Prophet Abraham’s Hajj For Peace Lessons – OpEd


The third day of the Hajj is for Nahr and stoning the devil (rami). The 10th of Dhul-Hijjah is Eid al-Adha, a day celebrated by Muslims around the world as the greater of the two major Muslim holidays. The pilgrims arrive in Mina before dawn to perform the first rami, throwing seven pebbles at the largest of three columns known as Jamarat al-Aqaba.This act is a symbolic stoning of the devil, based on historical traditions. 

Muslims believe that God told Prophet Abraham to sacrifice his son (unnamed in the Qur’an) as proof of his faith; and at this spot in Mina, the devil appeared and tried to dissuade Prophet Abraham from heeding God’s command. Prophet Abraham responded by throwing stones to scare off the devil.

The Qur’an states: “Indeed, Abraham was a [model] leader, devoutly obedient to Allah, inclining toward truth; he was not of those who associate others with Allah. [He was] grateful for His favors. Allah chose him and guided him to a straight path. We gave him good in this world, and indeed, in the Hereafter he will be among the righteous. Then We revealed to you [Muhammad], to follow the religion of Abraham, inclining toward truth; he [Abraham] was not of those who associate [anyone] with Allah.” (Qur’an 16:120-123)

Muslim pilgrims should also offer an animal, known as nahr. Either a camel or lamb is suitable, and the meat should be distributed to the needy. Pilgrims can either buy offering coupons-vouchers, which state that the sacrifice has been made on their behalf or perform their own offering.

Prophet Muhammad was once asked by his Companions: “O Prophet of Allah! What is this qurbani?” He replied, “It is the Sunnah of your father Ibrahim .” (Hadith – Ibn Majah)  Udhiyah or animal sacrifice is an act of worship which reminds us of the great act of sacrifice that Prophet Ibrahim, Prophet Ismail, and Prophet Ishaq, were willing to do for the sake of Allah.

This sacrifice is ordained upon Muslims to be given each year at the time of Eid al-Adha. 

Every Muslim adult; male and female – as long as they can afford it – are required (Wajib) to offer this sacrifice in order to express their gratitude to God: “Thus have We made animals subject to you, that you may be grateful. It is not their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah. It is your piety that reaches Him: He has thus made them subject to you, that you may glorify Allah for His Guidance to you and proclaim the good news to all who do right,” (Qur’an 22:36-7)
Jews also remember Prophet Abraham’s and Prophet Ishaq’s willingness to meet Allah’s test each year when they celebrate the beginning of the new religious year (Rosh HaShanah) by reading chapter 22 of the Book of Genesis in the Torah, during the three hour long morning service. 

Although the word Qurbani/Korban is usually translated as sacrifice, it is better to think of it as an offering of our ‘self’ i.e. a self-offering. As Allah says in the Qur’an: “It is neither their flesh nor their blood that reaches Allah; it is your piety that reaches Him.” (22:37) 

Abraham was willing to offer his own life in Nimrod’s fire (Qur’an 21:68-71 and oral traditions in  Jewish, Christian and Muslim sources); and after waiting many years until he finally had two sons; Abraham risked a terrible loss, not once but twice, of each of his sons, because he had full trust in God.

This is the same basic understanding that the Hebrew Prophets and the Rabbis gave to the offerings in the Temple of Solomon. Neither the meat nor the blood of the Korbanot (plural korban) reaches God. It is your good deeds and your study of Torah that reaches God.

Qurbani is not just a sacrifice offered at the time of Eid al-Adha to show gratitude towards Allah. It also   provides for us to directly provide food for the poor and needy. “And [mention] when We made the (Ka’ba) House a place of return for the people and (a place of) security. And take the standing place of Abraham as a place of prayer. We charged Prophets Abraham and Ishmael: “Purify My House for those who perform Tawaf (circling) and those who are staying for worship, and those who bow and prostrate (in prayer).” (Quran 2:125)

The Bible (Genesis 25:9) tells us that Prophets Isaac and Ishmael met at the funeral of their father Prophet Abraham. Islamic and Jewish tradition both agree that Prophet Abraham visited Prophet Ishmael’s distant home on at least two different occasions to make sure that his family relationships were suitable.

We can see this as a very good model for family reconciliations (today by) forgiving old hurts. And it can also become a model for the descendants of Prophet Ishmael and Prophet Isaac, contemporary Arabs and Israeli Jews, to find some grounds to replace passions for revenge at tragic military funerals, with hopes for forgiveness and reconciliation to reduce future funerals.

This is an excellent guide to dealing with the three-generation old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rather than focusing mostly on what the other side did to us, we all should focus on how the conflict has hurt both of us, and how much better our future would be if we could live next to each other in peace. 

If the descendants of Prophet Isaac and Prophet Ishmael negotiate a settlement that reflects the religious policy that “…there is no sin upon them if they make terms of settlement between them – and settlement [reconciliation] is best.” (Quran 4: 128)  

For Prophet Muhammad said: “He is not a liar who seeks to reconcile between people and says [only] good things.” (al-Bukhaari, 2490)

If we all can follow these ideals of reconciliation as the will of God, we will help fulfill the 2700 year old vision of Prophet Isaiah: “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt, and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. On that day Israel  will join a three-party alliance with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing upon the heart. The LORD of Hosts will bless them saying, “Blessed be Egypt My people, Assyria My handiwork, and Israel My inheritance.”…(Isaiah 19:23-5)

Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Allen Maller retired in 2006 after 39 years as Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, Calif. He is the author of an introduction to Jewish mysticism. God. Sex and Kabbalah and editor of the Tikun series of High Holy Day prayerbooks.

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