The linguistic meaning of qurban is ‘to become close’. In the religious literature, qurban refers to animals/livestock that is sacrificed in order to become closer to Allah (c.c.).
The sacrifice of qurban is as old as the human existence. Allah has commanded the act of qurban worship for every ummah. Allah (c.c.) says in the Holy Quran:
“And for every nation,We have appointed a sacrifice, that they may mention the name of Allah over the inarticulate animal which He has provided them; so (remember) your God is One God, therefore submit only to Him; and give glad tidings (O dear Prophet Mohammed!) to the humble.”
As an act that that is aimed at brining us closer to Allah, the only aspect of qurban that reaches Allah is our good intentions and takwa. As the case in all acts of worship, the primary objective of qurban is to bring the created closer to the Creator (Allah). This is only possible with our good intentions and takwa. Allah (c.c.) says in the Holy Quran:
Never does their flesh nor their blood (of the qurban) reach Allah, but (only) your piety (respect and obedience)successfully reaches Him; this is how We have given them in your control so that you may speak His Greatness for guiding you; and O dear Prophet (Mohammed – p.b.u.h) give glad tidings (Jannat) to the virtuous.
Upon reviewing Islamic literature on the requirements of the qurban (e.g. the animals health, its organs being complete etc.), we note that this particular act of worship (qurban) is a projection of a believers respect and obedience towards Allah (c.c). The sacrifice intended for the pleasure of the Creator, needs to reflect His attributes and be perfect in all form.
Furthermore, it is necessary during the sacrifice process that no other name, other than Allah’s, is mentioned and that the sacrifice is only performed for His pleasure. Allah says in the Holy Quran:
Do not eat from that upon which the name of Allah (deliberately) has not been mentioned (without Bismillah), for (eating that) is an abomination and act of disobedience (to Allah).
The mention of Allah’s name during the sacrifice process, reminds us that Allah is the only One that gives and takes life and that everything will return to Him.
Death and life in Islam is inter-related and unified. This is why we see cemeteries in Muslim lands within the human settlement areas, where normal day-to-day life occurs. In religiously deprived communities however, death is excluded (cast out) and cemeteries that remind us of death tends to be far away from settlement. A person who is genuinely aware of life’s temporary situation will avoid engaging in bad and incorrect deeds and will live his life indexed to the afterlife. In this sense, the act of qurban reminds us of the afterlife and places death in our conscious. We become aware of the path of no return (i.e. death) when we see the qurban. This saves us from becoming a slave to the created but gives us the freedom to engage in acts of worship, only to our Creator. A person who is consciously aware that he is always in the presence of his Lord can only comprehend the importance of being sacrificed for Him.
As an act of tawhid, qurban, as the name suggests is also a worship of becoming close. Qurban teaches us about how we become close and to whom; Becoming close to Allah as the only Creator and becoming closer to His slave, as the created. Because, we become distant to something when we are close to it, a person who becomes closer to Allah (c.c.) will become distant to things Allah (c.c.) dislikes. In this respect, qurban is a lifestyle and it is even important that we become close to the animal (qurban). The qurban (animal) needs to be treated with kindness and we need to ensure that it is treated with compassion from its purchase, travel and sacrifice. It is mentioned in an authentic hadith:
No person can engage in an act of worship that is more lovable to Allah than sacrificing a qurban on the day of qurban. The sacrificed animal will come with its horns, hair and nails on the day of Qiyamah (afterlife). The person (who sacrifices the qurban) will reach an exalted in Allah’s view. Therefore, engage in the qurban worship with pleasure and with a peace of mind.
Qurban is a worship of takwa and gratitude to the One and also an act of submission and devotion to Him (Saffat 37/102-107). Qurban reminds us of the submission and devotion that was symbolised by Ibrahim (p.b.u.h). We recall the story of Ibrahim, who was sent a ram by Allah (c.c.) for having no other love in his heart than of Allah’s. We could only truly remember the story of Ibrahim if we can truly carr out our Creators commands, without looking over our shoulder or having doubts.
Simiilarly, qurban is a worship of Ihsan. Ihsan means to act kindly and fulfil a particular requirement with perfection and goodness. As a result, it is necessary to ensure that the knife (used to sacrifice the animal) is sharp, not shown to the animal (qurban) and is performed (sacrifice) quickly.
Furthermore, Qurban is a worship of giving and helping, social solidarity, becoming closer, swarming and self-sacrifice. The meat of qurban delivered to the needy without borders causes love among brothers, builds a sense of connection and reminds the needy of their brothers who have not forgotten them.
Be sure to eat their meat (qurban) yourselves and also distribute (feed) it to the needy and poor
Qurban is the practice of becoming free from impurities, of examining and scrutinizing one’s personality, and also a worship of regeneration and development. We test our priorities through qurban and also sacrifice our animal instincts and self-interests including anger, ambition, violence and stinginess. Hence, we cut and dispose of all the negativity within ourselves.
As a result:
Prophet Ibrahim’s family is portrayed as a model family to believers in the Holy Quran. Hager (p.b.u.h), simply because her Lord ordered her to, stayed back alone in the desert with Ismail (p.b.u.h) and desperately ran back and fourth with the intention of finding her son water. Offering her the zam zam (water), Allah (c.c.) then commanded her husband Ibrahim, to sacrifice her son (Ismail) when he was at a running age. Allah rewards His slaves who have takwa and patiently and attentively carryout out His commands. This was also the case with Ismail, with Allah sending a ram to Ibrahim to sacrifice instead. Life is parallel with Hager’ s desperate search for water, Ibrahim’s sacrifice and extreme devotion, and Islmail’s submission. A person who achieves this will surely be rewarded with the zam zam and the ram by Allah (c.c.). Those who cannot comprehend the meaning and wisdom (hikmah) of qurban, may choose the transform this act into sadakah in the so-called ‘modern society’. Yet, this belief will in essence distance the person from Allah (opposite to the act of qurban) and reflects a sense of disrespect towards Allah’s command.
In conclusion, qurban is an act of worship that scarifies everything that keeps us away from Allah.