Sacrifice – The Religious Aspect
The term sacrifice has its origin in the Latin sacrificium, which is a combination of the words sacer, meaning something set apart from the secular or profane and facere, meaning “to make.” The term is used for offering something valuable, out of selfless emotions, or against obtaining something of more value. The examples are that parents sacrificing for the children and the soldiers obtaining martyrdom for the sack of safety of their homeland. But here our focus is to restrain to the religious sacrifice alone.
The sacrifice (Called Qurbani in Islam) is a religious ritual having its place in almost all the known religions of the world. It is an offering of an object to the divinity for establishing, maintaining, and even restoring relations with the creator (The ALLAH Almighty in the case of Abrahamic religions i.e. Judaism, Christianity & Islam). It is an age-old tradition known to have existed as a form of selfless worship in all religions in all parts of the world. The motive and objective are always to keep the creator happy, showing sincerity and attachment or offering compensation for the forgiveness of sin.
The sacrifice is normally offered in days of trouble like excessive rains, drought, or another calamity. It is also offered as a safeguard against the possible calamities that society can expect to suffer. The prominent example is of river Nile in Egypt. Before Islam, a tradition of sacrifice was observed annually in the harvest season. A ritual killing of a young unmarried girl was offered to honor the river Nile on expecting its fine flow ensuring good crops. It was however was banned by the 2nd Khalifa of Islam, Hazrat Omar Farooq after Egypt was conquered. Similar traditions are still observed in other religions in every part of the World.
The most common and prime form of sacrifice is the offering of life. It is an act of offering back the most precious possession to whom it belongs. It is offered for the betterment and rewards in life afterlife. The object offered as the sacrifice is destructed by burning, slaughtering, or putting for the consumption of others. The concept behind is not to kill an animal but to offer the dearest possession to show sincerity and belonging. It is a symbolic way of offering a sort of gift to get the happiness, attention, and favors of the creator.
The tradition of animal sacrifice can be traced in all the known religions and civilizations. The people since the prehistory era are known to offer killing of animals as a sacrifice to the divinity they believe in like ancestors, gods, goddesses, THE GOD, and the spiritual powers they were believing in. In Islam, it started with the sacrifice offered by Habeel & Qabeel the brothers and sons of First humane being the Prophet Adam.
Like the animal sacrifice, the concept prevails in allover the world in all known religions since the times unknown. The most authentic source however starts from the dreams of the Honorable Prophet Abraham (Ibraheem) indicating to sacrifice his son Ismail to the will of ALLAH the Almighty. The great humble prophet told his son about the revelation and found him equally willing to bow before the command of the creator ALLAH the Almighty. The act was performed in the holy valley of Mina near Makkah (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia).
The Muslim Way
The ALLAH Almighty gracefully accepted this GREAT sacrifice in the history of mankind by replacing Ismail with a Ram (the male sheep) under the slaughtering knife by saving the life of HIS next prophet. Hazrat Abraham (Ibraheem) is known as the forefather of prophets in Islamic tradition. He is followed by all the three present-day divine religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The sacrifice is performed once in the year (on 10th of Zulhajj, the last month of Islamic Hijri Calendar), by all the Muslims.
The sacrifice (Qurbani) is performed by slaughtering Hilal animals like Goat, Ram, Cow, Calf, Ox, Buffalo, etc. within the terms set by the Muslim Shariah. It is not binding as duty on all Muslims but termed Sunnah, only to be observed by the affording lot. It is an annual ritual linked with the Muslim ritual of Hajj (the pilgrimage to Makka). The Muslims visit Makka to perform Hajj from all over the world and offer sacrifice as part of the Hajj rituals. The Hajj is a duty of every Muslim to perform once in a lifetime subject to affordability.
The Lesson Behind
It is clearly stated in the Holy Quran that ALLAH the almighty needs none of your animals, flesh & blood but the TAQWAH (the purity of intention & deed). It is therefore a practice to inculcate the habit among believers. Performing the act of sacrifice is training to lead the life of purity by avoiding sins. Thinking for the others and helping the needy by becoming a selfless soul. Leading a life within the divine command means forming an ideal society where everyone is taken care of. The aim is to ensure the distribution of resources equally and justifiably. It surely paves the way for harmony in society, if observed in true letter and spirit.