eid-ul-Adha until performing the Eid prayer in the morning; and then one should return home, slaughter an animal, and prepare the feast meal.

5. Walking to the place of the Eid prayer is recommended unless it is too far away to do so, or any reason.

6. The Eid congregational prayer is usually not performed in the Mosque, unless it is raining. To perform it in an open square is recommended.

7. It is recommended that the whole Muslim community, with the exception of invalids and the disabled, should gather in the open square for the Eid prayer. This includes menstruating women, who may be present at the occasion but who may not participate in the Eid prayer.

8. It is strongly recommended to wait and listen to the Eid Sermon (Khutbah) given by the Imam, but it is not obligatory.

9. When going back to his home after the prayer, a Muslim should return by a different road from the one he took when going to the prayer. This will provide him with an opportunity to meet a larger number of Muslims than would otherwise be the case.

10. One should take the initiative and congratulate Muslims on this occasion by saying: Taqabbal Allah minna Wa minkum (May Allah accept from you and us).

11. The rules of conduct and behaviour in the Mosque must be followed here as well.

12. Fasting on the day of Eid-ul-fitr or during the three days following the day of Eid-ul-Adha is forbidden.

13. A Muslim should dress his children beautifully, buy them sweets, chocolates, and help them to celebrate and experience the occasion. This is necessary to help them identify with their Islamic culture.

14. A Muslim must avoid doing anything that would annoy his family or dampen their good spirits and spoil their good humour on this special occasion.

15. Fathers, Islamic leaders and responsible persons should ensure on such occasions that Islamic law is adhered to, as these festivals are to thank Allah and not to indulge in disobedience to Him. Thus, such things as illegal mixing of the sexes, etc. should not occur, although such happy occasions could easily give rise to the wish to do so.

16. According to some Islamic Scholars, it is obligatory, whether one is a pilgrim or not, that every family who have the means, offer a sacrifice on this occasion. By sacrifice is meant the slaughtering of certain kinds of animals.

17. The sacrificial animal should be chosen from healthy stock. An animal whose ear or tongue has been clipped, whose horns have been broken, or who is crippled, should not be selected; the animal should be more than one year old; if sheep and goat, cow or ox more than two years; and if camel or she-camel, more than five years.

18. The sacrificial animal is irreplaceable by alms equal to the cost of the animal.

19. The sacrifice may be a sheep, a goat, a cow, or a camel. A cow or a camel serves for seven people, who share with one another the sacrifice.

20. The correct time for slaughtering is upon return from the Eid prayer. Therefore, slaughtering should be avoided before that time, since that will not be considered a sacrifice. If one sacrifice is made before the prayer, another sacrifice may be made after the prayer.

21. If a person can slaughter well, then it is recommended that he performs the slaughtering himself, otherwise he should entrust someone to slaughter on his behalf.

22. When slaughtering the sacrifice the knife must be sharp, the animal must face towards the Qibla (Ka’abah side) and Allah’s name must be mentioned, saying: Bismillah, Allahu Akbar.

23. A sacrifice may be slaughtered at home, though it is preferable if possible, to perform the slaughtering in the open square where the prayer was performed.

24. Parts of the animal may be eaten or kept by the person making the sacrifice. A large part of it, however, should be given to the poor. Something may also be given to the relatives of the person making the sacrifice.

25. The time of slaughtering sacrifices lasts four days including the first day of the Eid festival. But according to Imam Abu Hanifah, it is limited to three days.

26. Selling any part of the sacrifices animal or giving any part of it, including the hide/skin, to the butcher or person who slaughtered it, in payment, is forbidden.

27. It is desirable and highly recommended for anyone who will be sacrificing an animal for Eid-ul-Adha to avoid cutting their hair or nails from the beginning of the month of Zul-Hijjah until after the animal is slaughtered.

I ask Allah to accept our good deeds and bless our days of Eid, Ameen Ya Rabb.

I ask Allah to assist us in living by the Quran and Sunnah. I pray that He lets us recognise the truth for what it is and helps us to follow it, and that He lets us see falsehood for what it is and helps us to avoid it.

O Allah! Guide us and protect us from the causes of ignorance and destruction! Save us from the defects of ourselves! Cause the last of our deeds to be the best and most righteous! And forgive all of us. Ameen Ya Rabb!

My respected people! Anything good I have said in my today’s Khutbah (Sermon) is from Allah the Almighty, and any mistakes are my own and we seek refuge in Allah from giving wrong advice and from all forms of calamities and fitnah. And I ask Allah’s forgiveness if I stepped beyond bounds in anything I said or I do.

May Allah be praised; and may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon His Messenger, Muhammad and upon his family and Companions.

With this I conclude my Khutbah (Sermon) and ask Allah, the Almighty and the Sublime, to forgive all of our sins. So seek his forgiveness, He is all forgiving Most Merciful.

This Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday Sermon) was prepared for delivery today, Friday, Zul-Hijjah 10,1438 AH (September 1st, 2017), by Imam Murtadha Muhammad Gusau, the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and late Alhaji Abdurrahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene Kogi State, Nigeria. The Imam can be reached through: +2348038289761.

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