What is the truth about Abraham’s Sacrifice?
Who was the sacrifice for?
Who was the dream that Abraham had from?
Before going into the details of this subject, the reader is requested to put aside all his/her preconceptions about this issue and verify the subject purely on the merit of the Quranic evidence.
We read in Sura 37 how Abraham had a dream in which he saw himself slaughtering his son (Ismail). However, there is nothing in the Quran that says that the dream was from Allah:
37:102.When he (Ismail) grew strong enough to work with him, he (Abraham) said, “My son, I saw in a dream that I am to slaughter you. What do you think?” He said, “O my father, do what you are commanded to do. You will find me, Allah willing, patient.”
37:103.They both submitted, and he put his forehead down (to slaughter him).
37:104.We called him: “O Abraham.
37:105.”You have believed the vision?” We thus reward the righteous.
37:106.That was an exacting test indeed.
37:107.We made a concession for him in place of a great slaughter.
37:108.And we preserved his history for subsequent generations.
37:109.Peace be upon Abraham.
37:110.We thus reward the righteous.
37:111 He is one of our believing servants.
It is decreed very clearly in the Quran that killing an innocent believing soul is a great sin:
“No believer shall kill another believer, unless it is an accident…. ” 4:92
“Anyone who kills a believer on purpose, his retribution is Hell, wherein he abides forever, Allah is angry with him, and condemns him, and has prepared for him a terrible retribution.” 4:93
We also know that Allah never advocates sin:
” …… Say, “Allah never advocates sin. Are you saying about Allah what you do not know?” 7:28
If we put these 3 important facts side by side, we know that Ismail was a good believer, thus killing him would be a sin, and we know that Allah never advocates sin. The truth becomes clear; the dream Abraham had was not from Allah but from Satan.
But because Abraham was a righteous believer “We thus reward the righteous” Allah intervened and saved Abraham from falling for Satan’s trick. Allah intervened when Abraham failed to correctly interpret the source of the vision. This is indicated from Allah’s words to Abraham “Have you believed the vision?” Allah intervened and saved Abraham from committing a great slaughter (37:107) and a great sin (4:93).
Now let us look into the traditional Islamic interpretation of this event. What Muslim scholars claim is that Allah commanded Abraham to kill his son Ismail so as to test him. In other words, Allah wished to find out if Abraham loved his son more than he loved Allah! They then add that when Allah was assured that Abraham loved Him more than his own son, and just before Abraham slaughtered his son, Allah substituted a sheep in place of Ishmael to prevent the slaughter.
To expose this naive and totally irrational claim, let us consider the following analogy:
Suppose you have a 10 year old son and you taught him all his life that stealing is wrong and that he should never steal any money whatever the reason may be. Now suppose that one day you wish to test your son, would you test him by commanding him to go and steal some money for you? Would you command your son to do what you taught him all his life not to do, even if you want to see how much he loves you?
Obviously not! Similarly Allah decreed in the Quran (and in all scripture) that killing an innocent soul is a great sin. Ismail was innocent and was a good believer, he committed no sin to be killed.
Allah would never test Abraham by commanding him to do something that has always been decreed by Allah to be a great sin.
This is the message in 7:28: Allah would never advocate sin.
Those who read 7:28 yet still insist that Allah commanded Abraham to commit a sin are no more than hypocrites who say they believe the Quran but in actual fact they dont. It is no more than lip service.
Indeed Allah tests all of us, but Allah tests us in upholding His commandments, and not in breaking them!
Moreover, the concept of sacrifices for Allah is a corrupt concept that has crept into the Old Testament. It is totally without any Quranic support. Nowhere in the Quran do we read of Allah asking us to offer sacrifices for Him.
It must be noted that the animal offering (which is one of the genuine rituals of Hajj) is not in any way connected to the dream of Abraham. The following verse confirms that the animal sacrifice is a genuine ritual of Hajj, also that this animal offering is not done ‘for Allah’, but it is done for the benefit of the people:
“The animal offerings are among the rites decreed by Allah for your own good.” 22:36
“Neither their meat, nor their blood reaches Allah. What reaches Him is your righteousness.” 22:37
By reading the words: “for your own good” and the words “Neither their meat, nor their blood reaches Allah. What reaches Him is your righteousness” it becomes clear that the ritual of animal offering during Hajj is not done because Allah is in need of sacrifice, but they are done for our own good. Such offerings, given to the poor and needy, are given to make us more righteous, and not because Allah is in need of any sacrifice. Plus the added benefit of feeding poor people with the meat of the sacrificed animals.
