Verses from Surah Al-Hajj (No. 22) (34 – 37)

[34] And to every people We appointed rites (of sacrifice)58 that they might celebrate Allah’s Name over such beasts of flocks as He provided them.59 Your Lord is one God. Therefore, to Him surrender,60 and give glad tiding to the humble.61

Commentary

58. Although, as Ibn `Abbas has said, generally ‘Mansak’ (pl. Manaasik) is for religious rites, here the particular reference seems to be to sacrificial rites. Zayd b. Aslam thought, however, that the allusion was to Makkah (Ibn Kathir).

Actually, in its root, the word Mansak is for worship. With the passage of time, it came to be used for a special kind of worship, and for Hajj, which is one of the methods of worship. The word is also used in the sense of sacrifice. (The Qur’an used the word at various places in any of the three senses: Shafi`). Nevertheless, Mujahid seems to be closer to truth who remarked that Allah had allowed followers of every religion to slaughter animals as a means of achieving closeness to Him – a practice he sanctioned to all and not to some alone: “And to every people We appointed rites (of sacrifice)” (Alusi).

59. According to a narration in Ahmad, the Prophet was asked either by Zayd b. Arqam or someone else, “Messenger of Allah, what exactly (is the meaning behind) these sacrifices?” He replied, “A Sunnah of your father, Ibrahim.” He was asked, “And what is our share in it?” He replied, “For every hair a good deed.” He was asked, “What about wool?” He answered, “For every hair out of the wool, a good deed” (Ibn Kathir).

Asad points to another aspect: “(The sacrifice is to be made) as a conscious, selfless, offering in His name of something that one cherishes as necessary and valuable, and not as an attempt to ‘propitiate’ Him who is far above anything that resembles human emotion.”

60. That is, even though the Laws of the Prophets may vary and may abrogate one another, all Prophets called mankind to the worship of one God, hence to Him must all surrender (Ibn Kathir).

Another possible meaning is, although Allah has sanctioned that animals be sacrificed in His name, true virtue lies not in sacrifices, but belief in His Oneness (Au.).

61. “Humble” is one acceptable translation of “Mukhbiteen” (which has its root in “khabt” which is used in Arabic for a low ground: Shafi`). Mujahid stated however that at this point it means “the contented” or “those who are satisfied” as against being in doubts (Ibn Jarir). But, as Raghib has pointed out, it could mean “striving – or working – hard” which, in the light of the demanding situations of Hajj, seems to be the most fitting meaning (Alusi).

Alusi and Thanwi also use the opportunity to point out that the sanction to different approaches and methods adopted by the people of Suluk, is by implication hidden in this verse. They are accommodative of each other under a single plan, whose prime objective is Allah’s remembrance.

[35] Those, whose hearts are filled with fear when Allah is mentioned, those who show patience over what strikes them,62 those who (assiduously) perform the Prayers, and those who expend (in charity) out of what We have provided them.63

Commentary

62. Of afflictions, writes Imam Razi, there are two kinds: those coming from Allah, and those caused by the people. As regards ones coming from Allah, to bear them out with patience is a religious obligation. As for those coming from the people, bearing them with resignation is not obligatory. One might seek redress. In fact, (if it is from the unbelievers) one might even fight it out.

63. That is, sincere and pure belief in Allah’s oneness is such a thing that it inculcates as its reward several qualities of the body and spirit: fear in the heart, patience, establishment of Prayers, expending in the way of Allah, etc. (based on Thanwi).

[36] And the sacrificial beast:64 We have appointed them for you as among Allah’s symbols. In them are benefits for you.65 Therefore, pronounce Allah’s Name over them as they line up (for sacrifice).66 Then, when they collapse on their sides,67 eat thereof and feed the contented as well as the expectant.68 Thus We have subjected them to you haply you will give thanks.69

Commentary

64. “Budna” (sing.: “badanah”) is primarily for camels. But subsequently, as in a hadith, cows were also included in the definition because of their large size (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Razi).

