Eternal ban on human sacrifice by Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam (September 10, 2016)


Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam

Human sacrifice has been a part of history. The evil practice still continues in parts of the world, including India. We read reports of such sacrifices in India once in a while made to propitiate some goddess to ask her for wealth, progeny or for the success of some small installation like a rice machine in a remote village.

For such sacrifices the children of the poor, weak, Dalits and tribals are selected secretly and picked up stealthily because the criminals, even if their deed is detected, cannot be brought to justice by the poor parents of victims. And, probably nobody in power has chosen to look at it and no guilty person has been brought to book. None that we know of.

During the Jahiliyah (pre-Islamic times in Arabia) humans used to be offered in sacrifice to the goddesses within the precincts of the holy Ka’aba, near the fountain of Zam Zam. At that point the fountain was covered with earth and stone with the neglect of centuries, to the extent that nobody knew whether a steam flowed below the surface. Zam Zam was discovered accidentally by the grandfather of the Prophet (PBUH) when he saw water slowly oozing out of a place where crows were digging for remains of sacrificed persons in the near past. He cleared the place and Zam Zam began to flow again.

Within decades of that event came the advent of Islam with its complete, unconditional ban on human sacrifice for all time to come. Islam’s position is that human sacrifice is not acceptable to God, because He did not accept the sacrifice of Prophet Abraham’s (PBUH) son, Ishmael, and accepted a lamb in sacrifice, instead.

For marking that event (Abraham’s attempt to sacrifice his son, but God saving him and replacing him with a lamb) Muslims all over the world celebrate Eid al-Azha (also known in the subcontinent as Baqrid and Eid Qurbani).

A flashback is called for here although what I propose to say here briefly is already widely known. The Patriarch Abraham, also known as the father of three faiths––Judaism, Christianity and Islam––saw in his dream that God was asking him to sacrifice his beloved son, Ishmael, to propitiate Him.

Abraham duly proceeded to slaughter his son in the name of God, but while he sliced his son’s jugular God replaced Ishmael with a lamb. When Abraham opened his eyes he found his son standing by him unhurt and a freshly slaughtered lamb in his place. The message was clear: God had accepted Abraham as his khalil (friend) for his love of the Creator and his obedience to Him.

The message was also that there would be no human sacrifice after that event. Jews and Christians, too, along with Muslims, hold this belief. Eid Qurbani, too, has its connotations. The world qurbani is drawn from the derivative qurb (closeness, nearness). Abraham’s qurbani was offered to God seeking His closeness.

The ten days of Zil Hijjah up to the day of Eid al-Azha are some of the holiest days in the eyes of God, according to the holy Quran. All good deeds–prayers, supplications, spending in the way of God, helping people in need and physically working in the service of God and His creation–please God more in these days than in most others. That is why Muslims increase their devotion manifold in these days and nights, following the example of our Prophet (PBUH). Now only a few of those days are left. So, let us increase our efforts.

Reciting the takbeer, Lailaha illallah o wallaho Akbar Allaho Akbar walillahil hamd all these ten days frequently is an act of great piety. This is recited loudly from the Fajr prayers a day before Eid till the fourth day of Eid al-Azha till Asr prayers after all the five fard prayers.

With this I take your leave and wish you a happy Eid. The sacrifices go on for three days among Most Muslims. For some it goes on for four days. For specific masael please consult your local aalim or mufti.


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