Perhaps the most glaring misunderstanding is a result of the mis-interpretation of 37:107. According to the traditional interpretations, largely based on a hadith point of view, it is claimed that Allah saved Ismail by substituting a sheep in his place. However, when we examine the relevant Quranic verses we find no justification or any evidence for such an understanding. When we look at 37:107 we note that the verse is made of three words, they are:
1- Fadaynah: The word fidya is used in the Quran to mean a concession, it does not mean sacrifice. The whole concept of sacrifice for Allah, or for that matter Allah sacrificing for the human is totally un-Quranic. To demonstrate the correct Quranic use of the word fidya, we refer to the following:
“………If you are ill, or suffering a head injury, “fa fidya” (you are given a concession) by fasting, or giving to charity, or some other form of worship” 2:196.
As we can see, the word “Fidya” as used in 2:196 cannot mean sacrifice. This verse speaks of our rites during Hajj and specifically of obeying Allah’s command not to shave our heads until the completion of the animal offering ritual. If we are ill or have a head injury (and we are forced to keep our heads shaved) then we are given a concession (not sacrifice) by fasting or giving to charity in place of the ritual we are not able to observe. We observe our rituals (or the given concessions) as an act of obedience to Allah and not as a sacrifice we give to Allah!
2- B’Zhabh: This word means: in place of a slaughter. The traditional Muslim thought depicts a sheep that Allah gave Abraham to slaughter in place of Ismail, but the Quran does not speak of any sheep or any animal being given! The only slaughter spoken of in connection to this incident is that Abraham was about to slaughter Ismail.
This leads us to believe that the word Zhabh in 37:107 refers to the slaughter of Ismail which was about to take place, and not to a sheep or any other animal that is not mentioned in these verses. This fact is further supported by the fact that the word “Azhbahak” which is used in 37:102 refers to the slaughtering of Ismail, so why should we interpret the same word in 37:107 to be speaking about an imaginary animal that is never mentioned in any of these verses?
3- Azeem: the word Azeem can mean any of the following: great, disastrous or tragic.
When we put the three words together we find the picture totally different from the traditional interpretation of this verse. The three words together say that Allah made a great concession of intervening (Fidyah) to prevent the disastrous (azeem) slaughter (Zhabh) which Abraham was about to commit.
The traditional interpretation that Allah substituted a sheep in place of Ishmael does not really justify it being called a “great slaughrer”! What is so great about slaughtering a sheep?
But if the slaughter correctly refers to the intended slaughter of Ishmael then this would have indeed been a grave disastrous error on the part of Abraham.
The concession from Allah to prevent this slaughter was to save Abraham from sin and also to save Ismail from having his head chopped off. Allah does not normally intervene to save anyone from committing sin, so the intervention at that time was a concession from Allah. The reason Allah intervened is given in 37:110-111:
“We thus reward the righteous. He is one of our believing servants.”
This is not any different from the time when Allah intervened to save Joseph from committing adultery with his master’s wife (12:24). Once again, it was the devil who whispered to Joseph to commit the sin of adultery and not Allah, but Allah made a concession (of intervening) to save Joseph from sin. When the devil inspires any other human to commit adultery or any other sin, Allah does not normally intervene to save the human from sin. Allah gives the human the law of right and wrong and Allah gives the human the freedom for choosing right from wrong for himself, and this is exactly why Allah calls the intervention to save Abraham a concession.
If it has been established that the dream Abraham had could not be from Allah, then who could it have been from? Without question it could only have been from the one who always advocates sin:
“The devil promises you poverty and commands you to commit evil, while Allah promises you forgiveness from Him and grace. Allah is Immense, Knowledgeable.” 2:268
Allah gave us the facts of this matter in black and white. Therefore whoever insists after all this Quranic information that the dream of Abraham was from Allah, would be in fact rejecting numerous Quranic verses.