Having saluted all Muslims on the occasion of Eid al-Adhaa celebration in his sermon after the Eid prayers, Dr. Mohsen Maarefi (IUCG President) explains the philosophy of sacrifice in Islam debunking its misconception.
Below is the full text of the sermon:
We thank Allah for His physical and spiritual blessings upon us. We send our peace and grace to His prophets, from Adam to the last apostle of Allah, the Holy Prophet Muhammad ibn Abdullah, his progeny and his faithful companions.
First of all, I would like to congratulate all Muslims particularly Muslims in Ghana and especially those who participated in this prayer of EID AL-ADHA at the Islamic University College, Ghana on this blessed occasion in Islam.
My Muslim brothers and sisters, I invite you and myself to Taqwa (God Fearing). We pray to the Almighty to help us to be His good servants. Considering the occasion and the setting we find ourselves (Islamic University College), I shall, in the first sermon, discuss the philosophy of sacrifice in Islam, while the second sermon will be dedicated to clarifying some misinterpretation about it. This topic is of great significance as far as this feast is concern.
Those with background in the history of religions know that one of the characteristics of all religions is sacrifice, and it is recognized as a form of worship. Meanwhile different forms of sacrifice are being observed by various religions of the world. This ranges from libation to donation of plants and crops, as well as slaughtering human and animals.
Sacrifice, according to the Abrahamic religions existed from the early days of the world. In Qur’an ALLAH says:
“Relate to them truly the accounts of Adam’s two sons. When the two of them offered an offering, it was accepted from one of them and not accepted from the other.” (Al-Ma’idah: 27)
This verse records the first sacrifice ever known in history, the sacrifice by Habil and Qabil, when they offered plants as sacrifice to Allah; the former’s was accepted by Allah while the latter’s wasn’t.
By carefully studying the history of all prophets, we will understand that all of them offered sacrifices, although the form and shape differs from one prophet to the other. Even up to now, Christians believe that Jesus Christ (a.s) sacrificed himself for the forgiveness of sins, not only of Christians but of all humanity. From the above, sacrifice can be defined as a charity act performed to seek Allah's pleasure. In Islamic terminology, however, the word is later confined to the sacrifice of an animal slaughtered for the sake of Allah.
Philosophy of the sacrifice
Many verses of the Holy Qur’an have extensively discussed animal sacrifice in addition to its rationale. For instance, Qur’an (Al-Hajj: 36) relates: “We have appointed for you the sacrificial animals as one of Allah's banner. There is good for you in them. So mention the name of Allah over them. And when they have fallen on their flanks, eat from them, and feed the poor and needy persons. Thus have We disposed them for your benefit so that you may give thanks.”
This verse point out two of the reasons behind sacrificing animals, namely; thanking God for the numerous blessings He has granted us and feeding the poor and needy.
The subsequent verse continues: “It is not their flesh or their blood that reaches Allah, but what reaches Him is piety from you. Thus has He disposed them for your benefit so that you may magnify Allah for His guiding you. And give good news to the Benefactors.”
The underlining issues in this verse are Allah does not benefit from the flesh and blood of the sacrificed animal rather What He seeks is our piety. It stands to reason that, giving part of one’s wealth in Allah’s way and feeding the hungry is a valuable act and a sign of one’s piety (taqwa). This idea is discussed in Al- Baqarah verse 3 when the Almighty is itemizing the qualities of the pious. In fact, it is made the decisive factor of being "most pious" as contained in the verses: “the most pious shall be spared it, he who gives his wealth to purify himself.” [Al-Layl 17 & 18]
This is the spiritual dimension of sacrifice as it serves as a means for man to get closer to God. The other aspect of sacrifice is the socio-economic benefits. As you are aware, man is the loftiest of creatures and God has created everything else in the world, including animals, for him so that he can benefit from them (such as milking them, using their meat as food, making them a means of transport, etc.). Therefore, slaughtering animals on happy occasions and religious gatherings has been encouraged by religious teachings. By doing so, poor people are provided with food to eat and, when carried out in high quantities, it can be a means of enhancing their economic situation.
If there were no hungry or poor people who are in need of this food, it would seem cruel to slaughter animals, but when there are people starving and in urgent need of food, it does not make sense to feel sorry for the animal and turn a blind eye to the people that may die from hunger. Thus, the millions of livestock being slaughtered around the globe are necessary for the continuation of man’s survival.
Moreover, such gatherings are a great opportunity to think of the blessing that God has granted man, to thank Him and try to get closer to Him. The philosophy behind giving the meat as charity to poor people is a way of thanking God for His blessings.
Nevertheless, Islam has not encouraged merriment for all gatherings and Muslims must take into consideration the situation to see if it is appropriate to do such a thing.
To recap as I conclude my first sermon, we must understand that sacrificing animals in religious gatherings has spiritual and socio- economic reasons. It also reminds us of man’s strong bond with the teachings of the prophets.
