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.
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.
The Sacrifice of Ibrahim
When Ibrahim’s firstborn son, Ismail 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. Ismail 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 (Ismail) said,
“O my father! Do as you are commanded. If Allah wills, you shall find me of the patient”’.
Both father and son were prepared to sacrifice Ismail’s life, but Shaytan wanted to dissuade them. He tried stopping Ibrahim from doing what Allah desires. However, the family of Ibrahim was 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 Ismail, 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 Ismail because he was about to die. Then Ibrahim prepared to sacrifice his son – and when the knife was at Ismail’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.