Notes on Muhammadanism/Chapter 38

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ID-UL- AZHA, or the Feast of Sacrifice is called also Yaurrf-un-Nalir , Qurbdn-i-Id, Qurbdn Bay r dm, Baqr-i-Id (the Cow Festival) and the Great Feast, and is held on the tenth day of the month Zul-Hijja. This festival has become part of the Meccan pilgrimage, of which it is the concluding scene, although it appears that Muhammad at first intended to conform to the custom of the Jews in observing the great day of atonement, but when he failed to maintain a friendly footing with the Jews, he merged the rite into the Meccan pilgrimage. This feast, however, is the great Muhammadan festival, which is observed wherever Islam exists ; and it is a notable fact that whilst Muhammad pro fessed 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 Hadith, related by Ayesha, who states that Muhammad said " Man hath not done anything on the Id-ul-Azha more pleasing to God than spilling blood ; for verily the animal sacrificed will come, on the day of resurrection, with it horns, its hair, and its hoofs, and will make the scales of his (good) actions heavy. Verily its blood reacheth the acceptance of God, before it falleth upon the ground, therefore be joyful in it."[1]

Muhammad had thus become unwillingly a witness to the grand 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 it may be either a goat, a sheep, a cow, or a camel.

According to the commentator Jalal-ud-din Syiity, the sacrifice was instituted in commemoration of Abraham s willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail! The following is the account given by Muhammadan writers : " When Ibrahim (the peace of God be upon him) founded Mecca, 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 reDlied, Offer up thy son Ismail. Agreeably to God s command he took Ismail to the K aba to sacrifice him, and having laid him down, he made several ineffectual strokes on his throat with a knife, on which Ismail 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 bismillah allali-lio akbar (i.e., in the name of the great God ) he drew the knife across his son s neck. In the meanwhile, how ever, Gabriel had substituted a broad-tailed sheep for the youth Ismail, and Ibrahim un folding his eyes observed, to his surprise, the sheep slain, and his son standing behind him." The account is a ridiculous parody upon the words of the inspired prophet Moses. In the Quran the name of the son is not given, although commentators state, that the Prophet said that he was a descendant of the son of Abraham who was offered in sacrifice.[2] The sacrifice, as it is now performed on the Id-til-A/hi, is as follows : The people assemble for prayer at the Idgah as on the Id-ul-Fitr; after prayers the people return to their houses. The head of the family then takes a sheep (or a cow or camel) to the entrance of his house and sacrifices it, by repeating the words, " In the name of the great God," and cutting its throat. The flesh of the animal is then divided, two-thirds being kept by the family, and one-third being given to the poor in the name of God.

  1. Mishkat-ul-Masabih, bk. iv, chap. xlii. sect. 2.
  2. The name is not given in the Quran, but it is in the ILulis Sahia Bokhari.