Why animal sacrifices during hajj

Muslims believe that animals are sacrificed during the Hajj to commemorate the sacrifice of Abraham of his son. However, there is no adequate explanation for the sacrifice of animals?

Why is there a need for blood sacrifice?

The blood does not reach God. “It is not their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah: It is their peity that reaches Him” Surah 22:37

[Suah 22:37] Daging-daging unta dan darahnya itu sekali-kali tidak dapat mencapai (keridaan) Allah, tetapi ketakwaan dari kamulah yang dapat mencapainya.

If piety alone, why is there a need to shed blood?

Explain to the Muslim the symbolism of animal sacrifices as taught in the Torah.

(Lev 16:3, 6 NIV)  “This is how Aaron is to enter the sanctuary area: with a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. … {6} “Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household.

LEV 16:3 Beginilah caranya Harun masuk ke dalam tempat kudus itu, yakni dengan membawa seekor lembu jantan muda untuk korban penghapus dosa dan seekor domba jantan untuk korban bakaran.

LEV 16:6 Kemudian Harun harus mempersembahkan lembu jantan yang akan menjadi korban penghapus dosa baginya sendiri dan dengan demikian mengadakan pendamaian baginya dan bagi keluarganya.

Even prominent Muslim scholars believe that animal sacrifices have something to do with salvation from sin and is not purely a commemorative act.

“Sacrifice in a mass scale brings people near God. For this reason, the animal for sacrifice should be stout and strong. Hope that in lieu of every limb of the sacrificed animal, God will save your every limb from Hell-fire. The more it is stout and strong, the more you will be free from Hell-fire.” Imam Ghazali, Ihya Ulum id din, Vol.1 pg 257 (trans. Maulana Fazlul Karim)

Animal sacrifices repeated if wrongdoings committed during Hajj

Muslims believe that the sacrifice offered during the Hajj has nothing to do with the ransom paid for sin. They think it is only a commemorative act of Abraham sacrificing his son.

But when performing the Hajj, Muslims have to repeat the animal sacrifices if they commit wrongdoing during the process. If the animal sacrifice has nothing to do with sin, why is there a need to do this?

The following in taken from an Islamic website “Al-Islam” which lists out the method of redemption for committing wrong acts during the hajj.

Committing harm, wearing prohibited clothes, or applying perfume:

One is to choose from three things, as follows:

To fast three days.
To feed six indigent persons, giving six Sa`s (an amount of grains) to each one.
To slaughter a ewe

The following is taken from “umma.net”

For people who come (to Mecca) from long distances for hajj, ‘umra, trade or for any other purpose, it is haram to go through the places called Miqat and enter the Harem, that is, the blessed city of Mecca, without the ihram on. Any person who passes by (the miqat without the ihram on) has to return to the Miqat and put on the ihram. If he does not put on the ihram he will have to kill an animal of qurban.

So offering sacrifices in Islam is not just to commemorate Abraham’s sacrifice of his son. It also has to do with compensation for sin. This is also the view of some Muslim scholars.

 “A pilgrim should give a sacrifice of a goat or sheep; one animal for one person is necessary. If a bull or camel is sacrificed, seven persons can join in one animal. This sacrifice of an animal is obligatory on every pilgrim. It is not the ‘Id day sacrifice which is an expression of obedience to the will of God, as observed by Prophet Abraham. The Hajj sacrifice is the flowing blood as redemption by the pilgrim for the atonement of his sins, and for his Hajj being granted by the Almighty.”   Abdur Rahman I Doi, The Cardinal Principles of Islam, pg 187 

Delegation of the slaughtering of the animal sacrifice

Furthermore, the Hajj practice allows someone to kill the animal on your behalf. If the killing of the animal symbolizes Abraham’s obedience to God, how can someone carry out this act of obedience on your behalf?

“It is preferable that the pilgrim should slaughter the animal himself, though it is permissible to ask someone else to do it, because it is one of the rites in which delegation is possible. The deputy makes the intention known of slaughtering on behalf of the one who deputizes and it is better that both of them should make the intention together. According to Jafari it is recommended for the pilgrim to put his hand on that of him who slaughters or at least be present at the time of slaughtering. (ibid pg 220)                                

The animal offered by God to Abraham is a “tremendous” sacrifice

When Abraham was about to offer his son as a sacrifice, God stopped him and provided him with a ransom instead.

YUSUFALI: And We ransomed him with a momentous (Arabic “azim”) sacrifice:
PICKTHAL: Then We ransomed him with a tremendous victim.
SHAKIR: And We ransomed him with a Feat sacrifice.

Ransom refers to payment for the release of a captive. (Similar usage in Surah 47:4, 70:11). God ransomed Abraham’s son with a substitute sacrifice so that his son can be set free. It is interesting to note that the Quran describes this ransom as a “momentous”, “tremendous” or “feat” sacrifice.

The sacrifice is described by the Arabic word “azim” and translated as “momentous”, “tremendous” or “Feat”. (In other words, it is a feat even for God to provide that sacrifice.) It is obvious that this is an inappropriate description for the ram Abraham used for the sacrifice.

Conversation pointer: Why is the animal offered by Allah is a tremendous sacrifice?

What would be the greatest thing that God can sacrifice?

It would be Himself.

Identification with the sacrificed animal

In the hadiths, Muhammad told his daughter to lay her hand on the head of the animal that was about to be sacrifices so that when it was killed, she would be identified with the animal.