The Glad Tidings of Is’haq

Every year during the pilgrimage season in Makkah, the Qurban, or animal sacrifice ritual, will be performed by Muslims worldwide, in conjunction with the Eid il-Adha celebration.

But what is interesting here is that the original, or in classical Arabic, the word Qurban does not relate to the literal meaning of animal sacrifice.  Its basic meaning is about being near, or nearness (in a relationship – Qarib).

The term for animal sacrifice or slaughter would be dhabīhah (ذَبِيحَة).

Abraham's sacrifice of IsmailBut the traditional understanding of Qurban, of animal sacrifice, had always been referred to the story of Ibrahim ‘sacrificing’ his son Ismael.  Most of us would feel strange and would have questioned why would Allah instruct His Messenger Ibrahim to slaughter his innocent son, Ismail, a human life, even if it was just a test? 

But surely we were too young when we listened to this story, so to pose this question to the mullah would be difficult – difficult for the mullah to answer. So the idea eventually becomes imprinted in our psyche as something believable.

What would Prophet Ibrahim think of Allah at the time when such a command to slaughter this young boy, had to be complied?  It surely contradicts all the teachings & attributes we know of the Quran. While we know, the act of killing a human life, according to the Quran is likened to as if he had killed all mankind. (5:32)

So this is clearly in conflict with the Quran. But we never question this narrative.  Because we have been conditioned not to question irrational ideas, especially in religion.

Classical depiction of Ibrahim being presented with a ram in replacement of Ismael. Bottom – Ibrahim cast into the fire by Nimrod.

Fortunately, the Quran offers a narrative different from the traditional belief.

37:100  My Lord, grant me of the righteous. ( L-SALIHINA )

37:101 So We gave him the glad tidings 
of a boy forbearing.  [ a boy with patience, understanding & accommodating ]

37:102 Then when he reached the (age of) working with him, 
he said, "O my son! Indeed, I have seen in the dream (AL-MANĀMI) 
that I am separating you ( ADHBABUKA ) , so look what you see? ”
He said, "O my father! Do what you are commanded. You will find me, if Allah wills, of the patient ones."

In verse 102, Ibrahim seek the young boy’s opinion of his vision of separating him.  Traditional narrative had translated adhbahu-ka as “slaughtering you” – the word Dhib’h from the root word dhāl bā ḥā (ذ ب ح).  

But the basic and primary significant of the meaning is He cut, or divided, lengthwise; clave; split; slit; rent, or rent open; ripped, or ripped open. ( Sihah, Misbah, Kamoos)

So the young boy reminded Ibrahim to follow what Allah had always commanded.

Because killing another innocent human life ( human sacrifice) is a pagan sacrificial practice and against the way of Allah.  

The case of slaughtering an innocent human life or animal never arise in this context.

So Ibrahim was reminded by the young boy to follow the clear command, which is to submit (ASLAMĀ)

37:103 Then when both of them had submitted (ASLAMĀ) 
and he put him down upon his forehead,

37:104 And We called out to him that "O Ibrahim!

37:105 Verily, you have fulfilled the vision (Al-Ru’ya)." 
Indeed, We thus reward the good-doers.

37:106 Indeed, this (was) surely [it] the trial clear.

37:107 And We ransomed him with a great separation ( DHIBH / bi-dhib’hin),

[ DHIBH / bidhib’hin – to cut off / separate)

This was a grand departure of a forebearing boy – a vision complete, when the young boy showing maturity and was able to remind Ibrahim to follow Allah’s command which was to submit (aslama).

It was time for separation that Ibrahim had to take, for the young boy to undertake his journey, just like Bani Israel, under Musa and Harun, explained as comparison in the subsequent verses (37:114-118).

Ibrahim’s lost / separation of the young boy was then redeemed with the glad tidings of Ishaq.

37:108 And We left for him among the later generations

37:109 "Peace be on Ibrahim."

37:110 Thus We reward the good-doers.

37:111 Indeed, he (was) of Our servants believing.

37:112 And We gave him glad tidings of Ishaq, a Nabi among the righteous.

The glad tidings of Is’haq clearly refuted the traditional narrative of replacing Ismail with a ram for the slaughter.

According to the Quran, the resul for his great loss, Allah has rewarded Ibrahim with the Glad Tidings of Ishaq. The good news of a Nabi among the good doers.
Not a ram.

As we can see by now, there was no human or animal sacrifice had taken place, or any attempts towards any kind of slaughtering.

Traditional belief described Allah has replaced Ismail with an animal – a ram . But such animal was never mentioned in the Quranic narrations, and refuted by the glad tidings of Is’haq.

Without the departure of the young boy, Ibrahim shall not receive the glad tidings of Ishaq.

Traditional belief gave the idea that Ibrahim did not sacrifice Ismail but was replaced with a ram and make no connection with the glad tidings of Ishaq.

So the ritual of animal sacrifice during Eid il-Adha, as far as the Quran is concerned, has no relation to the Grand departure of the young boy, from Ibrahim.

The Source of the Slaughter by Ibrahim.

The source of the story where Ibrahim attempted to slaughter his son had been taken from Genesis 22 – but here, the son named as Isaac and has been a subject of debate among Muslim, Christian & Jewish scholars.  There is no mention of the name Ismael in verses 37:100-108

Genesis 22 New International Version (NIV)

Abraham Tested
22 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 
4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 
5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together,
 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 
10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 
11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram[a] caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 
14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 
16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 
17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 
18 and through your offspring[b] all nations on earth will be blessed,[c] because you have obeyed me.”
19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.

Biblical depiction of Angel Gabriel intervening in the sacrifice of Isaac.

Was animal sacrifice ordained by the Quran?

The short answer is, no.

Allah is not like pagan gods, famous for animal and even human sacrifice.

Allah is Al-Rahman – The Provider of Sustenance without failure, in the heavens and the earth.

and Al-Raheem – – The Unconditional Source of Nourishment

Allah is Al-Ghaniyun – self-sufficient and free from any needs, what more sacrifice from us humans.

Our service / ibadah is towards His cause which is to establish the Deen for the benefit of all humankind.

22:37  Will not reach Allah their meat and not their blood but reaches Him the piety (al-Taqwa) from you. Thus He subjected them to you so that you may magnify Allah for what He has guided you. And give glad tidings (to) the good-doers.

Coming up next:

As-Safa & Al-Marwata

The Word Hajj in the Quran.



  1. This is precisely how I understand this subject of Qurbani and thank you for this very clear explanation.

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