Hajj: Is the Animal Sacrifice Necessary?

Did God decree this ritual while people continue to suffer from hunger and abject poverty?

“One million sheep are slaughtered, cut and packed in just 48 hours.” boasted Dr Bandar Hajjar the president of the Islamic Banking Group (IBG). He was of course speaking about the ritual sacrifice which is an essential conclusion to the annual pilgrimage in Mecca held after Ramadhan, the month of fasting. 

This religious rite stems from the erroneous belief that Abraham was commanded by God to sacrifice his son, but at the last moment, God sent a sheep to be killed in his place. This, it is said, was only a test, and as a mark of remembrance of this event everyone should sacrifice a sheep at God’s altar in order to appease Him and be thankful that Abraham did not have to kill his son but a sheep instead.

The meat we are told by the Saudi government is distributed in Arabia and many other Muslim countries for the benefit of the poor.

Excuse me for taking a pause here, but I have to stop and think. 

If indeed this meat is being given to the needy, there is not much evidence of this noble deed. After all these decades of being fed sacrificial meat we still see hunger and poverty in the many countries that subscribe to what they say is Islam. 

And if I take a longer pause to reflect on the verses of the Quran that directly recounts Abraham’s incident, the evidence for instigating this supra-industrial butchery is also very thin.

In the Quran, it was not God who decreed child sacrifice, it was Abraham’s own idea. That’s why Abraham asked his son what he thought of it. Had it been God’s command Abraham, as God’s messenger, would not seek or need a second opinion. See verses 37:99-109 below:

[37:099] Abraham said, "I am going to the One who Sustains me, He will guide me."
[37:100] "My Sustainer, grant me upright children."
[37:101] We gave him good news of a righteous child.
[37:102] When he grew old enough to work with him, he said, "My son, I saw in a dream that I am sacrificing you. What do you think?" He said, "O my father, do what you are commanded to do. You will find me, God willing, patient."
[37:103] They both were in agreement and he put his son's forehead down to prepare him for sacrifice.
[37:104] We called him: "O Abraham."
[37:105] "You believed your dream, in sincerity," We thus reward the righteous.
[37:106] That was an exacting test indeed.
[37:107] We exchanged for him greatness in place of regression.
[37:108] And We preserved his history for subsequent generations.
[37:109] Peace be upon Abraham.

In fact, in the Quran God forbids any unjust killing and the killing of children, in general, is decreed abhorrent even in times of great hardship.

It’s not the case that God forbids sacrifice because sacrifice can take place in many different ways. You can sacrifice your time, skills or goods that you value in the way of a social cause. And yes sacrifice of livestock may also be necessary at times for food but to gather en masse specifically for the slaughter of a million animals as a ritual is something else. Would God really have decreed such a horrific act?

Where animals are sacrificed to feed communities, God says in 22:37 “Neither their meat nor their blood reaches God. What ascends to Him is your righteousness that you preserve and safeguard.” It’s clear we need to maintain our good deeds throughout the year and not just for one day – and it’s not blood or meat that God wants.

While the sacrificial ritual has its roots in the perceived belief of God’s command for Abraham to sacrifice his own son, the pilgrimage called Hajj is also based on contentious perceptions. The meaning has been skewed to mean pilgrimage to the Kaba in Mecca, but a true reading shows that it cannot be this. If Hajj means pilgrimage then the reading of verse 40:47 would mean that ‘people make the pilgrimage into the fire’, instead of the true rendition saying that ‘people confront or challenge each other in the fire.’  Other verses do not support the pilgrimage idea too.

While the sanctimonious, especially those with deep pockets, indulge in pilgrimages to the House of God with sacrifices to mollify Him and to secure their own place in heaven, in this world the homeless are still homeless and the hungry are still hungry.

The Quran repeatedly and consistently decrees the helping of the needy and for people to become benefactors of mankind. While billions of pounds, dollars and rupees circulate in Mecca paying for pilgrims to reserve a guaranteed front-row seat in paradise, millions of people worldwide continue to suffer in misery with little or no hope of a decent future. 

It is interesting to note that Dr. Hajjar and the IBG banking institute are heavily complicit in this annual sacrificial festival which is supported and thoroughly capitalised by the Wahabi Saudi government in Arabia. The income generated by this event is no less than £19 billion this year. Should I repeat that? £19 BILLION! I can just imagine Dr. Hajjar’s heartbeat incessantly going kerching! kerching! kerching! with all that money pouring into his vaults.

From this year the bank has set-up an electronic internet payment system so that even those who are unable to attend the pilgrimage can still have the privilege of parting with their money and fulfil their rite to a sacrifice by proxy. Let the carnage begin.

About Paigham Mustafa 2 Articles
AUTHOR Paigham Mustafa has been researching and studying the Quran since 1988 and spent over two years writing his book, The Quran: God’s Message to Mankind, published in 2016 and available from Amazon.

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