1) Every year Muslims sacrifice cattle in the month of Julhajj ( last month of lunar calendar). It is known as Qurbani or Udhiya, which means sacrifice. Qurbani is the Sunnah of Prophet Ibrahim (AW). Muhammad (pbuh) revived this Sunnah in Islam by the order of Allah. Infect this sacrificial ritual was the way of Allah for every nation. Allah says : “ To every nation we have given certain sacrificial rituals, so that they might sacrifice the cattle, only with the name of Allah. Your God is one God, so to him surrender. Give glad tidings to those who obey Allah with humility” ( Quran 22:34 ). This verse gives the following directions :
- Believers shall sacrifice everything for the satisfaction of Allah.
- A believer must demonstrate complete surrender to Allah by his sacrifices.
- A believer must demonstrate obedience to order of Allah by his sacrifices.
- Success is for those believers who obey Allah in all affairs with humility.
2) After setting the above goal of Qurbani, Allah has given an example of Prophet Ibrahim (AW) and his son Ismail (AW) in the Quran for Muslims to understand objectives of Qurbani. Allah says :
“When the boy ( Ismail) was old enough to work with his father, Abraham said :“ My son ! I have seen in a dream that I must sacrifice you. Tell me, then what you think. Ismail said : “ My father ! Do as you are commanded, and, God willing, you will find me to be patient in adversity”. When the two of them had surrendered themselves to the will of God, and Abraham told him prostate on his forehead; We called to him : “ Abraham ! you have already fulfilled the dream”. Thus, do we reward those who do good. All this was indeed a momentous trial. We ransomed ( Ismail ) with a noble sacrifice. We caused him to be praised by later generations. Peace be upon Ibrahim. Thus, do We reward those who do good.”( Quran 37 : 102 -110 ). This example of Ibrahim (AW) and his son Ismail ( AW) with respect to their sacrifices, teaches the following :
- Any difficulty in executing order of Allah shall be taken as a trial. Sacrifice with patience shall be made to overcome difficulty in executing order of Allah.
- A believer should have firm faith that the result of obeying order of Allah is good for him.
- Allah rewards those who sacrifices for doing good deed and obeying His order as He rewarded Prophet Ibrahim ( AW ) and his son Ismail ( AW) , which is stated in the above verse.
- Prior to performing Qurbani , a believer should refresh the story of sacrifice of Ibrahim (AW) and think why Allah has narrated this in Quran and be prepared mentally to obey order of Allah in every affair throughout the year.
3) Allah states in verse 37 chapter 22 of the Quran ,the qualities that a believer needs to achieve through ritual sacrifice which will enable him to obey order of Allah in everything : “ It is not the meat and blood of your sacrifice that please God. What pleases God is your piety ( Taqwa). God has made subservient to you the sacrificial animals so that you might glorify Allah for His guidance to you. Good news is for the people who do righteous deed”. This verse set up the way that leads to success through Qurbani and are as follows :
- A believer must aim to please Allah through sacrificing ritual cattle. Allah is pleased if a believer uses his sacrifice as a means for fearing Allah. Only fear of Allah can ensure obedience to Him in everything.
- Fear of Allah ( Taqwa ) achieved through Qurbani helps a believer to take guidance from Quran and do righteous deed. As a result of good deed, a believer achieves success in this world and in afterlife.
- Symbolic cattle sacrifice does not end with eating and distributing meat, rather provides Qualities of Taqwa, which helps a believer for total submission to Allah alone. He profoundly declares : “ Say, my prayers, my sacrifices, my living and dying are for God alone, and I shall be the first of those ( Muslims ) who surrender themselves to Him” ( Quran 6 : 162-163). This is the spirit of Qurbani demonstrated by Prophet Ibrahim ( AW) and his son Ismail (Aw) and this is what Allah wants us to achieve through Qurbani.
4) The Prophetic Qurbani :
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is the Role Model for us for implementing Guidance of Allah in performing Qurbani. Imam ibn Kathir narrated Prophetic Qurbani in the Tafsir of Surah Hajj as follows: “ One animal is sufficient on behalf of all the members of one household. Ibn Omar said : ‘The Messenger of Allah continued to offer sacrifice for ten years’. This is narrated by At- Tirmidhi. Abu Ayub said : ‘ At the time of the Messenger of Allah a man would suffice a sheep on behalf of himself and all the members of his household, and they would eat from it and feed others, until the people started boasting ( by sacrificing more than one ) and things reached the stage that you see now’. This was recorded by At- Tirmidhi, who graded it Shahih and Ibn Majah. Abdullah ibn Hisham used to sacrifice one sheep on behalf of his entire family. This is recorded by Imam Bukhari.”
Above authentic narrations give clear picture of simplicity of Qurbani by Prophet (pbuh) and his companions. Eating and feeding from slaughtered cattle, they used to do as ordered by Allah. But their main objective was to achieve Taqwa and obey order of Allah with sincerity through Qurbani. Prophet (pbuh) said : “Whoever made a sacrifice with all sincerity, the act of sacrifice will protect him from hellfire” (Tabrani ).
Prophet (pbuh) used to start Slaughtering sacrificial animal in the name of Allah (bismillah) and glorifying Allah with His greatness ( Allahu Akbar).This is narrated by Bukhari and Muslim with authority of Anas ( RA). It was not just utterance at the time of slaughter. He and his companions dedicated their lives for establishing greatness of Allah in this world. They sacrificed cattle as a symbol for themselves to be sacrificed like Prophet Abraham ( AW ) and his son Prophet Ismail ( AW) for the satisfaction of Allah. They have proven the truth of it by sacrificing their wealth, time , energy and even their lives to make God’s religion Islam supreme for His satisfaction. Are we doing the same or just slaughtering the sacrificial animal as a religious custom ?
5) Conclusion :
Above discussions with reference to Quran and Sunnah give clear direction about God’s intention behind introducing ritual sacrifice as an act of worship. He facilitates us to achieve sincerity, piety (Taqwa), righteous life , do good and avoid wrong by obeying order of Allah through ritual sacrifice throughout the year. These are very much needed for successful life in this world and in afterlife. Early Muslims performed Qurbani for achieving these. As a result, Muslims were successful as a nation. We need to understand that without achieving these , Qurbani ends with eating and feeding meat of cattle that we do anyway throughout the year. It will not bring desired benefits for us, society, and nation. Therefore, we need to revive the spirit of Qurbani in ourselves as stated in the Quran and demonstrated by Prophet Abraham (AW), Ismail ( AW), Muhammad (pbuh) and his companions. We can not achieve this just by slaughtering cattle as a religious custom. We need to follow guidance from Quran and Sunnah in fixing our objectives of Qurbani, compare our situation with the companions of Prophet (pbuh) and act like them for Islam for the satisfaction of Allah.
Syed Jalal Uddin