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Social Solidarity: An Outcome of the Annual Sacrifice

12 September, 2016
Q Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) when Allah told him to sacrifice his son, he agreed and went off to cut him. Now that's a real sacrifice by agreeing. So why are we giving sacrifices of goats? I mean cutting a goat is not a big deal at all. I hope we all know what the meaning of sacrifice is, and for my information, the test was exclusively for Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him). So why did we interfere in that matter, and started cutting goats?. (I am not pinpointing my religion) I just want an ultimate answer, for my knowledge.


Salam Dear Brother,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

Offering the sacrifice during the feast is a divine order from God to Muslims. It was never an act that Muslims invented or “interfered” in. The Quran clearly says what means:

{… so pray to your Lord and sacrifice…} (Al-Kawthar 108:2)

This order is not directed exclusively to Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) alone as you mentioned, but it is directed to all Muslims capable of sacrificing.

The exception related to Prophet Ibrahim was that he saw a vision where he was slaughtering his son Prophet Ismail (Ishmael). According to the characteristic of prophethood, a prophet’s vision is kind of a divine order.

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Allah, the Most Merciful, would never demand the head of one’s son. Though prophets are the most tolerant and most giving, God would not order a prophet to “slaughter” his own son. That vision was just to test Prophet Ibrahim’s complete submission to God.

Prophet Ibrahim was a Muslim. This means he was a person who chose to submit to God in full Islam. Here, Islam means complete and peaceful submission to the Creator. That is the essence of the religion of Islam. According to the Islamic creed, all prophets were Muslims who chose to submit peacefully and fully to their Beloved Provider.

If these blessed and pious people loved God that much and devoted their life to His cause, why would He ever order any of them to act so brutally towards his own flesh and blood?

Well, it never happened. The order to kill his son was never complete in case of Prophet Ibrahim. Because the moment he completely surrendered, along with his son, to fulfill the “order”, they were both saved from its agony. The revelation came to save them, where the Quran says what means:

{Then We ransomed him with a tremendous sacrifice (i.e. a ram)} (As-Saffat 37:107)

This saving order came at the moment where both the father and the son were in complete surrender to God’s order and were at the point when they were going to carry out what they thought to be their assignment.

That was after when the son told his father:

{… my father, do that which you are commanded God willing you shall find me amongst the patient.} (As-Saffat 37:102)

After testing both prophets, father and son, it is now our turn to be tested. It is our turn to express our devotion and submission to any divine order. But why did God choose to order Muslims to sacrifice a ram and not their own sons and daughters? I guess the question would better be “Why would God order people to sacrifice their own flesh and blood?”

What would God benefit from torturing His servants, whether physically or even psychologically? The answer is “nothing”. God never decrees orders to His servants in order to get the benefit for Himself.

He does not need us, rather we need Him. He does not need what we have, but He gives us what we have. He does not benefit from what He has given us, but we are always in need of what He has.

A main reason behind any of God’s orders is to test our submission. And, since Allah is the Most Wise, He knows our capacities and tolerance. He knows we are incapable of sacrificing our own children.

There is never a need to do that. What is needed here from someone who wants to express his submission to Allah is revival of the memory of Prophet Ibrahim’s full submission, along with that of his son. This revival in itself is an act of submission. That is as long as it is done in the way God ordered us to revive it.

But, why didn’t God order us just to re-act the scene over and over again, year after year? Why wouldn’t we simply act a play in the memory of submission?  Why did God choose the ram?

Sacrificing a ram is of benefits to the Muslim community. This is why God chose to decree this annual sacrifice.  Again, it is not Allah Who needs the sacrifice, but it is us who need to sacrifice as an expression of submission to God’s order and of devotion and a way of giving in the society. The Quran says what means:

{It is not their meat nor their blood, that reaches Allah: it is your piety that reaches Him: He has thus made them subject to you, that ye may glorify Allah for His Guidance to you and proclaim the good news to all who do right.} (Al-Hajj 22:37)

Sacrificing a ram might not be a big deal as you mentioned, but still, it is a bit of a deal. The person who sacrifices gives up, for God’s sake, a portion of his money, time and effort. These in themselves are enough to be accepted by Allah, the Most Merciful, as an expression of devotion and submission.

Also, there is the most important of sacrifices, which is our tolerance. When a person sacrifices, he then has to distribute the meat to the poor. This is where the social solidarity in the Muslim community is emphasized.

Dealing with the needy and hungry poor people is not as easy as you might imagine. It needs lots of patience and tolerance, for they themselves are not always patient in their waiting.

Here comes the self-disciplinary step, for the sake of Allah, to accept the poor as they are and never to shut them out. It is an Islamic code of ethics to be good to the poor and needy, not only by giving them, but by giving them in a nice way.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has said that smiling to the faces of our brethrens is considered a charity. (At-Tirmidhi) So, keeping the smile here is always a must, for the poor and rich are considered brothers.

The one who offers the sacrifice is the brother of the one who takes parts of it. The smile and friendly attitude bridges the gap. The Quran emphasis this by saying what means:

{And as for the one who asks, do not repulse (him).} (Ad-Duha 93:10)

I personally have lived the major portion of my life in an Islamic country. Year after the other, I have seen the poor waiting for the Eid and its sacrifice. Many of them hardly feed on meat except during this event. I have seen the smiles on their faces when they receive it from the rich.

Again, I have seen the smiles on the faces of the rich. After they have distributed the meat to the needy and heard them wish them happiness and success in their prayers, I have seen the rich thanking God for fulfilling their duty towards their society.

It is a simple sacrifice as you mentioned. It is only once per year, but it means a lot to both parties. The in-depth meaning of sacrifice in Islam is never related to the idea of torture. When you love someone, you give up what you love for his or her sake. When you give this thing up, which you don’t love as much as the one you are sacrificing for, you do feel relieved. That usually demands some effort from you and setting priorities.

Loving God is related to submission and giving up your freewill only for His sake. Yet, being the Most Merciful, He always gives us explanations to His divine orders and He always sets His orders to be some kind of service to us, at their very end.

I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.


About Sister Dalia Salaheldin
Sister Dalia Salaheldin is: - An instructor and consultant of interfaith & intercultural Dialogue - A speaker and orator on interfaith and intercultural discourse - An instructor of Arabic and Quranic language at the American University in Cairo - A trainer of interfaith and intercultural discourse and dialogue - A founder of Reading Islam Website - A bilingual writer and proem poet - A social and political activist who has traveled through the world widely - A human development adviser and alternative medicine practitioner