The story of Qurbani
What is Qurbani?
Qurbani, or Uḍḥiya as it is known in Arabic, is the practice of sacrificing an animal for Allah (ﷻ). Every year, on the days of Eid-ul-Adha from the 10th to the 13th of Dhul Hijjah, Muslims around the world sacrifice an animal to mark the completion of Hajj. This practice commemorates the sacrifice of Ibrahim thousands of years ago, who was prepared to sacrifice his beloved son for Allah’s sake (read his story below).
Qurbani is not simply the slaughtering of an animal and the distribution of its meat, and it is more than a commemorative ritual. The word ‘Qurbani’ is derived from the Arabic, ‘qurban’, which has its root in the Arabic word ‘qurb’ – meaning ‘nearness’. The purpose of offering Qurbani is to draw near to Allah. Through Qurbani, we reaffirm what we sometimes forget in the hustle and bustle of everyday life – that we completely submit to Allah, and we are willing to sacrifice whatever is asked of us to be close to Him and gain His pleasure, just as Prophet Ibrahim did so many years ago.
Thus, an important part of Qurbani is remembering to hold onto our sincere intentions and striving to be closer to Allah through this symbolic sacrifice.
The Sacrifice of Ibrahim
When Ibrahim’s firstborn son, Isma’il was old enough to walk around with his father and work with him, it was revealed in a dream to Ibrahim that he must sacrifice his son. Isma’il did not question this command, just like his mother, Hajarah had not questioned it when Allah commanded Ibrahim to leave her and her baby son in the desert all those years ago.
‘He (Isma’il) said, “O my father! Do as you are commanded. If Allah wills, you shall find me of the patient”’. (Qur’an, 37:102)
Both father and son were prepared to sacrifice Isma’il’s life, but Shaytan wanted to dissuade them.
In this narration, Ibrahim stoned Shaytan three times; in other narrations, Shaytan appeared separately to Ibrahim, Hajarah and Isma’il. Each time, he tried to convince them that Ibrahim was about to commit a terrible crime; each time, they attested that if it was from Allah and they must accept it.. (Tabari and Hakim)
It seems impossible to us that someone could be prepared to sacrifice their own child, the person most dear to them in the world, especially when obstacles have been placed in their way on three separate occasions. However, the family of Ibrahim were so forceful in their rejection of disobeying Allah that they threw stones at Shaytan. It is this stoning that we remember at Hajj.
As Ibrahim prepared a knife to sacrifice his son and a shroud to bury him in, he couldn’t face Isma’il, so he turned his son’s face away. They both remembered Allah and testified their faith in Him – Ibrahim because he was about to make a sacrifice, and Isma’il because he was about to die. Then Ibrahim prepared to sacrifice his son – and when the knife was at Isma’il’s neck, he heard a voice calling to him to stop.
Ibrahim sacrificed a white, horned ram instead of his son and, like the stoning of the pillars, we remember this sacrifice every year at Hajj. It represents the devotion of Ibrahim, who was ready to sacrifice his beloved son for Allah’s sake, and the reward and blessing they received from Allah as a result of their submission. Remembering this journey every time we do Qurbani should bring us closer to Allah; again, it is not the animal that matters, but our willingness to submit wholeheartedly to Allah.
The Prophetic Qurbani
This is the Qurbani we still practice today every Eid-ul-Adha and it is important for us to not only make our intentions sincere but also to keep in mind the rich history behind Qurbani. The family of Ibrahim are a particularly important part of our history, as we learn every year at Hajj when we commemorate their actions.
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) even said, ‘I am the son of two sacrificed people’ (Hakim), referring to the fact that both his father Abdullah and his ancestor Isma’il were almost sacrificed for Allah’s sake, emphasising his connection with Isma’il.
He (ﷺ) also used to look for rams similar to the one Habil and Ibrahim sacrificed – white, horned rams – to offer as Qurbani on Eid-ul-Adha. (Ahmad)