IDU ‘L-AZHA عيد الاضحى
Vulg. Id-i-Zuha. “The feast of sacrifice.” Called also Yaumu’n Nahr; Qurban-‘Id; Baqarah ‘Id (i.e. the cow festival); and in Turkey and Qgypt ‘Idu Bairam. It is also called the ‘Idu ‘l kabir, the great festival, as distinguished from the ‘Idu ‘l-Fitr, which is called the minor festival, or al-‘Idu-saghir.
It is celebrated on the tenth day of Zu ‘l-Hijjah, and is part of the rites of the Makkah pilgrimage, although it is observed as well in all parts of Islam both as a day of sacrifice and as a great festival. It is founded on an injunction in the Qur’an, Surah xxii. 33-38.
“This do. And they who respect the symbols of God; perform an action which proceedeth from piety of heart.”
“Ye may obtain advantages from the cattle up to the set time for signing them; then the place for sacrificing them is at the ancient House.”
“And to every people have we appointed symbols, that they may commemorate the name of God over the brute beasts which He hath provided for them. And you God is the one God. To Him, therefore, surrender yourselves: and bear thou good tidings to those who humble themselves, -”
“Whose hearts, when mention is made of God, thrill with awe; and to those who remain steadfast under all that befalleth them, and observe prayer, and give alms of that with which we have supplied them.”
“And the camels have we appointed to you for the sacrifice to God; much good have ye in them. Make mention, therefore, of the name of God over them when ye slay them, as they stand in a row; and when they are fallen over on their sides, eat of them, and feed him who is content and asketh not, and him who asketh. Thus have We subjected them to you, to the intent ye should be thankful.”
“By no means can their flesh reach unto God, neither their blood; but piety on your part reacheth Him. Thus hath He subjected them to you, that ye might magnify God for His guidance; moreover, announce glad tidings to those who do good deeds.”
The institution of the sacrifice was as follows: A few months after the Hijrah, or flight from Makkah, Muhammad, dwelling in al-Madinah, observed that the Jews kept, on the tenth day of the seventh month, the great fast of the Atonement. A tradition records that the Prophet asked them why they kept this fast. He was informed that it was a memorial of the deliverance of Moses and the children of Israel from the hands of Pharaoh. “We have a greater right in Moses than they,” said Muhammad, so he fasted with the Jews and commanded his followers to fast also. This was at the period of his mission when Muhammad was friendly with the Jews of al-Madinah, who occasionally came to hear him preach. The Prophet also occasionally attended the synagogue. Then came the change of the Qiblah from Jerusalem to Makkah, for the Jews were not so ready to change their creed as Muhammad had at first hoped. In the second year of the Hijrah, Muhammad and his followers did not participate in the Jewish fast, for the Prophet now instituted the ‘Idu’l-Azha. The idolatrous Arabs had been in the habit of making an annual pilgrimage to Makkah at this season of the year. The offering of animals in sacrifice formed a part of the concluding ceremony of that pilgrimage. That portion – the sacrifice of animals – Muhammad adopted in the feast which now, at al-Madinah, he substituted fro the Jewish fast. This was well calculated to attract the attention of the Makkans and to gain the goodwill of the Arabs. Muhammad could not then make the pilgrimage to Makkah, for as yet there was a hostile feeling between the inhabitants of the two cities; but on the tenth day of the month Zu ‘l-Hijjah, at the very time when the Arabs at Makkah were engaged in sacrificing victims, Muhammad went forth from his house at al-Madinah, and assembling his followers instituted the ‘Idu ‘l-Azha. Two young kids were brought before him. One he sacrificed and said: “O Lord! I sacrifice this for my whole people, all those who bear witness to Thy unity and to my mission. O Lord! This is for Muhammad and for the family of Muhammad.”
There is nothing in the Qur’an to connect this sacrifice with the history of Ishmael, but it is generally held by Muslims to have been instituted in commemoration of Abraham’s willingness to offer up his son as a sacrifice. And Muslim writers generally maintain that the son was Ishmael and not Isaac, and that the scene took place on Mount Mina near Makkah, and not in the land of Moriah, as is stated in Genesis.
The following is the account given by Muslim writers: – “When Ibrahim (the peace of God be upon him) founded Makkah, the Lord desired him to prepare a feast for Him. Upon Ibrahim’s (the friend of God) requesting to know what He would have on the occasion, the Lord replied, ‘Offer up thy son Isma’il.’ Agreeably to God’s command he took Isma’il to the Ka’bah to sacrifice him, and having laid him down, he made several ineffectual strokes on his throat with a knife, on which Isma’il observed, ‘Your eyes being uncovered, it is through pity and compassion for me you allow the knife to miss; it would be better if you blindfolded yourself with the end of your turban and then sacrificed me.’ Ibrahim acted upon his son’s suggestion and having repeated the words, ‘Bi-smi ‘llahi, allahu akbar’ (i.e. ‘In the name of God! God is great!’), he drew the knife across his son’s neck. In the meanwhile, however, Gabriel had substituted a broac-tailed sheep for the youth Isma’il, and Ibrahim unfolding his eyes observed, to his surprise, the sheep slain, and his son standing behind him.” (See Qisasu‘l-Ambiya.)
It is a notable fact that whilst Muhammad professed to abrogate the Jewish ritual, and also ignored entirely the doctrine of the Atonement as taught in the New Testament, denying even the very fact of our Saviour’s crucifixion, he made the “day of sacrifice” the great central festival of his religion.
