The sacrifice of Ismael symbolises extinction of the self for Allah’s sake
As Muslims world over prepare for Qurbani let’s explore its origin and why this ritual is so important in Islam. Qurbani is the sacrifice of an animal on the days of Eid al-Adha, from the 10th to the 12th of Dhul-Hijjah. It’s a worship to please the Lord and to follow the example of Ibrahim. Qurbani is compulsory (wajib) on every person who is liable for paying Zakah. The Prophet ﷺ said, “The best deed of the son of Adam on Eid day is to sacrifice an animal and his sins will be forgiven before the blood drops on the ground” (Tirmidhi). He ﷺ said, “When you sacrifice an animal, you build a barrier between yourself and hellfire” (Tabrani).
Ibrahim (Alayhi salam) continued his teaching, preaching and lifelong Jihad for Allah’s cause. He grew old without children, so one day he prayed, “Lord, grant me a righteous son. So, we gave him the good news of a patient Son. When the boy was old enough to work with his father Ibrahim said, my son, I saw myself sacrificing you in a dream. What do you think? He said father do as you are commanded and, God willing, you will find me steadfast. When they had both submitted to God, and he had laid him face-down, we called out ‘Ibrahim you have fulfilled the dream’. This is how We reward those who do good. It was a test to prove their true characters, we exchanged his son for a momentous sacrifice. We ensured succeeding generations appreciated his sacrifice, peace be on Ibrahim! This is how We reward the righteous, truly he was our faithful servant” (Saffat: 100-112).
Ibrahim fulfils the dream
The Majestic Quran in its inimitable way has told the story of Ibrahim’s dream. Here are some details: the next day he sacrificed a hundred goats, he had the same dream the second night, so he sacrificed 100 camels the next day, on the third night he had the same dream. This time Ibrahim said, “Lord, I have been sacrificing for two days, what else should I do?” The voice said, “My dear friend sacrifice Ismael”. Ismael his only son was a teenager enjoying life. So, Ibrahim disclosed his dream to him and asked for his opinion. Imam Razi suggests that Ibrahim did so to test his patience, give him the opportunity to volunteer to be sacrificed. Ismael’s reply, “You will find me patient God willing.”
Satan tries to dissuade Ibrahim from making the sacrifice
Satan did everything to dissuade Ibrahim, Ismael and his mother Hajar to resist, one by one he went to them, telling them that this was an unimaginable act and they must not carry it out. The faithful family understood his trickery and pelted Satan and told him to get on his bike. Coming from the household of Ibrahim they knew that sacrifice meant; giving up things that are valuable for something that is even more important and more valuable. Their mantra like Ibrahim’s was “my prayer, my sacrifices, my living and dying are all for the Lord of the universe” (Anam: 162).
A hasty preparation was made for the sacrifice. Imam Razi gives a moving account of how Ibrahim and Ismael spent the last few moments before the momentous event, Ibrahim said to his son, my darling, you are under the Divine command, then kissed him and laid him face-down for the slaughter. A call from the mountain drew his attention, “Ibrahim you have fulfilled the dream, this was a big test.” Instead, a ram from paradise was laid at the feet of Ibrahim. The test revealed Ibrahim’s sincerity and love. Sometimes this is the only way to get across a powerful message.
The building of the Ka’bah
After this momentous event of the sacrifice, Ibrahim and Ismael set about building the Ka’bah as thanksgiving. Wherever Ibrahim went he built a house of God, the mosque and alter, the Quran specifically talks about his building of the Ka’bah in Makkah, “as Ibrahim and Ismael laid the foundations of the house, they prayed, ‘Our Lord accept this from us. You are the all-hearing the all-knowing” (Baqarah: 127).
Allah appreciates the work of His servants, so Ibrahim is showered with titles, “Ibrahim was truly an example: devoutly obedient to God and true in faith. He was not an idolater, he was thankful for the blessings of God, which shows him and guided him to a straight path. We gave him blessings in this world, and he will be with the righteous in the hereafter. Then we told you Muhammad follow the creed of Ibrahim, a man of pure faith” (Nahl: 120-123).
Moral lessons from the life of Ibrahim
The momentous sacrifice or at least the willingness of father and son to carry out the sacrifice teaches:
- Nurturing and developing good qualities in children:
Ibrahim after telling his dream asked his teenage son Ismael, “What do you think?” seeking his opinion, making him part of the decision. The instant and the wise response was “Father, do as you were commanded you will find me patient”.
- Be courageous:
Courage is the ability to face danger and fear and take risks for the greater good. It is the opposite of cowardice. To bear difficulties and to try to achieve great works at risk to one-self. Brave people can stand on their feet and achieve amazing things.
- Be patient:
Patience means to remain calm in times of difficulty and wait until the tide turns. It’s the art of bearing hardships. A patient person is waiting for one’s turn, gets up early in the morning for prayer, walks to the mosque, fasts and avoids evil.