The Terminology and History of the Sacrifice

The Terminology of the Sacrifice

Qurbani‘ is an Urdu-Persian word derived from the Arabic word ‘Qurban‘ which loosely translates into ‘charitable offering’. Qurban is used to refer to all acts done to seek nearness to Almighty Allah and to seek His good pleasure. In precise religious terminology, the word Qurban originally was used in to include all acts of charity. However, the word is now used to refer specifically to the sacrificial slaughter of an animal for the sake of Allah SWT on the day of Eid-ul-Adha. The word ‘Udhiya‘ (from where the ‘Adha’ in Eid-ul-Adha comes from) specifically means the ‘blood sacrifice’ (slaughtering) of a quadrupled (four-footed), domesticated animal,

The History of the Sacrifice

The divine Shariah injunction and sacredness of slaughtering of animals with the intention of gaining the nearness to our Creator Allah SWT began from the time of Adam AS. From amongst Adam AS’s children, there were two sets of twins, consisting of a male and female each. The names of the males were Habeel (Abel) and Qabeel (Cain), who both desired to marry. The command came down from Allah SWT that Habeel was to marry the twin sister of Qabeel, while Qabeel was to marry the twin sister of Habeel. Qabeel was displeased as his own sister was prettier than the sister of Habeel, and refused. Based on the disagreement, both sons were instructed to offer a sacrifice to Allah SWT. Habeel presented a ram, the best of his flock, while Qabeel presented the worst of his crops harvest. The ram of Habeel was accepted (burnt by a fire from the sky as was customary traditions of the times of the past) and so began the practice of animal offerings. This did not go down well with Qabeel and led to the first murder by humans on earth. (Qabeel was actually demonstrated by Allah SWT on how to bury his brother Habeel after watching a crow bury another crow – but that is a story for another day!).

The slaughtering of animals on Eid-ul-Adha as we see today was practiced from the time of the Prophet Muhammad SAW and his noble companions. This is done according to the Sunnah (practice) of the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) AS to commemorate his willingness to submit to the will of our Creator by being ready to sacrifice his son Ismail AS (who was born after a long time and the only son of Ibrahim AS at the time). The incident is described in chapter 37, Surah As-Saffat, of the Noble Quraan

Ibrahim AS had a dream where he saw himself pressing a knife to the neck of his son Ismail AS. After having this dream, Ibrahim AS consulted with his son Ismail AS to prepare him for the difficult sacrifice that lay ahead, “Oh my little son, I have seen in a dream that I am slaughtering you, so consider, what do you think?” [Quraan, 37:102]. Ismail (AS) replied in the most humble of ways, “Oh my dear father, do what you have been ordered to do. You will find me, if Allah wills, one of those who endure patiently.” (Quraan, 37:102). However, when Ibrahim AS tried to slaughter his son, the knife would not cut. The angel Jibra’il (Gabriel) AS then intervened with the message from our Creator to Ibrahim AS that his sacrifice has already been accepted when he placed the knife on the neck of Ismail AS “Oh Ibrahim, you did make the dream come true.” (Quraan, 37:104). Jibra’il AS instead presented to Prophet Ibrahim AS a ram from Jannah (Paradise) as ‘fidyah’ (ransom) “And we ransomed him (Ismail) with a great sacrifice.” (Quraan, 37:107).

It is narrated that the origin of the ‘Takbeer-e-Tasreeq’ that we read from Fajr of the 9th of Dhu-al-Hijjah to after Asr 9th of Dhu-al-Hijjah comes from this incident. When Hazrat Jibra’il AS arrived with the ram, he feared that Hazrat Ibrahim AS would slaughter Ismail AS and so he shouted,

“Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar.” (Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest.)

Hearing his voice, Prophet Ibrahim AS took it as a glad tiding and exclaimed,

“Laa ilaaha allallahu wallahu akbar.” (There is none worthy of worship besides Allah)

Hazrat Ismail AS also came to know that the ‘fidyah’ arrived and got up saying in praise and thanks to Allah SWT,

“Allahu akbar wa lillahil hamd,” (Allah is the Greatest and indeed all praise is for Allah alone).

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