Sacrifice (Qurban) means to sacrifice certain animals in accordance with the proper way of slaughtering in a specific time, with the intention of worship.”
The denotation of it is “approaching”. It means that one can be close to Allah (God), can sacrifice his/her possessions in the way of Him and can submit to Him and praise Him. It was legitimized in the second year of hijrah (migration).
The legitimation of slaughtering an animal as a sacrifice is certain by the Qur’an, Sunnah and the agreement of community (Ummah).
Allah, the Most High, says in the Qur’an: “Therefore to your Lord turn in Prayer and Sacrifice.” [Surah Abundance (Al-Kauthar),2 (108: 2)]
Our Prophet (pbuh) says “Whoever can afford to offer a sacrifice but does not do so, let him not approach our place of prayer.” (Ibn Majah, Adahi, 2; Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, II, 321)
That verse and hadith prove that sacrificing is an important issue. Acting from those obvious explanations Hanafi scholars have the opinion that sacrificing an animal is necessary (wajib). (Sarahsi, al-Mabsut, Qahira 1324-31, XII, 8; Kasani, Badâyiu's-Sanayi', Qahira, 1327-28/1910, V, 61, 62; al-Fatawa'l Hindiyya, Bulak 1310, V, 291).
Sacrificing means to sacrifice an animal in order to be close to Allah and gain only the pleasure of Him. It is forbidden to sacrifice an animal except for the sake of Allah. And Our Prophet (pbuh) said about those who sacrifice animals in that way: “May Allah damn those who sacrifice animals for the sake of somebody or something other than Allah.” (Muslim, Adahi, 43-45; Nasai, Dahaya, 34).
Is it brutality to sacrifice animals?
It is accepted as brutality by some authors to sacrifice some animals by slaughtering their throat in the purpose of performing that religious duty and worship, and therefore, some criticism is directed towards the religion of Islam. Those who put forward those views ignore this fact: The meat obtained by sacrificing animals is an invaluable protein source which is indispensably important for people. That is why, today all over the world, countless animals are being slaughtered only for nourishment in the slaughterhouses and they are consumed as a source of nutrition.
There is no source which can replace meat in the world. With this regard, objecting to animals’ being sacrificed as a source of nutrition and considering it as a brutality is not only against common sense but also is irrational. Since the first era, human beings have been taking nourishment that way.
Ignoring that fact and taking objection to sacrifice only because it is a religious duty can be only an ideological attitude. Actual brutality is to kill people. They must try to stop it if they can. Trying to save the rights of people who are slaughtered by modern world is more relevant and to the point than taking objection to sacrificing animals, which were created as a source of nutrition for human beings.
The Wisdoms of Sacrificing Animals
1- Sacrifice is an opportunity to be close to Allah and to gain His consent. The following is stated in the Qur’an:
“To every people did We appoint rites (of sacrifice), that they might celebrate the name of Allah over the sustenance He gave them from animals (fit for food). But your God is One God, submit then your wills to Him (in Islam): and give you the good news to those who humble themselves [The Pilgrimage (Al-Hajj),34 (22:34)].” In that verse, it is expressed that Allah Almighty commanded that decree in order to remind His slaves that He is the owner of all animals and He offered them to human beings as an indication of His mercy and grace. Man, in the course of time, may be unaware and forget that the real owner of his possessions is Allah Almighty, who gave all the possessions as a mercy. Like Karun, he may think that he obtained all of the things through his own work, knowledge and ability; and he may start to appropriate the Divine blessings for himself and assume that he has a power and might. He may be conceited and overstep the limits. So, the command of sacrifice reminds him that all the possessions and commodities, vineyards and orchards, wealth and money are the bounties of Allah Almighty who bestowed them on him. He informs man that he can not have anything without His permission and will. Thus, man gives up arrogance and becomes humble. He starts to be a real slave and try to give thanks to Allah. And that behavior becomes an opportunity to approach to Allah and gain Allah’s consent.
2- Allah does not need sacrifice, nor does he need all of the other worships made by man. However, Allah, with the command of sacrifice, tests His slaves, measures their devotion, their attention to that Divine decree and their closeness to Him. The following is expressed in the Qur’an, Al-Hajj (The Pilgrimage) verse 37:
“It is not their meat nor their blood, that reaches Allah, it is your piety that reaches Him: He has thus made them subject to you, that you may glorify Allah for His Guidance to you and proclaim the good news to all who do good...”. As it is seen in this verse too, the purpose of sacrificing animals is sincerity, devotion and being close to Allah. The purpose is to remember Allah with the bounties He gave and especially to gain His consent. Unless those purposes and aims are intended, no matter how much meat is given away nor how much blood is shed, they have no value before Allah.
3- Sacrifice is also an opportunity to remind the salvation of Prophet Ishmael (peace and blessings be upon him) as a favor of Allah from being sacrificed. Allah, the Most High, tested Prophet Abraham (pbuh) and wanted him to sacrifice his only son Ishmael. Hazrat Abraham and his son Hazrat Ishmael (peace be upon them), both of them had complied with that will sincerely. Hazrat Abraham laid down his son and started to slaughter him in the throat. However, the knife did not cut Hazrat Ishmael (pbuh). It was because the intention of Allah, the Most high, was not Hazrat Ishmael’s being slaughtered but to show and inform angels and people who will come till the end of time about those two noble prophets’ inaccessible submission and obedience, devotion and generosity. Because that wisdom occurred, Allah Almighty had commanded the knife not to cut Hazrat Ishmael. Instead of Hazrat Ishmael, He had sent down a ram to them from Paradise to be sacrificed. So sacrificing is a commemoration of that great and exemplary event.
4- Every year, thousands of animals are sacrificed by Muslims. It is, in one respect, a symbolic expression that a Muslim can sacrifice anything he has in order to worship Allah, comply with His command and give up anything he has for the sake of Him.
5- The command of sacrifice also is a great bounty and mercy upon people. Poor people who have had difficulties and have not been able to eat meat for one year may have an opportunity to get a lot of meat to eat with the occasion of Eid al-Adha. Thus, the aspect of Islam that realizes social justice will be seen.