Eid al-Adha, The Feast of Sacrifice, Abraham’s Offering
This week, Muslims on hajj will be celebrating Eid al-Adha (عيد الأضحى), the Feast of Sacrifice. Tens of thousands of sacrificial victims, mainly sheep and goats, are sacrificed in memory of Abraham’s offering up his beloved son (Genesis 22). It is usual after the sacrifice to have the head ritually shaved or the hair cut short. This hajj feast is mentioned in the Quran:
And accomplish the pilgrimage and the visit for Allah, but if, you are prevented, (send) whatever offering is easy to obtain, and do not shave your heads until the offering reaches its destination; but whoever among you is sick or has an ailment of the head, he (should effect) a compensation by fasting or alms or sacrificing, then when you are secure, whoever profits by combining the visit with the pilgrimage (should take) what offering is easy to obtain; but he who cannot find (any offering) should fast for three days during the pilgrimage and for seven days when you return; these (make) ten (days) complete; this is for him whose family is not present in the Sacred Mosque, and be careful (of your duty) to Allah, and know that Allah is severe in requiting (evil).
Thinking about Eid al-Adha and the meaning of Abraham’s offering
Muslims should stop and take the time to read the account of Genesis 22 which records Abraham’s offering up of Isaac.1 This is an important account for many reasons and raises questions such as:
- Why would God command Abraham to sacrifice his son, his only son, the son he loved?
- Why was sacrifice so important in the Torah and the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures?
- Why did Abraham name the place, “The LORD will provide”? (Genesis 22:13-14)
- What is the relationship between what Abraham did with his beloved Son to the death of God’s beloved Son, Jesus? (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 2:4-7; Titus 3:4-7; 1 John 4:9,10,14,19)
Thinking Biblically and Historically about Abraham and Eid al-Adha
Why would God command Abraham to do something that is seemingly immoral?
The answer is to be found in understanding that child sacrifice was an integral part of Israel’s redemption and Old Testament worship. It is found in such places as:
- The Passover (Exodus 13:2,11-12,13-16; Numbers 3:12,13,40-43; 8:17)
- The Mosaic covenant and the sacrificial system (Exodus 22:29)
- In the law, God graciously provided a substitute for Israel’s firstborn (Exodus 34:20; Numbers 18:15).
The sacrifice of one’s beloved Son, was ultimately a picture of what God Himself would do (see Genesis 15:8-21 with 22:15-18).
Jesus teaching about Abraham and Eid al-Adha
Lastly, consider Jesus’ teaching about Abraham,
Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad (John 8:56)
The Good News of the Gospel is that just as God provided a substitute for Abraham and Isaac; He has provided a substitute for all who believe in Jesus (see Genesis 22:13-14; Isaiah 52:13-53:12).
Following Abraham’s Example is More than Sacrificing Animals; it Involves Studying and Sharing God’s Word
Ali Gomaa, Grand Mufti of Egypt, said exerting your effort, exhausing your body, studying day and night is a command of Allah. Why not follow Allah’s command and Abraham’s example? Exert yourself mentally and think more carefully about God’s work and word by buying the English or Arabic,
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam says, “It is usually accepted in Islam that the sacrifice was to be of Ishmael.” However, the Quran is not clear as to who was offered up (Quran 37:107) and dozens of early Quranic interpreters conclude that Abraham offered Isaac. [↩]