Yusuf Ali looks deeper into the reason why camels alone were mentioned here. He writes, “What was expressed in general terms (above) is applied here more particularly to camels, the most precious and useful of animals of Arabia, whose mode of slaughter for sacrifice is different from that of smaller animals: the special word for such sacrifice is Nahr (cviii: 2).”

65. Accordingly, some of the Salaf would do some trading – however small – in camels during Hajj, citing this verse, which spoke of benefits therein (Zamakhshari).

66. Some scholars have read the word “swawaaf” in the sense of “saafinah” meaning, the state of being a foot (folded and) tied to itself, which forces the camel to stand on three of its legs. It is slaughtered in that position, so that with loss of blood it collapses on its side. But other scholars have understood “sawaaf” as meaning, “khaalis” i.e., purely, sincerely (for Allah) – Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir, Alusi and others.

We have a report from Jabir b. `Abdullah in Abu Da’ud and Tirmidhi. He said, “I did my `Eid Prayers with the Prophet. A ram was brought to him, which he slaughtered. He did it by saying, ‘In the name of Allah. Allah is Great. O Allah, this is from me and from those of my Ummah who did not sacrifice.’”

Note that the Prophet acted upon two verses (in the same order) when he said before slaughtering: “Bismillahi Allahu Akbar.”

Those two verses are number 36 and 37. In no. 36, Allah commanded, “Therefore, pronounce Allah’s Name over them ..” And in no. 37, He said, “That is how He has subjected them to you so that you might chant the greatness of Allah” (Qurtubi).

According to another report (also in Abu Da’ud), Jabir said, the Prophet slaughtered two rams on an `Eid day saying, “I have, indeed, turned my face towards Him who created the heavens and the earth – having surrendered myself to him alone – and I am not of the pagans. Surely, my living and my death is for the Lord of the worlds. He has no partners and that is what I have been ordered, and first of those who submit. In the name of Allah. Allah is great. O Allah, from You, for You, on behalf of Muhammad and his followers.” He also said, as in the Sahihayn, “The first thing we do on this our day is to Pray (the `Eid Prayers), then we shall return and sacrifice. Whoever did that, found our Sunnah. But, whoever slaughtered before the Prayers, then that is some meat that he offered to his family. It has nothing of the sacrifice (required of him).”

Finally, a report in Tirmidhi says that the Prophet lived in Madinah for ten years. Every year, he offered a sacrifice on the occasion of `Eid al Ad-ha. And Muslim has a report which says that the Prophet slaughtered 63 camels (perhaps, one corresponding to each year of his life: Au.) when he performed his Hajj (Ibn Kathir).

67. The translation at this point has the backing of the understanding of Ibn `Abbas and Mujahid. (Linguistically, wajaba is a synonym of saqata, meaning, to fall: Zamakhshari). This is because, adds Qurtubi, camels are slaughtered while they stand on three legs, and so fall on their sides with loss of blood. Another meaning however, that of Zayd b. Aslam is, “when it is dead.” Of course this reflects the meaning of Ibn `Abbas and Mujahid for, an animal is not lawful until it is completely lifeless (which happens after the collapse). A report in Tirmidhi, Abu Da’ud and Ahmad states it clearly (in a Sahih report: Au.): “Whatever is sliced off an animal, while it is alive, is carrion” (Ibn Kathir).

68. The rendering of “qani`” and “mu`tar” is following the understanding of Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid and Qurazi. But there have been other explanations also (Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari). Ibn Jarir prefers the reverse meaning. However, since the words are of the “azdaad” type (those that afford opposite meanings), either way it would mean: ‘give those who ask and those who do not’ (Au.). This verse is the basis of the scholars’ suggestion that the sacrificial meat should be divided into three parts. One for oneself, another for friends, and a third for the poor since Allah said, “eat thereof and feed the contented as well as the expectant” (Ibn Kathir).

69. That is, that is how the beasts have been tamed and humbled for mankind, ready for ride, milk, or slaughter (Ibn Kathir), while, much smaller animals of the forest are impossible for humans to control (Alusi).

Majid adds, “Sacrifice in Islam is nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else than a natural, visible, expression of homage and gratitude to the Creator.” Yusuf Ali gives the rationale: “He (Allah) has given us power over the brute creation, and permitted us to eat meat, but only if we pronounce His name at the solemn act of taking life, for without this solemn invocation, we are apt to forget the sacredness of life.”

