Short Answer: Muslims sacrifice an animal to commemorate the events that happened to Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), peace be upon him. Prophet Ibrahim submitted to the Will of Allah. His son did too. When he was about to slaughter his son, Allah spared him of doing so. He ransomed his son with a great sacrifice that He sent. The point of this whole event is not the animal itself, or its meat or blood, but rather God-consciousness. It’s an occasion of mercy, sharing and remembrance of the mercy of God.
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The answer is no.
This is not the purpose of sacrificing animals in ‘Eid Al-Adha, and this is not how sins are forgiven. We will discuss the two issues here briefly.
First, with regards to the purpose behind the sacrificed animals, this is what Allah Almighty says in the Quran:
Their meat will not reach Allah, nor will their blood, but what reaches Him is piety from you. Thus have We subjected them to you that you may glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and give good tidings to the doers of good. (Quran 22: 34-37)
Sacrificing the animal commemorates the events that happened to Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), peace be upon him.
The Story of Ibrahim
What happened to him illustrated the meaning of true and pure monotheism, full belief, trust and reliance upon The Creator Allah Almighty, and how He rewards His sincere slaves.
(The story is mentioned in Quran, Chapter 37, Verses 99-113, for your reference.)
For a little background, Ibrahim (peace be upon him) had left his own father and his people when he found that they associated others with Allah Almighty and weren’t monotheists.
He choose to worship Allah alone. He rejected any false gods even if this meant leaving his own people. They wanted to burn him for insulting their false gods.
So he decided to leave them and remain on the straight path of pure monotheism. Ibrahim asked The Creator for a righteous son. Allah Almighty gave him a son. But He tested him with this gift.
The gifts that Allah gives us are not to take us away from His path. We should continue loving Him primarily as The Giver and appreciating and being faithful to Him above all else.
So Allah asked Ibrahim to slaughter his dear son.
While this is quite a heavy and difficult command for him, his heart was in full reliance and trust in Allah. He knew that whatever Allah decrees is the best for His slaves because He is the Most Merciful, The All Wise, All Knowing and Owner of everything in the heavens and the earth.
So Ibrahim submitted to the Will of Allah. His son did too. When Ibrahim was about to slaughter his son, Allah spared him of doing so. He ransomed his son with a great sacrifice that He sent.
The point of this trial was testing the attachments in the heart of Ibrahim and his son. Are they dedicated and in full faith, trust and belief in Allah, or are they full of fears, doubts or love for things in the mortal worldly life?
The Gifts Allah Blessed Him With
When Allah saw their sincerity in faith (which is the purpose of the creation of all mankind), He saved Ibrahim and his son from the difficult trial.
He ransomed his son with a great sacrifice, “A ram which had grazed in Paradise for forty years” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir).
Then, he gifted Ibrahim with another son—Ishaq (Isaac).
Later, and for all time, he gave Ibrahim an honorable reputation in later generations. Until the end of time people will remember him and learn from his story.
Allah also said, “peace upon Ibrahim”. This shows that the ultimate peace from the Source of Peace Himself is granted to those who have deep faith in Him and are in true submission to Him.
This word, submission, means that one is in line with the purpose of his/her creation, not fighting against that purpose of creation, and this gives a feeling of peace, serenity, stability, satisfaction and gratitude.
The Point is God-Consciousness
So, the point of this whole event is not the animal itself, or its meat or blood, but rather the God-consciousness, the true, pure and sincere faith of the believers in their Creator, because this is the essence of a meaningful relationship with Him.
Allah says what means:
And whosoever has taqwa of Allah (God-consciousness), 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)
And this is what happened to Ibrahim: he proved his faith in Allah despite the difficult situation, and Allah made a way out for him from this difficulty.
Allah wants to see the minds, hearts, and actions of His slaves submitting to Him and deeply connecting with Him as He orders and instructs. This is the true belief in and humility before The Creator.
He created those sacrificed animals and all other creation. Their blood won’t do anything to him. Nor will it affect the created beings if they don’t fix their own hearts, minds and actions.
So in the feast of Al-Adha, for example, if you look at what actually happens with the sacrifice of an animal, it actually brings benefit to us, not to God. God is free of need.
What happens is that we eat from what He has provided for us, feed the poor and share with our families.
It’s an occasion of mercy, sharing and remembrance of the mercy of God.
Also, it serves as remembrance of His mercy on Prophet Abraham- peace be upon him- and the fact that He spared Him from having to slaughter his own son. It is the mercy we celebrate.
And God loves those who are grateful to Him, and those who observe what He is doing, what He is giving and are thankful.
In the next part, we will discuss sin and repentance.
If God is The Just, why would He accept that I throw my sins on someone/something else?
If He is Al-Ghany (The Free of Need) why would the blood, flesh, etc. benefit Him?
How could blood remove my sin or how could it realistically fix the problem or make me sincerely lead a righteous life as God ordered?
(From Ask About Islam’s archives)