Why we make udhiyah=animal sacrifice in Islam?
Mohamad Mostafa Nassar
By Maulana Abu Hudhaifa Muhammed Karolia
Before explaining why we make udhiyah, we first have to understand why we make hajj. Although there are a number of activities in hajj (tawaaf, sa’ee, the stay in ‘Arafah, the stay in Muzdalifah, pelting of the jamaraat, offering of a sacrificial animal, shaving of the hair etc.), Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam said that, “Hajj is ‘Arafah” – as if hajj is only about ‘Arafah.
That, however, is not what he meant. Instead, he meant that the stay in ‘Arafah is so important, it is as if there is nothing else in hajj besides ‘Arafah. Thus, the fuqaha agree that even if a person diligently observes all the injunctions of hajj, his hajj will be invalid if he does not spend any time – no matter how short – between zawaal of the ninth of Dhil Hajj and subh saadiq of the tenth in ‘Arafah.
On the contrary, if person spends some time between zawaal of the ninth of Dhil Hajj and subh saadiq of the tenth in ‘Arafah, his hajj will be valid even if he omits all or some of the other injunctions of hajj.
This means that ‘Arafah is the climax of hajj – as though the pilgrim’s aim in making hajj is merely to reach ‘Arafah. The question now is, ‘what is ‘Arafah all about?’ Looking beyond the performance of dhuhr and ‘asr at one time and the fervent du’aas and cries for forgiveness, those who comprehend the deeper dimensions of our ‘ibaadaat contend that ‘Arafah is a meeting with Allah.
Before meeting with worldly kings and presidents (or any other dignitary), we take a bath, wear the best clothes and apply some perfume. In fact, we do this before attending any function. Similarly, before meeting with Allah in ‘Arafah, we have to be clean.
This meeting, however, demands spiritual cleanliness. Thus, we keep saum and exert ourselves in other ‘ibaadaat (obligatory and optional) in the month of Ramadaan. Hence, the last moment of Ramadaan is the first moment of hajj. Consider two questions viz.
The answers to both these questions are the same – when the crescent of ‘eid-ul-fitr is sighted. The moment Ramadaan ends, hajj begins. Remember, Allah Ta’aala said:
“Hajj comprises a (few) known months.” [Surah Al-Baqarah, Aayah, 197]
These known months are Shawwaal, Dhul-Qa’dah and the first ten days of Dhul-Hajj.
In the past, in the days of kings and queens, whenever a man was granted a meeting with the king, he would be required to present the king with a gift. Similarly, when the haaji meets Allah, he too is required to present Allah with a gift. Since nothing is more valuable to man than his life, the most appropriate gift that the haaji could present to Allah is his life. Nonetheless, suicide is impermissible.
“Do not kill yourselves; certainly Allah is Most Merciful unto you.” [Surah An-Nisaa, Aayah 29]
So what does the haaji do? When Nabi Ibrahim (alayhissalaam) tried to slaughter Nabi Isma’eel (alayhissalaam) in accordance with the command of Allah, Allah Ta’ala sent him a ram from the sky and told him to slaughter the ram instead. Thus, the haaji is commanded to slaughter an animal instead of himself. This sacrifice is his ‘gift’ to Allah.
In the Farewell Hajj, Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam slaughtered one hundred camels. The reason for doing so is that the blood money for a human life is one hundred camels. Thus, if one may not sacrifice his life, it would be appropriate to slaughter a hundred camels instead. However, not everybody possesses so many camels.
(That is why the blood money for manslaughter is paid by the killer’s ‘aaqilah, a group of people related to the killer.) Furthermore, there would be a colossal problem if every haaji were required to sacrifice a hundred camels each. Hence, the sharee’ah requires the haaji to slaughter a single animal as his ‘gift’ to Allah.
I guess that you are probably wondering what all this has to do with udhiyah. We do not make hajj in Benoni, Springs or Lenasia. Hajj can only be made in Makkah. So why are we who are not hujjaaj commanded to make udhiyah? The answer to this is imitation; we are commanded to imitate the hujjaaj.
