The Story of Qurbani: A ritual that transcends time

Qurbani, also known as Udhiyah, refers to the sacrifice of animals made by non-pilgrims during the days of Eid al-Adha. Every year, millions of Muslims around the world take part in the ritual of Qurbani by sacrificing an animal - typically goats, sheep and cattle. This ritual has transcended time, and along with it the Qurbani story; it is a symbolic act which reflects the Prophet Ibrahim's (AS) devotion and submission.

The story of Qurbani is one many Muslims know well; it is the story of how Ibrahim (AS) showed unwavering dedication, with a willingness to sacrifice his only son Ismail (AS). Ibrahim’s (AS) obedience was rewarded, and today we reflect on this act by sacrificing an animal during Dhul-Hijjah and distributing the meat amongst those in need around the world.

As we reflect on this story, we should reflect on how to better devote ourselves, while we nourish our hearts and vulnerable families in need. As the time of the Hajj draws closer, let’s have a look at the story of Qurbani, so that we can start the season off with a full heart and clear intentions.

The Sunnah of Prophet Ibrahim (AS)

The Prophet Ibrahim (AS) experienced a reoccurring dream, this dream showed him sacrificing his son Ismail (AS). At first, Ibrahim (AS) did not dwell on his dreams, not trusting them to be meaningful.

Ibrahim (AS) told his son about the dream, and being a righteous and pious boy Ismail (AS) knew in his heart immediately that this was legitimate and told his father to carry out his dream.

“Oh my father,” Ismail (as) told Ibrahim (as), “Do that which you have been commanded, by the will of God and you shall find me among the patient ones.” (37:102)

Ibrahim (AS) gained the strength he needed from his son’s display of obedience and faith, and was able to act on the divine command handed down to him.

Once on Mount Arafat, the Prophet Ibrahim (AS) blindfolded himself, so he would not have to witness the sacrifice of his son, and swung in faith. When Ibrahim (AS) removed his blindfold, he saw that Ismail (AS) was safe beside him, and a ram lay in the place of his son!

We should all aim to follow in Ibrahim’s (AS) footsteps, and show our unyielding devotion in the best ways we can. This season, we too shall show our devotion by giving Qurbani to those in need.

Just as the Prophet Ibrahim (AS) was rewarded for his devotion, Muslims around the world who complete their Qurbani obligations with full hearts will also receive generous rewards.

The moral of the Qurbani story

Despite the pain and bereavement it would have caused, Ibrahim (AS) acted on the command he received and was willing to sacrifice his son, Ismail (AS) out of piety and obedience. But the divine intervention that saved Ismail’s life, revealed to Ibrahim what was truly wanted from this act of devotion.

It was never desired for Ibrahim (AS) to sacrifice his son, but instead to slaughter his earthly attachments.

The story of Qurbani reminds us all the importance of good intentions, and that obedience and sincerity in belief, leads to rewards in great measure.

Qurbani on Eid al-Adha

Qurbani may take place across any of the days of Eid al-Adha; however, individuals are encouraged to give their Qurbani donations as early as possible. The timeframe for the sacrifice is between post-Eid prayer and the 13th of Dhul-Hijjah. Prophet Muhammed (saw) used to offer sacrifice after Eid prayer, and the first thing he would eat would be the meat from his sacrifice.

From the meat that is acquired from Qurbani, a minimum of 1/3 must go to those in need or in a vulnerable situation. Any Muslim who has reached the age of puberty has a mandatory obligation to give Qurbani so long he or she can afford it. Due to the difference in sizes/ volumes of animals the number of people that can give Qurbani per animal will vary. For example, one small animal such as a sheep or goat, is equal to one Qurbani, and a large animal, such as cattle or a camel, is equal to seven Qurbanis.

As we move into Dhul-Hijjah, we should keep the Qurbani story in our minds and hearts, for in remembering the actions of the Prophet Ibrahim (AS), we can offer our Qurbani with the best of intentions and gain inspiration for our own devotion while we sacrifice our Qurbani.