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Making a Sacrifice? Check your Intention First

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The Story of Habil and Qabil – the First Sacrifice in Islam

Everyone knows the story of Qurbani: that of Ibrahim (AS) who was willing to sacrifice his son for the sake of Allah (SWT). But do you know the story of the first sacrifice offered to Allah (SWT)?

It was in the time of Adam (AS). When his sons, Habil and Qabil had a disagreement, Adam (AS) advised that each of them should offer a sacrifice to Allah (SWT) to resolve their differences. If the sacrifice offered was accepted by Allah (SWT), then that son would be the victor in their disagreement. 

As a shepherd or a livestock farmer, Habil offered up his best ram – the pride of his flock – as Qurbani. His intention was clear: he wanted to please Allah (SWT) and give the best of what he had, in sincerity, as a sign of his devotion. 

Qabil, on the other hand, was an agriculturalist. As for his Qurbani, he offered wheat. But instead of giving the best of his crop, he gave the poorest quality yield.

Allah (SWT) accepted Habil’s sacrifice and rejected Qabil’s. Qabil became upset and angry with his brother when Habil admonished him. The Holy Quran relates this incident in the following verse:

‘And recite to them the story of the two sons of Adam in truth; when each offered a sacrifice, it was accepted from one but not from the other. The latter said to the former, “I will surely kill you.” The former said, “Verily, Allah accepts only from the muttaqoon (those who have Taqwa – piety/God-consciousness).” (Holy Quran 5:27)

Qabil’s anger and frustration turned to jealousy, and he killed Habil in a fit of rage, incidentally, committing the first murder in human history.

The Lessons of Qurbani

So, what do the stories of Habil and Qabil, as well as that of Ibrahim (AS) teach us? The first clearly illustrates that sincerity and purity of intention are the most important part of performing Qurbani. The second illustrates a state of faith and devotion every Muslim aspires to. 

The Meaning of ‘Qurbani’

The word ‘Qurbani‘ is derived from the Arabic word, ‘qurb’ which means ‘to approach’ or ‘nearness’. This implies that we perform Qurbani because we want to get closer to Allah (SWT). We can do this by making sure our intention is sincere, reflecting on the reasons Allah (SWT) has made Qurbani obligatory and being conscious of Allah (SWT) when we perform Qurbani.

‘And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient.’ (Holy Qur’an 2:155)

We know that this life is a test for the believers and that we will be tried with all that we own and depend on. It is Allah (SWT) who will get us through those tests and provide for us from places we never expected. All that we can do is to maintain our sincerity. To put our trust in Allah (SWT) and give our best without hoarding or holding back. And then Allah (SWT) will guide us and take care of us as he did the ones He favoured. 

‘And we ransomed him with a great sacrifice. And we left for him [favourable mention] among later generations. Peace be upon Ibrahim.’ (Holy Quran 37:107)

The Right Qurbani Choices

Dhul Hijjah is the time of year when we’re able to demonstrate our devotion and sincerity through our own willing sacrifices. This is why it is so important to put genuine thought into our Qurbani arrangements and make choices which reflect that devotion and sincerity.

‘There is no action of the children of Adam on the ‘Day of Nahr’ [10th of Dhul Hijjah], which is dearer to Allah, than the spilling of blood [offering Qurbani].’ (Tirmidhi)

We know from the Hadith that our Prophet (SAW) would offer the best, most handsome animals in sacrifice. We also know that he would offer two Qurbanis, one for himself and one on behalf of someone in his Ummah who could not afford to do Qurbani. The best way to ensure then that our Qurbani meets the standard is to follow his Sunnah to the best of our abilities.

‘The Eid sacrifice should be in a good state and fat enough so that its meat could be eaten as this is a symbol of Allah. And Allah says (interpretation of meaning): “And whosoever honours the symbols of Allah, then it is truly from the piety of the heart.”’ (Holy Quran 22:32)

Most of us living in the West and in big cities, cannot perform the Qurbani ourselves. But Allah (SWT) has made it permissible for us to entrust our Qurbani to another Muslim who can perform it on our behalf. And so, it has become common to donate money to charities that can do so, and who will distribute the meat to the poor.

However, the onus still lies with us to do our market research and choose a reliable charity. Be wary of cheap Qurbani deals – if the price sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. When entrusting your Qurbani obligation to a third party, make sure they can perform and carry out your sacrifice according to the conditions laid out in the Holy Quran and Sunnah.

This Eid ul-Adha, Aryana Aid is distributing your Qurbani to orphans and widows, displaced, poor families and Afghan refugees in Pakistan. We take care to source the best animals so we can distribute the highest quality meat to people facing starvation.

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