“Recall the time when we made the ka’bah a place to which people repeatedly return …” [Surah Al-Baqarah, Aayah 125]
It is for this reason that we observe countless people who repeatedly go for hajj and ‘umrah. We also observe that those who lack the ability to return fervently desire doing so. Thus, their hearts ‘bleed’ when they see the hujjaaj departing for hajj.
When they hear the live transmission of the ‘Arafah khutbah on the ninth of Dhul-Hajj, they cry again. If only they were there. Pitying such people, Allah tells them not to despare. Sitting at home, you too can earn a reward similar to that of the haaji. Just imitate him. Remember the hadith:
“Whoever imitates a people will be among them.” Thus:
Just as the haaji does not cut or shave his hair and pare his nails while he is in ihram, the non-haaji refrains from doing so during the first ten days of Dhul-Hajj.
— Just as the haaji recites talbiyah, the non-haaji recites the takbeer-ut-tashreeq.
— Just as the haaji sacrifices an animal called hady or dammush-shukr on the tenth of Dhul-Hajj, the non-haaji sacrifices an animal called udhiyah on the same day.
— Just as the haaji slaughters after the assembly in ‘Arafah, the non-haaji slaughters after the assembly in the musalla (‘eid gaah).
— Just as the haaji only cuts or shaves his hair and pares his nails after slaughtering his hady, the non-haaji only cuts or shaves his hair and pares his nails after slaughtering his udhiyah.
The people of Madinah had two annual festivals. After hijrah (migration), Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam substituted them with the two ‘eids (‘Eid-ul-Fitr and ‘Eid-ul-Adha). The reason for this, as explained by Shah Waliullah (rahmatullahi alayh), is that every nation’s festivals are based on either un-Islamic customs or praise for their heroes.
The festivals of the people of Madinah were no different. Thus, Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam substituted them with ‘Eid-ul-Fitr which is based on successful completion of the siyaam (fasting) of Ramadhan and ‘Eid-ul-Adha which is based on the memory of Nabi Ibraheem (alayhis salaam). Now if you ask why we need to remember Nabi Ibraheem (alayhis salaam), the answer would be that Islam is based uponhis deen (the Qur’aan uses the word millat).
… The religion of your father, Ibrahim. He called you Muslimeen …”
The Sunnah of Ibraheem (alayhis salaam)
“What are these adaahy (plural of udhiyah), O Rasool of Allah?” asked the Sahaabah (radhiyallahu anhum). “The sunnah of your father, Ibraheem,” he replied. [Sunan Ibn Maajah, Hadith 3127]
Considering this hadith, we could say that the reason why we make udhiyah is simply because it was the sunnah of Nabi Ibraheem (alayhis salaam). The motivation for observing this sunnah was to thank Allah for sparing his son Isma’il (alayhis salaam)’s life.
Remember that Nabi Ibraheem (alayhis salaam) was commanded to slaughter Isma’il (alayhis salaam) in a dream in order to prove his love for Allah. He ‘passed the test’. As he passed the knife on his son’s throat and wondered why it was not cutting, Allah Ta’aala sent him a ram from the heavens and commanded him to slaughter it in place of his son.
Consequently, Nabi Ibraheem (alayhis salaam) would slaughter a ram every year as a token of thanks to Allah for saving his son’s life. Since we follow Nabi Ibraheem (alayhis salaam)’s millat (Islam is based on his millat) and Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wasallam is from Nabi Isma’il (alayhis salaam)’s progeny, it is only appropriate that we follow his sunnah and thank Allah for saving Nabi Isma’il (alayhis salaam)’s life.
Finally, the udhiyah also serves as a reminder. At the time of the slaughter, one is reminded that he should be prepared to sacrifice himself for Allah’s pleasure. ‘Nabi Ibraheem (alayhis salaam) was prepared to sacrifice his son to please Allah. How much am I prepared to sacrifice to please Him?’
O Allah, guide us to the true spirit of udhiyah. O Allah, guide us to the true spirit of sacrifice, Aameen.