There is a very remarkable Hadis, related by ‘Ayishah, who states that Muhammad said, “Man hath not done anything on the ‘Idu’l-Azha more pleasing to God than spilling blood; for verily the animal sacrificed will come, on the day of resurrection, with its horns, its hair, and its hoofs, and will make the scale of his (good) actions heavy. Verily its blood reacheth the acceptance of God, before it falleth upon the ground, therefore, be joyful in it.” (Mishkat, book iv. ch. xlii; sec. 2.)
Muhammad has thus become a witness to the doctrine of the Christian faith that “without shedding of blood, there is no remission.” The animal sacrificed must be without blemish, and of full age; but ut may be either a goat, a sheep, a cow, or a camel.
The religious part of the festival is observed as follows: – The people assemble in the morning for prayer, in the ‘Idgah, or place erected outside the city for these special festival prayers. The whole congregation then standing in the usual order, the Imam takes his place in front of them and leads them in two rak’ahs of prayer. After prayers the Imam ascends the mimbar or pulpit and delievers a Khutbah, or oration, on the subject of the festival.
We are indebted to Mr. Sell for the following specimen of the Khutbah:-
“In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.”
“God is Great. There is no God but God. God is Great! God is Great and worthy of all praise. He is Holy. Day and night we should praise Him. He is without partner, without equal. All praise be to Him. Holy is He, Who makes the rich generous, Who provides the sacrifice for the wise. He is Great, without an equal. All praise be to Him. Listen! I testify that there is no God but God. He is alone, without partner. This testimony is as bright as the early dawn, as brilliant as the glorious feast day. Muhammad is His servant who delivered His message. On Muhammad and his family, and on his Companions may the peace of God rest. On you who are present, O congregation of Muslimin, may the mercy of God for ever rest. O servants of God! Our first duty is to fear God and to be kind. God has said, ‘I will be with those who fear Me and are kind.’
“Know, O servants of God! That to rejoice on the feast day is the sign and mark of the pure and good. Exalted will be the rank of such in Paradise, especially on the day of resurrection will they obtain dignity and honor. Do not on this day foolish acts. It is no time for amusements and negligence. This is the day on which to utter the praises of God. Read the Kalimah, the Takbir, and Tamhid. This is a high festival season and the feast of sacrifice. Read not the Takbiru ‘t-Tashriq. God is great! God is great! There is no God but God! God is great! God is great! All praise be to Him! From the morning of the ‘Arafah, after every farz rak’ah, it is good for a person to repeat the Takbiru ‘t-Tashriq. The woman before whom is a man as Imam, and the traveler whose Imam is a permanent resident, should also repeat the Takbir. It should be said at each Namaz until the Salatu ‘l-Asr of the Feast day (10th). Some, however, say that it should be recited every day till the afternoon of the thirteenth day, as these are the days of the Tashriq. If the Imam forgets to recite, let not the worshiper forget. Know, O believers, that every free man who is a Sahib-i-Nisab should offer sacrifice on this day, provided that this sum is exclusive of his horse, his clothes, his tools, and his household goods and slaves. It is wajib for everyone to offer sacrifice for himself, but it is not a wajib order that he should do it for his children. A goat, a ram, or a cow, should be offered in sacrifice for every seven persons. The victim must not be one-eyed, lame, or very thin.”
“If you sacrifice a fat animal it will serve you well, and carry you across the Sirat. O Believers, thus said the Prophet, on whom be the mercy and peace of God, ‘Sacrifice the victim with your own hands, this was the Sunnah of Ibrahim, on whom be peace.'”
“In the Kitabu Zadi ‘t-Taqwa it is said that, on the ‘Idu ‘l-Fitr and the ‘Idu ‘l-Azha, four nafl rak’ahs should be said after the farz Namaz of the ‘Id. In the first rak’ah after the Suratu ‘l-Fathihah recite the Suratu ‘l-A’la (Surah xxvii); in the second, the Suratu ‘sh-Shams (Surah xci.); in the third, the Suratu ‘z-Zuha (Surah xciii.); in the fourth, the Suratu ‘l-Ikhlas (cxii.).”
“O Believers, if ye do so, God will pardon the sins of fifty years which are past and of fifty years to come. The reading of these Surahs is equal, as an act of merit, to the reading of all the books God has sent by His prophets.”
“May God include us amongst those who are accepted by Him, who act according to the Law, whose desire will be granted at the Last Day. To all such there will be no fear in the Day of Resurrection; no sorrow in the examination at the Day of Judgment. The best of all books is the Qur’an. O Believers! May God give to us and to you a blessing forever, by the grace of the Noble Qur’an. May its verses be our guide, and may its wise mention of God direct us aright. I desire that God may pardon all believers, male and female, and Muslimin and the Muslimat. O believers, also seek for pardon. Truly God is the Forgiver, the Merciful, the Eternal King, the Compassionate, the Clement. O believers, the Khutbah is over. Let all desire that on Muhammad Mustafa the mercy and peace of God may rest.”
The Khutbah being ended, the people all return to their homes. The head of the family then takes a sheep, or a cow, or a goat, or camel, and turning its head towards Makkah says:
“In the name of the great God.”
“Verily, my prayers, my sacrifice, my life, my death, belong to God, the Lord of the worlds. He has no partner: that is what I am bidden: for I am first of those who are Muslim (i.e. resigned).”
And then he slays the animal. The flesh of the animal is then divided into three portions, one third being given to relations, one third to the poor, and the remaining third reserved for the family. Quite apart from its religious ceremonies, the festival is observed as a great time of rejoicing, and the holiday is kept for two or three days in a similar way to that of the minor festival or the ‘Idu ‘l-Fitr. [HAJJ, ISHMAEL, SACRIFICE.]
Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam