History and Philosophy of Qurbani


Salman Ahmed Shaikh

Sacrifice for Allah has a very long history in Islam. Habil and Qabil offered first sacrifice for Allah in known history. Habil’s sacrifice was accepted by Allah while Qabil’s sacrifice was not accepted. Habil was a pious man whose sacrifice was accepted because of his piety. Qabil’s sacrifice was not accepted because he offered the worst grain as sacrifice and was not sincere in offering the sacrifice.

In Chapter Hajj (Verse 37) while describing the essence of ‘Qurbani’, Quran says:

“It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah, but it is piety from you that reaches Him. Thus, We have made them subject to you that you may magnify Allah for His Guidance to you. And give glad tidings (O Muhammad pbuh) to the Muhsinun (doers of good).”

This guides us to the fact that for any sacrifice, what matters is the sincerity and the sense of purpose in offering sacrifice. What is required is the feeling inside that even if one is asked to offer oneself or one’s wealth in Allah’s way for sacrifice, one would be ready for it. Qurbani or sacrifice is a symbolic oath of this resolve.

Muslims offer sacrifice of animals annually on the occasion of Eid-ul-Adha inspired from the sacrifice of Ibrahim (pbuh).

Allah had granted Ibrahim (pbuh) a son at a very old age. When this beloved son, Ismail (pbuh) was a young boy, Ibrahim (pbuh) saw in a dream that he was slaughtering his son. Since the dreams of the Prophets are true, Ibrahim (pbuh) deduced that this was a command of Allah. Hence, he resolved to fulfill this command. Ibrahim (pbuh) discussed with his son Ismail (pbuh) about the dream. Ismail (pbuh) assured that he would be steadfast in enabling his father to fulfill Allah’s command.

When Ibrahim (pbuh) began to pass the knife over his son’s throat, the knife could not work. Eventually, he heard a voice saying: You have fulfilled the dream (vision)!” Verily! Thus, We reward the Muhsinun (Noted in Quran in Surah Sa’affat: Verse 105).  Then, Jibraeel (A.S.), the angel, appeared with a sheep from Jannah and Ibrahim (pbuh) was ordered to sacrifice it in place of His (pbuh) beloved son.

In commemoration of this noble and the greatest spirit of sacrifice, Allah ordered the Ummat of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to sacrifice an animal on the occasion of Eid-ul Adha. For this reason, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) described it as “The Sunnah of your father Ibrahim (pbuh)” (Ibn Majah & Mishkaat).

Qurbani or sacrifice is synonymous with surrender. It symbolizes that the person performing Qurbani is willing to sacrifice everything dear to him for Allah. It symbolizes and strengthens the promise with Allah that the person performing Qurbani would be willing to obey all the commandments of Allah and will sacrifice his interests and belongings that come in the way of fulfilling Allah’s orders.

Thus, Qurbani is a great ‘Ibadah’ in Islam and is a source of reinvigorating the pact with Allah if done with proper understanding of its philosophy, history and purpose.

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About Salman Ahmed Shaikh

PhD Economics. Author, Researcher, Teacher and Consultant. He can be contacted at: salman@siswa.ukm.edu.my
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