﴿رَبَّنَا اغْفِرْ لَنَا وَلِإِخْوَانِنَا الَّذِينَ سَبَقُونَا بِالإِيمَانِ وَلا تَجْعَلْ فِي قُلُوبِنَا غِلاً لِّلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا رَبَّنَا إِنَّكَ رَؤُوفٌ رَّحِيمٌ﴾
﴿رَبَّنَا لاَتُؤَاخِذْنَا إِن نَّسِينَا أَوْأَخْطَأْنَا رَبَّنَا وَلاَتَحْمِلْ عَلَيْنَا إِصْراً كَمَا حَمَلْتَهُ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِنَا رَبَّنَا وَلاَ تُحَمِّلْنَا مَالاَ طَاقَةَ لَنَا بِهِ وَاعْفُ عَنَّا وَاغْفِرْلَنَا وَارْحَمْنَا أَنتَ مَوْلاَنَا فَانصُرْنَا عَلَى الْقَوْمِ الْكَافِرِينَ﴾
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
والعصر. ان الانسان لفي خسر. الا الذين امنوا و عملوا الصالحات و تواصوا بالحق و تواصوا بالصبر.
الحمدلله رب العالمين والصلاه والسلام علي سيدنا و نبينا ابي القاسم المصطفي محمد و علي اله الطيبين الاطهرين المنتجبين الهداه المهديين المعصومين سيما علي اميرالمومنين و الصديقه الطاهره سيده نسا العالمين والحسن والحسين سيدي شباب اهل الجنه و علي بن الحسين زين العابدين و محمدبن علي و جعفربن محمد و موسي بن جعفر و علي بن موسي و محمد بن علي و علي بن محمد والحسن بن علي والخلف القائم المهدي حججك علي عبادك و امنائك في بلادك و صل علي ائمه المسلمين و حماه المستضعفين و هداه المومنين . اوصيكم عبادالله و نفسي بتقوي الله .
I invite you and myself again to TAQWA, that is, Piety and the fear of God. The dangerous misunderstanding and wrong analysis about the story of Abraham's sacrifice in Eid al-Adha carried in many articles discussing the subject matter demands our attention. For this misinterpretation has become the root of many problems in the Islamic world.
In preparing this sermon last night, I came across an analytical article on Eid al-Adha full of wrong analysis about the subject matter. It partly reads: Sacrificing is a demonstration of total submission to Allah and a proof of complete obedience to Allah's will or command. Thus, the sacrifice offered by a Muslim signifies that he is a slave of Allah at his best and that he would not hesitate even for a moment, even if it is at the peril of his life and possessions. When a true and perfect Muslim receives a command from Allah, he does not make his obedience dependent upon the command's reasonability as perceived through his limited understanding. He knows that Allah is All-knowing, All-Wise and that his own reason cannot encompass the knowledge and wisdom underlying the divine command. He, therefore, submits to the divine command, even if he cannot understand the reason or wisdom behind it.
This is exactly what the Prophet Ibrahim (a.s) did. Apparently, there was no reason why a father should slaughter his innocent son. But, when the command came from Allah, he never asked about the reason for that command, nor did he hesitate to follow it. I think this analysis is very dangerous. Even if God ordered Abraham to kill his “innocent son” and he immediately obeyed, that does not mean we should just obey without knowing reasons behind certain commands. This interpretation if left unchecked shall give rise to extremism as being perpetrated by the likes of ISIS, Boko Haram among others.
These Violent and fanatic people kill innocent people, Muslims and non-Muslim alike, behead and slaughter them like animals shouting “Bismillah, Allahu Akbar”, rape innocent women and sell them into slavery all in in the name of Islam. When asked the reasons for these barbaric acts, the responses are, we want to go to heaven hence the need to demonstrate our total submission to Allah. More so, according to the Qur’an, these individuals are infidels hence must be treated as such even though we don’t understand the reason or wisdom behind the command to do so; just as Abraham sacrificed his innocent son without any hesitation.
Dear brothers and sisters, we believe that God is righteous and so He will not order for innocent people to be killed. He has given us wisdom and never will ask us something against rationality. So if in some places, we feel God's command to be against rationality, that should cause us to doubt our interpretation, rather than as a command or act against rationality. Rationality is one of the most important pillars of understanding Islam. If we abandon rationality, the result is barbarism and extremism. So the story of Prophet Ibrahim doesn't tell us that it is permissible to kill innocent people just to please Allah. What this story wants to tell us is that Prophets of Allah do not have any doubt in their interpretation of religion and revelation. And whatever they say is exactly what Allah has said.
Thus this is proof of the certainty of their interpretation of revelation, and not a blank check to kill innocent people in the name of Allah. Muslims should all be brothers and help one another for the improvement and betterment of humanity. If they share ideas and give one another a helping hand, they can create the biggest civilization based on faith, peace and development.
Thank you and Eid Mubarak to us all.
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
قل هوالله احد. الله الصمد. لم يلد و لم يولد و لم يكن له كفوا احد