Muslims must rethink: Mass slaughter of animals on Bakrid and the meaning of sacrifice

Revisiting the essence of sacrifice in Islam involves embracing a holistic approach that integrates spiritual, social, environmental, and economic dimensions
Representation Image

Islam, Through Principles Like Ijma(Scholarly Consensus) And Qiyas (Analogical Reasoning), Provides Mechanisms For Contextual Interpretations When Faced With Situations Not Explicitly Addressed In Scripture. Rituals In Islam Are Intended To Be Pathways To Inner Peace And Societal Harmony.

Every year during Hajj, Muslims commemorate Prophet Abraham’s unwavering faith through the ritual of animal sacrifice, known as Qurbani. This act symbolizes Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice his son in obedience to God’s command. However, as our understanding of faith and spirituality evolves, a critical question emerges: Does the ritual of animal slaughter on Eid Al-Adha remain the most meaningful expression of sacrifice?

Islam, through principles like Ijma (scholarly consensus) and Qiyas (analogical reasoning), provides mechanisms for contextual interpretations when faced with situations not explicitly addressed in scripture. Rituals in Islam are intended to be pathways to inner peace and societal harmony. The core of Islam lies in building cohesive communities where everyone feels safe and valued, regardless of background. It is perhaps time for Muslims to revisit the essence of sacrifice, looking beyond the physical act itself.

True sacrifice, as the story of Abraham demonstrates, transcends material possessions. It embodies selflessness and devotion, akin to a parent’s sacrifice for their child’s wellbeing. Abraham’s willingness to submit to God’s will, even if it meant sacrificing his son, exemplifies profound obedience and selflessness. The arrival of the lamb as a substitute highlights a crucial truth: sacrifice is about obedience and prioritizing the well-being of others, not mere appeasement through bloodshed.

Historically, blood sacrifices were common among pagans and Jews of the time. Islam, however, ushered in a new era, emphasizing personal sacrifice and submission as keys to God’s favour. The Quranic account (Q.37:102-107) does not explicitly command the killing of a son. Instead, it suggests that Abraham’s dream may have been misinterpreted, reinforcing the idea that God does not advocate for violence (Q.7:28, 16:90).

Both Abraham and his son’s willingness to sacrifice everything demonstrates their detachment from worldly possessions. This act unlocked God’s mercy, enlightening them with wisdom and correcting the notion of blood atonement. Understanding the historical context of these verses becomes crucial in interpreting their true message.

The underlying message of animal sacrifice in Islam is not blood atonement, but gratitude. It is about sharing our blessings and acknowledging that only God has the power to give and take life. The act of sacrifice serves as a reminder of our humility and the sanctity of life. The Quran emphasizes this essence: “It is not their meat nor their blood, that reaches God: it is your piety that reaches Him” (Q.22:37). The ritual becomes a symbol of thanksgiving, where meat is shared with others in need. Invoking God’s name during the sacrifice reinforces the sacredness of life and our role as stewards of creation.

The Quranic passages reveal that animal sacrifice was tied to the socio-economic realities of Arabian society. It was a way to express gratitude and share valuable resources, such as livestock, with others. Today, our most prized possessions often come in the form of money. Therefore, Muslims can consider alternative forms of sacrifice, such as donating to empower the less fortunate. Supporting a struggling vendor or a single mother can create a lasting impact, aligning perfectly with the Quranic message of utilitarianism: “Feed yourself and feed the needy” (Q. 22:36), “eat their flesh and feed the needy” (Q.22:28).

The core principle of Islam is fostering inclusive societies. As Muslims, the focus should be on the true spirit of sacrifice: selflessness and sharing our blessings. By embracing alternative forms of sacrifice that resonate with our contemporary world, we can honour the spirit of Eid Al-Azha and the timeless teachings of Islam.

The essence of sacrifice in Islam is not confined to the ritual slaughter of animals. It encompasses a broader spectrum of selflessness, generosity, and gratitude. By interpreting and practicing these principles in ways that address modern socio-economic realities, Muslims can continue to uphold the profound values of their faith in meaningful and impactful ways.

The concept of sacrifice in Islam is deeply rooted in the principles of Maqasid Sharia, which aim to preserve faith, life, intellect, lineage, and wealth. These objectives underscore the importance of human welfare and social justice in Islamic teachings. Revisiting the essence of sacrifice in light of Maqasid Sharia encourages Muslims to reflect on the broader implications of their actions and their contributions to societal well-being.

One way to expand the concept of sacrifice is by focusing on personal and communal development. This could involve volunteering time and resources to support educational initiatives, healthcare, and social services. By prioritizing actions that uplift the community, Muslims can embody the spirit of sacrifice in ways that have a lasting and transformative impact.

In today’s context, environmental sustainability is an increasingly important consideration. The traditional practice of animal sacrifice, while symbolically significant, also has ecological implications. The mass slaughter of animals during Eid Al-Azha contributes to environmental degradation and resource depletion. As stewards of the Earth, Muslims are called to consider the environmental impact of their practices and seek sustainable alternatives that align with the principles of Islam.

Adopting more sustainable practices could include supporting eco-friendly initiatives, reducing waste, and promoting conservation efforts. These actions reflect a broader understanding of sacrifice that prioritizes the health and well-being of the planet and future generations.

Economic empowerment is another vital aspect of modern sacrifice. In a world where economic disparities are prevalent, supporting initiatives that promote financial stability and independence can be a powerful form of sacrifice. This could involve investing in small businesses, providing microloans, or supporting vocational training programs. By enabling individuals and communities to achieve economic self-sufficiency, Muslims can fulfil the spirit of sacrifice in a way that fosters long-term growth and development.

Ultimately, revisiting the essence of sacrifice in Islam involves embracing a holistic approach that integrates spiritual, social, environmental, and economic dimensions. This approach aligns with the broader objectives of Maqasid Sharia and reflects a deep commitment to the well-being of all creation. By expanding the concept of sacrifice beyond ritualistic practices, Muslims can cultivate a more profound and meaningful connection to their faith and its teachings.

By exploring alternative forms of sacrifice that address contemporary challenges and uphold the principles of Maqasid Sharia, Muslims can honour the true spirit of Eid Al-Azha and contribute to a more just, compassionate, and sustainable world.

V.A. Mohamad Ashrof is a scholar on Islam and contemporary affairs

Courtesy: New Age Islam



Related Articles