[37] Neither their meat nor their blood reaches Allah,70 but rather it is your piety that reaches Him.71 That is how He has subjected them to you so that you might chant the greatness of Allah for that He guided you.72 And give glad tidings to those who excel.

Commentary

70. The pagans used to splatter blood of the slaughtered animals on their idols and around the Holy House. So Allah revealed, “Neither their meat nor their blood reaches Allah…” (Zamakhshari). It is piety that reaches Him, in the manner of a sound report (in Muslim and others: Au.), from the Prophet which says, “Allah does not look at your faces, nor at your colors. He looks at your hearts and deeds” (Ibn Kathir).

Majid writes, “(.. sacrifice is not a sort of meal served before God). Such truth, looking self-evident to the Muslim reader, needed a clear and emphatic enunciation in view of the horrible misconceptions and superstitions prevalent among many nations, not excluding Jews and Christians. For we read in the OT:- ‘It is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.’(Le. 17: 11). And in the NT: ‘Without shedding of blood is no remission.’ (He. 9: 22)

Among the Babylonians, ‘the gods feed in heaven … they eat the offering … the gods scent the savour, and gods scent the sweet savour: like flies do they gather themselves together about the offerer.’ (EBr. C. 4119). ‘Throughout the Semitic field the fundamental idea of sacrifice’ was that ‘of communion between the god and his worshippers by joint participation in the living flesh and blood of a sacred victim.’ (Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites, p. 345).”

71. Although the word is in the general sense, here in particular “taqwa” implies the intention to please Allah by the sacrifice (Ibn Jarir).

Majid comments: “It is the spirit of willing devotion and ready obedience underlying sacrifice and offering that is accepted by God who is the God of righteousness, the very same acme of morality. It is only piety of heart or righteousness of conduct, and not anything in lieu of it, that is acceptable to Him. Sacrifice, in Islam, is neither honorific nor peculiar, much less a magical sacrament. It is essentially symbolic – an external symbol of an internal dedication and voluntary submission to the will of the Almighty. The Divine itself is absolutely without needs, and all acts of sacrifice and worship are for our own benefits. The grace of God reaches everyone and everywhere and needs only some piety for its reception.

Fiqh Points

  1. Sacrifice of an animal through slaughter is not a requirement on pilgrims alone. It is upon all those who can afford it.
  2. According to the Hanafiyya, sacrifice on the occasion of `Eid al Ad-ha is Wajib on those who are bound to pay the Zakah. Others have said that it is Sunnah Mu’akkadah, (a confirmed Sunnah, lower in status than Wajib) – Au.
  3. However, a year need not pass on a man’s Zakah–due wealth for sacrifice to become Wajib, if a man has the amount on the day of sacrifice, it is Wajib on him.
  4. One sacrifice is enough for the whole household.
  5. However, if a man’s wife pays Zakah, she must also offer a sacrifice.
  6. Imam Abu Hanifah has ruled that village dwellers could slaughter immediately after sunrise since they are not required to offer the `Eid Prayers.
  7. Most scholars have allowed that one might say at the time of slaughter: “O Allah! Accept (it) from me.” In fact, Imam Shafe`i has even allowed that one might add the peace formula on the Prophet, but most others did not agree with him. But Imam Abu Hanifah thought adding anything else was undesirable.
  8. All of the days of Tashriq are days of sacrifice. That is, according to the Hanafiyyah, 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th (until `Asr time) of Dhu al-Hijjah.
  9. It is allowed but not the best time to sacrifice at night.
  10. Generally speaking, the animal has to be a mature one. And, roughly speaking, a sheep, ram, etc., have to be at least one year old. While a cow has to be two years old or above, and a camel five or above.
  11. Seven persons can share a sacrifice of a cow or a camel.

72. That is, it is by Allah’s guidance that you sacrifice for Him. Had he not guided you, you might have either seen no spiritual benefit in it, and thus would have refused to slaughter altogether, or you might have slaughtered to other than Allah (Thanwi).

(To be continued)